BOOK REVIEW: I Wanna Be Me by Dave Simpson

BOOK REVIEW: I Wanna Be Me by Dave Simpson

I can remember it as if it were yesterday, such was the profound impact it had upon me. It was March 1977. We were all down at Kraw’s. He was the only one of us back then who had his own place. And as was our usual custom we were just lying around, smoking, and listening to music, a selection of what were predominantly American West Coast and Laurel Canyon sounds – Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Terry Reid, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, that sort of thing – with the occasional Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Rolling Stones thrown in by way of a change.

That particular night, Big Shay dropped by. He was just back from Aberdeen University for the Easter vacation. He had with him three 7” singles. They were ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’ by the Stranglers, The Clash’s ‘White Riot’, and ‘Anarchy In The UK’ by the Sex Pistols. “Have a listen to these, lads”, he suggested. And perhaps somewhat reluctantly given our then staple diet of music, they were duly lined up on Kraw’s trusty old Dansette.

They blew us all away. We were immediately transported into another musical dimension, such was the vitality, wanton energy, exhilaration, sense of danger, and downright immediacy generated by these records. Ridiculous as it may now sound, particularly as Anarchy had already been out for four months, we had never heard these songs before. It was, of course, a time long before the internet, social media, and streaming services, a time when you were dependent almost entirely upon the weekly NME and word of mouth to introduce you to new music. And then there was the fact that any cultural news clearly travelled very slowly to the town of East Kilbride all those years ago.

Dave Simpson’s excellent, eminently readable book I Wanna Be Me takes me right back to this febrile and what is probably still the most exciting period in my life. Taking its title from the B-side of ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and published to coincide with Danny Boyle’s highly contentious 6-part series, Pistol, the book provides an incredibly well-informed and definitive history of the Sex Pistols, surely the most subversive and iconic punk band of all time.

Albeit presented in hardback form and with 192 lovely glossy pages, I Wanna Be Me comes to us in the style of a fanzine, a creative publication that emerged out of the British punk explosion between 1976-77 and which comprised a series of A4 pages full of grainy images and text which were photocopied and then stapled together.

Dave Simpson – music critic for The Guardian newspaper and author of The Fallen (about everyone who had ever performed live in the band, The Fall) and The Last Champions (about Leeds United football club and the side that won the 1992 First Division League title) – approaches I Wanna Be Me in the same manner he did those two superb books, with exhaustive research, unerring accuracy, and his customary eye for detail.

Drawing upon his own extensive archive of interviews – which date back more than two decades – as well as a wealth of other interviews with key personnel connected to the Sex Pistols both past and present, Dave Simpson forensically traces a timeline through the band’s short, tumultuous history. In so doing he accurately captures the rapidly shifting cultural and political sands and confrontational essence of that period as well as the countless creative possibilities that it ultimately presented.

I Wanna Be Me by Dave Simpson is published by Palazzo Editions on 1st September 2022.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.