Sour Mouth, Sweet Bottom

By Simon Napier-Bell

The legendary music impresario tells his life story in a series of mesmerisingly candid vignettes.

Music | Autobiography
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Publication date: October 2022

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A limited edition bundle of Simon Napier-Bell's books: a signed paperback edition of Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay as well as a signed first edition copy of Sour Mouth, Sweet Bottom.

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Sour Mouth, Sweet Bottom: Lessons from a Dissolute Life is the book Simon Napier-Bell’s fans have always hoped he’d write.

His previous bestsellers lifted the lid on the industry, combining meticulous analysis with unforgettable stories of fame and wild excess.

But those books hardly scratched the surface. Now, at long last, he’s turned the spotlight on himself.

From 1940s London where he listened to wartime hits like 'Mairzy doats and dozy doats' in the air-raid shelter; to talking about Wham! with Deng Xiaoping, head of Communist China, or getting stoned with Elaine May and Jack Lemmon by the pool in 60s Beverly Hills, Sour Mouth, Sweet Bottom makes most memoirs look like thin gruel by comparison. This is a high-octane explosion of a book, a kaleidoscopic sequence of more than sixty ‘lessons’ drawn from a life lived to the full: frank, funny, freewheeling and honest.

There are anecdotes of the acts he managed (the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Marc Bolan, Japan, Sinitta, Boney M, Candi Staton, Ultravox, Asia, Wham!, George Michael and Sinead O’Connor) but there’s also the wisdom gathered from a louche life of clubs, restaurants, gigs, arrests, awards, bankruptcies, bereavements, booze, coups and sex, both gay and straight. You could call it ‘How to Use the Music Industry to Create a Lifestyle’. You might equally call it, ‘How to Use Your Lifestyle to Gain Access to the Music Industry.’

Either way, Simon pulls no punches. And whether you’re boringly woke or pigheadedly conservative, at 80, he no longer cares. As he puts it himself:

‘If you’re offended, too bad! This is what I think, this is what I’ve done, this is who I am.’

Format: Demy Hardback
Extent: 320 pp
Publication date: October 2022

Photography credits: Simon Napier-Bell with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley by Alan Davidson / The Picture Library Ltd. Other photographs from Simon's own collection.

Book design credits: Design by Mecob. Photograph: © Alamy.com.Book designs, cover and other images are for illustrative purposes and may differ from final design.

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  • Simon Napier-Bell avatar

    Simon Napier-Bell

    Simon Napier-Bell has been a film composer, songwriter, record producer, and author, but mostly a rock manager.


    Among the artists he's managed are The Yardbirds, Marc Bolan, T Rex, Japan, Asia, Ultravox, Candi Staton, Boney M, and Wham. In the 60s he co-wrote the song You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me which went to number one sung by Dusty Springfield, and was also covered by Elvis Presley.


    He's written four books about the music industry: You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, about the music business in the 60s; Black Vinyl White Powder, a history of the British music industry; I’m Coming To Take You To Lunch, about taking Wham! to Communist China in the 80s, the first Western pop group ever to play there; and Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay, uncovering the business behind the music that we consume.


    Sour Mouth, Sweet Bottom is his fifth book, a memoir told in vignettes, looking at where it begun, what he did, and how much fun he had along the way.

  • Five minutes later we were walking back through Patpong, me leading a small entourage. Pong’s brother had changed back into men’s clothes and had to all intents and purposes become a man. He still had a dazzling innocence about him but no femininity, which I found strange. Without his dress and make-up, it left him completely. On the other hand, the friend he’d bought with him, another ladyboy from the show, looked as much like a girl in her ordinary clothes as she had onstage.

    “Where will we eat?” I asked.

    “In the night market at Pratunam,” Pong told me, but first Pin wants to see his friend.”

    I soon learned that in Thai the use of the singular is meaningless. ‘My friend’ could mean one person or ten.

    In the heart of Patpong, between pubs and girlie bars, was a large open-fronted bar, but this time onstage there were neither girls nor boys nor ladyboys but Thai boxers, two of them, sinewy young men banging their knees into each other’s kidneys.

    After a brief wait while the bout finished, I was introduced to one of the fighters. “This is Poon,” Pong explained. “He my younger brother. He’s 23.”

    Pong, Pin and Poon made a charming trio, and now they were altogether looked surprisingly triplet-like despite five years difference in their ages.

    “Pin was a boxer too,” Poon told me, pointing at his ladyboy brother. “But because I’m better he give up and do ladyboy show instead.”

    In the West, to move from being a Thai boxer to a ladyboy dancer would be an impressive change of occupation; to these boys it was as small a shift in career as, say, waiter to barman.

    In the event, dinner ended up with eight of us. There was Pong, Poon and Pin, with his ladyboy friend, who were then joined by three more people – another boxer, who Pong said was a Thai national champion, his sister, who was in the police, and her ‘fan’ (her girlfriend).

    ‘Fan’ is a multi-purpose word in Thai. It’s from the English word fan, like a football fan, and applies to anyone with whom you’re having an ongoing intimate relationship - your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancée, mistress, sugar daddy or favourite rent boy.

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