Off The Wrist Of Orion

About four times a year I get so bored of an afternoon that I take off for the local library, with the object of locating the most vacuous piece of written fluff I can find on the shelves. I then return home to a hot bath, read it from cover to cover, kill a dead-dog day, and wake up next morning so wracked with guilt that I make up the lost ground twice over.

Last week my eyes fastened on a copy of Blitzed - the Autobiography of Steve Strange, published in hardback by Orion in 2002. I guessed it might be a giggle. After all, Steve fronted the second silliest Romo band that ever there was (although first prize still goes to Classix Nouveaux) and ended the Eighties as a washed-up junkie. In April 2000 he was convicted of shoplifting a Teletubby from Marks and Spencer in Porthcawl, which for most of us seemed like a fairly apt conclusion to his career. But sadly now Steve's gone and spoiled the illusion by publishing possibly the most boring memoir for which real trees have been felled and murdered.

Blitzed really is a deeply tedious read. I was vaguely interested in reading about Visage, since the early line-up featured stray members from the godlike Magazine, but Steve doesn't disclose much beyond the fact that he fell out with uber-journeyman Midge Ure, and resents the fact that he didn't get a writing credit on 'Fade to Grey'. This despite the fact that he didn't actually take any part in writing it, a fact which he freely admits. Indeed Steve admits that Visage were never a live band in the conventional sense, and that he wasn't too keen on spending much time in the studio. Which doesn't leave you with much more than panstick and videos - Visage in a nutshell. Actually the scenario is so daft it's almost knowing, and puts me in mind of an admission made by the equally ludicrous David Van Day, of Dollar, who once appeared at a studio session and asked if it would take long, as he had a taxi waiting outside.

Steve would have us believe he was a leading punk face in 1976, working for McLaren at Glitterbest and providing unspecified 'designs' for the Pistols and Generation X. Maybe. And maybe Chuck 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' Barris really was a CIA hitman. The only truly surprising revelation in Blitzed is the fact that the first male to seduce bisexual Steve was macho Strangler Jean-Jacques Burnel, which is ironic given that band's reputation for crude sexism in their 1970s heyday. I think the Stranglers were bloody great, by the way. Burnel seems not to have denied the allegation, so I suppose it must be true, although it proves nothing beyond the fact that JJ is somewhat smarter the Kirk Brandon, who made an arse of himself after being outed in similar fashion by Boy George in Take It Like A Man.

Take It Like A Man was a bestseller, and is an interesting (if hardly revelatory) read. Probably Orion hoped to find similar success with Blitzed, but that was never on the cards. Steve Strange never had any memorable hits, or a sense of humour, and has the mind of a toy. Romo and the Blitz scene spawned little or nothing by way of a credible legacy, and today comes on like quiz night at a Bowie convention. Steven talks about his drug problems at great length, but drugs, and drug addicts, are just plain boring beyond their own subjective rush. Strange admits to burning down most of the opportunities he's been offered since about 1988, and pissing the Nineties up a wall, but fails even to make disaster remotely interesting. At least William Burroughs managed to shoot his wife through the head while under the influence, and Mick Jagger was jailed after a politically-driven pot bust. The best Strange can manage is a tale about turning Jagger away from his nightclub, and write himself a walk-on part in the Hutchence/Yates saga.

Steve could namedrop for Britain at the next Olympics, and you cannot help but wonder if his publisher paid by the celebrity rather than the word. Here's a typical (and typically inelegant) quote from the jacket blurb: 'He recalls what it was like to be at the epicentre of the glamour and debauchery of the early '80s scene: from a three-day bender with Grace Jones, a wild trip to Paris with Martin Kemp and Paula Yates, running up and down the Pyramids in a Vivienne Westwood outfit, playing elephant polo in India with Ringo Starr and Billy Connolly and providing a bolthole for Prince Andrew and Koo Stark, to riding down Fifth Avenue on the back of a camel.'

All very well, of course, but hardly up there with watching attack ships on fire off the arm of Orion. Instead, this book is simply so many chapters tossed off the wrist, and Strange's 'disarming honesty' nothing of the sort. The closing chapters tell how Strange is 'fighting his way back again', but served only to put this reader in mind of that book by Alan Partridge which was remaindered at the petrol station. So bad it's good? Not really. In fact no-one involved in the production of this book should be permitted to work again.

© 2003 James Nice