Hall of Fame Review: My Side of Life by Shane Filan (5/5)

Friday 17 October 2014
As a lead singer of Westlife, one of the most successful pop acts of all time, Shane Filan was on top of the world. Together with the band, he achieved an incredible 14 No.1 singles (a record beaten only by the Beatles) sold 44 million records and was adored by fans the world over.

Everything he touched turned to gold, or so it seemed. Like many others, he had piled his fortunes into the Irish property boom and when the bubble burst, Shane struggled with mounting debt. Just ten days after Westlife’s final farewell concert, in front of a sold-out crowd of 80,000 fans, Shane was declared bankrupt with debts of £18 million – losing everything.

But this wasn’t the end for Shane Filan – a devoted singer and family man, Shane circled back to his roots and a year later he launched his solo career. 

In My Side of Life Shane shares his story for the first time – his early years growing up as part of a large Irish family in Co. Sligo, the phenomenal success of Westlife and the ups and downs of their time together, the breakup of the band, his financial devastation, and finally going it alone as a solo artist.

This is Shane’s side of the story.

I am unashamedly a huge Westlife fan, and have been since I was nine years old and I got Westlife for Christmas. Shane grew up loving boy bands and when I was younger the 90s was full of them yet Westlife were my favourite. Let's not forget they also sang at Wayne Rooney's wedding, and Wayne was the fan so perhaps there's a few closet male fans out there somewhere. Having read Westlife: Our Story, released in 2008, I knew that a book from just one member, now the band has split, would perhaps be a bit more revelatory than the band's book and also contain stories from the years after that book was released. After finishing it I can say it's definitely one of the most honest, heartfelt stories I have read. Shane has bared his heart and soul, even just reading the words you know it can't have been easy for him to share his story with the world (despite the press doing it for him) but at the same time I imagine it was quite therapeutic.

The book opens with an extremely happy childhood in Sligo, one almost of perfection really with some brilliant stories of his time growing up and how he got into singing. Given that the family only had two TV channels, Shane had a very active life and found entertainment away from the box (imagine that!). Eventually reaching the Westlife days I loved again reading about the formation of the band and the story of how a hungover Shane failed to impress Simon Cowell, having to come to a second audition in disguise almost, years later Simon claiming to Shane that he knew all along, hmm. The stories are of course similar to the group autobiography but it's still a really enjoyable read. I loved the story of just when the group were starting out, they went to Ronan Keating's 21st birthday where Shane found himself at a urinal in between Alan Shearer and Ken Docherty. And that wasn't the first time he was starstruck. I love how the lads have always remained humble and grounded despite their phenomenal success.

Being a Girls Aloud fan I'm always intrigued reading about Louis Walsh through the eyes of Westlife, given that Girls Aloud weren't very complimentary about his management. It's almost like he's another person when you compare the two. Without him though Westlife wouldn't exist and there's some brilliant and at times hilarious stories here about their relationship over the years. Reading about Westlife taking off brought back so many memories to me. From getting their first album at Christmas (and each one after that bar the years they didn't have one), pretty much every year of my life since then can be linked to a Westlife song.

What always annoyed me, and still does, is music snobs that slate singers or bands for not playing an instrument or writing their own songs. Putting aside the fact Westlife did write some of their own songs, there was a story in Westlife: Our Story which is repeated here, about the first time Shane heard I'm Already There, and how it made him cry, the band realising they had to record it. For me I'd rather hear a song the singer loves, I couldn't care less who wrote it. Plus some of my favourite Westlife songs are the covers they did. Shane's favourite song being You Raise Me Up, got to say mine is Flying Without Wings but it's a close second for him I think! Speaking of the snobbery one of my favourite stories is a campaign from Oasis and The Sun newspaper to keep Westlife from the top spot, well it didn't work and Westlife beat Oasis to number one and stuck two fingers up to The Sun at the same time. Brilliant.

I remember reading Westlife: Our Story and it ended saying how they wanted to go on for another ten years, so it was a shame to read about the demise of the band here. How they just weren't feeling it and ultimately decided to disband. Still, they didn't have to and could have gone on longer for more cash but chose not to. There's not many that would do that. Personally I was gutted when they finished, and didn't like it but it's only when you read the book and see how unhappy everyone was that you realise it was the right decision. Seeing them in Liverpool on their Farewell Tour was incredible, and on their last ever night at Croke Park (I saw it in the cinema, but still, unbelievable). It's a shame to read that they aren't that close anymore, only seeing each other occasionally yet that's probably true of most friendships and given the fact they have spent most of their adult life together they probably need the time away! Despite a few arguments along the way they all had a very close friendship.

It's crazy then that whilst all this was going on, Shane's backup plan for after the band very literally fell apart, ending in him becoming bankrupt. When reading about his property deals, you almost want to scream 'Stop!' as you know what's about to come. It was just one disaster after another, the banks threw money at them and then demanded it back when it all went to pieces. What's annoying is how good some of the ideas were, but they were bogged down by bureaucracy and objections from the locals, despite Shane wanting to improve Sligo more than anything else. Part of me wonders how they would've reacted to the ideas were they from an unknown developer. Perhaps he should've kept the business anonymous.

As they say hindsight is a wonderful thing, and fate works in mysterious ways and Shane is now picking himself up and now has a very successful solo career, a beautiful family and tons of happy memories. Discussing the prospect of the band getting back together in the future, it doesn't look like it'll happen any time soon but I hope it does one day. Knowing the band though it'll only happen if all four are 100% and I really, really hope it happens in the future. One of the best autobiographies I've read, and one of the best books I've read this year I can't reccommend it enough. Fans will already have it but for those that don't, go and get it.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

1 comment:

  1. I love his voice so much! Wish to enjoy his new versions soon.


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