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When talking about the terms ‘Live Fast, Die Young’ and ‘Sex, Drugs, & Rock n Roll’, certain household names spring to mind; some that have tragically fallen, some that simply refuse to be beaten. Gary Holton is one such performer that can be added to the former.

From the author of ‘A Vicious Love Story’ comes the second biopic from Oslo based writer, Teddie Dahlin with ‘Fast Living: Remembering the Real Gary Holton’. For someone who was such a loveable rogue of his time in the 70s and early 80s, it’s amazing that very little has been written of Holton since his untimely death almost thirty years ago. Teddie cleverly writes this story by putting together the many, many experiences of those closest to Gary as if they are telling their own stories in their own words, and Teddie acts as the buffer in between explaining the changes in time and circumstance before each revelation, as well as sharing her own experiences. Contributions come from the likes of Glen Matlock and Casino Steel as well as a host of other names who were band mates, personal friends, and girlfriends of Holton.

More known on a public scale for his role as Wayne Norris in the timeless British TV comedy drama, ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’, many may be surprised to hear of Holton’s past that revolved around being the talented frontman of  a few  rock n roll bands such as ‘Heavy Metal Kids’, ‘Holton/Steel’, and a brief stint with ‘The Damned’. His talents were noted by ‘AC/DC’ who seriously considered Holton to replace Bon Scott as lead singer after he died in 1980. Holton’s search for fame and fortune through music lasted many years, and the book heavily depicts the mood of London at this time in the seventies where you can almost feel the grimness of the time, yet taste the beer and smell the cigarettes in the underground pubs/clubs in what seems like a fantastic era and underground social scene to be part of…if you were lucky enough to be let in! With Teddie being Norwegian, we’re also offered a glimpse into how the actions of British bands were affecting the cultural scene over in Norway where Holton occasionally escaped to, acting as a second home to him over the years.

Holton’s personality shines through from beyond the grave where his cheeky cockney charm and highly charismatic and infectious persona is referred to by many throughout the book, similar character traits to Wayne in ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’. For all the attention Holton received for ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’, the book doesn’t overly portray that time. This predominately explores his life from his earlier years and mainly focusses on his life within the music scene rather than what he was best known for, giving the reader a real insight into the true nature of Gary Holton the musician rather than Gary Holton the actor. 

The tragedy of the story is that Holton was on the cusp of greatness when it all ended, yet he was a flawed and troubled soul with a yearning for excess that ultimately led to his death like so many rock n rollers preceding him. The baffling part of Holton’s story is that he is almost a forgotten man in modern culture with the generations that followed, and he’s often overlooked when talking about multi-talented rock performers that could shake the pillars of heaven to the very core through their performances, aura, and excessive antics. Few in the past and certainly the present can boast the same flexibility as Holton where he wasn’t just a rock n roll singer, but also a trained and talented actor who became more famous for being on screen than being onstage, which in a way overshadowed his accomplishments as a musician, which hit heights with the first Holton/Steel album in 1981.

It’s evident from the various accounts of friends and musicians that the book portrays that Holton’s charisma has been truly missed, also evident by the remaining six cast members of ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’ refusing to do a third series at the time as it wouldn’t have been the same experience or show without this highly likeable individual.

Fast Living: Remembering the Real Gary Holton’ is a very insightful read for both those who are or aren’t familiar with one of the hidden gems of the British rock scene of the 70s and early 80s, whose magnetism could rival any of the household names of rock n roll. If you aren’t familiar with the music side of Gary Holton then this book will certainly give you a sense of intrigue to find out just how good the real Gary Holton really was. And if you aren’t familiar with ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’ you’ll not only find the best UK comedy drama of all time, but also one of the most loveable and charismatic characters ever to be shown on a British screen in Wayne, A.K.A Gary Holton.

Review by Nigel Cartner

Fast Living: Remembering The Real Gary Holton by Teddie Dahlin is available on Amazon

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