Alvin Gibbs managed to pen one of my favourite books ever when he wrote about his adventures on the road with Iggy Pop. Apart from it being a time in my life when I tried to absorb as much music and everything around it that was humanly possible it was also a record that I adored and a line up of Iggys that was incredible so all the stars aligned and Alvin managed to encapsulate the same feelings when his pen hit the paper so, when Tome & Metre said they were releasing his autobiography I ready Neighbourhood Threat, again and waited in excitement for the book to land on my doormat. I’ve read it twice now and felt intimidated about writing my review for several reasons. How can I pay Alvin the respect he deserves as a musician (one that I greatly admire and whose work I’ve followed from the Mid ’80s) and as an accomplished and excellent writer. I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t meet my expectations but if my words help one person read his book then job done so here goes.
Alvin doesn’t labour over the detail as I suspect most don’t want to know about the finer details of his childhood but an overview is provided and certain memories relaid to paint a picture. Its the birth into what would become the punk scene is where we begin our captive participation and Alvin gives his background and shines a light on his days with Brian James as the tales from behind the curtain begin to unfold and I find myself digging up the records that relate to the chapters as something of a background especially when Alvin talks about the recordings of ‘Diminished Responsibilities’ and ‘Endangered Species’ and it sort of opens up another dimension to what you’re hearing as the pages get turned.
Alvin is a fantastic writer and his education obviously helps with his descriptions and use of the English Language which I’m sure he’ll come to in vol two! but his relationships with his bandmates and the respect he has for band members and fellow musicians he’s shared a hotel, bus, plane and beer with also shines through as does his respect for the fine art he finds himself dedicating his life to. Alvin doesn’t shy away from his flaws either and there is no airbrushing of incidents and behaviours that he might not look back on with 20/20 hindsight and offer scant hollow apologies and neither does he try and explain them away or blame others.
What you get is the feeling that his life is a life worth living and one that has seen the vast changes in an industry and he’s seen the highs and the not so great highs but has taken them all as part of his education and life journey there are passages that made me laugh out loud as well as wonder what the other parties felt.
Obviously I can’t recommend this book highly enough but not just for fans of The UK Subs, Iggy Pop, Cheap & Nasty but for anyone who appreciates a well-written book by someone who writes with passion, honesty and fantastic use of the language – you get a snapshot of what it was like being part of a club that enjoyed some of the trappings of being a good-sized band in the ’80s and beyond about how the shark pool that is the music business works and how cutthroat it is and an ability to dust yourself down and fly by the seat of your pants (quite literally at times it would seem) and live your life with a mindset or joie de vivre that most 9-5 people would ever understand and people like Alvin do it for the rest of us, they’re modern-day pioneers, crusaders, adventurers, pirates even.
We need people like Alvin to document their time on this earth and show us what it was really like inside the beast of Rock and Roll. As soon as I got to the last words I began to wonder how long before we get Volume two? I get the feeling that Volume one might just have been the starter and the main course is to follow so strap yourselves in kids this is set to get way more exciting. Absorbing, passionate and another mightily impressive book from the talented Mr Gibbs. Alvin’s life as a UK Sub is set to continue but his story is one we all need to read as he’s managed to eclipse ‘Neighbourhood Threat’ we’ve gotten to meet the man and understand his politics and what makes him tick and from my point of view have even more respect for one of the finest craftsmen in his chosen field. Musician, Songwriter, Author and a thoroughly good bloke, Alvin Gibbs I salute you and urge anyone whos made it thus far into my ramblings to click the link and order a copy of this book you won’t regret it for a second.
Buy ‘Diminished Responsibility’ Here
Author: Dom Daley