Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life

This is Graham Nash’s autobiography.

Graham narrates the audible version and does a good job weaving through his personal history. He starts with his blue-collar family and how Alan Clarke and he knew each other since school and formed The Hollies. The most interesting part to me was the mid-sixties era living in swinging London.

He wrote about his friendship with the Beatles and him getting an advance tape of Sgt Pepper from Brian Epstein. He had a great hi-fi system at his flat and he would show it off to anyone that came over. When the Turtles came over from America they were blown away by Sgt Peppers at top volume. He went on about how Sgt Peppers changed everything and it would eventually lead him to leave the Hollies.

Graham describes being a pop star in the mid-sixties in London. Shouldn’t we all live that life? Paul McCartney calls him up and invites him over to the All You Need Is Love session for the “Our World” program to be broadcast to millions.

He talks about how his friendship with Mama Cass led to meeting David Crosby and eventually CSN being born. Graham covers the CSNY period and his romantic relationships including  Joni Mitchell. He does cover the drama associated with CSNY and the troubled David Crosby. What kind of Rockstar bio would it be without drugs… Graham did his share and Crosby did our share. Graham handled them better than some.

Graham would write simple songs compared to Crosby, Stills, and Young but many times his songs would be the hits that drove some of the later albums…songs like “Just a Song Before I Go” and “Wasted on the Way.”

One thing I can say is he didn’t hold back or pull punches…but he still comes off as a really nice guy but it is his book.

This book helped sever his relationship with Crosby…for now anyway but Nash stressed through the book how much he cared for Crosby.

I would recommend this book to not only Hollies and CSNY fans but fans of 60’s and 70’s music and culture. After reading this I listened to more Hollies songs and I really began to appreciate their psychedelic period with songs like King Midas in Reverse.

 

 

 

Waging Heavy Peace

An Autobiography by Neil Young. Neil is one of my favorite artists. He tells some history about Buffalo Springfield and CSNY and also the Mynah Birds with Rick James. Neil Young and Rick James in a band together…its just hard for me to imagine that.

He gets into how he started his music career with his first band and how he loves Crazy Horse.

Now all of these stories are great but… this is during the period he came up with PONO music… a high-end music player that plays music with much more quality than CDs or mp3s. This venture eventually failed years later but he is very excited about it in the book. That is great but sometimes it seems forced. I honestly don’t think he was plugging PONO…I think he was just that excited about it. His enthusiasm is unquestionable.

Cars…the man loves cars. I admire that in him but again he talks A LOT about electric cars and hybrids. Then he combines the two…PONO music systems being installed into…fuel efficient cars. I will admit it is interesting and you get to see what makes the man tick.

Some of it reads like a diary because that is the way he wrote a lot of it. He will say he is going to Hawaii and then a page or two later…he will tell you he made it there. It’s like being in conversation with someone who will just switch subjects on a whim. Neil tends to ramble.

He is part owner in Lionel Trains and you can feel his love of trains coming through the pages. He also talks about his quadriplegic son and the Lionel Train control he designed for his son to operate the trains. That I found really heart touching. He really tries to connect with his son and that is what the album Trans is all about.

He goes through his drug and drinking problems, medical problems, marriage problems, and every single car or bus he has had in his life…which again he just loves any kind of vehicle.

The disappointment for me was Neil didn’t talk enough about the music. Yes, you will learn more about Neil Young. I did learn many things about him that I didn’t know. The problem is he spreads the music sections out and just when he gets on a roll, you are thinking… cool he is writing about playing with Buffalo Springfield and also where they hung out…here comes the PONO Music bit or more car information.

I guess the best way to sum it up is yes you will get a lot of the musical info you are looking for but you have to wade through a lot of rambling.

Overall if you can find this book 2nd hand, get it. If you are looking for a definitive Neil Young bio this is not the one… He does have great things to say about the members of CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, and Crazy Horse. Maybe I wanted another Testimony or My Cross to Bear…this wasn’t it…but what did I expect? It’s Neil Young and he is going to do what he wants to do… that is the reason we love him.

I will admit this…after he mentions all the vintage cars and busses he has owned his enthusiasm rubs off…I started to look these models up and reading about them… but it wasn’t what I had in mind going into the book.

