This might be considered a bit of a cheat because it’s only about 80 pages but, whatever, a book is a book.
It would be disingenuous to describe it as a complete biography of Frank Sidebottom. It really just touches on the time Ronson spent as Frank Sidebottom’s keyboard player. It’s typical Jon Ronson. Always curious about his subject and never judgmental; like a literary Louis Theroux.
While it doesn’t dig deep into the story of Frank Sidebottom, it did bring to my attention the story of The Shaggs.
The Shaggs were an all female, family rock group. Formed then forced to rehearse for five years by their domineering father – who prevented them from ever hearing music – The Shaggs sound like a band formed by aliens who’d seen bands and read music, but never actually heard it. One day their father unleashed them onto the world, recorded an album with them and forced them to tour. They disbanded the day he died of a heart attack in 1975.
Years passed and by chance their album was picked up and is now heralded as a masterpiece of outsider music. Even Kurt Cobain listed it as one of his favourite albums. It sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard and while it’s hard to recommend, it is definitely compelling.
The best quote in the book is by George Bernard Shaw:
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
At its heart, this is a book about unreasonable men. And it’s great even it is a bit short.