Monday, 29 May 2023

Celebrity Jukebox #90: Martin Amis

Back in my 20s, when I had an abundance of free time and the world still made a vague sort of sense, I read (on average) a book a week. As well as the Stephen Kings and Dean Koontzs of my teenage years, I delved further into proper literary fiction, read the weekly book reviews in the paper, and sampled the cream of contemporary novelists. Some struck a particular chord and became longtime favourites - the late Iain Banks was top of that list - while others, like Julian Barnes, produced one or two books I thought were excellent... but others that left me cold. Martin Amis was firmly in the latter camp.

The son of respected satirist, Kingsley Amis, Martin was often described as the enfant terrible of the literary scene in the 80s and 90s. He posed for photos like the one above, clearly trying to cultivate a Bowie-esque mystique, and wrote books that mocked the worst excesses of capitalist society and the common man. There's no denying his talent as a writer, but his books were often a hard read, full of what one critic described as "the new unpleasantness". Only his light-hearted 1973 debut, The Rachel Papers, and Times Arrow, the story of a Nazi doctor told in Benjamin Button-style reverse narrative, stick in my mind as books I'd want to read again... but increasingly these days, I have less time for literary fiction that stretches my brain and just go looking for a good yarn to relax in. What would Martin Amis say to that?

"No one wants to read a difficult literary novel or deal with a prose style which reminds them how thick they are. There's a push towards egalitarianism, making writing more chummy and interactive, instead of a higher voice, and that's what I go to literature for."

I'm rather happy being a thicko, Martin. Here are some songs which mention your name... starting with one that place both you and your dad into a catalogue of literary greats... with a cough and a burp.

And lying alone, I've read 'Success' by Martin Amis
And 'The Rules of Attraction' by Bret Easton Ellis

It appears my old pal Momus read many of the same books as me in the 90s...

Next up, a satirical take on Mr. Amis from Glaswegian art rockers (they're a band, not a person) called...

The Spanish Amanda were a North London indie band who came together in the late 90s, and produced some fine records like this future Celeb Jukebox entry...

Their back catalogue is available as "Name Your Price" downloads in bandcamp, should you be interested. But what's this got to do with Martin Amis, you ask? Well, The Spanish Armada now go under the name The Chickpea Darlings, and here they are with a song about the year I turned 16... except, they claim, "It's not really about 1988. It's about now."

Another Martin Amis moment
An itch that someone’s got to scratch
Pouring petrol on your neighbours
Praying someone’s got a match
Sometimes it taps you on shoulder
Sometimes smacks you in the face
Feel its hot breath on your neck
It’s nineteen eighty-eight

From London to Chicago, and another band that's been in the go since the 90s, led by one Graham Smith... with today's most obvious rhymes.

Now I may not be as famous as Martin Amis
But if the shit is good, then who gives a fuck what my name is?

We end with the title track of an album that was heavily influenced by Martin Amis, particularly his 1989 novel London Fields. If you've never read one of his books, this song tells you everything you need to know... whether you like it or not.


  1. Great post, Rol. I'm with you on Iain Banks and Julian Barnes, although I found the latter a bit hit-and-miss. When the obits for Martin Amis emerged, I realised that I've not read a single book of his (or dad, Kingsley, for that matter). Given my snail-like pace of reading these days - or more accurately, finding time for reading books - there's a long list already that I may never complete.

    On a much brighter note, posting Momus alone has made my day but I really enjoyed all of today's selections. Thanks!

    1. My own reading pace has similarly slowed, K. I just hold onto my old books for my retirement years...

  2. Was London Fields the one with a guy who played darts? If so I've read it.

  3. Now then, now then... it's Huw From The Spanish Amanda, here... hello, there... hello, hello... partly in eagle-eyed proof-reading mode (aaah, HOW often do we get called The Spanish Armada..? "It's really a lot, Huw," is the answer, alas...), partly to say a delighted "Well, cheers to you..!!" for pointing people towards the SpanAm back catalogue, and partly to note that our first self-released thing, pre-Amanda, was even more Amis-y... since back then, we named ourselves London Fields after... well, you know. That bit's obvious. I put some of the London Fields stuff on Bandcamp a few years ago - as always, free to download (because We're Only In It For The Art) - hereaboots, I believe:
    We were clearly very enamoured of our drum machine, at the time... but it was the 90's, and We Knew No Better. Mmmmmm. All best, anyway... Huw From The Spanish Amanda xxxxx

    1. Thank you, Huw, and apologies that my aging eyes couldn't read your band name correctly. I will correct. Will also check out more of your output having enjoyed the Spanish AMANDA material I've heard so far. It's top of my list as soon as I finish the new record by Bruce Springclean. Thanks for dropping by.


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