Monday, October 06, 2014

Rockin' all over the world

Andrew Mueller's Rock And Hard Places couldn't be much more aptly titled. Not only does it give an indication of the book's dual subject matter - music and travel (often travel to places you'd probably not choose as a holiday destination - Afghanistan, Georgia, Lebanon, Woodstock II, Exeter Airport) - but it also forewarns the reader of the author's predilection for a good pun, as evidenced by such chapters as "24 Hour Pate People" (on the Transmusicales festival in France) and "Kicking Against The Prix" (a profile of Formula 1 racing driver Eddie Irvine).

Seeking in his introduction to identify a single unifying theme to all of the articles collected in the volume, Mueller ventures that "a fundamental foolishness exists at the heart of every enterprise and circumstance I have attempted to document", adding that "Most of the situations depicted in the following pages are strange, ridiculous or downright idiotic". Tours and wars can both be all three at once.

Mueller is sufficiently self-aware to know that he spends his life winging it - whether when venturing to places he'd be well advised to avoid or when capitalising on the extraordinary good fortune of (for instance) getting to enjoy Iceland on the pretence of writing about a band. It's not all excitement, glamour, danger and press junkets, though - he also covers the frequent boredom, discomfort and irritation of being on the road both as a music journalist and a travel writer.

While not quite on the scale of Hunter S. Thompson, Mueller is a larger-than-life character and always the central protagonist in his articles, even when the focus is ostensibly on global megastars. This might annoy some readers, but his marvellous, memorable turn of phrase means that that (and a mystifying tolerance and indulgence of Bono) can be forgiven.

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