As British Sea Power mark their 10th anniversary, it’s only fitting that one of the most inventive and euphoria-inducing of modern indie bands should be celebrated in a book that’s less biography than travelogue, history lesson and endearing tale of, as its sub-subtitle puts it: Rock Dreams And Family Farce.
Elder brother of BSP’s main songwriters, Scott and Neil, Roy Wilkinson managed the band up until Do You Like Rock Music?. A music journalist by trade, he knew exactly how to get column inches out of collector-friendly moves such as releasing 1,264 Remember Me 7”s with heroes’ names handwritten on the back; or rambler-friendly events such as staging their own festival at Yorkshire’s Tan Hill Pub – the highest tavern in the land. It was the sort of game-plan that’s attracted some of the most fiercely loyal fans this side of Fenerbahçe’s footballing cauldron: not least a figure known as Captain Riot, who’s appeared at over 300 shows worldwide, dressed in camouflage or a skirt, travelling in his “BSP M40” personalised-reg car (named after the band and the motorway that leads him to them).
Yet, as critics’ and fans’ plaudits flooded in, BSP seemed destined to watch their one-time support acts (The Strokes, Libertines, Killers) outstrip them and hit the big time. Plagued with self-doubt, Roy began questioning his role as manager, while fending off the increasingly fervent interests of his octogenarian father.
Having become an indie-rock autodidact in the wake of his sons’ success, Wilkinson Sr had taken to proclaiming all other pretenders “Kentucky fucking Fried Chicken” rubbish, while variously urging BSP to “Do it for your mum! Do it for the Butthole Surfers!” and manager Roy to “bite the little fuckers, poke them, harass them, get the blood flowing”. Touching, distracting, puzzling behaviour.
Ronald Wilkinson’s services in World War II provide part of the backdrop to BSP’s rock skirmishes, while Wilkinson Jr tells a tale as heart-warming as it is hilarious. He sets the band’s history against the turn-of-the-century indie scene, while arguably proving them the most exciting band to form this side of the Millennium. It’s exciting, life-affirming stuff. And with enough birds-as-rock star parallels to get you to embrace ornithology (the Slavonian grebe: David Bowie), there’s more than one reason to keep the book to hand for your longdistance travels.