Before becoming an award-winning writer and photographer, Ali Smith played bass in New York punk/rockabilly mavericks Speedball Baby, who sounded like the missing link between The Gun Club and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Smith has been prompted to write her memoir many times since those days, and over 20 years since their breakup, here it is, with a foreword written by Exene Cervenka of X.
Within The Ballad Of Speedball Baby’s pages, Smith navigates a dirty, drug-fuelled Lower East Side Manhattan that catapults her into legendary NYC music venue CBGB’s, seedy hangouts in Amsterdam and London’s 100 Club. Her tough upbringing was soundtracked by WLIR’s DJ Donna, and a playlist of Blondie, Talking Heads and the Ramones. Following two independent EPs, Speedball Baby get signed to a major label who – in a typical 90s rock tale – quickly lose interest in their destiny. Nevertheless, Smith and bandmates chalk up incendiary tour slots with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and win the approval of postpunk icons like Kid Congo Powers.
The Ballad Of Speedball Baby tells the story of a smart young woman surviving on her wits and living to write a no-holds-barred account of her life in a hi-octane rock’n’roll band. It’s as emotive as it is darkly hilarious.
The Ballad Of Speedball Baby, Ali Smith (Blackstone)
Price: £14.99. Info: here
words DAVID NOBAKHT