The Last Mad Surge Of Youth

  • Mark Hodkinson
  • Pomona
  • 2009

“He was going to be one of the select few — The Rolling Stones, U2, Bob Dylan, REM, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen — artists who remained credible but still had commercial success and who’s every album felt interwoven with itself, a cultural landmark.” It’s 2009 and John Barrett, former Killing Stars frontman is a has-been. In his heart he knows this, but he still has loyal fans so even if his latest album Godspace has sold a handful of copies, both his agent, Rupert Green and his second wife Esther are not even sure if he is worth it anymore. Where had it all gone wrong? What had happened to the ambitious punk wannabe who had been so full of integrity? How did he end up here?

Dave Carey is the forgotten man, the one in the long forgotten photographs. He had been Barrett’s best friend as a kid, life has not turned out so well. They dreamed of changing the world together when they were teenagers. At 14 they had seen punk poet Patrik Fitzgerald, a truly revelatory experience, but everything changed when Paul Kennedy arrived at school in leopard skin trousers, a capped t-shirt covered in zips, his hair spiked high and a small white feather dangled from a stud in his ear. He was the school’s first real punk, both Carey and Barrett were inspired to rebel. At 16 they formed their own floating band, Group Hex. Instead of having regular members, anyone could join and could come and go as they pleased. Their fanzine, Carey’s inspiration was sold locally and their following grew. However, as everything took off, things changed. They could not have floating members any more and eventually re-christened themseleves Killing Stars. Carey had never felt adequate on the guitar so left, instead, ending up as a journo on the local rag. He could have been so much more, he could have been an author but he kept getting rejected.

An insightful overview and subtle attack of the world of celebrity.

It is Barrett’s appearance on lunch time TV show Lunch Brake that is going to change their world’s again. Barrett, now a lush, shows himself up and Carey writes an article in his defence. An autobiography is planned and Carey is asked to write. He knows Barrett better than anyone else, he knew him before it all. He understands Barrett, shared the pain of lost friends and understood what drove him. As a result, “the autobiography of John Barrett would be rich, engaging, informed, lively”. But before any of that can happen, two past demons have to be set to bed? Can Barrett overcome the drink problem and what is the secret that Carey needs to face?

Author Mark Hodkinson has toured with bands including The Stone Roses and Pulp, something which is evident in his writing. He has a clear understanding of the music industry and The Last Mad Surge Of Youth is an enthralling insight to the pros and cons of a world unknown to most, but dreamt of by many. He manages succesfully to side step the cliches, creating instead rounded and intelligent characters. Before fame, Barrett wanted to change the world, he dreamt of being a working class hero. The world of celebrity is what he achieved, losing his freedom of speech to record company executives. He chose to ride the wave and ended up lost and alone, losing his connection to everyone that surrounded him.

The Last Mad Surge Of Youth is an insightful overview and subtle attack of the world of celebrity. Punk promised to change the world, but fast forward from 1980 to 2009 and what is left of the big pretenders? They grew up and got fat, they didn’t stop caring but realised that even they could not change the world. For anybody who has ever daydreamed for a second of a life in the fast lane of fame, this book is a must. Barrett and Carey’s wasted dreams are a worthwhile read, both moving and amusing, you won’t be able to put this book down.

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