Rock and Roll is Life: Part I

The classic rock novel, the forerunner of Flame Music: Part II: The True Story of Resurgam Records
By D.J. Taylor

You may remember the Helium Kids. Back in their late ’60s and early ’70s heyday they appeared on Top of the Tops on 27 separate occasions, released five Billboard-certified platinum albums, played sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and were nearly, but not quite, as big as the Beatles and the Stones. Three decades later, in the big house on the outskirts of Norwich, Nick Du Pont is looking back on the rollercoaster years he spent as their publicist in a world of licensed excess and lurking tragedy. What follows is not only the story of a rock band at a formative time in musical history, when America was opening up to English music and huge amounts of money and self-gratification were there for the taking. For the tale is also Nick’s – the life and times of a war-baby born in a Norwich council house, the son of an absconding GI, whose career is a search for some of the advantages that his birth denied him. It is at once a worm’s eye of British pop music’s golden age and a bittersweet personal journey, with cameo appearances from everyone from Elvis and Her Majesty the Queen Mother to Andy Warhol. ‘Rock and Roll is Life’ is a vastly entertaining, picaresque and touching novel inspired by the excess and trajectories of the great ’60s and ’70s supergroups, and of the tales brought back from the front line by a very special breed of Englishmen who made it big in the States as the alchemists and enablers, as well as the old making way for the new in the era of the baby boomers. At its heart is one man’s adventure, and the poignancy of the special relationships that dominate his life.

About D.J. Taylor

‘One of the finest of our twenty-first century novelists’  –  A.N. Wilson

D.J. Taylor has written twelve novels, including English Settlement (1996), which won a Grinzane Cavour Prize, Trespass (1998) and Derby Day (2011), both of which were long-listed for the Booker Prize, Kept (2006), a U.S. Publishers’ Weekly Book of the Year, and The Windsor Faction (2013), joint winner of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. His non-fiction includes Orwell: The Life, winner of the 2003 Whitbread Prize for Biography, The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England Since 1918 (2016) and Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature 1939-1951 (2019). His most recent books are a collection of short stories, Stewkey Blues (2022), and Critic at Large: Essays and Reviews:

2010-2022 (2023). His new biography, Orwell: The New Life, was published in May 2023. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in Norwich with his wife, the novelist Rachel Hore.

News & Reviews


‘Taylor’s magnificent new novel is Spinal Tap for literary types . . . thoroughly entertaining, knowledgeable romp through the fear and loathing of rock’s golden age. Beautifully written and consistently funny, it is also a poignant account of one man’s search for his own identity’ Mail on Sunday

‘Hugely entertaining . . . perceptive and sardonic . . . a dazzling rollercoaster homage to an era both bacchanalian and oddly innocent’  Dermot Bolger – Guardian

‘A highly entertaining riff on the music business in the 1960s and 1970s . . . an immensely satisfying portrait of a creative and occasionally monstrous industry’. Ian Critchley – Literary Review

‘An affectionate homage to a sub-genre of music journalism that has lost much of its cultural cachet in the internet age. Taylor skilfully combines nostalgic reverence and ironic distance in this genial romp, puncturing the mythology of the era while never quite repudiating its charms’. Houman Barekat – Spectator

‘This tale of pop group excess cleverly slips fact into fiction . . . Taylor’s wry, detached style and eye for detail is a pleasure to read’. Will Hodgkinson – The Times

‘D.J. Taylor has a gift for rendering the defining details of a world . . . It might be said that the book depicts a world that comes with the satire built in, but for good or ill rock music and its successors have taken on a cultural and economic importance that no one could have predicted. The subject requires a powerful imaginative chronicler. In D. J. Taylor it finds a writer closer to Balzac than it may even deserve’. Sean O’Brien – TLS

‘A literary version of Rob Reiner’s hilarious mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, tragically narrated by a provincial depressive’. Lewis Jones – Daily Telegraph

‘Entertaining . . . By the end, you’ll almost be humming the music’. Suzi Feay – The Tablet

‘The list of truly great music-based novels might be a short one, but with the addition of Rock and Roll is Life it just got slightly longer’. Ashley Norris – Shindig