Up Above the City, Down Beneath the Stars review – post-punk colossus pours his guts out in raw style


Here, Adamson rose to prominence with his bass guitar in stage titans such as Magazine, the birthday party, and the original incarnation of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. However, he also fell victim to heroin addiction – an illness that plagued him for ten years.

Above the city, under the stars is Adamson’s autobiography of his childhood in a mixed family on Manchester’s Moss Side and Hulme, of his membership in Howard Devoto’s group Magazine, apparently weeks after buying a bass guitar for the first time and with no real musical training, helping Nick Cave put down his primitive gothic punk blues and drug addiction, before finally cleaning up.

It’s a story that can be divided into two clear parts: his childhood in the 60s and 70s in Manchester – which is presented in a literary equivalent of a series of short newsreels in white – discovering punk rock and its subsequent musical career – which heralds a whole different dayglo style of writing. The first half of the book requires some persistence with its short stories involving friends from school, older sister, and obviously loving parents. He was born with dislocated arms and legs, due to a medical condition called dyschondroplasia and maybe it was due to this or because he really is the baby of the family, being nine years younger than his. only brother, but throughout his childhood, things just happen to him with little valuable explanation, and he has to figure them out afterwards.

One day, his parents and sisters take him on an unexpected trip to the hospital, where he eventually wakes up in a full cast, as part of treatment to correct his damaged legs. Later, he comes home from school and finds his father being yelled at and slapped by both his mother and sister, apparently due to a sexual misstep with a companion’s wife. Young Barry rarely sees things coming and while reflecting on these events, Old Barry rarely puts them into a cohesive narrative, but leaves them hanging. Likewise, on a family day trip to a damp Morcombe, the Adamsons find themselves in a movie theater, watching The golden finger. The “little life of seven-year-old Barry is forever changed,” but what if the reader did not know that the theme song was eventually taken over by Magazine or that Adamson’s subsequent solo career would be significantly influenced by the musical style of John Barry, it would be hard to know why.

Once teenage Barry discovered punk rock, however, the writing style changed significantly, as Adamson exhibited his musical successes and personal misadventures under a bright spotlight. He bought the Buzzcocks Spiral Scratch record from Paul Morley at a Stockport record store. His buddy Dave Hughes gives him a bass and in no time he joins one of the flagship groups of the post-punk scene, just as it is being formed. Soon the rock’n’roll lifestyle beckons and he drops the amphetamine pills, jumping between recording studios and tours and between the sheets with plenty of women, including the singer’s girlfriend from the album. ‘era.

He is introduced to heroin and soon his behavior changes from that of a naughty young boy to a selfish monster. He becomes a father and marries his girlfriend, all in between regular disappearances to mark and shoot, before the mother and baby flee to his parents in Australia. He falls with Nick Cave and briefly reflects on the Jamaican part of his legacy, which has been largely ignored until now, then he is interrupted by the deaths of his sister, mother and father, who quickly follow each other in the during his late 20s. It’s not quite enough to persuade him to put down the needle, but begins the process and after much more drama, Barry finally accepts that it’s time to be wise. .

At this point, the book comes to a rather abrupt halt, as Adamson embarks on a new career as a respected solo artist and film music composer, but there is little thought, or clues to. an ongoing relationship with his daughter, Christina. Maybe this cliff-hanger is a set-up for a second book, but even more so than with Above the city, under the stars, it is unlikely to attract readers who do not already know huge parts of history.

  • Barry Adamson: Above the City, Under the Stars (Omnibus Press, £ 20)

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