The Mud Dance
ISBN: 0781780363042, Peach Publishing, an e-book by Neil Grimmett.
Plot/Characters: The setting is the ‘Rock & Roll’ era of the ’70’s. The story is centered upon Kenny whose family, in an attempt to save a marriage that was beyond saving, moved from Birmingham to a Somerset coastal village. He is brought along with vehement objections because it is his senior school year and will tear him from his familiar environment and friends. Further shock occurs when he discovers he is far removed from the structured formality to which he is accustomed, to a very lax one peopled with students who “grunted in thick slurring accents linked with a strange, archaic grammar” and non-formerly robed faculty who have difficulty exerting authority. He does meet one boy, Larry, who is different, from an apparently wealthy family but one also with mother/father problems. He establishes a strong bond with him that lasts for a lifetime. Kenny is a jazz drummer and Larry, trained as a classic pianist is desirous of playing contemporary music. They graduate, form their first band, gain a certain amount of local success and expand and the tale continues with a recounting of their attempt to gain that intangible pinnacle of success that combines both personal satisfaction with strong monetary compensation. They obtain contracts to record and perform in prestigious national/international venues and gradually move through the years with a changing personal relationship that leads to a somewhat dismal termination.
Discussion/Conclusion: The author appears to have provided as graphic a picture possible of the periods of success and defeat of a modern musician’s life and has centered their activity in the frenetic ‘Rock & Roll Era’. All is provided by apt descriptions of the often hidden, but at times explosive hostile and/or jealous, ego conflicts among band members, the highs followed most often by post-performance lows, the need for ‘pick-up’ drugs, the sexual excesses, the groupies, the unnatural ‘work’ hours and the host of other distractions to a ‘normal’ life. No doubt the author best, and beautifully, describes the basis for his story with his description of: “why musicians don’t dance – Dancing kills the ego. Like those whirling dervishes. Round and round they go into a state of beautiful, open, naked vulnerability, destroying the only bearing between their spirit and God until they are liberated. We were doing the opposite, laboring to close ourselves in, ensnared by vanities and false pride until nothing – musically or mentally –had any chance of escape. Dancing our dance – The Mud Dance”. Thus, perhaps most compellingly, the story describes the formation of a strong but unhealthy bonding between talented but highly flawed individuals and its slow dissolution as it moves toward its depressing inevitability.
3* 5* Rivetingly provided character study; 3* depressing read for this reviewer.