If you read You Had to Be There: Three Years of Mayhem and Bad Decisions in the Portland Music Scene, you can't help knowing that I was a huge fan of the late Billy Rancher. In many ways, Billy could be credited with my involvement in the Portland music scene, going all the way back to the Malchicks' performance at a John Lennon memorial during my senior year of high school. My best friend and I ditched class and took a bus downtown to attend, and that was the day that I (like many other women between the ages of 18 and 30 would eventually do) developed a huge crush on the tall, slim singer.
UNreal gods is a fictionalized biography of Billy's rise through the scene. The names are changed to protect the innocent ... but if you were part of the scene at the time, you know who everybody is. That was part of the fun for me. Author SP Clarke, who was a journalist for Portland's Two Louies music magazine, had the inside track on this story and promised to tell it.
Clarke's prose is often poetic, with lyrical turns of phrase that are musical in and of themselves. I was present for many of the incidents he describes, and for those where I was not there, I can't say how much was fictionalized and how much was real. What I can say is that Clarke takes "Billy Granger" on a true hero's journey throughout the book and lets readers backstage to see what Portland's first real rock star went through.
Partway into the book, I hit the moment that I knew would be heartbreaking for me: (view spoiler). Knowing the outcome already did not stop me from reading on, ultimately ending with a tear in my eye because of Clarke's gorgeous prose.
Clarke was given permission to use lyrics from songs composed by Billy Rancher and his brother, Lenny, in the text. Reading them brought back fond memories of the many gigs I attended, including record and video release parties, and far too many nights at Luis' La Bamba and Lung Fung's Dragon Room.
Thank you for the music, Billy, and thanks to SP for telling this story.