Rabbitte Guts 2:
Jimmy Rabbitte knew his music. He knew his stuff alright.
They were two sentences from the first page of the first book Jimmy Rabbitte had been in, The Commitments.
But, actually, he hadn’t a clue about music.
He did – he used to – back when Doyle wrote The Commitments. But not now, in this new book Doyle’s after writing, The Guts. This thing, ‘feat.’, for example. Like, Pink (feat. Lily Allen). What the fuck was that about? Selfishness – that was what Jimmy thought. Ego. Back in the days when music was roundy, it was ‘and’. It was Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood. They shared the glory. It was Roy Orbison and k.d. lang. It wasn’t Roy (feat. k.d.). It wasn’t Laurel (feat. Hardy), or the Lone Ranger (feat. Tonto). And the ‘feat.’ people; the guests singers or whatever – Jimmy had never heard of any of them. (And why – this was another thing – why did Jimmy have to think and sound like his Da, just because he was a bit older than he’d been in The Commitments?)
He liked Rihanna and the other one, Beyoncé. But he hadn’t a clue which of them was which. And it wasn’t a race thing. Jessie J, Katie Perry, Lady Gaga, Pink – he hadn’t a breeze. He’d stand in front of the telly and annoy his daughter, Mahahlia, by asking, ‘Which one’s she?’, constantly. (Although that line isn’t actually in the new book, so it’s a fair bet he never said it. But that kind of thing.) And rap! For fuck sake now. You couldn’t be pulled out of the attic in the back of the writer’s head – and there was loads of fuckin’ room back there, by the way – and be expected to know what rap was all about. So –
Jimmy Rabbitte didn’t know his music. He knew fuck-all.
They could have been two very accurate sentences from The Guts. But they’re not, even though Jimmy was, more than a quarter of a century after The Commitments, still involved in the music industry. The book is full of music.
How did that work?
Doyle made most of it up. For two reasons:
First: He wanted to. Actually, he had to. He decided that Jimmy was still in band management, looking after old Dublin punk bands, like The Halfbreds and The Irregulars. These bands were fictional, so their songs were too. The Irregulars’ only single, back in the day, was ‘Fuck England’, although Jimmy reckoned the b-side, ‘Fuck Scotland and Wales’ was better.
Second: Using real music, quoting songs, has become much too expensive. When Doyle wrote The Commitments, he quoted a lot of lyrics. Take out the lyrics, and an already short book would become much shorter. The lyrics cost a couple of hundred quid. It seemed a lot of money then – in 1987 – but, really, it wasn’t. In 1996, in The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, he quoted a good chunk of Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey – for £5. But trying to get permission to quote even a few words from real songs this time, for The Guts, was a dispiriting experience. Four figures sums for seven or eight words? No.