Looking Back At Me
By Wilko Johnson with Zoe Howe
Release date: May 30, 2012 (UK)
Musician, actor, amateur astronomer: Wilko Johnson is many things but one thing that he certainly is not is boring. Alongside author Zoe Howe, Johnson’s life is laid out in typically hilarious honesty in his autobiography, Looking Back At Me.
As befits a man of Johnson’s hectic life and mind, this is not a straight forward autobiography. Each page is packed with photos of his life and possessions in a beautiful coffee-table book. Each short, detailed chapter is brimming with Johnson’s enlightening personality.
For over 30 years he has been best known as the wild-eyed guitarist for English rock and blues band Dr. Feelgood, but a couple of years ago his popularity skyrocketed when he was cast as the King’s mute executioner, Ser Ilyn Payne, in the phenomenally successful TV show Game Of Thrones.
The most interesting thing about reading Wilko Johnson’s thoughts on his life is the fact his eyes have never seen through rose-tinted specs and his stories are always honest and factual. His fractured and often unpleasant relationship with his abusive father is difficult to read about, but Johnson never makes you feel sorry for either of them. His memories of drug (ab)use, especially on his travels around the Middle East, are never shared in any sensationalist way; Johnson is too deficient of ego.
However, when something is special, really special to him his love and admiration is clear and he is never afraid to share that. Music has long played a huge part in his life. From the moment he began to play the guitar (left-handed – he now plays right-handed) he worked hard to buy his next guitar and record. The Dr. Feelgood years are as explosive as they are hilariously mundane. Despite leaving the Feelgoods over 30 years ago and the band coming to a disappointing end, his time with one of the greatest live English bands of the ’70s is a joy to read.
But everything was second to his late wife, Irene. She was his everything and references to her punctuate almost every chapter. My favourite line from the book is a heartbreaking memory of her: ‘She had this smile, man…’
The brevity of the chapters, although lively and fun to read, is also Looking Back At Me’s only downfall. Johnson is so fascinating I wanted to read more about him and for him to expand much more especially on his time in Game Of Thrones and his years with Dr. Feelgood.
Zoe Howe’s greatest achievement has been to collate Wilko Johnson’s life into more than a straight autobiography – it is a work of art, both fascinating to read and look at. It is never less than brilliant – just like the great man himself.
Wilko Johnson’s autobiography Looking Back At Me was published in the UK by Cadiz on May 30th. For further info visit – www.wilkojohnson.org