For those of you thus far untouched by the heinous antics of the redoubtable Horsley, our Sebastian is what used to be known as a cad, a fop, a loafer . . . oh, all right then, a dandy! Born into money, and the victim of spectacularly bad parenting that would make a post-Skinner chav family feel ever so slightly irresponsible, Horsley has dedicated what he can remember of his life to the idle pursuit of sex and drugs and sex and drugs and sex and drugs and the odd bit of rock and roll.
‘Dandy In The Underworld’, then, is his unauthorised autobiography, at turns disgusting, hilarious and compulsive, quite often all at once, it’s a rollicking riot of self-obsession that should make any committed student of oblivion feel totally and utterly inadequate. Horsley’s acute sense of self-depreciation is never too far from the page, the gags drip, drip, drip fast and furious from his bulbous prose (OK, so he coughs to having had considerable help with some of the bigger words and the grammar in the ‘epilogue’, but ‘ghost written’ it most certainly is not!) and incredulity is hiding round every corner to mug you with an eyeliner pencil in a brown paper bag.
The offspring of parents who married within two days of meeting, and repented in a stupefied hell of their own creation at considerable leisure, ‘Basti’ was no stranger to the concept of insanity from the off. A walking, porking, torching, self-fulfilling prophecy searching for tragic catastrophe like Kevin Rowland used to search for young soul rebels (where have you hidden them, mom?), Horsley takes us to Hull and back with his tales of sex and drugs and Marc Bolan and Johnny Rotten and bespoke tailoring. You’ll never be able to look Jimmy Boyle in the eye again, that’s fe sure . . . or strike a ubiquitously defiant pose the next time someone drops the needle onto ‘Safe European Homes’, for that matter (middle class tossers, apparently)! Gasp as our hero wanders into Gunter Grove unchallenged and tears a ‘Death Disco’ poster from the grimy walls, does speed, skag, E, crack and an idyllic lake of booze. Shags boys and girls and Jimmy Boyle. Gets addicted, goes cold turkey, swims with the fishes, buys a shit load of fancy suits with money made from inherited money, marries beneath himself, helps fellow addicts, tries a few hookers, goes on the game, and finally crucifies himself in South America with hilarious consequences (but sadly, no stigmata!).
If I’m making this all sound a tad tedious, that’s because I’m a lazy bastard who can’t even be bothered to source a few poignant quotes, not because ‘Dandy In The Underworld’ is anything other than magnificent. I laughed out loud (I simply refuse to type ‘lol’ . . . what the fuck is all that abbreviation shit about anyway? It doesn’t even make sense! For years I’ve been labouring under the misinterpretation that it stood for ‘lots of love’ . . . maybe I’ll just carry on in ignorance) on at least every page, and there’s some wonderfully fucked up misogynistic philosophy present here to boot. My favourite: “She was a whore in the kitchen and a cook in the bedroom”.
Over the last few years we’ve had to endure way too many books about the ‘punk rock generation’, mostly written by earnest dudes trying to convince us how ‘hard’ they were, what deprived backgrounds they came from, and how ‘it’ changed their lives for ever. Consequently, it makes a refreshing change to view the whole festering debacle from another perspective, and ‘Dandy In The Underworld’ pulls that off (phnar, phwoar!) with aplomb. If you only read one book about growing up in the 70s this year, make sure it’s (partially) written by Sebastian Horsley. You’ll thank me in the long run.
Jean Encoule – August 2008