Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Mistakes, tricks of the mind or poetic license?

I've decided to keep a record of things that appear in other biographies that can't be true just so I don't get confused when compiling the info for the exhibition...sorry if it seems a bit anal.

I'm not criticising other biographers because as I'm discovering its difficult to know what is true and what isn't, and whose memory is the more 'accurate'. Remembering is a very subjective process and in the process of making a coherent story or narrative not only biographers, but also their subjects, elaborate or invent things, often unconsciously or becaused they're encouraged to do so by circumstances.

The other thing that happens is that biographers are prone to pass off as facts things that their subjects are actually much more unclear or tentative about...and some of that more nuanced stuff gets lost in translation. But in the end you have to do the best you can with the material you have.

Queen: The Early Years
I really enjoyed reading this book and it was this that stimulated my own research. There are lots of mistakes particularly relating to dates and places though. eg The Reaction could not have played at PJs because it did n't open until late in 1968. They only played once in a marquee on Perranporth, ie it was not a regular gig as implied in the book. Smile played at the Winter Gardens in Penzance (and Mike Dudley has a recollection along those lines), but Queen probably played there on more occasions. The advert for 'Legendary Drummer' playing at Driftwood Spars in St Agnes was in relation to a Queen gig not a Smile gig.

Record Collector 1995: Roger Taylor's Reaction
There is the implication that Beat Unlimited/Cousin Jacks formed in 1964, but it was probably a shade earlier than this. The Individuals won the Rock and Rhythm championship in 1965 but not whilst wearing parkas, that was another group. Jill Johnson's singing group The Jays or Jayfolk were never called the Three Jays and Pat Johnstone was not a member (see earlier posts below)

As it Began
As it Began is derived from interviews with the band, and is still the most authoritative of all the biographies, though goes into less detail regarding the very early years. It says Roger was lead singer at the '66 rock and rhythm championships, and, amusingly for the Reaction members who have read it, that Acker Snell replaced a saxophonist called John Snell (they are of course the same person). Both these are probably examples of the biographers misunderstanding something that Roger had told them. It says that Reaction played at PJs (The Early Years must have copied this error). Another strange one: it also describes Mike Grose's windscreen smashing on the way up to London: something that he has no recollection of now.
There are others which I will add gradually...

 Queen: the definitive biography
Written by Laura Jackson, and the last of the four to be published. Its enjoyable to read and has a fair bit of new material eg some good stuff by Tim Staffell on Smile. But it has repeated the PJs/Reaction error! Poor old Roger Brokenshire gets a name check but again his name is spelt wrong (Brokenshaw).  There are a few other names spelt wrongly, like Doug Puddifoot who helped with a lot of the early publicity shots. Mike Grose feels that Laura misunderstood what he said when he said he stayed with Roger Taylor in Earls Court. He may have stayed there for a night or two but mainly he was with Brian in Barnes and thats where many of the rehearsals took place. Finally the second bassist, Barry Mitchell, was not from Cornwall, though may have been contacted via a friend in Cornwall.

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