Review of ‘Pandamonium!’ by Simon Williams

A bold, likeable memoir from Simon Williams, founder of Fierce Panda Records. It’s partly about what it’s like to run (or not run, as the case may be) a small independent label and partly a personal narrative about his struggles with mental health which led him to attempt suicide at the end of 2019.

Simon tells us how he ended up running the label, which seemed to happen almost by accident. Quite a lot of the book focuses on his time as a writer for the NME and his sort of parallel career to Steve Lamacq. There is a particular focus on ‘Wibbling Rivalry’ (the interview with the Gallagher brothers which was released as a single, reaching 52 in the chart), how the label courted and lost Coldplay and Keane, the difficulty of staying true to the indie spirit. I thought he missed an opportunity to discuss how ‘indie’ has become a genre of rock, a certain style of music, regardless of whether it was independently released.

The writing style is stuffed full of wordplay and song references, which will be enjoyable for those who appreciate such things, but won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (much like the bands that he champions). I liked that this book raises awareness of two things which aren’t obviously linked but which are extremely important – independent music and men’s mental health.

A stu-‘panda’-ously good read which sadly has no pictures at all.

Published in 2022 by Nine Eight Books.

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