Nick Hornby //
The odd man out at Booktunes: this book is about an album that doesn’t exist, made by a rock star who was never born. And yet after reading Juliet, Naked, every lover of the British writer Nick Hornby will be an avowed fan of Tucker Crowe, a 55-year-old American hermit from Pennsylvania who is forced to a come-back twenty years after the release of a classic rock album.
If someone can combine pop music with literature, it is 54-year-old Nick Hornby. With High Fidelity and 31 Songs he has proven that he can write with humor, passion and expertise about one of the most important trivialities of life: rock (Hornby is also an expert at the most important triviality of life: check out his soccer book Fever Pitch, about the semi-tragic life of an incurable Arsenal aficionado).
Okay, Hornby – the King of Trivialities – presents us Tucker Crowe in Juliet, Naked. Tucker has a Wiki-page that tells the reader that he counts Chris Martin, Jeff Buckley and the men from R.E.M. among his followers. But he has ‘ordinary’ fans, too. They call themselves Crowologists, but really are stalkers who keep on cluttering Internet forums with theories about why Crowe disappeared off the face of the earth after an apparent incident in a Minneapolis bar in 1987. On the forums, these fans behave like only fans do. They discuss every song of Crowe, they interpret them, reverse his repertoire and, thanks to the twenty years of absence of their Messiah Tucker, turn him into an unparalleled legend. Hornby writes with such believability that you can almost hear Tucker Crowe’s music.
But what do you hear?
Hornby places his hero in echelon with Springsteen, Dylan and Neil Young. At the same time he mentions almost-won Grammies and mediocre achievements in the Billboard charts. Not exactly Premier League, but the Crowologists think differently.
The tragedy of Juliet, Naked is easily told. Super fan Duncan of Gooleness, a nondescript town in Northern-England, receives an unplugged version of Tucker’s biggest success album ‘Juliet’ through email from someone at a record company. Because he is the first one to receive a sign of life of his idol after twenty years, Duncan, obviously, thinks it is an outstanding album. He hypes it on the Internet, but his girlfriend Annie makes mincemeat of it. She thinks it’s an overrated and crappy album. Then Tucker responds, not to Duncan, but to Annie. He agrees with her. He says ‘Juliet’ is trash, but he has agreed to re-release it to make some money to for his fourth wife and fifth child. The disagreement drives Duncan and Annie apart and brings Tucker and Annie together. Well-written, well-painted, mega-painful and most of all an indictment of Internet hypes, pop marketing, lost rock glory and the idolizing of people who are just ordinary musicians.
While reading you constantly wonder: Tucker is not Springsteen or Dylan, for that he is way too small. But who is he really? Every reader will hear his or her own forgotten rock star from the eighties in Tucker Crowe’s music and that is the charm of Juliet, Naked – and the talent of Nick Hornby.
I couldn’t help thinking of a man who looked like Jeff Bridges, with the musical qualities and careers of people like Warren Zevon, Peter Frampton and Gary Wright.
Right! Them. Or any other forgotten rock star.
A magnificent book, Juliet, Naked – and you can dream up the soundtrack yourself.
text by Ap van der Meulen / translation by Mina Witteman