Witchwood Media 2014
Lead Strawb makes a peace pact with his past and paints a poignant picture of a quixotic quest for a common-life conquest.
Around the time Dave Cousins’ book saw the light of day, this scribe attended one of the ACOUSTIC STRAWBS shows and discovered how great a storyteller the band’s leader was, yet his tome turns out to be a somewhat unexpected read. Mind, it’s not demons the veteran’s set to banish there, but ghosts – non-evil shadows of yore that he felt the urge to get out of his system; unlike other musicians’ memoirs, there’s not a lot of remorse, only slight regrets, on the pages, and what is there mainly concerns David’s family affairs, not music nor, for that matter, radio. Yes, that intangible, if not so ghostly, matter, because a great part of Cousins’ career has been airwaves-related, and a large part of “Exorcising Ghosts” is dedicated to the history of the British independent radio. Still, sure enough it’s David’s music that will lure most of the readers to his prose, while the publication’s title is, of course, also a hint at the “Ghosts” album, and there’s a lot of tales about the background of each of the records the artist masterminded.
This book doesn’t replace Cousins’ previous one, “Secrets Stories & Songs,” which dug in between the lines of his musical creations, but rather puts them into the context of Dave’s life that inspired adventurous and sensual tracks such as “Out In The Cold”; here’s a whole narrative going on, and not for nothing each of the chapters has a lyric as an epigraph. Along the way, we learn what his favorite song of all time is – not a tune by the Strawb’s idol Lonnie Donegan as a fan would assume, yet LOVE’s “Alone Again Or” – and how a thatcher he’d hired to fix the roof became one of the most successful production managers in the world. The latter account involves Rick Wakeman, a fellow yarn-spinner and a former band member whose presence changed the ensemble’s course more than once – when he joined them in 1970 and turned STRAWBS into a prog collective, when he got them reform in 1983 and stay on – although the two players’ tales on their brush with Salvador Dali, the keyboardist’s take on it found in his "Grumpy Old Rock Star", are somewhat different with regards to its outcome. Other people coloring these pages, and the group’s timeline, everyone deserving Cousins’ praise, include two female singers, the late Sandy Denny, Dave’s friend and confidante, and her fleeting replacement Sonja Kristina, but the reason why the future CURVED AIR singer didn’t stay is one of the questions that remain unanswered.
Save for a couple of such moments, the author bares his soul here going harsh on himself, and laughing at himself when it comes to various phases of his life, glam and beyond, whereas there’s much more than Cousins’ coterie that gets mentioned. STRAWBS might have been not as popular as many of their contemporaries, except for the “Part Of The Union” success, yet at some point they upstaged SLADE and Dave almost fronted THE HOLLIES; more so, STRAWBS enjoy peers’ respect and their main man’s adventures were shared by the likes of David Bowie and John Bonham, Billy Connolly and, well, the Pope. Furthering the depth of it all, there’s a lot of details on recordings and lot of introspection: that’s the approach to exorcise ghosts and cast own legend: a riveting read.