Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock’n’Roll Life is, as the title goes a long way to suggest, a rock’n’roll memoir – by which I mean to say a memoir of someone who led a life that could in some ways be described as rock’n’roll (and not, as you might mistakenly believe, the memoir of a famous rock’n’roller). Bruce Paley is the man with the rock’n’roll life, from his early days as a Kerouac loving hippy on the road with his 17 year old girlfriend, dropping acid at Disneyland and hanging out with armed Black Panthers at the 1968 Democratic National Convention to shooting heroin in the company of Johnny Thunders.
What sets Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock’n’Roll Life apart from something like, say, White Bicycles is that Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock’n’Roll Life is a graphic memoir. Carol Swain (known as ‘the graphic lit love child of Gabriel Garcia Marquez & Raymond Carver’ in some quarters) does the honours, portraying Paley’s excursions (Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock’n’Roll Life is a sort of anecdotal graphic short story collection in many ways, albeit a graphic short story collection with a bunch of recurring characters) in a scratchy, pencil, black and white style that somehow perfectly sums up the stories – just as Bruce scratches around for money, so Swain’s pencil scratches around at the background detail.
As with Tim Lane’s recent collection, Abandoned Car, there is a sense that you approach Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock’n’Roll Life almost as if it is a time capsule or a postcard from the distant past (despite the fact that it really isn’t so long ago). It may be that there is nothing here too surprising (Paley ticks all of the boxes, whether it’s the Kerouac influenced roadtrips, the tripping in the desert or the flat out refusal to toe the man’s party line) but the intimate sidesteps along the way (revealed in a strip like ‘Daphne’, where we get a sort of Vlautin-esque failed relationship story) more than justify the admission price.
Any Cop?: Giraffes in my Hair: A Rock’n’Roll Life has a very definite audience: if you’re a fan of rock’n’roll, if you dig the Beats, if you like grimey tales of excess and the underbelly of success, this is for you.