Graeme Thomson

Graeme Thomson

Graeme Thomson writes on popular culture for the Guardian, the Observer, the Word, Esquire, Time Out and the Herald, and regularly appears on radio programmes such as Radio Scotland’s Songlines and Radio Four’s arts show Front Row. He is the author of Complicated Shadows: The Life & Music of Elvis Costello (Canongate, 2004), included in the Times’ Top Ten music books of 2004, and Willie Nelson: The Outlaw (Virgin, 2006), voted one of the Top 50 music books of all time by GQ magazine in 2007. His third book, I Shot A Man In Reno, was published in Autumn 2008 by Continuum. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife and three children.

Books by Graeme Thomson

Under the Ivy: The Story of Kate Bush

This is the first ever in-depth study of Kate Bush’s life and career. “Under the Ivy” features over 70 unique and revealing new interviews with those who have viewed from up close both the public artist and the private woman: old school friends, early band mates, long-term studio collaborators, former managers, producers, musicians, video directors, dance instructors and record company executives. “Under the Ivy” undertakes a full analysis of Bush’s art. From her pre-teen forays into poetry, through scores of unreleased songs. Every crucial aspect of her music is discussed from her ground-breaking series of albums to her solo live tour. Her pioneering forays into dance, video, film and performance. Combining a wealth of new research with rigorous critical scrutiny, “Under the Ivy” offers a string of fresh insights and perspectives on her unusual upbringing in South London, the blossoming of her talent, her enduring influences and unique working methods, her rejection of live performance, her pioneering use of the studio, her key relationships and her gradual retreat into a semi-mythical privacy.

World Rights: Omnibus Press

I Shot A Man In Reno 
A History of Death by Murder, Suicide, Fire, Flood, Drugs, Disease and General Misadventure, as recounted in Popular Song

Ask the Emo Kid. Ask the Gangsta rap devotee. Ask the Pete Doherty disciple. Ask the self-appointed member of Generation X. Ask the Goth and the Indie kid. Ask the punk, the New York Factory follower and the Californian acid casualty. Ask the grizzled Blues fanatic and the bearded folk fan. Ask the old time country boy and every last rider on the Gospel train. Ask anyone who has ever listened closely to the music of the Beatles. Or the Stones, or the Doors or the Velvet Underground. Or the Smiths, or Tupac, or Ryan Adams, or the Verve, or U2.

Ask and they will all tell you the same thing: death and popular music have forever danced hand-in-hand in funereal waltz time. The tyrannical alliance between the pop charts and the majority of radio stations’ play lists may conspire to convince anyone listening that the world spins on its axis to the tune of Moon and June, to I Love You, You Love Me and, indeed, She Loves You; traditional matters of the Achy Breaky Heart. The rest of us know that we live in a world where red roses will one day become lilies and that death is the motor that drives the greatest and most exhilarating music of all.

A wildly cheering history of the subject of death in popular song.”  – Observer, Best Music Books of 2008

[An] amiable potter around all the genres of the rock and pop graveyard.” – Telegraph, Best Music Books of 2008

Better musical surveys are hard to find, and the results are positively life-affirming.” – Paste

Its contents more than live up to the billing…. a rich and masterful read.” – The Word

One of the most informative and fulfilling music books you’re ever likely to read. An essential volume.” – Record Collector

The long subtitle is a tad inaccurate. This isn’t a history; it’s a commentary. Damned good one, too, by a journalist who knows his stuff and struts it…. Enthralling from the first page, he guarantees rereaders with a penultimate chapter on Europe’s top 10 funeral songs and an appendix of his own, an annotated top 40 of death.” – Booklist

An intriguing, intelligent analysis…. Thomson’s real strength is his understated empathy [and] it’s in making connections between death songs and a life lived that I Shot a Man in Reno really shines.”  – Time Out

Authoritative and sparkling with insight… drawing on a sharp wit and a record collection to apparently rival John Peel’s… this is ten quid well spent.”  – Morning Star

[The] long-running and continually fascinating story of deadly mayhem as narrated in song lyrics.” – Bloomsbury Review

Thomson immerses the reader in the world of death-pop. Counter-intuitively, it’s a jolly read and his top 40 best death-themed songs – or his “DiPod” – show the author has excellent taste, too
Sunday Herald

World Rights: Continuum

Willie Nelson: The Outlaw

Thomson follows his acclaimed biography of Elvis Costello with a thoroughly-researched and engagingly-written account of the legendary Willie Nelson.

With a face that wouldn’t look out of place carved into Mount Rushmore, Willie Nelson has done it all. A dope smoking, whisky drinking, latter-day cowboy with Native American blood, four wives and seven children: the career of the Grammy winning singer, songwriter and actor spans half a century of American music, touching base with everyone from Patsy Cline to Elvis Presley, Julio Iglesias to Kid Rock, Ryan Adams to Emmylou Harris. Former US President Jimmy Carter, Johnny Cash and Frank Sinatra became friends, while concert highlights have included Farm Aid, his annual Fourth of July picnics, Woodstock ’99 and the 9/11 memorial. Lows include his mother and father’s early desertion, penury, alcoholism, tempestuous marriages with three divorces, drug busts, bankruptcy at the hands of the IRS, as well as his son’s suicide and an attempt at taking his own life.

A compelling man whose life and music reveals and reflects something fundamental at the very heart of twentieth century America, Willie Nelson is nothing short of a legend. In biographical terms, however, the problem remains that, to date, nobody has looked hard enough behind the legend and mythology to discover what really makes Nelson tick – both as a man and a musician. This is the task that The Outlaw sets itself.

Sharp writing, astute observation and a wry attitude …. make for a lively read and a vivid portrait of an often baffling talent. Recommended.” – Neil Spencer, Observer Music Monthly

An excellent biography. Thomson is too shrewd a biographer to take [Nelson] at his own estimation.” – Paul Du Noyer, The Word

A timely reminder of the stature and achievements of the 72-year-old Texan.” – Adam Sweeting, Telegraph

A fabulous biography of one of country music’s most colourful characters.” – Tatler

Publication Date: March 2006
World Rights: Virgin Books

Complicated Shadows: The Life and Music of Elvis Costello

Complicated Shadows paints a detailed and accurate portrait of an intensely private and complex individual. It draws on nearly 50 exclusive interviews with schoolmates, pre-fame friends, early band members, journalists as well as members of The Attractions, producers, collaborators and musicians from all stages of his life and career. Thomson also unearths many previously unknown details about Costello’s early years and his personal life, as well as examining his entire musical output using the recollections of those who were there at the time, the majority of whom have never talked on the subject before.

[A] cracker … meticulously researched and fluently told.” – Observer Music Monthly

Thomson has produced … as believable and fair a picture of the man himself as I suspect is actually possible.” – Herald

A vital read … Thomson here returns one of rock’s most elusive figures to flesh and blood … Definitive.” – Uncut

Brilliantly written . . . in the absence of Elvis Costello putting pen to paper himself, this is far and away the next best thing.” – Record Collector

World Rights: Canongate Books

Graeme Thomson is represented at Jenny Brown Associates by Stan –