The Charlatans‘ frontman Tim Burgess releases his first book today (26 April), his memoir Telling Stories. Get our new issue Q311 now for a feature on the singer and his book, but in the meantime here’s a guest column from Burgess on why he decided to write a book so candid he even reveals how he and his bandmates used to blow cocaine up each other’s bottoms in the second chapter…
I was talked into writing a book quite a while ago on. Some people had said to me, “Hey Tim, why don’t you write a book?” Friends of mine and stuff like that and I thought “whatever!” But after Simon Benham, a literary agent, got in touch I was really into into it. I would keep going to meetings with him at this nice place called Quo Vadis in London and he would pay for the coffee and cake and he’d ask me how the words were going. However it was two years before I actually got round to writing anything!
It was suggested that I use a ghost writer but that never worked out so that’s how I came to the conclusion I’d write it myself. I went to Wales for a break with my girlfriend and she was asking me about the Hacienda so I told her about it and recorded myself on a Dictaphone. I ended-up coming back after ten days with 20 hours worth of recordings. The hardest bit was typing it up – not only is it boring if you’re as slow as me at typing, but I would just go off on tangents. It was really hard to focus at first, really daunting.
I ended-up handing in 10,000 words, all in capitals letters – I’d deliberately gone for caps because I thought it looked big and I think you’re less critical in caps, it just comes at you –
and fortunately Simon loved it. After that I read it back and was a bit embarrassed by it, so I rewrote it. I got a friend to punctuate it all for me – there were 30,000 words by this stage – and I rewrote it about five or six times. I think in the end it comes across really well. I’m really pleased.
Why did I decide to be so candid in the book? Well Keith Richards book came out and he was writing about guitars and there was nothing that revealing in his book that I didn’t already know and I didn’t want to do that. There were a couple stories I wanted to tell, one which I thought would have people rolling around on the floor and one which I thought would show how fragile our minds were at the time and was something I’d never revealed.
The latter was how I believed we could throw Rob [Collins keyboard player, who died in a car crash during the recording of Tellin’ Stories] out of the band. I don’t know whether the rest of the band knew this because only me and Mark [Collins, Charlatans guitarist, no relation] discussed it. No one else in the world knew about that story and I thought if I put that in, that’s the level of honesty I need to get across in the whole book.
Then the rolling around story was the “Manhattan powdered doughnut” [the aforementioned anal administration of cocaine], the Cocainus thing! I just thought that was as good as “Keith Richards snorts his father”. I can see Cocainus on a T-shirt now: “If you’re feeling fruity, why not try something different…” That chapter was originally called My Drugs Heaven because I hate autobiographies that say how terrible it all is. I had a great time, I did, but then when I came up with Cocainus, I thought “bang!”
I’ve not actually spoken to the band about it being in the book yet. It was a long time ago, but it will be interesting to see what they make of that. A friend said to me they’re going to have to love the book though, the first chapter is called The Best Band In The World. My parents haven’t read it yet either. I’ve got 25 books to give away but they’re still in a box at home! I’ve signed copies for everyone, I’ve just got to post them out…
Tim Burgess@Tim_Burgesswas speaking to Paul Stokes