Tim Worthington: ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ reviewed

❉ A collection of articles that try to make sense of why the odd, the ephemeral and the discovered-by-chance often mean so much to us.

“Tim’s style is brisk and the articles are generally short and snappy. I seem to have lost a lot of sleep over this book in the past week, due to it causing a severe case of late-night ‘just one more article’ syndrome. This is a good thing.”

Cut Tim Worthington open, like a stick of souvenir Liverpool rock, and the word Skiboy is written through him in toffee letters. Or possibly The Walham Green East Wapping Carpet Cleaning Rodent And Boggit Extermination Association, although that’d have to be in tiny writing. In normal size text, and available as an eBook or a print-on-demand physical copy, is his latest collection of writing, Can’t Help Thinking About Me. This 500 or so page book is a compendium of some previously published articles, expanded on by the addition of extensive introductions and footnotes, as well as material new to the reader. It has to be said that some of my favourite books, such as Ian MacDonald’s Revolution In The Head and Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, make extensive use of footnotes, so Tim was instantly onto a winner with me here. Full disclosure before we go any further: this book includes a review of a play about Douglas Adams written by Mark Griffiths, for which I provided – in its first incarnation – a new version of the classic theme music and sound effects, but it’s okay, he doesn’t mention me (I assume he’s furious about my merging of the Eagles/Souster/Talbot arrangements).

“It’s certainly true that the author is a one-stop shop of information about the abandoned, the exceptional and the more unusual pop cultural artefacts of our time… However, this volume is much more than a deliberate attempt to baffle the casual reader by simply glorifying the obscure. It’s a collection of articles that try to make sense of why the odd, the ephemeral and the discovered-by-chance often mean so much to us as individuals and have a life-span in our hearts and minds far beyond that which they had as broadcast output.”

Tim’s style is brisk and the articles are generally short and snappy. I seem to have lost a lot of sleep over this book in the past week, due to it causing a severe case of late-night ‘just one more article’ syndrome. This is a good thing. The new introductions often run as long again as the articles and really enhance them – they’re the ‘Director’s Commentary’ of the book. His style is more journalistic than academic, but this collection aims to put together a picture of why his obsessions mean so much to him. It’s far from autobiographical in the truest sense of the word, with many of the pieces only peripherally relating to specific incidents from his life, but the trigger for each article is generally the recollection of when a particular song, TV episode or movie first entered his awareness and lodged itself in his (encyclopaedic) brain. That being said, the final section of the book, which carries the same title as the book itself, turns more towards the author’s own responses to politics, loss, terrorism and having to come to terms, or not, with those artists and celebrities who’ve turned out to be much, much less kind and human than you believed them to be.

It’s certainly true that the author is a one-stop shop of information about the abandoned, the exceptional and the more unusual pop cultural artefacts of our time and if you’ve listened to Tim’s charmingly esoteric podcast, Looks Unfamiliar, and not immediately started making a list of what you’d put forward if you were on it (I’ve written mine!), then maybe this isn’t going to be the book for you. However, this volume is much more than a deliberate attempt to baffle the casual reader by simply glorifying the obscure. It’s a collection of articles that try to make sense of why the odd, the ephemeral and the discovered-by-chance often mean so much to us as individuals and have a life-span in our hearts and minds far beyond that which they had as broadcast output.

Photo: Alex Bailie – www.bailliephotographer.co.uk

As the subjects of the articles within are so intriguing, perhaps the only sadness is that as a self-published book presumably the time and cost of clearing the rights for photographs and images for illustration purposes would have been prohibitive, so there are no shiny hi-res images of The Fierce Flowers or The Mersey Pirate, for example, to accompany the articles. There is a curated playlist however, made available through the author’s website here. If I have to add any criticism, it would be that (a) I didn’t really need to hear quite so often about the author’s obsession with Karen Gillan, and redheads in general, whisky-bearing or otherwise and (b) Tim really doesn’t need to be so hard on himself about the notion of ‘appearing’ in the articles and introductions. At one point he admits to getting “fed up with talking about myself”, but in all honesty, given the snappiness and focus of most of the pieces, his life hardly dominates the writing – it simply adds a human context that gives the reader pause to consider their own relationship to the things that they love. It’s certainly true that the articles that feature the author more obviously are the most effective in the book compared to the interesting, but not quite as essential, scene-by-scene descriptions of television episodes. Although, now I’ve written that statement, it occurs to me that these articles reflect what it was like discovering something old or new or rare in a pre-YouTube age, where you desperately retell the story of what you’ve just seen back to yourself and to your friends as a way to help keep it in your memory.

“Tim has played his own part in recovering a number of radio and television shows and proves that it’s not always cans of film in far-flung broadcasting outposts, but often the cassettes and videos knocking about in your loft that yield these pop culture treasures.”

Whether the actual content appeals to you or not, every piece of previously ‘lost’ media, whatever the format, is an essential part of our history and anything returned to the (admittedly somewhat nebulous and often inaccessible) archive is important. Tim has played his own part in recovering a number of radio and television shows and proves that it’s not always cans of film in far-flung broadcasting outposts, but often the cassettes and videos knocking about in your loft that yield these pop culture treasures. There’s a great cautionary tale in this book about this – be careful of Doctor Who fans with the (imagined) scent of missing episodes in their nostrils. They’ll happily bite your arm, and head, off before they realise you’ve ‘only’ found episodes of Bod.

Throughout the book he occasionally refers to articles he’s written that haven’t seen the light of day, or have been abandoned or lost. If someone was able to track them down, they’d be able to out-Tim-Worthington Tim Worthington and I’m sure he’d be delighted.


❉ Available in paperback here or from the Kindle store here.  There’s also page full of playlists, interviews, extra content and much more besides on Tim Worthington’s website.

❉ Photos: Alex Bailie – www.bailliephotographer.co.uk

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