By Tyler James
I absolutely loved Amy Winehouse. Her incredible voice still amazes me and Back To Black remains a faithful fave album. Unlike most of the music stars of her era, she wasn’t primed to portray herself in a PR-friendly light – Amy was raw and real and too busy struggling with the circus of fame to care about her public profile. But witnessing her inexorable journey to self-annihilation as it played out in the press was like watching a slow car crash.
Few can have been better placed to know what really happened than Tyler James, her best friend since they met at drama school when he was 13. Both insecure outsiders obsessed with singing, James was Amy’s constant confidante until she died at 27. An EastEnder whose own shortlived shot at fame left him with his own addiction problems, James adored his mega-famous friend and was fiercely protective, often to his own cost. Amy’s drugs, booze and questionable taste in men often overshadowed her incredible singing and you find out exactly what was going on behind the scenes of her gigs, TV appearances and award shows – like when Amy got to sing with Prince, only for her dodgy husband to steal from the star’s dressing room. Her life was as bonkers, excessive and tragic as we’d all imagined – and way, way more.
There are hilarious and heartwarming moments too. Written with the help of the brilliant Sylvia Patterson (Smash Hits writer, ‘pensmith of pop’ and author of I’m Not With The Band), it’s a great, emotional and uproarious read as we find out exactly what the star kept in her famous beehive, her passion for girlie kitsch and what a mother hen she could be with those she loved. But most of all it’s a reminder of how cool and incredible Amy was before her demons took over. If you’re a fan, you’ll love it.