Living in the limelight, the universal dream…

Not to drop names, but I’m about to, Neil Peart (look him up) once told me that the song Limelight was his most personal lyric. Moving Pictures was Rush’s biggest album, Limelight one of the most recognisable songs from said album. It talked about the downside of fame – which Rush had a lot of at that time. Peart hated it, he hated being recognised, he hated people acting as if they knew him, when in fact they only knew his music and onstage persona. He now admits that he took it all a little too much to heart. I was thinking about this, hell, I was talking about this on a wet Monday in Hammersmith. I was being filmed for the Classic Albums series and they asked me about Limelight and I was suddenly backstage in Nashville again or was it in a rehearsal space in Toronto, both places had one thing in common, Neil’s ludicrous drum kit sitting in the corner, dominating the room. It sat on a riser in Toronto, I recognised that kit from the tour before and asked him if I could sit behind it. Sure, he said, he may furrow his brow with concentration when they play live, but he is both sweetness and light, pretty goofy too and he loves cigarettes and books, he’s easy to take to. I sat there and it was like being on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the drums went on forever, it was a nonsense, I had no idea where to start or end. I tentatively tapped one of a hundred drums and Neil smiled up at me, the smoke from his cigarette curling around his head and reaching for the lofty ceiling. When I’d finished the interview he signed a book for me, wishing me good luck with my novel that was still unfinished and with no deal in sight and we shook hands on it.

On Wednesday I went to look at the venue where the book launch will take place, I’d love to tell you that Neil will be there, he won’t, Rush are making a new album, they’re a bit busy. It’s a nice bar, a roomful of history and two cats who pretty much have the run of the place. One came over to stare at me as I met the owner and he bought me a drink, the owner not the cat. It sounds foolish, but the cats calmed my nerves more about the publication and launch than a hundred reassuring words from friends could. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not enjoying the home straight, I’m twitchy and desperate for a drink almost all the time. The agent has told me to enjoy it, but I’m not sure how I might do that. I’ve wanted to publish a novel since I was twelve and now I am and it feels a bit hollow if I’m honest. Not hollow, I don’t have a word for it, but I’m filled with unease instead of the light I’d imagined. It will be nice to be in a room filled with people I admire and like though, that I’m looking forward to.

In happier news, The Pineapple Thief album is great and not at all what I was expecting as is the Coheed and Cambria record, the Jesse Malins band album too. I might be going to Prague to talk to Killing Joke, I’ve spent a week writing about Australian vacuum cleaners, which was lucrative and oddly fun, I’m interviewing C&C (they’re politer than Rush and that’s saying something) and the Times Online are running an extract from the novel in the next few days, we’re expecting reviews soon. I might take to my bed with a bottle, but then it is almost the weekend. That’s normal, right?

Pinned to the stars, your father’s face among the heavens…

Friday morning, I can hear the sound of the shower in the next room. Bob Dylan’s on the radio and someone’s just asked me to write about an Australian vacuum cleaner for cash and I’m thinking about it. It’s been a strange week (not to get too Garrison Keillor about it), Danny Baker’s Show on BBC London on Monday and Tuesday where the great man let me plug my book with aplomb while still paying me to act as his sidekick, like Danny needs a sidekick. And since we last spoke The Sunday Telegraph put me in their ten new novelists to watch this year and Pulse magazine (the thunderer or thereabouts for all NHS staff or so I’m reliable informed) said some very nice things about the book, I was touched, I still am. The Independent on Sunday have promised to review as have the Guardian site and the Times Online have asked me to write something on their site and plug the book off the back of it, I’ve said yes. All of this and then Willie from Jackdaw 4 (certified genius, but he won’t hear a word about it) mailed to say that CCMS and Citizen Kane (what company I suddenly keep!) had inspired him to write a new song, he then sent me a demo of said song and worried over it the way a cow does a new calf. He need not have fretted, even in demo form it’s magnificent and dark and reminds me why Willie puts me in mind of a brooding Brian Wilson and not just because they have the same shaped face. I’m currently on the Jackdaw 4 website acting like a nerk, but they let me plug my book in a video clip ostensibly put up there to promote their band, they are very good people.

I also fell out with my publicist and the man booking my live readings this week too. Not for long and without any real damage, but it did remind me to keep an eye on my quickly escalating temper and not to send emails when I’m in a rage. Or drunk. Or drunk and in a rage. It was a mix up at the venue and neither Richard or Clara’s fault, but I was pointed at the venue’s website by a friend to find that they were advertising the book launch (which I wanted to be kept private anyway, unlike Tennessee Williams I do not rely on the kindness of strangers)  as a comedy night with myself and Phill J! I went up the wall, over it and landed on the other side making sounds in the back of my throat akin to those a dog makes when you get too near its food. I was stressed to start with, some of my so called friends (actual and real friends who were quite normal until a buzz started building around the novel) have begun to act very strangely around me. Saying and doing things that have both angered and saddened me, I’m in a real panic about publication as it is so you can imagine my delight to find out that their egos somehow had to have an impact on a book that it spent me over a year in solitude (not like in the TV show Oz, that would just be wrong, beside they wouldn’t let me have a pen in there in case I made a makeshift shank out of it) to write. Anyway, the venue argument’s over and myself, Richard and Clara are going up there next week to look the place over, we might take sandwiches. I’ve suggested staying in the bar all day to talk things over, but they both gave me a look like I’d just set fire to their clothes.

Next week, Monday in fact, I film the Classic Albums show, I’m talking about Rush’s 2112 and Moving Pictures, Nicky Wire’s doing it too. I’ve no idea of the TX date, but then I’m not sure they do either. I’ve also just contributed liner notes to another Rush best of called Time Stand Still. There’s talk of me going to Toronto in April too, but that’s just talk for the moment. I’ve recently very much enjoyed a film called Dogtooth, though I’m not sure I ever want to see it again no matter how brilliant it was. I endured Shank, which was odious and pallid and the new White Stripes doco about their very unique Canadian tour of 2007, it’s beautifully shot and quite revealing all in all, it made me want to see them play live again too, which surprised me as their audience is wall to wall victims, you know the type, one haircut, braying at the bar about vinyl, usually young and no idea what Motown is or was. The twats. Though, that’s not the fault of the White Stripes.

I digress, it’s twenty days to publication and counting and i have The Fear. If you see me, buy me a drink, I’ll probably need it. I’ll see you when I’m around this way again.