He Bangs The Drums: ‘You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide’ reviewed

Simon Wolstencroft’s memoirs are a Who’s Who of the Manchester indie scene and the stuff Rock n Roll dreams are made of.

Simon Wolstencroft is a musician from Manchester, best known for playing drums with The Fall between 1986 and 1997. Wolstencroft was a member of The Patrol, an early incarnation of The Stone Roses, with childhood friends Ian Brown and John Squire. He was also drummer for Freak Party which featured Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke. After leaving The Fall, he went on to reunite with Stone Roses singer Ian Brown, performing and co-writing on his Golden Greats album.

Coming from Cheshire, and doing a great deal of my growing up in and around Manchester in the late 80s and early 90s, I was eager to read this book to see a view of this city from another perspective. Wolstencroft is a few years older than me, but his life story resonated nonetheless.  I was a regular at the same Mancunian music haunts that forged him into the music industry.   Legends on a Thursday, Devilles or  Pips on a Friday and the Haçienda, Placemate 7, or The Pyramid in a basement behind Kendals on a Saturday.  The alternative scene in Manchester was thriving at that time and was preceded by the likes of Wolstencroft just a few years earlier.  Reading this book was like revisiting my youth and gave a great insight to the pioneers of the Manchester Alternative music scene. It joined up the dots and breathed new life into what I had already known and experienced.

As the saying goes “Your vibe attracts your tribe” and Wolstencroft is living proof of this. He turned down the opportunity to be in The Smiths because he didn’t “get” Morrissey, a decision which had bittersweet consequences for the drummer, but which is viewed philosophically by him.

Wolstencroft’s Manchester initially consisted of petty crime, a plethora of drugs, a number of transient jobs from Fishmonger to sous chef, and missed big opportunities with The Smiths and The Colourfield, before he eventually signed a deal with Mark E Smith to join The Fall.

His adventures with that band were the stuff Rock n Roll dreams are made of; touring America and the rest of the world, and generally living the high life.  There are lots of interesting anecdotes within these pages which will have you turning them over very quickly. It’s an infectious book to read; you won’t want to put it down!  It tells of his relationships with Mark E Smith (who could be extremely volatile at times), Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, and Ian Brown who he was schoolmates with. It’s incredibly honest and told with heaps of candour. Even if you’re not particularly a fan of The Fall like me, you’ll still enjoy this book for its good old plain authenticity.

This book is for anyone who is an appreciator of music, and which tells it how it’s really is to be a jobbing musician.  It tells of the fortune of being in the right place at the right time and the truism of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.  And how to make the best of every situation life throws at you.

❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist.  Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” and her second novel “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” were both published in paperback and Kindle in 2016.  Her third novel will be published in 2017. 

❉ ‘You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide’ by Simon Wolstencroft is out now from Route Publishing, RRP £9.99 

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