Danny Baker has lead a charmed life; and like fellow music obsessive and presenter Andy Kershaw it has largely about being in the right place at the right time, which may not be purely down to luck but may say something about the charisma and likeability of both of them.
Going To Sea in a Sieve forms the first part of Baker’s Autobiography and the titular reference to a poem by master of nonsensical prose, Edward Lear, also gives a hint to his sense of humour and this is a book where it literally drips from every page via anecdote, observation, insights and asides.
As only the first half of the story the book takes us through Baker’s formative years, his school years, first jobs, break-through into the music business and a succession of jobs that lead through record stores, The NME at the height of it’s fame and finally to TV work. It is exactly the part of a persons life I am interested in, how they went from being just another guy in the street, like the rest of us, to someone working in music and media, rubbing shoulders with stars and on first name terms with music icons. And of course the reality is a lot of hard work, a bit of luck and a whole dose of charm.
For Baker is a charming person, it comes through in his writing, the stories he tell are generally good natured and even when dishing the dirt it is done without a hint of nastiness, he seems to love his life, love the world he has found himself in and more than anything loves people, not always the norm in an autobiography where the act of revenge via the printed page is never too far away.
There is also joy in his language, anyone who has heard his radio show or seen him on a TV panel or in interview will be aware of the sort of eloquent, man in the street delivery he has, his ability to mix high brow and archaic words and phrases into his speech and still sound like the man on the football terrace.
But of course most of what the reader is interested in is the man himself and the book’s pleasure is derived from the series of stories that highlight his mercurial life. From working on the infamous Sniffin’ Glue punk fanzine to finding himself alongside music journalism greats such as Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray at NME in the late seventies and then into TV work with Janet Street Porter, this charts a fairly sharp rise to prominence underlined by some brilliant story telling.
Even if you are not necessarily a music fan or that knowledgeable of Danny Baker’s career, I would still highly recommend this book as a light and amusing read and an insight into a genuine lover of life.