Dear Boy: The Life Of Keith Moon

I didn’t think I would ever see an extensive book (nearly 600 pages) on Keith Moon. Tony Fletcher wrote this book and he thoroughly researched Keith and he had been a fan since his teenage years. As a teenager, he actually met Keith before he died. I’ll post what happened at the end of the blog from Tony’s website.

The book is huge and Fletcher talks to everyone of importance in Keith’s life. The only disappointing thing for me and for Fletcher himself is he had to debunk some of the myths about Keith. The great story of him driving a car in the pool of a Flint Michigan Holiday Inn…didnt happen… but the real story is just as interesting though.

The veil is drawn back on a lot of myths. It’s not a book full of Keith doing wild things like the book “Full Moon”. This one shows his ugly side also. Keith had one of the most dangerous traits you could have…the ability not to be embarrassed. Think about that…that keeps us in check at times. With Keith, anything could happen at any time.

Keith was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and elements of schizophrenia…add that with alcohol and drug abuse and it’s a wonder he lived as long as he did… In his first and only marriage, he was terrible to his wife Kim who finally had enough and left him for Ian McLagan and Keith never recovered from that. Kim would say he would dress up and be Hitler one day, a Pirate the next and Noel Coward at other times…not only dress up but BE those people all day.

The book also concentrates on his drumming and the influence he was to so many. The author wanted to show it was more to Keith than the Moon the Loon image…and it was. He was fantastic to fans and his friends. He would play with friends kids…like Ringo’s son Zak and Larry Hagman’s child for hours but yet basically ignore his daughter Mandy. It also touched on his relationship with each member of the band and his love of the Beach Boys and friendship with The Beatles.

He would go to schools and talk to unruly kids and explain to them that they need to settle down. He could get by with bad things because he was a pop star but they would get thrown in jail.

He became a caricature of his self at the end. He tried to live up to the image that he created. Many people have said that during the last few months of his life he was trying to settle down and even started to write an autobiography so he could put to bed the Moon the Loon image. He was trying to stop drinking but he would go into seizures because his body craved alcohol so bad.

A doctor gave him Heminevrin to ease the withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and he took too many and overdosed. Heminevrin should not have been given to him, it should have only been administered in a hospital but he was a rock star and so the doctor looked the other way. He kept waking up through the night and taking more…32 tablets were found in his system.

The book covers everything about the man and information about The Who I never knew. You can’t help but laugh at some of the things he did. At the same time, it’s sad knowing the man was mentally unstable. That probably helped his drumming on the edge but the price was too high.

There is just too much in the book to cover in a blog. It is an interesting read… The first line says it all… How do you attempt to capture an exploding time bomb? These were the first words put to me by one of the vast number of people I talked to while researching the life of Keith Moon.

From Tony Fletcher’s iJammin! website…  http://www.ijamming.net/Moon/ChasingTheMoon.html

On August 1, 1978, an exhibition of Who memorabilia curated by the group’s fans opened at the Institute Of Contemporary Arts on The Mall, near Buckingham Palace in London.

It was perhaps inevitable that members of the band would turn up to the opening. Their presence brought the process full circle: if the Who meant so much to their fans that the audience should mount an exhibition, then it followed that the fans meant so much to the Who that the band would want to see it.

So it came about that both Pete Townshend and Keith Moon immersed themselves among the hundreds of diehard Who worshippers that first day of ‘Who’s Who’ to make their way around the exhibition, pausing to talk with the audience along the way.

To a fourteen-year old fanzine writer, who had identified with the Who since first discovering pop music, and had attended the group’s last London stadium show as an excited twelve-year old, being in the same room as Pete and Keith was a significant moment. Like many others throwing nervous glances his heroes’ way, he respected them enough to grant them their privacy, but still he wanted an autograph, a chance to talk. While studying a bizarre life-size hologram of Keith Moon at the drums, the boy turned to find the real thing standing next to him. Keith looked shorter in real life, and somewhat chubbier. But it was unmistakably him: the hologram had obviously been based on a recent picture or film. The boy made a comment about the surreal situation, looking at an illusion while standing next to the real thing, and the rock star, quietly, in contrast to his larger-than-life reputation, said something in agreement. The boy then seized his moment. He pulled from his sports bag a lone copy of the fanzine he produced and asked Keith Moon to autograph a basic biography on the Who he had written for it.

