Although the name Robin Le Mesurier may not be universally familiar as a rock star, his family name will be recognised by everyone and provides the credentials that justify his autobiography, A Charmed (Rock ‘n’ Roll) Life, being included in these august pages. The son of John le Mesurier and Hattie Jacques, his childhood was spent surrounded by actors and musicians and, as a youngster, he was equally at home on Pinewood soundstages and backstage at theatres as he was at the family’s open house in Earls Court.
His parent’s bizarre domestic arrangements (his mother had a live-in lover while Mr le Mesurier was relegated to another room in the same house) never diminished the love and affection he received and he seems to have spent a very happy childhood, doted on by the likes of Peter Sellers, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams and, effectively, after his father remarried, two sets of parents.
However, it was music, not acting, that attracted young Robin and he took up the guitar at an early age. Rejecting the offer at a place at the Royal College of Music, he started playing with bands in the late sixties and early 70s with mixed degrees of success. His break-through came as a guitar-playing Womble in Mike Batt’s band of that name although, dressed in a head-to-tale fake fur suit and sworn never to publicly reveal his identity, he received little or no recognition. He went on to work with some big names, notably Rod Stewart (who has written the foreword to the book) and French super-star Johnny Hallyday.
Robin Le Mesurier is the quintessential rock star of the sixties and seventies in the mould of Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and this book is exactly what you would expect, with the added bonus of all the actor-related stories. He never shied away from the proverbial sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. He extols the virtues of smoking hash and snorting coke and reveals, perhaps a little surprisingly, that it was not only the musicians who indulged but that his parents and their friends were not adverse to the odd puff or sniff either. As you would expect, the many pranks and merry japes that rock stars get up to in their hotel rooms while on tour are described with great relish and enthusiastic detail.
The book is not going to win any awards for its literary style, but you wouldn’t expect it to. However, I got a little irritated at the over-use of ‘inverted comas’ throughout the book and there were quite a few little ‘anecdotes’ which weren’t really interesting enough to tell to a mate down the pub, let alone use in a book, plus there were some annoying errors – it’s Jeff Lynne, not Lynn. But on the whole A Charmed (Rock ‘n’ Roll) Life is an enjoyable and sometimes revealing read which lets us glimpse the now almost clichéd life of an aging rock star and gives us a fascinating insight to the off-duty lives of some of the biggest names in popular comedy acting of the 1960s and 70s. Michael Hasted May 2016