In today’s necessarily thrifty environment, it’s reassuring to know that a bargain may still be had. Supermarkets have their ‘bogof’ deals, petrol stations have their Nectar rewards programme, rail tickets have reduced museum entry offers. And indie rock has British Sea Power.
For ten years their high-church amplified rock music has been dispensed with a dizzying array of bolt-on extras. Mint cake, beer mats, country walks, beer, bears, robots, chocolate, movies, mystery tours, caves, the National Maritime Museum, fannying about with lighthouses, girl guide uniforms and Ronnie Corbett. All part of the story: ‘apps’, if you will, to BSP’s smartphone. With such a glorious amount of baggage, this Cumbria/Yorkshire-cum-Brighton collective were always destined to exceed the national average. They are NOT The Holloways. Phew. Somebody should maybe sit down and write a book about it all. Oh wait…

With ‘Do It For Your Mum’, music journo turned BSP manager Roy Wilkinson exposes the peculiar forces at work behind this most unusual family affair. Chief player in this story is not singer Yan, nor bass player Neil (his charismatic kid brothers). It’s their dad, Ron: an 87-year-old World War Two veteran and ‘self-instructed expert on alternative rock from The Smiths to the Butthole Surfers’.

This amiable octogenarian became so energised by his kids’ musical leanings that he dedicated his most recent years to learning all he could about the alternative music industry and the players within it. While boning up on band biographies, he would write letters to the likes of U2 suggesting British Sea Power could liven up their shows no end. And he would badger elder sibling Roy to steer the band towards the toppermost of the poppermost.

This Roy did – with admirable aplomb. While the band were busy sellotaping magic mushrooms to their heads, he slipped effortlessly into his role of ‘The Secretary’ – BSP chief ideas man and propagandist. Moderate commercial and chart success ensued: massive artistic progress was made.

But none of this came without a price. Hidden from even the most ardent BSP spectators (and as band followers come, there are none more committed or involved than the loyal ‘Third Battallion’) was an unbelievable pressure from both sides of the Roy Wilkinson family timeline: from super-enthusiastic dad to the daughter he yearned to spend more time with.

‘Do It For Your Mum’ is a hilarious, heart-warming, proud, honest and emotional insight into the Roy that BSP enthusiasts thought they knew – but didn’t. On the face of it all, it’s a cracking read, super-injected with Roy’s trademark attention to exquisite detail. The touring tales are hilariously told (right down, in fact, to the shape and pricing policy of Greggs pasties); there are slapstick injuries, celebrities such as Tracy Barlow and a spectacular personal encounter with the man who will one day be our king.

And just as Sex Pistol Steve Jones once famously summed up his punk career by saying he was ‘only in it for the booze and birds after the show’, we find Roy is of much the same mind: as long as it’s Oranjeboom at £2.79 for four refrigerated tins and a glimpse of a fast-swooping petrel.

This is the stuff. But it’s more, much more, than an above-averagely eventful music biography. Roy’s British Sea Power adventures are a fitting vehicle for a broader enquiry into the human experience – from the rarely smooth mechanics of the family unit to one’s personal place within history and the future. From mental anguish and even worrying hallucinations to the joy of witnessing a pine marten in the field.

This is like no other rock-related tome. Thankfully. Its closest neighbour, perhaps, is Mark Oliver Everett’s (Eels) ‘Things The Grandchildren Should Know’. Like that modern classic, this is an astonishing and thought-provoking book – an effortless, enjoyable and compulsive read. I hope, and believe, that this will not be Roy’s last. It’s chock full of nature, rock’n’roll antics and deep soul-searching – and most definitely not one for the British Sea Power fan alone.

Andy BardingDo It For Your Mum – Roy Wilkinson

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  1. Interesting you mention Mark Everett as I had much the same idea – and just as you don’t have to be a massive Eels fan to enjoy Everett’s story, you don’t have to be a British Sea Power fan to enjoy this.

    If you do like British Sea Power or well written rock biographies in general, it’s a good read. If you’re just interested in fescinating people whose lives seem like fiction only more interesting, you’ll love it (I’ve laughed at the “Dad accidentally writes off a Spitfire” bit a few times now and it doesn’t stop being funny).

    And if you have ever attempted to manage an unsigned band purely for the love of it despite having no experience and making it up as you go along whilst (actually or metaphorically) banging your head against the wall – which I’m pretty sure is the case for quite a few of the LTW community – you’ll find yourself smiling with relief that it wasn’t just you who felt like that…. cheers Roy :)

  2. […] of a third of British Sea Power (Yan and Hamilton, incase you don’t know) and writer of Do It For Your Mum (a book about British Sea Power) and raconteur rock poet Jock Scott providing a spoken word […]

  3. Die “beste Show ever” (c) British Sea Power) beinhaltete fliegende Zwiebeln, einen Plüsch-Pferdekopf, Walzer-tanzende Fans und Musiker, das Besteigen der Boxen, das unabsichtliche Zerstören der Speaker (und einer Gitarre und einem Keyboard).

    Good read indeed!
    Funnily enough the closest parallel my mind found was Charles Nevin’s “Lancashire, Where Women Die of Love” but I think that’s more about my mind…

  4. […] Wilkinson will be reading from Do It For Your Mum – a story of family, music, the Lake District and British Sea Power. LTW! boss John Robb (The […]

  5. Bought a copy on Thursday night at the Lexington reading/semi acoustic BSP show and ploughed through it this weekend. Marvellous stuff. Witty, articulate and educational. I would expect nothing less.

  6. […] launched his hugely acclaimed book Do It For Your Mum at Port Eliot last summer. A longtime Caught by the River contributor, Roy will be telling more […]

  7. Thought it was shit. All other BSP fans I’ve spoken to feel the same, including a number mentioned in the book. Embarrassingly child-like writing.


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