Showing posts with label The Rolling Stones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Rolling Stones. Show all posts

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Summer Reading in Rock

Every summer I say I will read more, and every summer I flop on the couch and pray for winter to hurry up. If it's possible to feel too hot to read, I've achieved it. I fear I've reached a point in my life where I have to psych myself not only to read a book, but discuss it. Typically I pledge to read 150 books a year on my Goodreads account. This year I shot low - 50 - but I'll surpass that number. By how much, I can't say.

I've bought rock books, reserved them at the library, and put them away. I apologize for hitting the low curve of the cycle once again, but I have finished a few titles and have thoughts. I look forward to the later half of this year when biographies of Stevie Nicks and Artimus Pyle are released. In the meantime...

The Beatles Play Shea by James Woodall
a Kindle single - buy at Amazon

This title is short. I picked it up during a Kindle Unlimited trial that included The Handmaid's Tale and a Fred Stoller memoir. The sub-title on the cover misled me at bit. I had expected to read an actual history of the landmark concert at Shea Stadium and instead came away learning very little. There's buildup to the event but little substance, and at times the narrative strayed to other topics distantly relevant to the event.

Most Kindle singles tend to be essays that may appear in parts in magazines, or long chapters of current or future works. I get the impression it's the case here. Had I purchased this title instead of taken advantage of it during the KU trial, I would have been more disappointed.

Rating: C-

Altamont: The Rolling Stones, The Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day by Joel Selvin
Buy at Amazon

I can't explain what it is about the Altamont concert that attracts me. I've seen Gimme Shelter and read other accounts of the day (there's a Kindle single about this, too, reviewed here). Somebody even made a short documentary about Meredith Hunter, the man stabbed by a Hell's Angel security guard. It's all history seems to tell about the day, but if the topic is new to you this book covers everything from the initial plans for the concert to its multiple tragic aftermaths.

I hadn't realized Hunter wasn't the sole casualty at Altamont, and I won't spoil the book's contents. It's an engaging tangle of ambition and opportunity in a time when the Stones struggled to compete for face time - with the Beatles fading from the picture, now they had to deal with the California sound and recent Woodstock alumni. Altamont was to have been the West Coast answer to the festival, and this book offers up a nice guide on how not to plan a free concert. It's a story that may make you angry as well, particularly when you read of Hunter's story and that of friends and family after the show.

Rating: B

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll by Fred Goodman

Every time I read a Beatles-related book I find most players run hot or cold with critics. You either adore somebody or you loathe them. We can guess how assorted Beatles and personnel fall in the spectrum, and when it comes to Allen Klein you find a figure just as (or perhaps more) polarizing than Yoko Ono. Long story short, Klein was a money man on a mission: to manage the most popular band in the world. One could argue he obsessed over the idea of being their right-hand man, so much that he couldn't appreciate what he had with The Rolling Stones, no slouches themselves.

In the Afterword of Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out The Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll (Buy: AMZ / BN / KOBO / ITUNES) the author mentions the desire of Klein's family to clear the air, so to speak. Going into this book, all I knew of Klein was his work with the Stones and that three out of four Beatles wanted him to replace the late Brian Epstein. We may forever argue over who broke up the band, but if you read enough of the Beatle chapters here you may give Yoko a break and lean toward the theory of self-implosion. Klein's alleged reaction to Epstein's death as mentioned here could leave you cringing.

I'm not here to review Klein's character, though. Allen Klein the book, overall, is informative and detailed, and may find an audience in readers interested in the financial workings of the music industry. Klein's life work is a tangle of royalties and subsidiary rights and similar legalese, and promises to musicians with less business savvy to get the money they deserve. It used to baffle me to read of rock stars claiming to be broke, but as Goldman breaks down how music publishing works, and how managers earn their share, I understand it. Maybe those who dream of fortune should put down the guitars and get accounting degrees.

I found the book is most interesting when the story focuses directly on Klein's interaction with the musicians he manages: Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Mick. At times the narrative splintered into tangents, delving here into Andrew Oldham's story, then over there to talk about somebody else. While it interested me, another reader might think there wasn't enough about Klein to make a book. Once Klein loses Lennon as a client, his story seems to wrap up rather quickly.

Allen Klein is a book for hardcore Beatles and/or Stones fans, readers who likes to crunch numbers and crave a side of classic rock gossip.

Rating: B-

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sound Man by Glyn Johns

It's rare that I have found a recent work for this blog that isn't a rock star memoir. While Glyn Johns had a very brief career as a singer (with modest success in non-English speaking Europe), he is known more as a producer and engineer. He had the great fortune of being present at the creation of many now-legendary albums. Can you imagine hearing Led Zeppelin for the time ever, before the records are even pressed? Johns has this enviable place in history, and when you pick up Sound Man (AMZ) you might expect a vivid portrait of 60s and 70s rock as it evolved and how the people who created the sound lived.

You do find it, to some extent. As Johns explains in Sound Man, he came to music with the intent of singing and performing when circumstances led him to the engineer's booth and kept him there for better part of four decades. This book, though, is more technical than dramatic, with Johns focusing less on his personal life (and therefore his relationship with many of the players) in favor of the mechanics of recording music. If you'd prefer to know the equipment and recording methods used to create Let it Be and Sticky Fingers you struck gold. If you want eyewitness accounts of groupies and candy bar urban legends...sorry. At best, you'll receive hints of behavior in the studio and notes on personalities Johns liked and disliked. He doesn't seem afraid to call out a unpleasant person or his opinion of how Phil Spector "puked all over" Let it Be.

