Local writer John Kruse has just released his fifth novel a semi-fictionalised autobiography which tells the story of his involvement in student rock bands in Barnsley in the mid to late 1970s. Freak Or Smoothy? Or My Life As A Teenage Rockstar looks at the scene from which Saxon and Danse Society later rose to national prominence.
John says, ‘the book will resonate with those interested or involved in the 70s music scene, whether heavy metal or Northern Soul. It deals with all the trials and tribulations of young bands; choosing a name, finding somewhere to practice, buying equipment, getting gigs and much more. It provides a snapshot of life in Barnsley between 1975 and 1979; the schools, the pubs, the venues and the voices. It will bring back memories of 70s styles and tastes, of fashions and places long gone.’
The pub also addresses issues of teenage relationships and sexuality, underage drinking, truth and maturity, gangs and belonging. With its mixture of nostalgia, humour, tragedy and romance, it is an honest account of the mistakes and aspirations of one youth growing up and learning about life through music.
John’s first novel Rewind And Edit dealt with his life at university and follows on from the events described in this new book.
Freak Or Smoothy? Or My Life As A Teenage Rockstar is published for Kindle and is now available for just £2-99.
I asked John what ten songs would soundtrack his novel. Here’s what he said:
“Choosing a top ten list was very difficult: it could have been two or three times as long and still missed off key tracks. Lots of the songs or artists which were important to me are discussed in detail in Freak or smoothy?, so here I tried to choose tracks that are not mentioned, but were still significant.”
SAXON – MILITIA GUARD
“I don’t think any of the set they played as Son of a Bitch made it onto the first album as Saxon, but this song sums up a lot of what I liked in heavy metal in the mid-1970s. It’s about kings and swords and medieval stuff and it’s got a good solid riff.”
LED ZEPPLIN – STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
“Inevitable really. Paul Nash taped this for me; I couldn’t resist that Tolkein, mystical theme – plus it is a very pretty tune and probably the best example of the recorder in rock.”
BE BOP DELUXE – BLAZING APOSTLES
“A mid-70s rock band doing something a bit different, a bit new wave. Plus, they were from Wakefield and their guitarist Bill Nelson later formed a band called Red Noise and Damascus [John’s band mentioned in the novel] did a cover of their song ‘Revolt into style’.”
ROXY MUSIC – VIRGINIA PLAIN
“Another band who were new wave before their time. Damascus covered this song too, mainly because we had a synth which could make funny noises.”
BOB MARLEY – EXODUS
“Political with a fantastic tune. Before I heard this, I thought I lived in Barnsley; I hadn’t realised that in fact I lived in Babylon. Bob opened my eyes.”
THE DAMNED – NEAT, NEAT, NEAT
“Just as with ‘Anarchy in the UK’, I can still recall first hearing this on John Peel and being carried away by the energy and the brilliance.”
PENETRATION – DON’T DICTATE
“Still a fantastic song and all the best elements of punk in one single: urgent, tuneful, political, sung by a defiant woman. A classic.”
SISTER SLEDGE – LOST IN MUSIC
“Anything touched by the hands of Chic was excellent. ‘Le freak’ is still my absolute favourite, but this or ‘We are family’ are both close runners up for musicianship, catchy tune and floor filling potential.”
M – POP MUSIC
“A single from 1979 which points the way to a lot of early 80s pop. A British band who’d absorbed the key elements of disco and early rap.”
DANSE SOCIETY – HEAVEN CAN WAIT
“Three reasons for including this: it’s a fitting end to the list as Paul and Lyndon went on to form this band. Secondly, I heard the vocalist sing Donna Summer’s ‘I feel love’ over the intro live, which also links nicely to the book. Third, because it’s a good chorus.”