“Melody Maker needs a bullet up the arse,” read Allan Jones’s job application. “I’m the gun. Pull the trigger.”
There are certain rock journalist’s war stories that have long-since passed into folklore. They come up in the pub regularly, they’re of indeterminate origin, some are so finely tooled and unlikely that they’re suspected to be the stuff of urban myth. Never ascribed to any particular storyteller, they’re effectively in the public domain. Well, not only does it turn out that they all actually happened but, incredible as it might seem, they all actually happened to Allan Jones.
I really should have guessed. After all, back in the day I’d often bear eager earwitness as Jones regaled assorted rapscallions from the inkie press, the PR community and beyond with assorted side-splitting anecdotes from his years on Melody Maker’s frontline, over generous libations in the upstairs bar of London SE1’s Stamford Arms.
Many of these priceless reminiscences have appeared in print before but, newly fine-tuned and sometimes expanded, my God they stand retelling.
From its introduction onward it soon becomes clear that as rock history was being made, more often than not Allan Jones was either grinning manfully on the sidelines while in the grip of a fearful hangover, or at the very heart of the drunken action as a trusted confidant.
As packed with hilarity as they are insight, Jones’s moreish tales (of which there are over 70) can have a cumulative effect if read in rapid succession. On a recent train journey I had to briefly set the book aside for fear of treating my fellow passengers to the sight of me arfing like a performing seal at a particularly vivid recollection of John Martyn beating up Paul Kossoff. More fisticuffs ensue during what’s widely regarded to be Jones’s ‘greatest hit’: Lou Reed’s public slapping of David Bowie in ’79. Elsewhere, we’ve the Sex Pistols being stopped and searched on the Kings Road, Ozzy Osbourne pissing on The Alamo, Dr. Feelgood, Joe Strummer, Alex Harvey, Lemmy, Ray Davies and Jones advising Sting (just starting out in The Police) to abandon the folly of a musical career for which he clearly has no aptitude, and return to teaching.
As rock memoirs go, this was only ever going to be an essential classic.