Utopia Avenue

Random. Jul. 2020. 570p. ISBN 9780812997439. $30. F
Mitchell (The Bone Clocks) spins readers through the Swingin’ Sixties, charting the progress of British folk rock band Utopia Avenue. Thrown together by enterprising agent Levon Frankland, the band is comprised of jazz drummer Griff and tortured guitar genius Jasper, who were playing with a washed-up act; scrappy bassist Dean, who met Levon the day he was evicted and fired; and “girl singer”/keyboard player Elf, part of a duo until her boyfriend decamped to Paris. The band begin to see success but not without obstacles. They party with rock stars in London, tour the backwater pubs and clubs of Britain in a rickety van, appear on Top of the Pops, get betrayed and busted in Rome, then book a U.S. tour that changes everything. Together and apart, the band weathers family crises, mental illness, sexual awakenings, death and loss, groupies, detractors, and the Sixties’ dark side.
VERDICT Mitchell’s sprawling, engrossing look at the psychedelic era is lovingly rendered, though some of the characters’ tolerant attitudes toward homosexuality seem anachronistic. His fans will appreciate the Easter eggs and a metaphysical interlude; those who enjoy revisiting the 1960s will groove on the cameos from many celebrities of the time.
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