Thursday 9 August 2012

Destiny Calling : Twenty Years Living With James - book review

Destiny Calling: Twenty Years Living with James 

Author: John Ormond 

Publisher: York Books

This soon to be released book about the Manchester band James, "Twenty Years Living with James", is written through the eyes of one of the band's biggest fans and includes thoughts on the their output, gigs, various other stories about the band and more pertinently how the band affected the author's life.

Music plays a part in so many people's lives that goes far past the songs and concerts that are shared. It's a common interest that brings people together and helps forge life-long friendships that often outlive the band(s).

John Ormond's second book “Destiny Calling : Twenty Years Living With James seeks to explain this phenomenon through his own experiences from discovering the band James through a compilation tape in the height of the Madchester movement of 1990 and their conversion of him from a hip-hop fan to a mild obsessive, through all that life threw at him for twenty years to introducing his young children to the band twenty years later.

There's a number of threads to the book. Naturally, the first is his thoughts on the band's work throughout the years, including Tim Booth's solo output, song-by-song telling the story of where he bought the albums, where he first listened to them and what he thought of them at the time, including his reactions to the opinions of those close to him. It's a very impressive memory recall.

The second is concert stories, particularly the early ones, that capture the excitement of a fan watching their favourite band, the excitement of the first time, the desire to get to the front of the show, convincing friends to come along and share the obsession and the joy when they love it, meeting like-minded people from around the world, finally getting to meet the band and, in John's case, the rather bizarre incident when pulled out of the crowd at a 1993 show shouting “Alright Captain” at a clearly bemused Tim.

It's not just a chronological story of albums and concerts though. He tells a story of twenty years of his life through his following of the band. There's stories of drunken discos in an Israeli kibbutz to the tune of Sit Down and Born Of Frustration, his James-defined wardrobe, compilation tapes of his favourite James songs breaking up the mundanity of soul-destroying low-wage jobs and converting more people to his obsession, elusive searches for the holy grail of James collectors One Man Clapping, discovering the internet and the intertwined world of message boards and forums, disastrous relationships and assessing the suitability of potential girlfriends based on whether they liked James or not.

You can't help but warm to John through the course of the book. His love of the band shines through, but, like the band, there's a little bit of the outsider to him. He gets excited at small things that make others roll their eyes, makes inappropriate outbursts at just the worst times, gets caught in ruts and self-doubt, but there is a happy ending.

The last few chapters, following James' reunion in 2007, tell of the joy of introducing his wife, who he seduced with a karaoke version of Garbage's Stupid Girl, to the band and converting her and latterly, taking his eldest child to a soundcheck and his whole family to the Bingley Festival in 2010 and finding a career path that suited him.

The book is about one man's experience with James. The real genius of it is that it could be anyone's stories with their favourite band. Even if you're not a James fan, there's plenty here that you would read and smile to yourself, knowing that at some point that was you. Destiny Calling Twenty Years Living With James is released at the end of August through York Press, priced £10. It is now available for pre-order.

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