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Nine Eight Books to publish Will Hodgkinson’s ‘essential’ new book about Lawrence, Britain’s most singular musical genius

Nine Eight Books, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, will publish Street Level Superstar: A Year With Lawrence  by Will Hodgkinson

Pete Selby, publishing director at Nine Eight Books acquired World All Language Rights from Matthew Hamilton at The Hamilton Agency.

Described by Jarvis Cocker as ‘essential reading’ and Bobby Gillespie as ‘wonderful’, Street-Level Superstar follows a year in the life of Lawrence, Britain’s most singular musical genius who never hit the big time.

In 1979, Lawrence formed Felt, who released ten albums and ten singles in ten years before splitting up. In 1991, he reinvented himself with novelty-pop outfit Denim. Signed to EMI, riding the wave of Britpop, in 1997, Denim’s song ‘Summer Smash’ became Radio 1’s Single of the Week and looked like a sure-fire hit. Then Princess Diana was killed in a car crash. All copies were melted down. Crushing depression, addiction and homelessness followed… but in the face of it all, Lawrence never gave up.

In Street-Level Superstar, bestselling author and journalist Will Hodgkinson follows Lawrence across one of the most successful 12 months of his career. Will tells the story of Britain’s most eccentric cult star. Will he write the greatest song the world has ever known before the year is out? And was it worth sacrificing everything – family, relationships, health, sanity – for art?

Will Hodgkinson said: “The idea for Street Level Superstar was a simple one. Inspired by Truman Capote’s The Duke In His Domain, his 1957 profile of Marlon Brando, I would spend a year with Lawrence of Felt / Denim / Go-Kart Mozart / Mozart Estate to see how he reacted to the world and how the world reacted to him. Why was this sixty-one-year-old man, who had dreamed of pop stardom since his teens, reduced to dragging sackfuls of 2p coins to the bank in exchange for cash? Why did every love affair end in disaster? Why did he get so upset when the kids at the bus stop laughed at him? Why was the hit single that would transform his life and envelop him in a glorious bubble of money and fame proving so elusive?

Accompanying Lawrence as he navigated hostile terrain from the suburbs of London to the fields of Glastonbury to the Birmingham streets of his childhood, I set out to understand this lonesome, difficult, fascinating figure. And ended up getting rather more than I bargained for. 

Lawrence said: “Will has finally written his masterpiece. I’m glad I could be of service.”

Will Hodgkinson is author of the music books Guitar ManSong ManThe Ballad of Britain and In Perfect Harmony. He is a regular contributor to the GuardianMojo and Vogue and presented the Sky Arts television series Songbook. Since 2010, he has been chief rock and pop critic for The Times.

Street Level Superstar will be published in hardback and e-book in September 2024.