- Wrote "This Diamond Ring" (made famous by Gary Lewis & the Playboys)
- Played organ on "Like a Rolling Stone" and other Dylan songs in the studio and on stage including the 1965 Newport Folk Festival
- Formed Blood, Sweat & Tears
- Worked A&R for Columbia Records
- Conceived and recorded the groundbreaking Super Session album with Mike Bloomfield and Steven Stills
- Played french horn, organ, and piano on the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
- Produced Lynyrd Skynyrd's first three albums as well as the first album by the Tubes
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The Boy in the Song: The True Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics by Frank Hopkinson and Michael Heatley
The Boy in the Song offers interesting tales, and I even enjoyed the stories about songs I don't like or haven't heard. That said, these aren't all rock classics—there's a bit too much from singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell (especially Joni Mitchell). Also I wish it was longer; even with lots of photos, it's only 144 pages.
One of my favorite tidbits is about the boy who inspired Suzanne Vega's "Luka" using his notoriety to try to impress a potential girlfriend!*
* I always kind of felt sorry for Vega having "Luka" as her biggest hit because it doesn't work for concerts. Most performers do their biggest hits at the end or in the encore. But who wants to finish a concert with such a downer of a song?
Monday, July 29, 2013
I love the structure of this book. It follows a two-week tour with a chapter for each concert, but each chapter is full of flashbacks that recount the history of the band. Oestreich gives great insight into the record industry (at least as it was 15-20 years ago), the recording process, and the interpersonal dynamics involved in keeping a struggling band together for more than two decades. As a non-fan, I was surprised how engrossing this story is.
* They're not bad, about what you'd expect from 1990s Midwestern rock. I didn't order their albums, but I wouldn't change the radio station if anyone played them. You can hear samples at Amazon.com.
Miss O'Dell: Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton by Chris O'Dell with Katherine Ketcham
I don't think Clapton should be in the subtitle, though. O'Dell only spent time around him because of his relationship with her friend Patti Boyd (aka Layla, George Harrison's ex-wife), and they seemed to have a mutual dislike or suspicion of each other. Clapton comes across as a huge dickhead, perhaps due to his drinking. In any case, he plays a relatively minor role and putting him in the subtitle is shameless name-dropping—as if The Beatles, The Stones, and Dylan weren't enough!
Any fan of late 1960s-early 1970s rock music who likes reading about the musicians and their personal lives (the music is beyond the book's scope) should like Miss O'Dell.
* Kids, that's the original Apple, the company formed by the Beatles. It included not just Apple Records but also a film company and lots of other money-losing ventures.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles, Flo & Eddie, and Frank Zappa, etc.* by Howard Kaylan with Jeff Tamarkin
If you want to hear about the proverbial sex, drugs, and rock & roll, this is the memoir for you! Kaylan shares lots of great stories from succeeding at a young age as a Turtle to being at the scene of "Smoke on the Water" to singing with Bruce Springsteen to writing songs for Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears.** I suppose I would have liked to hear more about the songs, but that's how I feel about most rock memoirs. All in all, Shell Shocked is a fun book about a likable guy who worked hard but also got lucky (in more ways than one) along the way.
* I assume this is a reference to the Turtles song "Elenore": "You're my pride and joy, et cetera."
** It is interesting to me that Kaylan and lifelong showbiz partner Mark Volman became writers after most of the Turtles' biggest hits were written by other people (with the exception of the aforementioned "Elenore").
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Rounds begins with the premise that the only music worth listening to was created between 1964 and 1972. While this inherently makes him full of shit, I decided to buy the book anyway because I do like reading about that period (actually, the first three books I read this month are mostly about that time).
Unfortunately, this isn't a good book. Rounds digs up some interesting factoids, but then he repeats many of them. The book is strongly biased toward singles, but by the second half of the era artists weren't necessarily putting their best material out on 45s. Much of the book is devoted to chart information, and judging from the obvious errors (lots of footnotes are messed up), I wouldn't trust it. Besides, there are more complete and better organized sources available for chart data, so it's really just filler.
There are more mistakes. I found it interesting that Mac Davis wrote Elvis Presley's "In the Ghetto"... until I checked another source and learned this is totally untrue. It was actually written by Scott Davis, as the author notes 72 pages later. Roger Daltrey's name is misspelled everywhere. Zombies keyboardist Rod Argent is misnamed Ron Artest!
I spotted so many that I don't trust anything here that I didn't know before. That makes this book pretty useless unless you really care about the author's opinions about the artists, songs, and politics of the era. I don't think those opinions are insightful enough to overcome the rest. Aside from a few amusing, contemporaneous fanzine clippings which I assume are from Rounds' personal collection, I could have written this book myself and done no worse.
