Simultaneously with this book, I was reading a book of interviews that I bought in a remainder store, Not Fade Away by Ben Fong-Torres (1999) and the contrast is telling. Fong-Torres has insight, depth and compassion and in one piece persuades a reluctant Ray Charles to discuss drug-taking. Fong-Torres is among the world’s great journalists so this may seem an unfair comparison, but it isn’t. At £15, On The Road is the same price as books by major authors and so it has to measure up to those standards. Another of Music Mentor’s books, Bill Millar’s Let The Good Times Rock! does all that, and more, so why aren’t the same standards applying here?
Having said all that, the interviews still hold interest and contain many good anecdotes. Robin Luke talks about owning an alligator and Chas McDevitt is particularly good on the early days of skiffle The group knew they had made it when Spike Jones and the City Slickers did a parody of ‘Freight Train’. Elvis Presley copied Freddie Bell’s arrangment of ‘Hound Dog’ and everytime he saw him, he said, ‘Have you got a song for me?’
Like its predecessor, On The Road, the book is neatly presented with photographs and memorabilia. The premise of the book is fine: it is the execution which is inept. A third volume, Back On The Road Again will be published shortly. I hope Dave Nicholson ventures outside and acquires some editing skills, but I suspect that he regards this as his trademark and will not change a thing.