Saturday, 17 March 2012

It’s in the trees

This time last week, I spent much of the morning queueing at my local Royal Mail sorting office to pick up a package the postman hadn’t been able to fit through the letterbox. It was worth the wait, though, as the package included a shiny new copy of Even More Rock Family Trees by Pete Frame.

Literary heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and even though he deals exclusively in facts rather than fiction, Frame is one of mine. I first discovered his work just after I’d left school, and during a long, lonely summer spent working in a factory in Germany, his first book of rock family trees was a constant companion. I would spent hours poring over the minutiae of bands’ careers, tracing the developments of famous (and not so famous) musicians’ careers. The accompanying text was every bit as engrossing, a winning blend of fact, anecdote and opinion. Last, but not least, Frame’s family trees are works of art, hand-drawn and carefully planned to make even the most convoluted genealogy comprehensible. Thirty years after I first encountered them, I still find them as fascinating as ever. (If you want to find out more, check out the Family of Rock website.)

The stories I’d read in Frame’s books of rock family trees over the years (the latest is his fifth), particularly those dealing with the British Blues Boom of the 60s, were one of the key influences that fed into the plot of First Time I Met The Blues. Indeed, towards the end of planning the novel, I drew up a rudimentary family tree for The Hornets, to get a better sense of how the peripheral characters around the band fitted in. In my fantasies, when the book is picked up by a major publisher, I’ll commission Frame himself to create a proper family tree that can be included in the hardback edition. Hey, it could happen.