The drummer looked at the cheaply produced fanzine, checked the cover to register the name — Jamming! — examined the boy’s face, and said, “I don’t think I’ve seen this one.”

You wouldn’t have, thought the boy, given that there were only one hundred copies in existence, and those mainly sold at his school. “It’s my own magazine,” he said aloud.

“I’d like to read this article some time,” said the rock star with evident sincerity.

“You can keep it if you want,” replied the boy, eager to please.

“No, you want it autographed,” said Moon, signing his name across the page with a flourish. “Tell you what, though.” He produced a slip of paper from an inside pocket and scribbled an address in Mayfair on it. “Here’s where I live,” he said as he handed it to the incredulous fourteen year old. “Come and see me. Bring a copy of your magazine with you. Any time’s fine by me.”

A week or so after meeting his hero, the fourteen-year old boy made his way nervously to a plush apartment building in London’s Mayfair. He carried the star’s address in his pocket: Flat 9, 12 Curzon Place, London W1. He did not know if he possessed the courage. It didn’t make sense his being invited around like that; it was hardly as if someone so popular could be lonely for company. With no security to stop him, he made his way to the fourth floor. His heart in his mouth, he approached Flat 9 with his magazine under his arm and knocked quietly. He thought he could hear music, yet from which apartment he was not sure. He knocked again, a little louder this time. But there was no reply. He slipped the magazine under the door along with an appreciative note bearing his own phone number and address. He didn’t really expect to hear back from his hero.
And he never did. Just a couple of weeks later, Keith Moon died in that same Mayfair apartment.

I cried when I learned of Keith Moon’s death: on Capital Radio at 9pm, at the start of Nicky Horne’s show, as I vividly recall it being, late that Thursday evening of September 7. (At 10pm every night, I would turn religiously to John Peel on Radio 1.) It was the first time anybody’s death had ever hit me personally, and it affected me in much deeper ways than I believe my family could understand at the time. To them he was just another alcoholic rock star, pissing away his limited talent and excess wealth, and indeed there was an ugly scene at a cousin’s communion shortly thereafter, when an aunt dared to insult the dead drummer for his general debauchery and lack of morals as she had read about in a middle-class tabloid and I jumped passionately to my dead hero’s defense. For me, Keith Moon had been more than just a world-famous rock star, more than simply a brilliant drummer, more even than the most irrepressible and carefree character of rock’n’roll’s last (and British rock’s first) fifteen years. He had been a human being, an approachable, affable man who had never forgotten what it was like to be a fan or a dreamer. More than that, for those few minutes that August on The Mall, he had been as a friend.

This website has stories from Jeff Beck, Alice Cooper, and Dave Edmunds about Keith. If you have the time check them out.

The night before he died.

keith last.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testimony

The autobiography of Robbie Robertson. I read this right after My Cross To Bear by Gregg Allman. The only surprising part is it stops at 1976 and doesn’t cover Robbie’s solo career.

Robbie is 33 when the book ends. It ends at a recording session where only Robbie shows up after The Last Waltz.

If you have read Levon Helm’s This Wheels on Fire you know that Levon was pretty hard on Robbie. He rips him for songwriting credits and The Last Waltz. Robbie takes the high road in his book. He talks about the brotherhood they all shared. He mentions that Levon was his best friend he ever had in his life.

Robbie was in the middle of musical history throughout the book. He talks about joining Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks and befriending Levon…they eventually picked up Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson. After they split with Ronnie they get busted and gigged at various bars while meeting music legends Sonny Boy Williamson II, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield and then Bob Dylan. After meeting Dylan they start backing him on his first electric tour.

They are in the middle of the chaos of Dylan’s electric tour…Levon quits a few shows into it because of the booing and the people that surround Dylan. The rest of the Band (still called the Hawks) continue to back Dylan around the world. Along the way, they make friends with Brian Jones, The Beatles, Johnny Cash and eventually Jimi Hendrix (Jimmy James at the time).

