I’ve read some really bad music books. This is the worst.
Please understand that I wish I was joking when I tell you that a publisher sent me a copy of a book called Different Country, Same State: On The Road With James Blunt.
Please understand I wish I was joking when I tell you that I read the entire thing.
Please understand this as a warning. Be afraid. Very afraid.
At first it seemed like a bit of a joke. I would read the intro – look at the appalling picture-captions and close the book. I even thought, briefly, that it might be fun to enlist the help of my near-calligrapher wife to write a fake signature – as James Blunt – and to then pass it on to someone in the office, Secret Santa-styles.
But no. I kept reading…
James Blunt is, of course, hideous. His doe-eyed look and his songs designed to undo bra straps so that said bra can be flung in a Blunt direction are an insult. His back-story – he was a soldier don’t you know – is part of the insult. But it’s those god-awful songs that really do it.
Goodbye My Lover. Pffff – get your hand off it James! Nobody actually writes things like that and means it.
So it’s fair to say I thought I knew what I was getting myself in for – masochist that I am – but no. No, no, no, no, no! I could never know.
The worst thing about the book – far worse than the fact that it attempts (and I guess succeeds) in detailing the minutiae of Blunt’s life on the road is that it is written by Peter Hardy.
Now I had no idea who Peter Hardy was before I read this atrocity. But I found out a lot more about him than I did Blunt through the course of the book. It’s a weird double-edged sword. If Hardy was doing his job properly, he boasted several times about his journalistic prowess, then I would have found out not so much about him but I would have found out even more about James Blunt. So it seems an odd complaint. But in this case I would have liked to probably know more about Blunt than Hardy. And I think that sentence – scary as it could seem and should seem – says a lot. It is the truth. I wanted to find out a lot more about Blunt than Hardy.
Peter Hardy is, apparently, a family friend of the Blunts. He admits this in the middle of talking about his unbiased, unflinching approach to covering the James Blunt tour. Yes, Hardy narrates his own narration essentially; he comments on his style, he covers the way he will cover things – even if he doesn’t end up actually covering things. If I had had him as my Secret Santa I would have been buying an internal monologue.
Peter Hardy is, apparently, known as “Weird Uncle Peter”. And he’s pretty proud of this. He wears it as a badge of honour. There’s even a photo of him in his Weird Uncle Peter persona – it looks a bit like an older version of the Uncle Ernie character (played by Keith Moon) in the movie Tommy.
Peter Hardy’s main claim to fame is that he slept with Janis Joplin. This almost proves that Joplin was never sober. Hardy is some sort of journalistic equivalent of the David Brent character in The Office. He really is. He is all nudge-nudge/wink-wink to himself.
This book was like when you commit to a half-hour of a reality TV show in a hungover state. You don’t really know you are committing – next thing you’ve watched a three-hour marathon of Girls Of The Playboy Mansion/16 And Pregnant/Jersey Shore. And you’ve kinda loved it. And therefore hated yourself for it.
Hardy is given tasks – like finding the hot-looking girls for Blunt to chat up and bed after his gigs. Hardy never comments on the outcome/s – but he does admit that he gets in more trouble as the “Willy Wonka” handing out these “Golden Tickets”. Apparently he picks all the rotten-looking slags. But then, we sorta know that – given his score of Janis Joplin.
And that’s something he just won’t shut up about. He actually – twice – compares Joplin to Blunt. Talks about the similarities that only he can see – as someone who knew them both intimately (I can only presume that this means Weird Uncle Peter had his way, in some way, with James Blunt).
It’s really the most hideous book you could ever read. And I know that I am not surprising anyone – as most of you would know this by one sniff of the cover, by a quick scan that reveals the name James Blunt attached to the project.
There are some hilariously bad bits. Almost so-bad-it’s-good. Almost. There are fan-letters from moisty-palmed, mouth-breathing bunny-boilers who, you know, just need the chance to show James that they can love him as only he needs, as only he deserves. That they would do anything – including anything slutty, not that they wish to be considered slutty – to have James, and to keep him. That he has written and sung not one, not two, but so many songs that are about their lives! That he has proven himself, just by writing Goodbye My Lover, to be their most ultimate human being; their chronicler of all that is good and decent and loving and real and wise and lovely. And that he is worth the hundreds of vials of pixie-dust they have collected since they were thrown out of home economics for eating all the raw dough with a far-off look in their eye and the car already packed, provisions ready for a trip to go surfing down at Finger Beach.
And, yes, I said letters – not letter, singular. There are many. Loads.
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