Ticket To Ride
by Graham Sclater
Graham Sclater, today a music publisher in England, was active as a musician in the “Hamburg Sound” era when Germany was fertile ground for English “beat groups” plying their trade and crafting their sound and style. Sclater was there as organist of The Wave, The Birds & The Bees and Manchester Playboys. With this “ticket to ride,” he gained the experiences translated into fiction form in this, his debut novel.
However, I think this rich trove of experiences would be more entertaining in a work of non-fiction, as anecdotes to add color to the lives of working musicians, perhaps easily integrated into the largely known history of Brit rock with some occasionally recognized names, albums, etc. This, I think, would add a depth to the story that is currently lacking.
Ticket To Ride is full of wild tales and outlandish incidents as the musicians become prisoners in a foreign land to tiring and harsh transitions from desperation to decadence. Through this, the characters are remarkably flat, lacking in dimension and emerging at the end of their tribulations lacking in real transformation. Sclater fails to give the characters in his work real emotional depth and believable motivations.
However, do not let my arguments against the book detract from its joys. I myself have walked the streets of Hamburg’s St. Pauli district and eventually met Erin Ross, who designed posters for Rory Storm and Hurricane, The Beatles, and more. I was hoping for just such an encounter to somehow find my own link to this era and place.
So it is quite fun to muse upon Sclater’s book as to what facts and real events are behind the elements of his story. Do we think that we recognize anyone in these scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue? The chapter titles have lyrical references like the book title, do you recognize them? Also, as a former indie rocker myself I feel a connection to the characters in this book. I have gone through and experienced and seen much of what they have and I think any current or former amateur gigging musician will also make that connection.