If the science behind recording music fascinates you, you will enjoy Sound Man. You won't find any more personal insights on your favorite musicians that can't be read elsewhere, but the light personal touches and style of the book make it easy and interesting to read.

ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley

Rating: B

Kathryn Lively is an author and book blogger.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Rolling Stones Discover America by Michael Lydon

Buy The Rolling Stones Discover America (Kindle Single)

True story: when it was announced that The Rolling Stones planned to bring the Steel Wheels tour to my home town, I drew the short straw to get tickets. Now, this happened way before the Internet and refreshing Web pages on LiveNation to get good seats. I had to drive to Turtles Records and Tapes about an hour before the sale began and pluck a strip of paper from a hat as part of the "lottery" system. There were rules, too: you entered the store when your number was called, and you took the tickets they gave you. Fine. We all thought this was the Last. Stones. Tour. Ever. I'd play ball.

As my number is called and I'm walking toward the store, this guy stops me. Would I buy three more tickets for him and his friends. A store clerk sees this and says, "Do you know him? You can only buy your tickets. No cuts." You have to understand I was a good Catholic teenager who couldn't deceive anybody. Catch me in crosshairs and I start blubbering. At the same time, I'm thinking this stranger is about to screw up my only chance to see the Stones. My memory is blurry, but somehow I managed to get past the checkpoint and buy six tickets. The show sold out in about a week. We sat in the boonies and loved it, because we thought these guys were winding down and would, contrary to a song they covered, fade away.

That was 1989.

As I'm reading The Rolling Stones Discover America, I experience a touch of deja vu, even though this Kindle single recounts an earlier tour of America. After a long hiatus from the road, the band has decided to resume live shows, and the reaction is similar to the Steel Wheels frenzy. I imagine many fans scrambling to see the 1970 tour figured it was a brief gift before an eternal exile to the studio, a la The Beatles. Rock journalist Lydon covers the journey in Discover, a longish essay that paints vivid pictures of the people and places along this journey. It reads like a series from Rolling Stone Magazine, too, which makes sense as Lydon was a founding editor.

The further you read into Discover, you may think the real story lies in the periphery of the band - the fans, the media, the family, and the gofers and manager who orbit the group. Names are dropped, and some snippits of conversation provide amusement - like when Keith Richards predicts nobody in the band will get an MBE like John Lennon (no, but Mick would be knighted). You'll read a line about Janis Joplin and Tina Turner hanging out after a show and wish for more details. When you first get into the chapter on Altamont, you get the impression people sensed the show was doomed. And just as quickly as the action happened there, so it is as quickly retold.

This is a quick read, not necessarily about The Rolling Stones but the climate in which they existed - a time in music where bands and listeners straddled the fine line between mop-top innocence and free-love hippiedom. It is a prelude to future explosions - civil rights movements, Vietnam, etc. It's certainly not meant to be a definitive story on the Stones, but it makes an interesting chapter in their careers worth reading.

Rating: B

Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and book blogger.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Mick Jagger by Christopher Andersen

When I picked up my copy of Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Mick Jagger, I'd forgotten that I had read a previous work by the author. Christopher Andersen has made quite a living with biographies of political figures and select celebrities. This, in fact, is not his first book about Jagger, and since I have not read Jagger Unauthorized I cannot reveal whether or not Mick is a dressed-up revision of the former. I'm willing to bet not - though as I read the Goodreads summary of the previous book it pretty much details everything I have read in Mick. The only difference is that Mick continues Jagger's story through the new century.

It's amazing, too, that we're still talking about Mick and the Stones fifty years following their debut. Jagger remains relevant in song and pop culture - he recently hosted a season finale of Saturday Night Live, his name is practically synonymous with confident swagger, and the band plans to tour in 2013. I still have my stub from the Steel Wheels tour in 1989 - I'd thought that would be my last chance to see them live. Good thing I didn't bet money on that belief.

Back to the book. I finished this over a weekend. Where Mick is short on words (it's a good 200+ pages shorter than Keith Richards's Life, which I will read one day), it definitely makes up for the many instances of glossing over his young life by piling on the gossip. I would imagine, even if you don't follow the Stones religiously, you're aware of Jagger's reputation with the ladies. Here, you get names - lots of names. In fact, one could probably summarize this book as comprising:
  • The history of Mick Jagger's sex life.
  • The history of Mick Jagger's narcissism.
If you have followed Jagger's personal life and career, I doubt you'll find anything here to surprise you. As a moderate fan (one concert and ownership of a greatest hits compilation) nothing in this book shocked me. I'd heard the stories of bisexual romps and Jerry Hall's never-ending pursuit of a ring and a date, and while it appears Andersen attempted to arouse curiosity through a blind item about a tryst with two Shindig! regulars a trip to Wikipedia solved that mystery. This led me to question how well this book had been researched - among events presented as fact included the legendary Mars Bar incident of '67, which and others have refuted.

Readers are called upon here to merely accept many things happened - Mick slept with this woman, punched that photographer, then slept with that woman. Andersen's simple style actually left me bored as I read, which baffled me. Jagger hardly seems the boring type. Of course, I did find it a challenge to sympathize with him through chapters detailing his lack of parenting skills, and loyalty toward friends who didn't want Jagger messing around with their women. 

Philip Norman, whose bio of John Lennon I have read, publishes his Jagger bio in October. It will be interesting to read this take in comparison to Andersen's to see if there is more to this man.

Rating: D

Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and book blogger.