An extract…

I’ve worked in the music industry for more than twenty years, primarily at record labels rather than management companies, booking agencies or publishers. We’re the people that sign the artists, help them make their records, then market those records across the globe and try to get them consumed by as many people as possible. Talk of the death of labels has been greatly exaggerated. You’ll have seen the headlines – the industry is expanding again, and record companies are doing better than they have been since the MP3 and Napster appeared like dreadnaughts on the late nineties horizon.

I’ve worked with a lot of different artists – singers, bands, rappers and electronic producers. They’ve come from all sorts of places and all kinds of backgrounds – middle-class England; brutal, underclass east London; Japan, Europe, Australia, all over America. The ones who succeed tend to be the most ambitious, and you won’t need me to tell you that there’s hard work and luck involved too.

There are self-destructive types, but also many highly self- controlled people – some frighteningly so. Nearly every time a group of musicians comes together to make a band, crew or group – genre deciding the term – someone along the way will be rejected. Some are destined for their own solo careers; others won’t get with the programme in one way or another. Many don’t quite want it enough to go through the hard years – the miserable touring and the hand-to-mouth existence, and the risk: the looming void of failure, the vision of themselves as a washed-up thirty-something with no home or pension.

I’ve always been drawn to the difficult, troubled characters, the people who are brilliant but flawed and fuck things up. I end up being friends with the troubled, warm second guitarist rather than the cold, controlled, ambitious singer. Graham Greene said that there’s a ‘splinter of ice in the heart’ of artists, and this certainly applies to successful musicians. You have to be cold enough to shed impediments of any kind, and thus to reject your friends and bandmates. To be willing to break their hearts.

This book is about the people who are thrown out. It turns out that a perspective on bands from both the inside and outside is rare and uniquely revealing. These people were there, but they develop an objectivity by becoming outsiders, even if some of them never recover. And anyway, the people with the splinters of ice won’t tell you anything they don’t want you to hear. They need to control the narrative. The insider/outsiders might just tell the truth. In fact, through their stories, we can perceive an entire alternative history of popular music.

And this isn’t a book about fuck ups – it’s a book about bands, artists, players and people, united in their rejection but diverse in their stories and lives. For some of them, being thrown out of groups was an essential staging post on the way to finding their true callings – novelists, soldiers, towering solo successes.

We’ll uncover stories from the fringes but look at the most famous ones too – those notorious rejections that everybody’s heard of.

Like most writers, I don’t like to tell people what I’m working on until it’s finished. Partly, it’s superstition – you think you might jinx it. But in the main it’s people’s reactions you’re afraid of. If you describe an idea to someone and see a lack of interest – or worse, active dismay – in their face, it can crock the work for days.

But I felt more relaxed about The Rejects. I’d told a few people, who told other people, and I decided not to worry about it. Plus, I wanted suggestions for the cast, and a lot of music fans have a favourite kicking out story.

So at parties, bars, lunches, children’s playdates and dinners, if someone asked, I would tell them what I was working on. The vast majority of people, if they had any interest at all, would immediately ask about what I came to think of as The Famous Ones. ‘You must be writing about X?’ they’d say.

In part, these stories stay with us because they provide the most striking examples, or the really painful ones. I think they’re so notable, too, because they conform to recognisable archetypes:

It’s just not working out.
This place ain’t big enough for the two of us.
We’ve sucked you dry.
Your face doesn’t fit.
I’m too good for you anyway.

And more than that, these stories stay with us because these are archetypes from life, not just from bands. Who of us hasn’t experienced a rejection based on the above? I’d go so far as to say that we’re lucky if we haven’t experienced all of them: in love, in friendship, in work.

As we meet the cast, we won’t stick purely to the rules and will interpret rejection broadly, partly because rules are dull, but also because we’d miss out on some great tales. Along the way we’ll find glory, tragedy, chaos, failure and redemption, heart- break, humour, violence, generosity and love. We’ll discover surprising, life-changing connections between our cast of characters. We’ll get a unique view on musicians and music and life, and we’ll have a great deal of fun.

To the Rejects, then – a supergroup all of their own. Let’s hear it for them.

Published by Little Brown on February 22nd and available to pre-order via Heavenly Recordings Bandcamp store.

Author Biography

Jamie Collinson has worked in the music business for over twenty years, primarily for two iconic independent record labels; Ninja Tune and Domino. Having worked with Arctic Monkeys, My Bloody Valentine, Franz Ferdinand, Wiley, Wet Leg and Roots Manuva, he’s lived in London and Los Angeles, where he founded Ninja Tune’s US HQ. He’s been backstage at some of the world’s most famous venues and festivals in the company of the artists he’s worked with, navigated colourful characters, A & R’d albums and directed marketing campaigns to sell them. Along the way, he’s seen success and failure, heartbreak, joy, addiction, violence, terrifying egoism and stunning generosity.