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Too Weird for Ziggy

Too Weird for Ziggy

by Sylvie Simmons

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In “Pussy,” the girl singer of the eponymous band cracks up after her lover and the band’s creative center dies. When her manager tracks her down she is living anonymously in an East Village tenement, rarely going outdoors, and hoarding her own discarded hair, dead skin and other physical castoffs.

In “Greetings from Finsbury Park,”


In “Pussy,” the girl singer of the eponymous band cracks up after her lover and the band’s creative center dies. When her manager tracks her down she is living anonymously in an East Village tenement, rarely going outdoors, and hoarding her own discarded hair, dead skin and other physical castoffs.

In “Greetings from Finsbury Park,” a British rock star comes home from L.A. only to find that the customs agent going through his suitcase is an embittered ex-schoolmate whose wife once slept with the star before he was famous.

In “A Happy Ending,” a deeply shell-shocked ex-superstar (think Brian Wilson) struggles to keep the voices in his head quiet during a meeting with a hot new producer for a comeback album the A&R boss envisions as an unholy alliance of Neil Young and Public Enemy.

“Love Stain” charts the emergence of devotional offerings, cottage industries, and a pecking order of proximity to the spot where an up and coming young rocker dropped dead on speedballs outside a London club—and his best friend chats up a rock journalist about the tragedy and the conspiracy to murder his friend, all while trying to get her to cover his own band.

In “Rhinestone Tombstone Blues,” country music singer-songwriter LeeAnn Starmountain copes with the disappearance of her inspiration—the violent fantasies of her abusive mother’s death, which she can no longer indulge in after her mother actually perishes, cooked to death by her electric blanket after a stroke.

In “Close to You,” a cult devoted to Karen Carpenter springs up after the singer’s image appears in the paint on the wall of a London kebab shop.

In “From a Great Height,” controversy erupts when the frontman of America’s biggest rock band urinates off his hotel balcony, soaking a crowd of adoring fans.

In “And Alien Tears,” a California limo driver with a gift for Jim Morrison impersonation becomes a star in his own right in Germany, hosting a talk show as “Jim.”

The hottest band of cock-rockers in America finds their tour going off the rails in “Allergic to Kansas” when the misogynist lead singer starts growing breasts.

In “Diet Cola Cancer” Pussy, the lead character in the first story, returns—post-breakdown, and racking up the younger boyfriends—and even gets sued when one of said boyfriends commits an indiscretion at an LA rock club, and Pussy douses the paramour in “carcinogenic” Diet Coke.

In “I Kissed Willie Nelson’s Nipple,” LeeAnn visits England on command performance for the Queen, and tells the story of her many marriages, the “greatest hits” of her abusive relationships, and the self-explanatory Willie Nelson film role that put her career back on track.

In “Spitting Image (The ‘80s Retro Track),” the famous British television show (they made the puppets for Genesis’s famous “Land of Confusion” video) agrees to sell one of their puppets to the star it comically represents—but when the puppet is “kidnapped” on the way to its new home, and someone sends the star the puppet piece by violently detached piece, he finds himself cracking up.

In “Too Weird for Ziggy (A Dream of Holes),” a famous rock god is dead, and MTV isn’t content to let him rest. So in an unprecedented live television séance at the palatial home of one of LA’s most overcompensated rock managers, they hire a voodoo practitioner to raise him from the dead, on live television.

In “Jeremiah 18:1-10” the band from “From a Great Height” returns and now the drummer has a stalker, who claims God has commanded her to become his wife. The trouble is, she seems so innocent and naïve, no one takes her seriously until the drummer’s stripper fiancée suddenly turns up dead.

In “The Audience Isn’t Listening,” the bass player and guitarist from the same band cope with the rumor that the megalomaniacal singer is planning to dissolve the band and keep the name—while the guitarist’s wife has secret designs of her own on the singer.

In “Baudelaire’s Dog” the cracked-up Brian Wilson type from “Happy Ending” is back with the album in the can and a press conference to get through—but he is having a hard time keeping quiet about his constant visions of the brother he secretly murdered during his years of madness.

In “Autograph,” Spike, the rockstar from “Finsbury Park” and Pussy’s second new boyfriend in “Diet Cola,” has a new problem to contend with: the ex-girlfriend he dumped as soon as his band got big. She’s a nurse with ready access to narcotics, and when he goes home for his mother’s funeral she gets a junkie to help her kidnap him, and gives him her autograph—with a tattoo gun, on his privates. Unfortunately, her name is Minerva (Mini) Smallwood.

Finally, in “Patron Saint of Amputees,” Pussy returns, waking up in the bed of a much-younger MTV VJ the morning after the séance/party, to drag herself to a meeting with her record company about making a comeback album. Only they have news for her. It’s Pussy (her plus her ex-backing band) or nothhhhhing and Taylor, the supposedly dead ex-love-of-her-life? Alive and well. She’s not sticking around to find out more—she bolts and asks her limo driver (recognizable as the ex-Jim Morrison impersonator) to take her “the fuck out.”

