Monday, 13 August 2012

AMY AMY AMY, THE AMY WINEHOUSE STORY – Nick Johnstone, 2011 version

I thought I recognised Johnstone’s name, then I remembered he had written a similar book about Johnny Depp. Both attempts were fairly innocuous and probably forgettable to everyone but die-hard fans (including me, I’m afraid), except that, in this case, Winehouse died and his sales soared. This version was written after her death, I hesitate to say to cash in, but it feels like it is.
I loved Amy Winehouse for her music and the tragic life always appeals to me. But this book loses sight of the personality behind the lyrics. Both of her albums were written by Winehouse herself (don’t dismiss her as just a singer) after major disappointments in her love life, yet this is awarded only the most cursory examination. There are pages and pages devoted to which producers and backing singers added ‘layers’ during the production of these albums but there is no real presence of Amy herself. Perhaps this is because the same producers and backing singers were pleased to raise their profile in print. Or am I being too cynical?
There is a strange quote from The Guardian on the cover which praises the ‘precise eye for detail’ but here is an example of the sort of detail we find within (talking about her first school):  Children start at the school, in reception class, during the academic year, September to August, in which their fifth birthday falls, and remain at the school until the age of 11, when they transfer to state-funded secondary schools or private schools. This describes every state primary school in the country and, even if Johnstone is exemplifying for the benefit of oversees readers, you have to ask yourself why bother?
Maybe one day there will be a book which does Amy Winehouse justice.  It is very easy to dismiss her as yet another popular culture nightmare but a serious account with fewer details about primary schools and more about how a destructive personality can lead to a work of importance to a great many people would be welcome.

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