The rise and fall of a Dublin soul band called The Commitments. Deciding that Ireland lacks soul a group of working class kids form their own band, to bring soul to the people. An outlandish plan but, unexpectedly, a huge success. After many frustrating rehearsals and with a lot of help of their experienced trumpettist, Joey ‘the Lips’ Fagan, The Commitments start to swing.

With their fame, however, also comes disaster. The singer, never a likeable bloke, becomes unbearably arrogant, the saxophone player listens to jazz – the music of wankers, naturally, not soul at all – and when the three background singers one by one get caught snogging with Joey there is not much holding the band together anymore.

Manager Jimmy Rabbitte, the hero of the book, can only watch in despair as The Commitments explode on the brink of success. Such is the fate of many bands. Roddy Doyle catches all the defining moments in the ill-starred career of The Commitments. He wrote a book that is mostly dialogue, brilliantly capturing all the jokes and insults of the Irish working class. I didn’t count all the eejits, bollixes, Jaysises and shites, but the language certainly rings true.

So, do you like good music, sweet soul music? And you’re even prepared to read a book about it. Pick up Roddy Doyle’s The commitments and sing along to James Brown, Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett.

2 November 2013

Vintage Books, 1989
Originally published 1987

P.S. This book is already 25 years old. This year, though, Roddy Doyle has published a sequel to The commitments, with a middle-aged Jimmy Rabbitte trying to make it big once more. I’m curious about that one.



Comments

This is one of those books you really want to read for some time, you enjoy reading it very much and only a few days later it seems like you read it a year ago. I'm not sure this makes sense, but I had this more times with autobiographies. Lots of characters, lots of cool references, it's all highly engrossing while reading. And then you close the book and that whole world fades away. Not that's necessarily a bad thing. Anyway, despite most of the details fading away the general impression remains. And that's a very nice one. Patti Smith writes well; clearly, informatively and entertainingly; she knows when to elaborate and when to skim over things. You can tell she spent a lot of time finding the right words for this personal story. I tried to note as much of the references in the book as I could remember and will certainly chase down some of them. And check out some of Patti Smith's music of course.

27 September 2012

Comments

While reading A Long way down and About a boy I already knew this book was almost universally considered Hornby's best. And I completely agree. I read it on the plane to San Francisco and finished in the hotel the same evening. It's an ideal plane book, but would be ideal for any circumstances. Laughed a lot, liked all the obscure music references and the 5-best lists; great book.

12 December 2008

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