I’d been looking forward to reading this for a long time. I’d sweated on the ebook availability of Tricky’s autobiography, as it wasn’t clear if there’d even be one, and when I finally checked back and there was one, I hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed with the book.
(I mean, I was, but that’s unsurprising for an autobiography: they’re rarely the documents we desire.)
However this one begins as it means to go on:
My first memory is seeing my mum in a coffin, when I was four years old.
That’s a better opener than I’d any right to expect, so I was hooked.
Hell Is Round the Corner is presented from several viewpoints. Tricky – Adrian Thaws to his family – is clear that he believes the story is often better told by others. So, as well as personal recollections of his life we’re treated to the thoughts of mates and other relatives.
What comes through most clearly is the importance of family, and of being mixed race in Knowle West. The travails of his existence are shot through with an solid love for his family, despite any flaws, and it’s an interesting portrait of an intersection of cultures at a particular point in the UK.
I am absolutely delighted at this, too:
I wore a Marc Bolan T-shirt all the time, too – the first and only music T-shirt I ever had. I used to go into Weston-super-Mare wearing it, and Blackpool with my nan on holiday. I loved his lyrics. You know that song ‘Cosmic Dancer’? It goes, ‘I danced myself right into the tomb, is it strange to dance so soon?’ Proper lyrics, and what’s mad is, he died young. To me, that guy was just somewhere else – he was a psychic genius.
That’s an image that’ll stick with me.
Tricky’s questing and individual approach to the creation of his own music comes through pretty solidly, as does his brushes – and discomfort – with fame. The downside is that this is all conveyed in a fairly impressionist way. If you’re looking for precise dates and times you’ll not find them, but you will find much more information about the artist’s mental state during the creation of his work, which in turn (for me) influences how they sound as I revisit them.
The book runs out of puff at the moment the wind was taken from the musician’s sails in real life: with the death of his daughter, Mina Mazy. Unsurprisingly, the cratering blow brings everything to a clattering halt, especially because so much of the book is spent discussing how important family is to Thaws. It’s a tragedy, and it’s communicated briefly, though the weight crushes.
As a fan of Tricky’s work, I very much enjoyed Hell Is Round the Corner. It didn’t meet my music nerd requirements for the sort of granular detail on music creation that some 33-1/3 books or other biographies might convey, but its personal qualities made it well worth the read. Like his recorded output, there’s occasions where Thaws could use some reining in, but fuck, who’s gonna tell Tricky to change his tune?
Hopefully one day there’ll be a fulsome biography of this important artists. Until then, hearing his story from the horse’s mouth is just fine.