Shaun Ryder's Autobiography

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Shaun Ryder's Autobiography

Postby Summerlander » 05 Mar 2014 14:40

I've just read a book which wouldn't get a second glance from me at a bookshop. It's far removed from what I am usually interested in: reading about science, philosophy, psychology, and lucid dreaming. What this book does have is numerous references to various styles of music, some of which I like, some not so much, art (which I'm also into), and fashion (which I know nothing about).

The tales of psychedelia in Shaun Ryder's "Twisting My Melon" were certainly entertaining to say the least! It is the second autobiography that I read, the first one was Dave Mustaine's "A Life in Metal" which was more up my alley but not that dissimilar in terms of the lifestyles led by the autobiographers. Mustaine's book was also considered to be unusual reading for me at the time, but, I was excited at the prospect of reading about Mustaine because I love Megadeth.

Shaun Ryder's autobiography might be an easy read compared to Christopher Hitchens' erudition and vast mental lexicon, but, it was also about to prove that any book can teach you a thing or two. Ryder taught me that, at the end of the 19th century, Native Americans arrived at his hometown (Salford) as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West circus in a bid to escape from the US government which at the time wanted them for war crimes. Salfordians saw them as warriors and hid them from American authorities. Indeed, many are buried at Pendleton Church.

You can then forgive a drug-addled Shaun Ryder for imagining that his townspeople of today are seemingly without fear because they crossbred with Native Americans. We'll pardon his naivety because he is actually quite a character and he didn't overlook the hefty Irish community there from which he descends. (I still felt like pointing out to him that Native Americans were, in fact, scared of the authorities, for why else would they run and hide.)

His mother is a Catholic, his dad a Protestant, and Ryder couldn't be more irreligious (and this reflected in his ways, "Thou shall not steal" being the main commandment he violated). We learn that, as a kid, he was abjurgated by his school for being a lefty and nothing was done to help him surmount his learning difficulties (he is also ADD). He was contradicted at what felt natural to him and the education system had failed him.

His interest for music began to develop when he was exposed to Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Fats Domino. (I'm definitely into the latter two as I'm more instrumental in my preferences while my brother-in-law appreciates Buddy Holly for the lyrical content.) Ryder was, nevertheless, a clever kid with an entrepreneurial spirit: at the age of seven he was picking up horseshit from fields and selling it to housewives to use as fertiliser for their roses.

His encounter with UFOs and aliens? Too many drugs and the wrong interpretation of hypnagogic hallucinations. His cameo appearance in "Shameless" couldn't be more agreeable with the sort of person he is - he lived in that world! He is, nevertheless, a good example of the proletariat being creative, entertaining, and becoming successful.

Shaun Ryder fulfilled his dream of becoming a "rock'n'roll star." He wanted to look good and have money rather than learn anything. As far as he was concerned, school could fuck off. "Madchester" gave his fanbase his vision. His brand of helter-skelter poetry and style is truly out-and-out locution and phonetic expression - even if not to everyone's taste he puts it out there. He employed shameless vignettes, too, some of which are proudly admitted plagiarisms. (His band Happy Mondays paid homage to The Beatles, too.)

The Happy Mondays and Black Grape sound is like marmite, but the bands' style and their shenanigans highlight what they're about. (David Essex and Joy Division is what made Ryder want to form a band.) Overall, I couldn't say that Happy Mondays is my dish. I did listen to "Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches," and, despite appreciating a few guitar riffs and bass lines here and there, I found the pop and dance vibe off-putting. I liked Black Grape a little bit more for their funk-infused alternative rock.

Throughout Shaun Ryder's career, the band took part in drug-dealing and drug abuse. Ryder points out that dealing drugs was paying off more than the music industry. He's been in rehab for being, to use his terminology, a "garbagehead": cocaine, crack, heroine, speed, acid, mescaline, ecstasy, and weed. He was into stealing (sometimes burglary), philandering, and sometimes both simultaneously, too. (Learning that he's had gonorrhoea comes as no surprise at all.) Although his family were Man Utd fans, Ryder was more interested in girls and couldn't understand people investing time in watching footie.

He was involved in many conflicts, but, he also concedes that, in his hedonism and psychedelia, a facade was executed for show. He had to be a character, a cool alien to his fans for the sake of entertainment. At the same time he didn't want too much attention on himself on stage, possibly due to a combination of stage fright and a wish to dress up his act as something genuine. To prevent his audience from being fixated on him and possibly shattering the illusion he was trying to convey, he hired Bez as his sidekick.

In his book, he mentions his appreciation for the acid jazz overtones of a band called Jazz Defektors. I love jazz and I'm glad I discovered this band, too. I'm more into the Jazz Defektors' sound than that of the Happy Mondays or even that of the funky Black Grape.

Anyway, it was interesting reading about Shaun Ryder's life and it was certainly entertaining! Hilarious at parts... 8-)
"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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