Writing an unauthorized biography is always a risk, but the prospect becomes even riskier when the subject of that biography is somebody as volatile as Amy Winehouse. With many of the “sources” for information pertaining to the young woman coming out of tabloids and paparazzi press, the veracity of any such biography as written without the consent and participation of the subject is usually questionable.
Amy, Amy, Amy: The Amy Winehouse Story by Nick Johnstone is one such unauthorized biography. Johnstone’s book is out on Omnibus Press and is the first biography about Winehouse to be released. It chronicles her career in almost excruciating detail at times, detailing her early bouts with depression and her first gigs with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra right up until present day with drunken television appearances and the rise of her album Back to Black.
Johnstone writes the biography well enough, but often over-describes elements that will likely appeal to only the most dedicated Winehouse fanatic. For instance, when he discusses Sylvia Young Theatre School, where Amy attended, he describes how much the fees are for students of various ages to attend there. While this bit of insight might seem compelling to some, for the most part it feels like Johnstone is trying to fill up space due to his having little actual source material.
The book is very simplistic and relies on the cut-and-paste approach. Johnstone uses various sources, including many tabloid sources, to piece together a narrative of Winehouse’s life and career. The results are often highly speculative and presumptuous.
The few interviews Johnstone does get seem to linger and drag out on minutiae, detailing — from the backup singer or a drummer (Troy Genius) who didn’t even meet Winehouse — the recording of Frank. Other interviews are more interesting, such as the four-page interview with Major, a producer who worked with Winehouse early on with some demos. Still, the interview with Major often gets bogged down with tangential details - and an extensive bio on the producer of early Winehouse demos isn’t exactly pertinent or compelling.
Highlights, however, can be found in the early chapters related to the recording of her first album and the fun Winehouse seemed to have making early demos. The information is often tarnished by obscure statements and incidentals, however, which caused a lot of the information to lose impact.