Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Rock Star Autobiographies - John McGuinness and Keith Richards

Two of the greatest rock stars of all time have published books in recent weeks, just in time for the Christmas market.

John McGuinness, TD for Carlow-Kilkenny, needs no introduction of course. Rebel. Rockstar. Maverick. Outsider. A piper at the gates of dawn, a moonlight shadow, a zephyr howling through the Curlew Mountains and on into the members’ bar of Dáil Éireann.

While the lesser known Keith Richards is an Englishman with the face of a prune and who is said to have more of different people’s blood sluicing through his system than Count Dracula.

Both men laugh in the face of doom, and spit in the eye of terror. Both walk with hellhounds on their trail. McGuinness calls his book The House Always Wins, thus showing that he dreams the impossible dream, and fights the ungovernable sea. Keith Richards – well, you only have to look at the head on him.

Funnily enough, in calling his book “The House Always Wins,” the reader would be forgiven for thinking that maybe McGuinness is anti-establishment or something. You’d think that maybe he wants to tear down the house.

The fact that McGuinness remains very firmly ensconced in Fianna Fáil despite have roasted the Government on several occasions would indicate that our hero is happy as a tick with the way things are, actually. He likes to blow off a little every now and again, like some great whale somewhere between Greenland and Tarwathie.

In rock and roll terms, John McGuinness is very much like the former American president: he smokes, but he does not, under any circumstances, inhale.

McGuinness’ credibility as providing an alternative is lessened also by the first photograph in his book which is, unless I’m mistaken, a picture of his dear old Da and his dear old Da before him, both dressed in chains. Not because they were on the prison ship to Van Diemen’s Land now; it’s that they were both politicians before John himself, and thus got to dress up like Knights of the Garter. After all, what has been more important throughout the history of the Republic than royal blood? McGuinness is an unusual revolutionary if he’s leading the charge from inside the castle, aiming out.

Poor Dessie O’Malley was on Marian Finucane’s radio show a few Sundays ago, talking about how difficult it is to set up a new political party now. But at least Dessie tried. We have to say that much for him.

As for the guitar-picker: there’s an interesting quote from the manager of The Grateful Dead, Rock Scully, in Nick Kent’s recently published autobiography Apathy for the Devil, about the Stones, the ‘sixties and peace and love: “Woodstock and Altamount are seen as polar opposites in a mass-media generated parable of light and darkness, but they were just two ends of the same mucky stick, the net result of the same disease: the bloating of mass bohemia in the late ‘sixties.”

Not only did Joan Didion say more or less the same thing, but she called it at the time in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The sooner history swallows Keith Richards and his hopelessly narcissistic and utterly hypocritical generation the better. They’ll be no loss.