British Music Experience 2/3/20

The truth is always subjective, especially if you’re a 17-year-old intent on creating an identity for yourself. Especially more so when living in a city where a good story is more important than a true one. And so we have the tale of Searching For Love: Courtney Love in Liverpool, 1982.

Written by renowned DJ and respected author Dave Haslam (who, at the book launch at the British Music Experience, described himself as a “detective”), the book is written in the chatty, informed and affable tone that he uses to speak to the audience here tonight. The evening is a mixture of poetry and music from a couple of the luminaries of the music and pop culture scene of early 80s Liverpool, and the room is peppered with some living legends who guffaw or chip in as Haslam gives an overview of Liverpool in 1982.

Haslam asserts that Love’s rite of passage in Liverpool isn’t only applicable to her. He states it’s a universal story and the one question he didn’t need to ask was: why did she come to Liverpool?

Haslam purposely didn’t want to interview Love for the book but has subsequently become email pen pals with her, which he seemed charmed and terrified by in equal measure. With no prior first-hand knowledge of her life, he came to the conclusion that the negative press she’s received since finding fame and infamy was, aside from as a result of her own calamitous decisions, in part due to misogyny. Why else frame a lot of the comments and coverage she’s subsequently received around her sexuality?

Working from contemporary accounts, referring to previous research and speaking to people who lived through that gilded time in Liverpool, Haslam sketches an image of the 17-year-old who arrived from America via Ireland. He contacted Courtney Love’s friend, Robin, with whom she travelled to Liverpool, who recounted someone who was “hyper-focused”.

Nothing wrong with that but she admitted that Love could be loud, louche and annoying. But enough to warrant Julian Cope’s vitriolic full page ad in the NME which read: ‘Free Us From Nancy Spungen-Fixated A-Holes Who Cling To Our Greatest Groups And Suck Out Their Brains’? We don’t find out what this teenage ingénue in a new city had done to get such a vitriolic response from an established rock star, but maybe it gives weight to Haslam’s claim that young, opinionated women aggravate people. Sadly, we’ll never know.

The book is part of the Art Decades series, each of which takes the form of 10,000 words; he says there’s not enough time to write lengthy tomes on every topic that interests him. The book is the third in a series which will eventually number eight. The fourth of the eight will hopefully focus on Sylvia Plath, a subject who Haslam thinks has links to Courtney Love: two fiercely intelligent and talented women often overshadowed by their husbands. 

He describes these books as “singles not an albums” which is an analogy that works – it’s an accessible, enjoyable and fast-paced read by a funny, informed and personable writer. 

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