Book launch review: Charles Shaar Murray with John Sinclair

John Sinclair and Charles Shaar Murray
The Boogaloo, London
June 22, 1011

Clarksdale, Mississippi is where I first met John Sinclair. I met him again at the launch of Charles Shaar Murray’s first novel, ‘The Hellhound Sample’, which coincidently begins with the words ‘Clarksdale, Mississippi’.

Murray’s book is the story of the blues personified by the characters of black Mississippi bluesman, James ‘Blue’ Moon and white Home Counties Rock star, Mick Hudson: the former being an archetype in the Muddy/John Lee mould and the latter likely to be called Mick, Eric or Jimmy.

It gets inside their story and is expressively convincing in its detail.

John Sinclair, former manager of the MC5 and 60s revolutionary legend, is a long-standing authority on the blues, and at the launch introduces Murray saying that many writers have tried to write authentic fiction about the blues and failed – but that Murray had suceeded in ‘The Hellhound Sample.

Murray read the chapter from his book where the 12 year old Mick Hudson
discovers the blues in down-home Reading, something that will resonate very much with a certain generation. After reading, he followed it by playing guitar on a set of blues songs with his band Crosstown Lightning, which also features Buffalo Bill Smith on harmonica.

Charles Shaar Murray is one of Britain’s best rock critics with classic
biographies of Hendrix (Crosstown Traffic) and John Lee Hooker (Boogie Man) to his credit.That old adage about critics being eunuchs certainly does not apply to him. He writes and he plays!

On ‘Who Do You Love’, the last number of the evening, John Sinclair recited a piece of his poetry about the blues, his Detroit accent applying a certain energising presence, despite the pub’s volume limiter cutting off the amplification a couple of times. Well, it cannot be a Chicago riot every night…

Sinclair passionately believed that music could help change the
World. John Lennon wrote a song about him in the campaign to have him released from a 10-year jail sentence imposed for possession of two marijuana cigarettes. Sinclair remembers being impressed by Lennon taking a giant billboard in Time Square, New York, to proclaim ‘War is Over’. It seems today’s rock stars lack that bold conviction.

Rock’n’roll was all about rebellion – now it is more about a business plan.

Greg Taylor

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