My favorite (and closest) Bookazine is where I get many of the books for review. However, when I boldly turned the corner into the store this week, I was met with a blank wall. Renovations or similar, I suppose. And no book for the Pattaya Mail’s book reviewer!
It was then I remembered that quite some time ago, I was presented with a book by its author, a chap living in Pattaya, and a chap with an interesting history. This was Simon Napier-Bell and the book was entitled “I’m coming to take you to lunch”. It was sitting, buried under papers, in the In-Tray on my desk. Forgive me Simon, I have certainly sinned! However, I am atoning for my sins in a small way by reading and reviewing your book.
Published in 2005 (Wenner Books) ISBN 1-932958-56-8, the front cover of “I’m coming to take you to lunch” proclaims that it is a “fantastic tale of boys, booze, and how Wham! were sold to China.”
It seems the fashionable thing to do today, this jumping onto the Chinese (high speed) train wagon, but Simon Napier-Bell was there with his belly-laugh and a band called Wham! while they were still laying the tracks, when Simon’s entourage reached China in the nineteen eighties!
Right from the outset, Napier-Bell lets you know that he is gay. It is part of him and his story, so is treated factually, as it should be. What does differentiate Napier-Bell is that he was living with his ex-boyfriend and his current boyfriend in the same house at the same time! What really interested me was the fact that the ex-BF, a society hairdresser, employing a publicist and to all appearances very successful, was in actual fact being supported financially by Napier-Bell.
There are 43 chapters, spanning from 1983 to 1986, and the author flits merrily from East to West and vice versa, seemingly at the drop of a credit card.
The main theme of the book (other than Napier-Bells peregrinations), is the machinations involved in getting the inscrutable Chinese to allow the group Wham! to stage a concert in mainland China, an event which would give the group world-wide publicity. How he made that happen is inscrutably amazing!
Napier-Bell’s book reminds me of Keith Richards’ “Life”, itself an interesting tale of life in the music industry (especially rock ‘n roll) from the performer’s viewpoint. However, “I’m coming to take you to lunch” deals with the same industry, but from the management viewpoint. There are decided similarities (though Napier-Bell wrote his long before Richards) and the quest for hedonism (for either) was not too hard! And “I’m coming to take you to lunch” was how much of the business was done, with Dom Perignon as the lubricant.
This book is obviously not on display in the book shops (a fickle lot at the best of times), so you may have to go via the amazon.com exploration route. If you have had even the slightest passing interest in the commercial music business, the search for this book will be worth it.