Monday, July 15, 2013
I read a total of 11 books in June. The biggest disappointment, of course, was Jen Lancaster's Such a Pretty Fat, but I've beaten up on her enough so let's move on. I had a lot of favorites this month including Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk With Me , Dave Hill's Tasteful Nudes, Laurie Notaro's I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies)., and William Knoedelseder's I'm Dying Up Here. Dan Wilbur's How Not to Read was funny, too.
It's been a long time since I read about rock and roll*, so that is July's theme. I have quite a few memoirs to read, as well as books about the music itself.
* To paraphrase a band I don't like.
By the way, I like the hardcover illustration (second below) better than the paperback. It's funnier and more accurate.
This chart shows the pageview history for this blog over the past six years. I don't know what caused the spike in October 2012, but the search engine evaluators started visiting in March 2013. Notice the nosedive into July:
* I set Blogger to ignore my own pageviews, but I don't know how to do that for Feedjit.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
In Such a Pretty Fat, Jen Lancaster refers to egg yokes. I suppose one could fashion some sort of framework to keep one's eggs in line, but I suspect she really meant yolks.*
Margaret Cho made a rarer mistake describing Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Mexico in I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight:
Other penitents are more lackluster, with cardboard crucifixes and blood that is actually too-orange tempura paint...Sometimes tempura does have an orange appearance, but surely Cho was thinking of tempera paints. That's one homophonic error I have never seen before.
* Some dictionaries say yoke is an acceptable variant of yolk, but that's just a case of so many people getting it wrong that the dictionary editors threw up their hands in defeat. It's like the idiot I overheard the other day arguing that irregardless is a word. I suppose any combination of letters can be a "word", but that doesn't make it legitimate. There are words in the dictionary that one shouldn't actually use (ain't comes to mind).
Overall this is maybe a 2.5-star book. It's uneven but has its moments. Better editing could have bumped it to a solid three stars.
I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy's Golden Era by William Knoedelseder
Knoedelseder writes about the early careers of performers such as David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Richard Lewis, and Elayne Boosler, as well as Tom Dreesen, who was a bit older and more experienced at the time (probably why the others elected him as their representative).
If you're looking for jokes, this book doesn't offer many, but if you want to learn about the roots of comedians popular in the 1980s, I'm Dying Up Here is great. Just be aware that it focuses more on the operation of the Comedy Store and the strike than on the individual performers.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
No worries. I enjoyed I Love Everybody just as much as her first two books. This one reminds me a little more of her first book, a broad collection of tales, than of her second book, which began with the narrative of her wedding preparations. Regardless, she's still laugh-out-loud hilarious** without being unlikable or obnoxious like Lancaster has sadly become. I have all of Notaro's other books (aside from her latest) yet to read so I hope she kept writing funny stories like these.
* Comparing the two is appropriate, as Lancaster credits Notaro with inspiring her writing career:
Fact: If it weren’t for Laurie Notaro, I may never have had a career as an author. I was unemployed and under-stimulated when I first picked up The Idiot Girls’ Action Adventure Guide. I inhaled this hilarious book in a day, the whole time thinking, “You’re allowed to write funny stories about getting drunk and falling down? I WANT IN ON THIS!”** I was eating lunch one day at Sweet Tomatoes when the people at the neighboring table asked what I was reading because I seemed to be enjoying it so much.
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Sunday, July 07, 2013
As I was preparing my bike to ride the Wauponsee Glacial Trail in Manhattan IL, another car pulled into the parking lot behind me. I turned around a minute later and did a double take. The driver was already gone (must have been a runner), and all I saw was my own car. Except I had just turned away from my car. This Focus is the same color, same number of doors, same trim level (SES) right down to the identical 16" wheels. It really did freak me out for a moment. (My car is in the foreground below.)
Saturday, July 06, 2013
Anyway, though I was disappointedly unconvinced, at least I got a lot of laughs out of How Not to Read. Wilbur includes topics such as how to pretend you've read a book and how to write your own. Plus he covers the entire history of Western literature in under 25 pages. As someone who spends way too much time reading books, I loved How Not to Read.
Wednesday, July 03, 2013
Monday, July 01, 2013
I don't have a photo to go with it, but one of my favorite examples of unnecessary quotation marks here in Chicago is written on a hardware store window on Lawrence Avenue:
PARKING "IN REAR"Yeah buddy, I'll tell you where you can park it...
Sleepwalk with Me was a tough act to follow, but Tasteful Nudes was up to the challenge. It's a hilarious collection of autobiographical essays. I enjoyed it so much that I signed up for Hill's e-mail list, and regular readers of this blog know how hard I've been trying to cut back on my e-mail. Hill must know, too, because he hasn't sent me anything beyond a subscription confirmation.