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British music journalist Simmons has taken the years she spent interviewing rock's most outrageous personalities and compressed them into this lurid, engrossing collection of stories, gracefully linked like the incestuous world of rock itself. Alternating between first person and omniscient narration, she chronicles the transcendent weirdness of the music world. In one creepy story, "Pussy," a Blondie-esque pop goddess, disappears; years later, she's found in an East Village tenement surrounded by cabinets and sandwich bags stuffed with her own fingernails and excrement. The devastating effects of fame on personal identity are on display in almost every tale, from "Spitting Image," in which a megalomaniac rock star is ravaged by the kidnapping of his life-size look-alike puppet, to "Autograph," about an insolent rocker whose ex-girlfriend gives him a permanent comeuppance. The stories are at their best when Simmons depicts a scenario that doesn't read like a tabloid dream. In "I Kissed Willie Nelson's Nipple," a tough-living country star delivers a soliloquy so rich with hard-won wisdom that it trumps the too bizarre "Allergic to Kansas," in which a sexed-up lead singer mysteriously grows breasts. On these pages, fictional rock stars mingle with real ones, reminding readers, as with those ubiquitous Elvis sightings, that true rockers never die. They're just preparing for a comeback. Agent, Paula Balzer at Sarah Lazin Books. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In her prose debut, British music journalist Simmons makes the mistake of many writers in assuming that rock stardom is inherently interesting. The problem is, celebrities so often play the role of greedy, oversexed cretins in real life that when it happens in fiction, the reader can easily guess the consequences. Simmons means well in that she means to make fun of her mostly despicable characters, which include a manager who stages the resurrection of his biggest client from the dead and a slimeball singer who sprouts breasts. But they are already so shallow that to cut them down to size reveals nothing if anything, it may endow them with more undeserved notoriety. Likewise, when Simmons tries to empathize with more decent industry specimens, she considers only their slick surfaces when she should be groping for their souls. In the end, country singer/songwriter LeeAnn Starmountain and aging pop tart Pussy are no deeper than their skeevier rockers in arms. Sadly, another Ziggy bites the dust; not recommended. Heather McCormack, Library Journal Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A practiced observer offers frantic fictions of rock 'n' roll madness. Simmons has been plying her trade as a music journalist since the '70s, in Mojo, Rolling Stone, Q, and a host of British dailies and weeklies and has penned biographies of the off-center pop figures Serge Gainsbourg and Neil Young. Here, however, she turns her hand to that most difficult form: rock fiction. The format is a loosely interlocking collection of stories featuring a handful of recurring characters: megalomaniac metal star Frame, oft-married country luminary LeeAnn Starmountain, Jim Morrison tribute performer Reeve, addled punk-pop vocalist Pussy, and damaged classic-rock songwriter Cal West. Some of the characters are familiar types, others veiled simulacra of real performers (Pussy is Debbie Harry, Cal West is Brian Wilson, etc.). These figures and others are involved in 18 tales set in a musical cosmos that is, as one character puts it, "like one of those parallel universes they had in the old sci-fi comics, where things look the same but have completely different functions." In this domain, a cult devoted to the late Karen Carpenter springs up, a televised seance to raise a dead music legend is held on an LA beach, and a rocker urinates on his fans off a hotel balcony. Inevitably, stalkers stalk, groupies grope, and superstars suffer colossal breakdowns. Simmons has all the details of record-company politicking, rock-biz noblesse oblige, and backstage ritual down pat. But her plots suffer from the same excess that plagues so many works set in the milieu. Since everything in rock is drawn in larger-than-life proportions, fiction writers feel they must push the envelope and stoke the outrageous at everyturn. In the case of Simmons, when she goes in for affecting character studies, the pieces work brilliantly, but she pushes most of the action in preposterous directions, often to the point of burlesque. A keen-eyed depiction of the rock netherworld's denizens is sabotaged by too many over-the-top scenarios. Agent: Paula Balzer/Sarah Lazin Books

