Monday, July 1, 2024

Review: Robyn Hitchcock's Memoir, '1967'

Anyone who's fallen under the spell of Robyn Hitchcock's tombstone surrealism should be more than a little intrigued by his foray into the memoir world. The guy can write. Not that you'll necessarily find as much story in 1967 as you will in, say, "Underwater Moonlight". 

As the title trumpets, the narrative stays firmly planted in that year of psychedelic whimsy that would so influence Hitchcock's perspective when he began putting out his own songs a decade later. In '67 he was an unripe 14 year old consigned to boarding school, so do not expect 1967 to be the usual rock and roll bacchanal. Even as far as British schoolboy stories go, there isn't much story here. Young Hitch goes to school, where he encounters a few eccentric instructors, as well as his meathead and groover peers (none of whom we readers ever get to know too well). Clearly much more significantly for the lad, he falls in love with the likes of Syd Barrett, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and The Incredible String Band. Then he learns to play the guitar.

Even though not much happens in 1967, there is still a quiet message in this book that rhapsodizes over loud music: Robyn Hitchcock's experiences during that year shaped the man who would go on to lead The Soft Boys before beating his own singular path as a distinctly English solo artist. As mundane as the doings are, Hitchcock still infuses them with his own peculiarly surreal voice, whether imaging himself being hunted by demons in a rat-poison strewn shed or crafting a coffin for his sister's doll. His adeptness as a writer makes the transition from songwriting to prose-writing intact. 

I learned nothing from reading 1967 that I hadn't already learned from listening to "Old Pervert" or watching The History Boys, but, as an Anglophile and British-psych-o-phile, I still liked reading it. And the whole thing can be read in the time it takes you to enjoy a back-to-back spin of Blonde on Blonde and Underwater Moonlight.

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