Friday, April 10, 2020

Playing the Bass With Three Left Hands - Will Carruthers

Although I have dug the trippy sounds of Spacemen 3, I'll admit that I am not overly familiar with their repertoire and know pretty much nothing about any of the members, other than that one was (is?) named Sonic Boom, which I appreciated. This book was gifted to me by our pal Bob Blackburn (thanks Bob!) as a fellow freak and mental adventurer - although not nearly to the extent of Carruthers.

With a druggy, somewhat poetic writing style, Carruthers tells of a youth of misadventure and experimentation with various intoxicants and mindless jobs and drug dealing "friends" and acquaintances and a life lived under the continual threat of arrest. Existing/persisting/subsisting in the tiny town of Rugby, where anything counter-culture congregated under one roof (which probably actually created a healthy scene), dead-end, truly shitty-sounding factory jobs were taken in order to survive. While only occasionally playing bass in bands - more often working to expand his perceptions - Will was headhunted by Spacemen 3, who had already recorded two albums and done some extensive touring and, coincidentally, was Carruthers favorite band.

His time in the group in documented in a number of alternative-reality anecdotes based around strange gigs and innumerable intoxicants. There seems to hardly have been a waking moment free of mind-altering substances and, at times, the abuse is Herculean. Despite this, Will's remembrances are quite lucid and extremely entertaining, with tales of recording various albums (I believe he said 4 studio albums in a year's time!), extreme shows, and vomit-drenched ferry rides, along with personal asides describing the other band members. Of course, nothing lasts forever and a ride like this one seemed destined to end sooner rather than later, and the group broke up amidst bad feelings and recriminations. Everyone except Sonic form the band Spiritualized and the escapades continued until Will got tired of the life of a poor rock'n'roller and left the band.

The chapters are all succinct, concise tales of ordinary and extraordinary madness that are extremely well written and entertaining, even if they are sometimes a bit depressing (as life can be, especially while trying to do something with your music). Notwithstanding his prestigious drug abuse, Will is obviously quiet intelligent and has seemed to have come through his trials all for the better. Musicians will easily relate to many of the escapades but everyone interested in a life lead alternatively should read. Highly recommended!