‘Widow Basquiat’ by Jennifer Clement is one of those books that once you pick it up you don’t want to put it down. Written in conjunction with Basquiat’s muse Suzanne Mallouk it’s a sometimes distressing read into life and love with the artist. It doesn’t hold back about their various drug addictions as well as opening the door on the 80s New York scene – the galleries and the parties. The author attempts, and manages, to open the door on Basquiat’s paintings, giving a clear understanding of their meanings. I am not really one for books on art but if they were all like this one I’d be an expert.

For a quick overview of Basquiat’s life I’d suggest listening to the Radio 4 show – Decoding Basquiat which we’ve ripped below. The show was produced by Somethin’ Else (fine work chaps) who have a history in clubs so if anyone is reading this from there and wants us to pull it down get in touch.

In Decoding Basquiat, the poet Benjamin Zephaniah travels to New York to speak with Suzanne Mallouk (who chooses Riding With Death from 1988 (above) as her favourite painting), gallerists, musicians and graffiti writers who knew the artist. One of the most interesting parts is when Mallouk works through the various stages of the artists career in tangent with his drug habits. I’ve listened to the show twice and could happily listen to it again.

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Next up is Quincy Jones and ‘Q – The Autobiography of Q’. If you’re a musician, or anyone that needs a kick in life, this is a good one to read as the mans work rate is ridiculous and pretty inspiring. He doesn’t seem to be put off by anything, loves a challenge and by 25 was already one of the greatest arrangers in the world.

From there it’s living a life of jazz, soundtracks and producing the best selling album ever recorded in Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. To give you some idea of the magnitude of his life’s work the awards and honors list last 18 pages. The BBC come through again in support as there are two shows currently on the BBC iPlayer from BBC 4 covering firstly 1933-1974, the jazz years to his soundtrack work, then 1975 – 2008, covering the years with Michael Jackson and his Qwest record label. There is some great footage of Jones in the studio and includes interviews with all key players. Buy the book, watch the shows.

Both ‘Q’ and ‘Widow Basquiat’ are available on Amazon.



This is the first of a (probably very irregular) new Test Pressing format based around the world of books. I think books are one of those things that you naturally move onto collecting if you have the collectors mindset and I seem to happily pick up any book relating to music or music-related artists so it seemed fitting to start posting a few here.

First up is ‘Reggae Bloodlines’ first published by Heinemann in 1979 and subtitled ‘In Search Of The Music And Culture Of Jamaica’. Written by Stephen Davis and Peter Simon this is a beautifully written portrait of Jamaica in the format of a 1970s school book. The first few chapters focus on introduction and the history of reggae and from there moves through hanging out with Bob Marley (“The Wailers in their prime time were the best of the part-singing reggae vocal trios. Marley’s voice was broad-reaching in its possibilities, evoking both sentimental nosralgia and bitter rage, often in the same song”), watching Burning Spear at Chela Bay, a history of Rastafari and on.

Written in the late 70s the book captures a golden time of reggae across all styles of the genre and presents the music and the stories behind it rather than taking a critical view. The photography is also pretty special with classic shots of Marley, Augustus Pablo, Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer, Lee Perry and Doctor Alimantado. This is my favourite books on reggae and I suggest getting the early edition (about a tenner including postage on Amazon) not the later re-issue as it’s in a totally different format and doesn’t have the charm.

Next up is Keith haring and ‘Journals’. This is the diaries of Haring running from ’77 through to ’89 just before his death in February 1990. It’s an insight into the heart and mind of Haring as well as giving an understanding of his simplistic take on modern art. As Timothy Leary says, “I have shown his drawings to Australian aborigines who initiated me and they grinned and nodded their heads. Keith communicated in the basic global icons of our race.”

Keith Haring was a massive fan of Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage. I got given a DVD of the whole last night of the Garage (thanks Phil) and you can clearly see Haring dancing away with a female friend. Here’s an extract where he talks about his love for the club.

“Speaking of families: I’m sitting in an empty train car so I’m playing my radio real loud. I’ve got a tape on that Junior made me called Paradise Lost. It still hasn’t sunk in that the Paradise Garage has closed forever. Every time I hear a song that is “Garage song,” I get real emotional. I can’t explain exactly why, but something about just knowing it was there was a comfort, especially when I was out of New York City. There was always something to look forward to immediately upon my return. In fact, I often scheduled my trips around the Garage, leaving on Sundays and returning before or on Saturdays. It was really a kind of family. A tribe. Maybe I should open a club, but I really don’t want to deal with that headache. This is the worst headache I ever felt. It’s like losing a lover when everything was going just fine. Its like when Andy and Bobby died. Maybe Paradise Garage has moved to heaven… so Bobby can go there now. That would be nice.

The last night was pretty incredible but not as sad as I thought it would be. People were sort of numb. It’s just so weird knowing that you’re not going to see a lot of these people again. There were a lot of people I only used to see there, a lot of them I never even spoke to the whole five years I went there, but I feel like I “know” them ’cause I shared something with them. Grace came for a little while, but didn’t stay long. Larry Levan played all night and all the next day till after midnight. I had to leave at midnight because I had work to do Monday morning to prepare for this trip to Europe. ”

Music always seemed integral to the world of Haring and that comes across in his dairies. It’s an easy read, especially if you have an interest in 80s New York. The one I have was published by Fourth Estate in 1996 and again comes recommended.


Book: Caught By The River

August 11, 2009

Been reading this recently and it’s suiting my lazy summer mood. Caught By The River (A Collection Of Words On Water) is the first book from fishing and culture website – Caught By The River – a view of the world as seen from the bankside. Contributors include (the always good) Bill Drummond, Irvine Welsh, Edwyn Collins, Laura Barton, Jon Savage, Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and a whole bunch more.

There are also some pretty trippy Caught By The River podcasts to accompany the book with Bill Drummond and a few others reading from the book accompanied by sound from Chris Watson of Cabaret Voltaire who also happens to be the BBC’s biggest nature sound recordist. We asked the guys for their ideal track to accompany the book which sits at the bottom of this post.

The book is the ideal companion to a day doing nothing – dive in, the water’s lovely.

Caught By The River

Relatively Clean Rivers: Hello Sunshine


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