Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Life of the boogie-woogie boaster

Jools Holland tells Andy Welch how he feared for close pal Paula Yates when she started going out with Michael Hutchence - and how he tried in vain to help her

Talking about his auto biography Barefaced Lies & Boogie-Woogie Boasts, Jools Holland admits: "When someone first said, 'How about writing a book?' I thought, 'Not a chance!"'

But despite his initial reticence, he admits to really enjoying the experience - talking to his mother about his early life, reading old diaries and thinking about his past.

"One of the reasons I did it was that I spend so much time looking forward and planning things, such as live shows and recording albums, and also in the present while I'm performing, that I haven't spent any time looking back on what I've done."

The resulting book is a thoroughly enjoyable read, perfectly weighted with accounts from his childhood and as a member of Squeeze, as well as his more recent career as leader of a world renowned Rhythm And Blues Orchestra, and presenter of Later ... There are also detailed recollections of everything in between, especially of his time as co-host alongside Paula Yates on seminal music magazine show The Tube.

The title of the book is of interest, too, and while it may suggest its contents are not entirely truthful, it actually harks back to an old nickname of Jools' from his days in Squeeze. Between songs at the band's gigs, he would run from behind his keyboard, grab a microphone and keep the crowd entertained by making outlandish claims and dancing along the front of the stage.

The Boogie-Woogie Boaster, as he was known, has long since disappeared, but the pianist's conversation is peppered with boastful anecdotes and tall stories.

The book is also notable for the picture it paints of the important people in Jools' life. His late friend the comedian Malcom Hardee is mentioned with great fondness throughout, as is George Harrison, more of whom later, but it's perhaps Paula Yates who comes across best.

"She was my great friend and colleague, and she was a lot of fun; bright, intelligent and very funny," he says, before echoing a sentiment from the book.

"When Paula was with Michael Hutchence, they were quite wild. When I went out with them of an evening they would want to go just that little bit further than everybody else. I found it quite stressful seeing her with him. There was a dark side to him, and she was drinking which changed her - she wasn't the sharp, amusing, lively and attentive, doting mother I'd known. That's why I wanted to get across what she was really like."

While the book is insightful and interesting, it comes a distant second to Jools' achievements in music.

He co-founded Squeeze in the mid-70s with his childhood friends Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, before leaving the group around the time of their third album being released in 1980.

He pursued his own career with The Millionaires, who found some success, and then carved out a TV career on The Tube and later in America, before Squeeze reformed fully in 1990.

Nevertheless, they didn't stick around long, and disbanded amicably soon after. It was then that Jools formed his Rhythm And Blues Orchestra.

"I'm very lucky that I make the music I want to and love. That may sound obvious, but there are a lot of musicians that don't do that," he says.

Best Of Friends contains 21 songs, but having recorded more than 160, selecting the Orchestra's 'best' work was always going to be a difficult task. So difficult that Jools delegated the job to his producer and people at his record label.

"They're my friends, as the title says, so which ones would I choose? It's not like we're on a lifeboat and the ones I leave off the album will drown, but it was still a tough decision," he says.

Best Of Friends by Jools Holland; Barefaced Lies & Boogie-Woogie Boasts, Penguin, £18.99. The new series of Later... With Jools Holland begins on BBC Two on Friday, November 2

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