He also mentions about living at the Chelsea Hotel, Big Pink, Levon coming back, living in Woodstock, playing Woodstock, and being friends with Dylan. This is one book that gives you a side of Dylan you never read much about. Robbie humanizes him while keeping respect. The Band much like the Allman Brothers valued brotherhood. They stuck together and got along really well until heroin started to enter the picture.

He goes into his songwriting and where he got the ideas. A lot of his ideas came from hanging out with Levon at Levon’s home in Arkansas. Robbie enjoyed the area and the southern culture that surrounded him.

Robbie is big foreign film buff who read many screenplays and would have people to pick them up when going through New York. After reading those he said it helped him to express what he felt in lyrics.

You get such a mix of personalities in the book… Edie Sedgwick, Carly Simon, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, to smoking pot with John Lennon in the sixties with John’s special made “cigarettes.”

All of the Band had street smarts and mixed with killers, thieves and mafia members before they made it. They were without money at one point and Robbie and Levon were actually going to wear masks and hold up a high stakes poker game. It’s a wonder one of them wasn’t killed before the band met Dylan.

I’ve read both Levon’s and Robbie’s books. I liked them both. Robbie is more consistent in his telling. There is a reason Robbie wanted to get off the road. Richard Manuel was not in good shape…even on The Last Waltz and Robbie was no angel himself. The road brought temptations that were hard for them to resist.

If you are a Band fan and/or Dylan fan…get it. I would place this book up there with Keith Richard’s book Life. That is about the highest praise I can give…

 

 

IT the Novel

I’m not writing a summary of the book…a good one is here… Just how IT affects me.

Everything I was scared of in childhood comes back to me in this book…vividly. What if it was really a monster in the dark like I thought?

I did a post on the old tv mini-series and the new movie but the novel is a great piece of work. I have read it at least 7 times. I keep coming back to it and visiting Derry and the kids that grew up together. After reading the book you feel like you know these people…or you have known people like them while growing up. It makes you think of the friends you had at 10-11 that you have forgotten their name and some of the things you did with them.

When I’m reading it I’m transported to Derry in 1957-1958 and then ahead to 1984-85 and then back to the 50s. King is so detailed that you feel like you have been in that town and know the townsfolk, the streets, the stores and the dirty secrets.  I always…always find things that I missed before because it is so massive.

It’s like learning about your town. The star of the book…isn’t Pennywise…it’s Derry. They are maybe one in the same but it holds the secrets of everyone in that town. The book is also about coming of age and the awkwardness that comes with it…for the kids and for the town.

Some things I feel while reading is:

Rage… The rage for Henry Bowers is something that the movie and the tv series does not halfway convey. He is the ultimate bully. Most of us had a form of a Henry Bowers to contend with…

Familiarity… the losers club is basically a bunch of misfits that blend together and all of them have talents that no one else outside of the group really notices but are used by the club. It’s a story you are familiar with and you may have been in a similar group as a kid.

Nostalgia… No, I wasn’t raised in the 50s or even close but the same things these kids were into as kids…rock and roll, curious about the opposite sex, exploring, still believing in magic… having no real responsibilities, the fun of being a kid and every day was new…is not era related.

I make it sound like a quaint little book about growing up… no… it is scary but what makes it scary for me is I can relate to most of the characters in the book…that makes it real. Stephen King is a master at that. He makes everything seem plausible.

Pennywise is one of the greatest monsters/evil entity ever. You get a vast variety of monsters that IT changes into also… if IT is not doing tha… it is busy influencing some of the weaker citizens of Derry.

The infamous sex “scene”… I’ve read reviewers talk it up like it is some cheap porn setup (I’m hearing the 70’s wah wah guitar in the background)…it’s not like that. It’s very innocent and they have no clue really on what to do. Was it a surprise when I read it? Yes…Was it erotic? NO it wasn’t at all… I didn’t know about it beforehand…I had to do a double take but I got King’s meaning. To find their way back out of the sewer they had to reunite and be adults and in a sense leave childhood behind…it was used as a bridge from childhood to being an adult. It was a different era (1980s) when he wrote this…he probably would not have written it the same way now.

Of course, all of this is just the way it affected me.

Get the book and read it…or reread it.