Publisher: Faber & Faber
A gonzo tour through the glory years of indie rock n' roll and acid house by one of the best-loved characters in the music business.
In 1980, Mick Houghton set up his own PR company, Brassneck Publicity, and for the next twenty years the list of his charges reads like a Who’s Who of some of the greatest, most influential, and most dysfunctional cult groups of the post-punk era and beyond – the Jesus and Mary Chain, Felt, Sonic Youth, the Wedding Present, and Spiritualized among them.
In the 1990s, Houghton judiciously sidestepped the major trends in music – baggy, grunge, and Britpop, and his reputation for attracting outsiders led to him working with artists as disparate as Sun Ra, Andrew Oldham, Ken Kesey, Bert Jansch, Stereolab, Mercury Rev, and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Keen to shed the Britpop tag, Elastica approached Houghton and succeeded by taking five years to complete their second album ("Justine Frischmann thanked me for keeping them out of the press during that time").
But the three acts Houghton is most closely identified with are Echo & the Bunnymen ("whose greatness stemmed from a conviction only to do what was spiritually correct which usually meant them being willfully stubborn"), Julian Cope, the Teardrop Explodes ("One long evening of excess I spent with Julian inspired the classic "Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed"), and the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu in all their guises ("We arrived in a fleet of white stretch limos at a clearing in a Surrey field where the K Foundation was exhibiting a million pounds in cash while Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty circled the perimeters in two orange Saracen armored vehicles blasting out Abba’s "Money Money Money").
Between them, these three groups played a significant part in shaping the musical landscape of the 1980s and 1990s, and – as confidant and co-conspirator – Houghton was always with them along the way, carefully navigating the minefield of rivalries and contrasting fortunes. It is Houghton's indefatigable belief that it was always the music that came first and it is his knack of attracting so-called difficult and troubled artists that makes Fried & Justified such an amusing, insightful and uplifting tale.