12th FEBRUARY, 2018 |
A Trip Through Ladbroke Grove: The Life and Times of Underground Hero Steve Peregrin Took
by Fee Warner
Steve Took, for those who may not know (there’s probably one or two) was the original other half of Tyrannosaurus Rex, the band that hauled Marc Bolan towards the superstardom of the seventies – and who, according to what and where you read your histories, has been effectively whitewashed from the story.
Integral to the duo’s first three albums, he was out before the fourth, and while his former cohort rode the white swan to glory, Took sank into the kind of legend that made his very existence seem somehow apocryphal. How could someone have been so cool, so talented, so poised on the edge of greatness, and then vanish with such finality?
Well, you could ask his friend Syd Barrett about that, and it’s diverting to wonder what the two sat and talked about, as their old playmates played frisbee with platinum discs, while their lives were choked by grapevine and speculation.
Barrett’s story has long since been cleared of such clutter. There are probably more books about him on the shelves today than he gave interviews in his prime. Took, however, has remained deep in the shadows – one reason, perhaps, why this particular book has been germinating for seemingly years.
Author Warner has spent much of the last twenty years researching the story – gathering information, speaking with any and everyone who might have an insight into the truth, and patiently correcting the misapprehensions that have littered Took’s life for so long. She doesn’t intend stopping, either, but this gloriously illustrated and so-affectionately written book at least serves as a “story so far,” and a companion to a planned “sister book” focusing on his music alone. The 400 pages here are simply the life.
A cast of almost thousands add their voices to Warner’s – not quite an “oral history,” the book is nevertheless built around the observations of the people who were actually there, in Took’s company, as events unfolded.
Death, sadly, removed many of the key players before Warner could speak with them – Took, of course; Bolan, Barrett, Tony Secunda, Mick Wayne and more. But from producer Tony Visconti to friend Nik Turner, sometime collaborators Larry Wallis and Twink, and onto the son who never knew him (who provides a fascinating, moving, introduction), A Trip Through Ladbroke Grove lives up to its title with technicolour flare.
The Grove, after all, is where Took lived much of his life, and Warner vividly paints the subterranean multi-verse of streets and basements, hang outs and hang-ups through which Took and a host of fellow underground adventurers paraded. Dandies and drop-outs, freaks and friends, for whom making music was simply one component within the web of fascinations and convictions that sustained them.
More than any other book on the time-and-place (there are several) Warner captures that mindset, but more importantly than that, she depicts a world in which the actual rewards of fame – and that includes the backdated royalties that Took eventually received from his Tyrannosaurus Rex days – were secondary to simply living. And Took, until he was taken in October 1980, lived.
15th JANUARY, 2018