Roy Wilkinson - Do It For Your Mum


The passages about Dad are tremendous. Especially the bit about Dad as the gatekeeper and proselytiser of the BSP revolution. His speech could mirror the kind of staccato commands given to the Red Guards in 1917-22.

(Rough Trade books)


This is a strange book make no mistake, and by no means a perfect or indeed an easy read at times. But it is compelling. I’ve read Do It For Your Mum three times in a week since getting a copy. I’ve read it in the fields of Haldern Pop festival where British Sea Power inaugurated a near riot with tulip bulbs and a toy horses head. I’ve read it on the train to Groningen, scene of two of British Sea Power’s most infamous, disastrous non-performances.  I’ve read it on the John, where I am thankful to say, no member of that band has yet been.


It is safe to say that British Sea Power is a band of legend, though I am convinced one whose full merits will only be seen in hindsight. And theirs is no ordinary rock story. Indeed it’s an ordinary story, like yours and mine, full of the observations and actions and quirks of habit we all have. Not for them the plastic, twilight mutterings and witless intellectual philandering of the rock world, as thin in substance as cellophane and as brittle as ice.


But the thing is the book isn’t really about them. Even though the band’s early story is told they play (just as they do in “real life”) a bit part role, peripheral and slightly elvish figures who appear both genial and remote.  For despite the tales of Martin Noble’s climbing, Scott Wilkinson’s front man-isms and acrobatics, Neil Wilkinson’s wanderlust, Woody’s drumming or Eamon’s wreck-head adventures, (not to mention sellotaping magic mushrooms to heads) this book is about the narrator Roy Wilkinson aka Old Sarge, aka The Secretary; and his relationship with his dad and his daughter.


The passages about Dad are tremendous. Especially the bit about Dad as the gatekeeper and proselytiser of the BSP revolution. His speech could mirror the kind of staccato commands given to the Red Guards in 1917-22. This is rock reviewing, not some pseud-yawning, sub-degree exam work out,  not pretend anger or mockney glamourizing: “nig nig nig guitar bits… boof-boof drums… bite them… whippet thin… make them work… singing fannies… are you ready?”


As I said Do It For Your Mum is not perfect. At times the reader and the narrative are overwhelmed by the facts Mr Wilkinson throws art you, and rather than sounding like the tale of a young band’s ascent it begins to sound like a sort of overwrought journalistic confession. At times the writer cannot it seems help but throw in far too many facts, figures and counter arguments to back a view which seems to change as the clouds roll by. Excellent material for an afternoon’s natter in the pub, it can be a bit wearisome as a read. In fact the closest books I can think of when the avalanche of historical and natural facts slide inexorably down the paragraph towards the reader are Charles Nevin’s “Lancashire, Where Women Die of Love”, or TC Lethebridge’s “GogMagog”: both equally bizarre and obsessive in their quests. Mr Wilkinson’s style can be slightly Pooterish, too, and the predilection for using arcane or florid vocabulary doesn’t translate successfully from the brilliant BSP calls to arms that are the newsletters and flyers. 


So, it’s not the greatest rock biography I have read, that crown still goes indisputably to the great Head On/Repossessed by Julian Cope. Or the greatest rock story told which must be the 13th Floor Elevator’s Eye Mind.  But by all that’s good and right, you need this book, as it forcibly and constantly reminds you of your own humanity, and good rock music’s true place in it, as gatekeeper to the soul and imagination.