Tim Rogers De­tours

The Saturday Paper - - Books -

A self-de­scribed “lanky, shaggy D-list” celebrity and dandy who strives to be Noël Coward but fears he is Step­toe, Tim Rogers, lead singer of You Am I, re­veals that these days the “swag­ger” in his walk comes from two knee re­con­struc­tions. “This is who I am, take it or leave it. A mid­dle-aged man with­out much more go­ing on than a deep thirst.”

That “deep thirst”, for ac­cep­tance, ap­proval, free­dom from anx­i­ety (“my lit­tle friend”), and the al­co­hol and drugs to which he turns for re­lief, runs through De­tours like a river. “Al­co­holics”, Rogers and his lover tell them­selves, go to AA: “We’re drunks.” There is less bravura in the story of how once, af­ter an epic hang­over and at­tempted OxyCon­tin cure, Rogers picked up his daugh­ter from kin­der­garten. Her teacher in­sisted on ac­com­pa­ny­ing them home. As though need­ing to put se­man­tic dis­tance be­tween him­self and the mem­ory, he tells the story in the third per­son: “He’d ac­tu­ally be­lieved that the teacher was charmed by his louche, cav­a­lier at­ti­tude and bon­homie.” Months later, when his wife kicked him out for good, he learnt that the teacher had in fact been fear­ful for the girl’s safety “in the care of a man whose pupils were pinned as if all hope was squeez­ing from his mind”.

You Am I has been a star band of the al­ter­na­tive scene since its first al­bum de­buted at No.1 in 1995. Rogers’ lyrics are scat­tered through­out the book, and there are anec­dotes about tour­ing, band­mates and shows. But De­tours is much more about Rogers him­self: the books he reads, or prom­ises him­self he will when he’s less wasted; his love of footy; his first in­fat­u­a­tions; his love for his daugh­ter; and the self-doubt and com­pul­sions that have at times nearly crip­pled him. A mem­oir in frag­ments, it jumps about in tone as well as time and place. At times it feels like he’s try­ing too hard to im­press. Eyes “erupt with bril­liance like blue cock­tail um­brel­las”, a man moves like an “ag­grieved arach­nid”. It didn’t re­ally hook me in un­til about the hun­dred-page mark. Yet this lat­est ad­di­tion to the grow­ing genre of Aus­tralian rock mem­oir is hon­est and raw, some­times heart­break­ingly so, and oc­ca­sion­ally very funny at the same time. Af­ter de­liv­er­ing what he’d thought was a vir­tu­oso per­for­mance of “Pin­ball Wiz­ard” to friends at univer­sity, one re­marked: “Noice, Timmy. Noice. But you ain’t much of a singer, are ya?” CG

HarperColl­ins, 352pp, $35

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