There is no sensationalism here, though, nor kiss and tell. Houghton was always discreet. Drug use is dealt with as a matter of fact, tortured genius viewed through the eyes of a friend and confidant. Instead of eye-popping revelations, there are portraits of the artists and glimpses into the mechanisms of pop mythologising — especially intriguing in the sections on KLF, who in five years went from a one-off 12-inch single to burning a million pounds as an art event.
As signalled by the subtitle’s reference to the “record business”, Fried and Justified focuses on old-school music industry mores, with chapters unfolding in chunks of time. As a publicist, Houghton found himself uniquely placed as both an insider and outsider, watching acts morph from bright young things to industry deities to burn-outs and back to being creative again. Such trajectories involved brilliance, stupidity, ambition, dysfunction, madness, love, hate, sex, alcohol, drugs, bust-ups – and gigantic egos... Ultimately, Fried and Justified takes the reader on a wild rock’n’roll fairground ride of the damned, where you’re simply not allowed to get off. Towards the end, Houghton writes of Drummond, the Bunnymen and Cope: “There’s something deep inside them that binds them by an invisible thread, a consequence of the circumstances that aligned in Liverpool to bring them together.” By the end of Fried and Justified, it’s clear that it binds him too.