Too Weird For Ziggy

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First published in the US on Grove/Atlantic’s Black Cat imprint, 2004
Other editions: UK and Russia

The razor-witted fiction debut of one of the world’s best music writers. Hilarious and unforgettable, Too Weird For Ziggy is devastatingly funny, punchy, and as hooky as the best rock’n’roll.

“A damn good writer, honest, truthful and scathing.” Lemmy, Motorhead
“Very cool reading, very rock’n’roll.” Slash
“Brilliant” Tori Amos
“Subversive, out-there, radical, wicked and very, very funny.” Marianne Faithfull
“Her book is genius, her mind is genius, but her body is something to drool for.” Nikki Sixx “A hot read. Bravo Sylvie!” Sharon Osbourne

Short stories, 18 of them, sick, sad and funny and set in the world of rock. It was originally called Too Weird For Iggy, then the lawyers stepped in after Iggy’s manager said the title would have to be changed, because it was too weird for Iggy. Er…

Reviews of Too Weird For Ziggy:

“If you thought The Dirt hilarious, this spectacularly gonzo collection of loosely linked short stories suggests a much darker beat at the heart of rock’s lunatic fringes. Simmons has seem more backstage atrocities that you’ve heard drum solos, twisting her tales of drugs, betrayal and raising the dead to show how blurred the music industry’s line between fact and fiction has become” – Q Magazine

“Such gallows humour is worthy of Carl Hiassen’s darkly satirical rock whodunnit Basket Case. However even the maestro of Florida sleaze would struggle to contrive a rock death as grim as the C&W grand dame here, who’s baked alive under her electric blanket and ‘marinated in her own urine’. No wonder Lemmy’s a fan.” – N.M.E.

“Like a Somerset Maugham of the rock world, Simmons tells dry-eyed, ruthlessly perceptive war stories, set in a disconnected, airbrushed celebrity cosmos. With its quick asides on backstage manners and bar etiquette, this insider’s view of the rock business is graphic, extreme and very funny.” – MOJO

“Simmons’ monstrously entertaining, ghoulishly compelling freak show works brilliantly. It comes with plug quotes from Sharon Osbourne, Lemmy, Slash and Marianne Faithfull, which is odd, as such narcissists are the satire’s targets.” –UNCUT magazine

“Strange, funny, very cynically observed and very British, with tales of groupies, stalkers, Karen Carpenter cults and washed up rock stars going mad and hoarding their own shit in the fridge.” – LOADED

“Revered music writer Sylvie Simmons’ fiction debut is a wounding collection of interlinked short stories set in the mad, bad world of rock. The more bizarre the stories, the more believable they are. Because you know Simmons has been there, done that, and bought ‘the new concert T-shirt, still smelling of ink.’” –Classic Rock Magazine (UK)

“She welds the journalistic faculties of gimlet-eyed observation and epigrammatic description to the fiction writer’s gifts of a surreal imagination and a deft touch with credible characterisation. Often simultaneously, she generates both wit and pathos. Macabre enough to induce a lasting frisson.” – The Independent Newspaper (UK)

“Exuberantly iconoclastic and potty-mouthed (“Hung like a horse? The man needed tweezers to jerk off”), rock journalist Simmons, having devoted her working hours to making sense of the rockerati, moves inside their fantasies and paranoias” –The Guardian newspaper(UK)

“She tempts and teases with individual stories that fit into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Take a front seat and enjoy your journey into rock city.” – The Morning Star newspaper (UK)

“A linked collection about ludicrous rock stars and the freak show that surrounds them.” – Entertainment Weekly (US)

“In the music business, fact and fiction tend to intertwine and it’s impossible to determine which is more outlandish. Thankfully, Simmons doesn’t bother to keep them separate. At a certain point, these seemingly real-life cartoons begin to morph and assume, like heavy-rotation melodies stuck in your head, lives of their own. A knowing sendup as arch as it is fond.” – Los Angeles Times

“Hilariously shocking short stories, filled with strange scenes inside the gold mine of rock music.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Simmons has seen more than her fair share of fevered egos, outsized characters and oddballs. She cherry-picks the more vivid moments from her career, changes some names and adds her own twisted imagination to shape a batch of occasionally tall tales that read like Raymond Carver stories populated by an army of MTV glitterati.” – Harp magazine, (US)

“Reading these stories is like taking a trip into a rock’n’roll twilight zone.” – The Independent Bookseller (US)

“Rock journalists are weird. But as a rule, they shouldn’t (or really, couldn’t) be as fucked-up as musicians, or the crazy music fans. Sylvie Simmons has been there, seen it. The respected critic and writer for The Guardian, MOJO, Rolling Stone and Creem has taken her years on the scene (she got started in 1977) and transformed them to fiction in her collection of short stories. Another rule: Books are always cooler than magazines.” – City Paper (US)

“Debut novels to look out for.” – The Observer newspaper (UK)

by Jason Ritchie
Get Ready To Rock (2004)

How did you become involved in the music business?

