In June 1980, 19-year-old James McDonnell (known as Slim Jim Phantom) boarded a plane from New York City to London with his childhood friends and bandmates Brian Setzer and Lee Rocker. In less than a year, they went from being homeless, hungry, and living in punk rock squats to the toast of the London music scene.
The Stray Cats developed a signature sound and style that swept across the world, released multiplatinum albums, and were embraced and befriended by classic rock acts like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, as well as original punk heroes such as the Sex Pistols, the Damned, and the Clash, and rock-and-roll originators Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. After ten years of marriage to actress Britt Ekland, Slim Jim moved down the hill to Sunset Strip, where his son was raised and he owned the world-famous rock-and-roll bar Cat Club while continuing to play with a host of well-known musicians.
Slim Jim, a veteran of the London and LA music scenes, recounts in his memoir not just the Stray Cats' rise but a different type of life spent in the upper echelon of rock-and-roll stardom.
Stray Cats drummer James McDonnell, aka Slim Jim Phantom, opens his breezy yet tuneless memoir by declaring that he loves watching television. In this disjointed story of coming of age in rock and roll, readers learn very quickly that Phantom and his friend Lee Rocker get together in Long Island to play rockabilly and are soon joined by guitarist Brian Seltzer, and the rest is history. The band flies off to London in 1980, enduring poverty and living on the edge until one night when magic happens: the Rolling Stones walk into one of their gigs and love them. Thanks to Mick Jagger and Bill Wyman, the Cats are soon on their way. Phantom spends the remainder of his memoir casually hitting the high hat by dropping the names of the musicians he's run across during his rockabilly days. He meets up with Britt Ekland at a party, their eyes lock, it's "connection at first sight," and they're eventually married. Joe Strummer of the Clash says some nice things about the Cats and helped the band's cause; Phantom recalls that B.B. King was a "living Buddha"; and Bob Dylan tells him not to take anything in rock and roll personally. Like a bad television show, Phantom's vapid memoir numbs the mind with its superficial storytelling; better simply to cue up a Stray Cats album and let your backbone slip to his powerful drumming.