After over 30 years of mating rock’n’roll’s primal catharsis with enigmatic art-tuned visions as the Panther Burns, a sizzling book debut might be expected from Falco. But, in recounting the history of his beloved Memphis through landmark events, musical peaks and savage criminal lows, while interweaving his own autobiography via his Eugene Baffle alter-ego, the result is a brilliantly-executed hybrid of rock’n’roll blockbuster, evocative portrait of a vanishing city’s dark side and personal mission. Or, as Bobby Gillespie puts it, “the Bible of Dixie-fried, rockabilly psychosis and Memphis beat art underground true crime myth.”
Partnering cultural critic Erik Morse’s Bluff City Underground, Baffle’s eloquently surreal account starts with Civil War massacre, eerily placing himself in the thick of the action, before steering his trusty Norton motorcycle through the last century’s criminal underbelly, serial murders, sickening racism, motorcycle clubs, Beale Street action and strip bar tussles, often enhanced by first-hand accounts.
While Elvis and Jerry Lee loom large throughout, the rich musical cast mixes Sam The Sham and Charlie Feathers with lesser-known but equally as fascinating players. The “Utopian anarchy” of the Panther Burns doesn’t appear until page 223, a riot of its own enlivened by mentor-members Alex Chilton and revelatory dynamo Jim Dickinson. To finish, Falco interviews himself on blazing form: a perfect finale for his monumental triumph.