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Geoff Nicholson: Flesh Guitar

This is Nicholson’s homage to guitar hero(ine)s but also Nicholson, as usual, taking the piss out of everything – from post-modernism to Hollywood actors. Jenny Slade is a post-modernist guitarist. The book starts with her final gig (though we don’t know that it is her final gig till the end of the book). In between we get a series of flashbacks from Bob Arnold, her number one fan and editor and publisher of JOSS (Journal of Sladean Studies), as well as various scenes from her life. During her life she witnesses the deaths of Robert Johnson, Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix, sets Frank Zappa on the right path and meets and plays with a whole range of real and imaginary characters, from a Captain Beefheart clone to a drummer who has Alzheimer’s and plays drums virtually all day.

Nicholson clearly had great fun writing this novel, with obscure references to everyone from Kiss Me Kate to Freddie Mercury, and mentions of everyone from Vini Reilly to Wendy O’Williams. So who is Jenny Slade based on? Interestingly enough, though Nicholson mentions a whole range of women guitar and bass players, there is one who does not get mentioned and that is Chrissie Hynde. There are a lot of differences but if anyone, as Nicholson implies, can be said to the female incarnation of Jimi Hendrix, it is Chrissie. Similarities from Chrissie’s Advice to Chick Rockers to her association with aging rock stars leads me think that Nicholson must at least have had her in mind. But it doesn’t matter. Jenny is definitely one of Nicholson’s fun characters and stands in her own right.

Publishing history

First published 1998 by Victor Gollancz