I’ve been obsessed with music ever since I can remember. The first time I heard my voice on tape when I was a tiny little girl I thought I sounded like Billie Holiday. As my brain outgrew my ego, I realised I sounded like Minnie Mouse. So, in time-honoured tradition, I became a rock critic. Since I was sick to the point of insanity of London’s grey skies and rain, I moved to Los Angeles and became the correspondent for Sounds (after getting the cold shoulder from called NME and Melody Maker, who I offered myself to first).

What were the highlights of your time at `Sounds’?

So many I don’t know where to begin. As L.A correspondent I got to cover anything and everything, so one week I’d be on a tour bus crossing California with The Clash, the next in a helicopter with a coke-snorting Steven Tyler, and the one after that wading, fully- dressed, in a hotel swimming pool with Tony Iommi at 3am, helping him rescue frogs from a nasty chlorined death (this last thing happened on Sabbath’s final tour with Ozzy as vocalist; I got to go along for the ride). Doing the first published interviews with the likes of Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses was nice, but even more memorable was interviewing Muddy Waters (lovely) and Michael Jackson (er, different). But the whole deal with Sounds was great – it was an era of non-stop gigs and parties, which I’d cover in my column Hollywood Highs, and endless free drinks (which, in the immortal words of Kerrang!’s Malcolm Dome, “it would be rude to turn down”).

How did you become to be involved with `Kerrang!’?

While I was living in LA, the glam metal scene had just started up, and I was writing about it for Sounds. Geoff Barton asked me to write about it for Kerrang! so I did too – initially under the psuedonym Laura Canyon. Someone told me the name’s now being used by a porn star. It’s NOT ME. I’ve hardly ever been THAT blonde! Oh, and a delusional music writer from L.A also occasionally likes to claim she was Laura Canyon. Don’t believe her. It was me and I have the battlescars to prove it. When I moved back to London and soon afterwards quit Sounds, Laura Canyon disappeared and I took her place.

What was it like working in a near all male environment of `Kerrang!’?

A fuck sight better than any other environment (and, being rock, most of them were near as dammit male) I’ve had anything to do with. Some might find it hard to fathom, but of all of the people, from all corners of the music business, I’ve had dealings with over all these years, musicians, editors and otherwise, the metal men were for the most part the easiest-going, the most (excuse the word) gentlemanly, and often the least sexist.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

I’ll go with the first one I remember. I was interviewing Eric Bloom Blue Oyster Cult for Sounds at a N. California festival. I was, er, in a state of chemical alteration and he wasn’t.

Due to my temporary loss of plot, I continued to ask him the same question over and over again. Being a sardonic New Yorker, he simply answered it with the same reply each time. At one point, becoming aware that I’d heard the same words several times, I stopped and said to him, “You’re really boring.” He was a gentleman about it. Like I said, the rock men always were.

Read it in full here.

by Martin Horsfield

Writing fiction about rock’n’roll is awkward; always full of thinly veiled stars hiding within improbably named bands. This first effort from Sylvie Simmons has plenty of those (The Nympholeptics anyone?), but her experience as a long-standing rock hack means that these interlinked short stories are forensically detailed and wickedly entertaining. She takes well-worn myths and legends and cranks them up into rampant surrealism. Like when The Nympholeptics’ frontman starts to grow breasts. Such gallows humour is worthy of Carl Hiassen’s darkly satirical rock whodunnit Basket Case, especially Pussy, Simmons’ Courtney-alike whose self-absorption extends to collecting her own toenail clippings (and worse). However even the maestro of Florida sleaze would struggle to contrive a rock death as grim as the C&W grand dame here, who’s baked alive under her electric blanket and “marinated in her own urine”. No wonder Lemmy’s a fan.

Author Sylvie Simmons talks to NME

NME: do some of these tales start from a nugget of truth?

Sylvie Simmons: “Several. You meet someone, hear something, and then when you’re doing something mindlessly dull, like transcribing interview tapes or interviewing Lou Reed, your mind starts riffing on it.”

Who’d make a good soundtrack for the book?

“The title track would have to be by Iggy Pop. It was called Too Weird For Iggy, then the publishers sent him a copy, asking permission to use ‘his’ name. Apparently it was too weird for him. So they added the ‘Z’. It’s like someone telling you you’ve got to rename your fucking cat! For the whole soundtrack, it’d have to be The Arcade Fire or Yo La Tengo since, like the stories they’re brilliant but change from track to track.”

Were they any fictional band names you left out?

“DJ Underfelt: he’s a kinda funky, jazzy, mixmaster. Pre-Op Cop: they’re jokey punk-funk, a bit like the Kaiser Chiefs.”

Who’s your favourite fictional rock band?

“Right now, Kings Of Leon.”

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