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Myself For Fame

Consul Books, London, 1964
(price: 4/-; 176 pages)

dedication: For David Cole, successful and still himself

The blurb on the back:

Royston Ellis first became known to his thousands of readers as the 'laureate of the beatnik generation'. Probably no-one knows better the sometimes cruel methods by which a personality is shaped into a satisfactory image for the fans. In this novel his hero - fictional but based on a solid knowledge of the world he inhabits - is shown at the frenzied end of the needle with which they prised him from his roots.

opening lines:
I'm a bastard. Not in the literal sense, as it happens, but in the slang sense, which is far worse. I'm perverted, deceitful, vicious, immature, narcisstic, gonorreal, depraved, unprincipled, dissolute, and a slag. I'm also a teenage idol.

White rock & roll was at its peak in about 1956-62: from, say, Gene Vincent's first single up to the emergence of The Beatles at the end, with the still horrifying loss of Buddy Holly halfway through. It's spent the last 40 years striving and failing to emulate the beauty and elegant simplicity of that initial burst of creativity. In a parallel case, stories about people becoming pop stars hit their peak early on and have been struggling to get back ever since. So here is the model on which Breaking Glass, Slade in Flame and the rest are based.

Royston Ellis was (still is) a gay poet and biographer who is said to have inspired The Beatles to write both 'Paperback Writer' and 'Polythene Pam'. In Myself For Fame he outlined every major theme of the small-town boy who gets seduced (literally) into the music business and finds that success doesn't always bring happiness:

There was a time when I felt so happy, so good-looking, so wonderful to be alive. I couldn't move without being mobbed, and it wasn't just the hairies or uglies who chased me, it was everyone. Everyone wanted my jissom.
Now I'm here, all alone. I curl up, fondle my gristle, and wait for the drugs to slow down my mind and make me relax. (p. 103)

Partly, the joy of the book is that the narrator - the farmhand turned pop star, Danny Gabriel - is an unpleasant little shit, and partly it's that everyone else he meets in the business is even worse. It's also one of the first books to accept that the industry is largely run by gay men.

And, quite apart from the sheer entertainment factor, this is as detailed an account of the pre-Beatles British music scene as you're going to get, from the nature of recording sessions through to the breakdown of weekly income and expenses when one has a hit record.


visit Royston Ellis' website

from the maker of:
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The Shadows
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James Dean

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