First published on 9 May 2011. Updated on 9 May 2011.
Let’s be honest: you’re unlikely to pick this book up if you’re not a fan of music. Specifically, music of the 80s in the UK. More specifically, mainstream and stadium-filling commercial UK music of the UK. Even more specifically, Pink Floyd.
Pratt, you see, was the bassist for the Floyd when they reactivated in the 80s and 90s without bassist/singer/songwriter Roger Waters – a period generally known among fans as “the shit album years” – and My Bass and Other Animals concentrates heavily on his time with the Floyd, with plenty of anecdotes about other employers such as Icehouse, Coverdale Page, Womack & Womack, Robert Palmer, Bryan Ferry, the Power Station and so forth. There’s plenty of “so I was at a party when so-and-so came in” moments, and the names drop like rain throughout.
Sounds boring? Not a bit of it. Pratt writes very engagingly (the book is based on his similarly-titled stand-up comedy tour) and is a cracking anecdotalist. I never thought I could be made to give the slightest of shits about the late Robert Palmer, but the way Pratt tells it he was a hell of a guy – and if the bits about the Floyd are clearly told with a certain degree of not-biting-the-hand-that-fed (not least because Pratt’s wife Gala is the daughter of the sadly now-late Richard Wright, the band’s keyboardist) it’s still filled with insights into the now-vanished life of the 80s popstar, when not being coked off one’s tits was considered the very height of rudeness.
While this is very much a “so I was on a luxury jet when Jimmy Page turned to me…” style memoir, his subjects would be hard-pressed to take offence. While the portraits are not exclusively flattering, Pratt’s quick to put his own fuckups at the centre of most of his stories. Floyd and the like aside, it’s great to hear about his experiences with the Smiths (Pratt was set to replace bassist Andy Rourke for a US tour after his heroin arrest), Madonna (the bass in ‘Like a Prayer’? That’s him), recording for the “absent” Michael Jackson and plenty more – while his time with Icehouse means that there’s a surprisingly large amount of Sydney-specific material.
Most books of this type are tedious I-was-there-man exercises in self-aggrandisment, but thanks to Pratt’s deft wit and playful writing My Bass and Other Animals is that rare and wonderful thing: a rock memoir that’s genuinely worth reading.