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Read an Excerpt

Too Weird for Ziggy

By Sylvie Simmons

Black Cat/Grove Atlantic Press

ISBN: 0-8021-4156-0

Chapter One

from JEREMIAH 18:1-10 We were in the hotel bar after the show, it was just gone two, you could see the bartender was impatient to go home but hey, only four more hours till our flight so no point going to bed. There were six of us - me and my photographer Eric, Jerry and Ted from 'XO' magazine, Paul from 'Hundred % Heavy' and Rollo, the publicist, the man who'd brought us all over to the States and was right now getting them in at the bar. All of a sudden this girl comes up on my blind side and taps me on the shoulder and says in a soft Southern accent, "Pardon me, are you with the band?" "Certainly is", Eric shot back. "Shoot 2 Kill's chief knob-sucker. Four foot tall, no teeth, made for the job." "Fuck you", I said with no particular malice. Photographers are all sociopaths, something to do with always looking at the world through a lump of glass, plus it was as good an answer as any to the 'are you with the band' question that rock journalists are always asked. "Only", she continued, undaunted for someone who looked so small and meek, "I saw you backstage earlier talking to Frame." "She's doing a story for 'Pulp'", said Rollo, "June issue, cover, double spread." Like all publicists he couldn't go long without telling everyone what a good job he was doing. The girl ignored him. "Do you know Duggsy?" she asked. She meant John Dugsdale, Shoot 2 Kill's drummer. "Everyone knows Duggsy", chuckled Jerry. "Genius! The star of the show!" "You know, God's a good bloke", Eric joined in, "only he does keep thinking he's Duggsy." The girl just looked perplexed. "Modesty", Eric explained, "is not Duggsy's strongest suit." "Neither's drumming", I said, and we all fell about in exaggerated drunken laughter. Except the girl. She just stood there with her thin hair and long, baggy sweater and pale, waxy face and said in a pained voice, "Do you know where I can find him?" Just then two of the band's roadies walked into the bar. "Hey!" shouted the fat one in the faded black Aerosmith T-shirt. "It's the snorkelling Southerner. Back for another mouthful, darling?" "Our cocks", said the other in a bad fake-posh English accent, "are quite frankly irresistible". He had scrawny grey hair that stuck out from his bald patch and disgusting trousers whose crotch dangled close to his knees. "She wants to know where the drummer is", said Eric. "Last time I looked", said Disgusting Trousers, "he was backstage in a room with a camcorder and two naked birds on the concrete floor, stoned as fuck, eating each other out." I don't know what she wanted to hear but it wasn't this. The girl visibly crumpled. She ran out of the bar. I felt bad. I almost went after her - she had that innocence about her that the Japanese girl fans have; it makes you want to protect them. But there are certain rules of rock journalism that are inviolable, chief among them abandoning the bar when someone's getting in the drinks, and anyhow I didn't want to give the boys any excuse to go thinking I was soft. "Mad cunt", said Aerosmith. He told us they'd found her hovering by the pit when the show was over while they were doing the rounds with backstage passes, trawling for blondes who wanted to meet the band. "She comes up to me and says she has to see the drummer. So I say", he knocks back a beer, a good third of it spilling onto his T-shirt and softening up a blob of what I hoped was mashed potato on his chest, "you know the routine. Only apparently she doesn't. Though her being blonde and female and breathing naturally we figure that she does." As a point of information for females this is the basics of the Backstage Pass Transaction. A sordid business. In a nutshell: they've got something you want (band access), you've got something they want (XX chromosomes) and so a deal is struck. To get to the vocalist you fuck the tour manager, for the guitarist you blow two roadies, one for the bass player, and if it's the drummer you're after they'll send you off for a brain scan, bum a cigarette and give you an Access All Areas. Drummers, you might have gathered, do not rate high in the rock pecking order. Neither, for that matter, do girls. "So, when the dirty deed is done I ask her what the fuck she wants with the drummer. So I tell her that there was this drummer one time who was touring with Alice Cooper and Alice's rattlesnake gets out of its snake-box backstage and bites him on the dick. And there's this rancid old groupie wandering around the corridors looking for famous knobs to suck and the drummer yells for her to go and get the doctor. So she goes to the doctor's and tells him the drummer's been bitten on his dick by a snake. There's just one cure, the doctor tells her. Suck out the venom or he'll die. So she goes back", he falls about laughing. "And the drummer says, well what did the doctor say? And she says-" Paul interrupts: "'The doctor says you're going to die!' Come on, that's an antique." Aerosmith is choking with laughter, tears rolling down his cheeks. If you didn't know better you might think he was crying. "And", he manages to get out between gasps, "the girl doesn't even smile. She says, she's going to marry him. That she's had a message from God. I say, why the hell would God want you to marry Duggs? Fucking Jesus, he must have it in for you." Duggsy already has three ex-wives-and three jail terms for assault and battery. Plus an ongoing lawsuit from an ex-girlfriend, the mother of his child, who says he abused their little girl. Duggsy hits things. He's a drummer. "And she says", he rolls his eyes to heaven, "'It is not for me to question God.'" "Wicked!" Rollo grinned. "Top five lies told by drummers!", announced Paul. Uh-oh, circle joke. "Number five", I taught John Bonham everything he knew. "Four", the guy from 'XO' joined in. "I practice eight hours a day." "Three", yelled Eric-why do men get so excited over lists?-"I'm on the cover of 'Modern Drummer' any day now." "Two", guffawed Paul "They'd never fire me. I hold the band together". Aerosmith nodded, "Good one." "Number one", said Rollo, "my girlfriend's a supermodel". "Nah", screamed Disgusting Trousers, "she's a fucking great singer and the record label have asked me to produce her album!" Whoever Duggsy's girlfriend might be, one thing was for sure. She was not going to be a timid girl with a flat chest on a mission from God.


Excerpted from Too Weird for Ziggy by Sylvie Simmons Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Sylvie Simmons is an award-winning writer and one of the foremost music journalists working today. Born in London, she moved to Los Angeles in the late seventies and started writing about rock music for magazines such as Sounds, Creem, Kerrang! and Q. She is the author of acclaimed fiction and nonfiction books, including the biography Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes and the short-story collection Too Weird for Ziggy.

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