There must be hundreds of untold stories from the early days of rave. It was a time when innovation and hedonism collided, producing something truly great - today's huge dance culture has it's roots in the events of those early years. DJ's, MC's, promoters and punters, all with their own untapped memories of a burgeoning scene, all with their own stories. Well, I can confirm that jungle pioneer and drum & bass royalty Nigel Thompson - AKA Jumpin Jack Frost - most definitely has a tale to tell. Big, Bad & Heavy couldn't be a more apt title...
Starting at the beginning, detailing a childhood growing up on the streets of Brixton in the seventies and eighties, and ending at the present day, Frost's book charts the highs and lows of a man with music running in his veins. Beginning with his early love for the reggae sound systems, via the discovery (and initial bewilderment) of acid house, and the eventual arrival at a scene that he became a figurehead for, "Big, Bad & Heavy" is a book that doesn't shy away from the hard times - crime, infidelity, addiction and depression - while documenting the high (literally) times - headlining arena events, producing genre-defining tunes and global success as a touring DJ.
As with previous book releases on Music Mondays there are contributions from many other DJ's, MC's and promoters of the time. Of particular note is an anecdote from Goldie about a time that he called on Frost for a bit of help in retrieving a few items stolen from his flat. However, given the nature of the story, Goldie is very mindful of beginning with "What I am about to tell you is a complete load of lies..."! Again, as with previous publications there are sections interspersed throughout the book of glossy full-colour photographs featuring many images from the authors private collection.
Frost's story could have easily been presented as a one-dimensional tale of bravado and excess and would have no doubt still been an entertaining read, however, it's the way these moments are punctuated with moments of real reflection that elevate the book to another level. The book is nothing if not honest in it's portrayal of a man far more complex than the public persona would have you believe.
"Big Bad & Heavy" is a window into the world of an artist operating at a global level in the music industry, making it abundantly clear how easy you could lose your head. The book is packed with humorous and entertaining stories of excess, which over the course of time take a darker turn when relationships start to sour and the drugs become harder. Big respect has to be paid to Frost for not trying to gloss over these years. Without going into detail, the final few chapters really pack an emotional punch, and I'm sure there will be many readers able to identify with Frost's state of mind even if the circumstances differ hugely.
The way in which I found I was able to relate to Frost was one of the more surprising elements of the book. My own early experiences couldn't have been more different to his (south London and the valleys of south Wales have little in common besides their latitude), and the descriptions of conflict and street robbery could leave you with a fairly unsympathetic viewpoint if they were told in isolation to the rest of his tale. But of course, life is never that simple, and each of us are on our own journey. Strip away the circumstances and we can all relate to the highs and lows, aspirations and anxieties.
In Frost's own words, "I can't claim to be a model citizen throughout my life, but I like to think that I will be a better person tomorrow than I am today", and that's a mantra we could all live by.
Whether you're a fan of the old skool sound or simply want to learn more about the origins of drum & bass, this book is for you.