As I write this, Momus is busy crafting what will end up being his thirty-fourth album, an expected tradition as he has been making and releasing an album a year since the mid-1980s. It is hard to imagine anyone in the music industry who is as productive or if you look back at previous articles discussing him, as entertaining.
I mention this because, with such a huge body of work, it would be nice if someone could step forward and offer to catalog each song and each of those albums as if they were the contents of a gallery's art collection. Fortunately, the person who has volunteered their services to this, the expert that has chosen to help separate songs like 'Ocky Milk' from 'Otto Spooky' is John Robinson and 'Famous For Fifteen People - the Songs of Momus 1982 - 1995' is the first installment of the saga documenting Momus's albums.
Robinson's book takes us back to the first recorded works of Nick Currie (he was not yet Momus whilst fronting the short-lived band The Happy Family), through his solo debut, his period at Creation Records, and the first record he made after the split with the label. If the name of Momus is recognised beyond the faithful, then it is during this period. This was a time when Momus was appearing alongside other Creation acts on the 'Doing it for the Kids' compilation album and being mentioned favourably by the Pet Shop Boys. He was still being interviewed in the then weekly music press and even reviewed -though that would eventually turn remarkably sour with the release of 'Hippopotamomus'. It is also during this time that Robinson first hears Momus (on the Annie Nightingale show, performing 'Nicky' his interpretation of Jacques Brel's 'Jacky'). It's still hard to comprehend that Momus' biggest exposure to the mainstream was when' Hairstyle of the Devil' was Single of the Week on Steve Wright's Radio One show. I can even recall seeing an actual promo video for the song on 'SNUB TV'.
Robinson's book is a great companion for anyone who is either curious about the artist they last remember hearing of in the early 90s or those of us who feel that they are fully immersed in the work of Momus. The insight into the weaving together of the many, often cultural influences that shaped each Momus lyric is fascinating, even to those who have listened to the music several hundred times throughout the years. This account of Currie's first fourteen years as a recording artist may be informative, but there is also much humour in its delivery. Amongst the anecdotes, there's space for us to consider the ridiculous idea that the young Nick Currie once toured Europe as the support act to the pre-'Loaded' Primal Scream, who at Creation Records thought that was a good idea?
There are only a few of the 'song by song' genre of books that achieves that rare thing of making you want to return immediately to the music and to hear something fresh in it. That list includes Ian MacDonald's Beatles epic - 'Revolution in the Head', as well as Peter Doggett's 'The Man Who Sold The World'- a book on Momus's hero David Bowie, I believe that 'Famous For Fifteen People' is one of those books too. I can't wait to read Robinson's account of the next twenty-five (and counting), albums if it is to be this informative and witty as this first entry.