The 2000 official biography of James.
‘Folklore, the official history of James, tells the story of this vital, cerebral group from their early days in Manchester’s fertile and feisty post-punk scene to their millennial album Millionaires and their status today as one of Britain’s biggest and most individual bands. It’s an engaging, erratic and driven tale. It’s the definitive story of James.‘
Stuart Maconie, famous for his work at BBC Radio 1, many of the music papers and as author of the official Blur biography, wrote the definitive history of James, charting the almost 20 year history of the band up to 2000. It includes exclusive interviews with the band, revealing the truth about the dark, dim, distant and depressing past. It charts the good and the bad times, the successes and the near break-ups, the comings and goings of band personnel. The publisher says “No James fan worth their salt will not read this book cover to cover – newer fans will get vital insights into just why this band is so special and be amazed at how it is still together at all and older fans will discover the truth behind the myths spread about the band in the eighties.”
- Publisher: Virgin Books
- First Edition First Impression: 9 November 2000
- ISBN-10: 0753504944
- ISBN-13: 978-0753504949
By David Brown, curator of the unofficial James archive
Band biographies tend to fall into three categories – the slavishly sycophantic, the deep emotional evaluation and the simple no-thrills story. Folklore fits like a glove into the latter. Evaluation of the music is critical rather than emotive and instinctive. This is no bad thing – we have 260 pages here for a 20 year story – and what a story it is – and you and I all have our own reasons for being James fans.
The characters are introduced as and when they come into James – there is no assuming you know anything about them just because you have bought their records. For me, this is the most fascinating aspect of the book. There is no skimming over the shady early days and the story is often told in the words of the actors themselves.
More than half the book concentrates on the pre-1989 James, an amazing feat given the paucity of the documentary material on this period. It is a must-read for the older fan as that story has never really been told and an eye opener for the younger fans that are maybe not aware of that history.
The book then becomes a series of ups and downs. There are some fascinating insights into the Gold Mother, Laid and Wah Wah sessions, but relatively little on the more fractious times in between.
The period between Gold Mother and Seven, the three-year hiatus and Black Thursday and the near breakup at the time of the Best Of are glossed over. It is perhaps a little unfair to blame the author for this as the real story of these times lie with the band themselves and some serious grievances and personal animosity have had to be laid to rest. Dragging them back up at a time of relative harmony would be self-defeating, but the book does suffer from this as a result.
So in the final analysis, is the book worth the price? The James story, all the way back to the very beginning, is critical to understanding the music the band was producing at any juncture in their career. Despite an odd chronological error and the comments earlier, the book is by far the most comprehensive telling of that story to date.
Read, inwardly digest and go back and listen to your collection.
Q Review December 2000 by Paul Davies 4/5
A country mile from the officially sanctioned, ego-stroking biographies which regularly bring the genre into disrepute. Maconie’s lemon-sharp account relates James’ enthralling spacehop from here to there in zippily relentless prose. An everyday tale of hijacked golf carts, drugs and 16-hour meditation sessions, the book is threaded with chunky interviews from all the key protagonists. The music journey from knock-kneed indie shavings to big-boned wraparound arena-gobblers is painstakingly charted and sprinkled with appetising anecdote. From Tim Booth’s public school outing to see Iggy Pop to the gormless backstage shenanigans on the 1997 Lollapalooza tour, Folklore plays tantalising keep-uppy with the twitching bag of rats that is the James experience.