Miss O’Dell: Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton… by Chris O’Dell and Katherine Ketcham

I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s almost like a fantasy book. You are a fan and suddenly you get thrown into the world with The Beatles as friends and co-workers. You move from the Beatles to the Stones, CSNY, Bob Dylan and the list kept growing. 

I will say this… as a Beatle fan, this book gave me insight that I never had before. Chris O’Dell happened to meet Derek Taylor (press officer of the Beatles) in Los Angeles in 1968…she worked for him for a few weeks in LA as a PA. He told her she should come over to London to check out the new company that The Beatles were starting called Apple. He didn’t promise her a job but she took a chance and sold her records and borrowed from her parents to go to London. She was like Alice down the rabbit hole, O’Dell stumbled upon a life even she could not have dreamed of.

She took a chance and went over and that started her career working at The Beatles record company Apple. It took her a few months to get hired full time but after the Beatle’s inner circle knew she could be trusted she was there. She met Paul on her very first day. She said all of them were extremely nice and made her feel welcome. She spent the first few months showing up at the office and making herself useful and securing her place. She was especially close to George as a friend and later Ringo as a little more. 

Chris O'Dell George

After all was said and done…she had 3 songs written about her. Two by Leon Russell called Hummingbird, Pieces Apple Lady, and George Harrison’s Miss O’Dell. She was also the “Mystery Woman” on the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street cover. She was in the Joni Mitchell song “Coyote” with the line He’s got another woman down the hall…the song about Sam Shepard who Chris O’Dell and Joni Mitchell were seeing. She ended up singing on the Hey Jude recording in the final Na Na chorus.

She was one of the first if not the first female tour manager in rock. The tours she worked on were The Rolling Stones, CSNY, Santana, Bob Dylan, Earth Wind and Fire, Jennifer Warnes, Fleetwood Mac, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Led Zeppelin, Phil Collins, Echo and the Bunnymen, ELO, and more.

We also get a glimpse into the personalities of Bob Dylan, Jagger and Richards, CSNY (and the disfunction), Eric Clapton, and more. 

Chris O'Dell's Rockstar Life Revealed

Like all of us through life…she made some cringe-worthy decisions. I’m not trying to play it down but most of the time everything worked out in the end. She was in the right place at the right time and took advantage of that. She remains close friends with Pattie Harrison, Ringo Starr (her son’s Godfather), and many of her old famous acquaintances.

This is not a kiss-and-tell book and she doesn’t trash people which made me happy. The only person to come out of this book bad at all is Eric Clapton who was admittedly jealous of Pattie and Chris’s friendship. After the Stones tour, she got into drugs really bad but managed to quit them only to start up again. She, later on, became a drug counselor and helped people. 

This book is for more than just Beatle fans…it gives you what life was like on the road in the 1970s. Some of the highlights in the book for me were: 

  • How the Apple Office worked including the Hell’s Angels visitors
  • How even the biggest stars had deep insecurities
  • Bob Dylan forgot his harmonicas before the Isle of Wight concert and Chris O’Dell arrived by helicopter to give them to him.
  • Keith Richards sending her to pick up a “package” in LA in the middle of a tour
  • Reading about David Crosby’s complaints of no “cross ventilation in his hotel room”
  • When Roger Taylor of Queen realized that she was Miss O’Dell from George’s song.
  • Insight into Pattie Boyd and Maureen Starkey who is hardly covered in Beatles books
  • Reading about how Bangledesh started and how George got his musician friends to participate. 
  • Being on the roof during Get Back brief concert

Chris O’Dell: I think being a Beatle became very difficult for them. They had a different set of problems than the Stones and CSN&Y.  They didn’t tour that much, they couldn’t go out of their hotel rooms, and they lived in a bubble. I think breaking up for them, and I can only guess, was a relief and very difficult at the same time.

Chris O’Dell:  It was like being let go in Disneyland. That’s what it felt like. It’s like here are the keys to Disneyland, go and enjoy yourself. And I was constantly aware that I was watching history in the making and that was exciting. So every day had some, or certainly every week, had something, a twist to it that made it really exciting

Chris O’Dell now: I am happily remarried to a wonderful man who supports me and accepts me as I am. My twenty-three-year-old son is amazing and gives me some credibility as a parent! I have a private practice in Tucson, specializing in addiction and mental health counseling.  My two dogs are happy and life is just better than I would have expected. 

Excerpt from the book: On being in a room with Mick and Keith before the 72 tour. 

“Listen to this fucking article in Rolling Stone about Harrison’s Bangladesh concert,” Keith said. He started reading from the article.
“The Concert for Bangladesh is rock reaching for its manhood.” Keith raised an eyebrow. “Under the leadership of George Harrison, a group of rock musicians recognized, in a deliberate, self-conscious, and professional way, that they have responsibilities, and went about dealing with them seriously.”
Keith looked at Mick and then at me. “Do you believe this shit? But wait, it gets better. Harrison is “a man with a sense of his own worth, his own role in the place of things… with a few parallels among his peers.”
“Bollocks.” Keith laughed, tossing the magazine on the coffee table. “What a fucking load of shit.”
I knew that Keith wasn’t really amused. He could be terribly insecure.
What a paradox Keith was- a sweet sensitive soul who wrote songs about needing love to be happy and yet he lived his life as if he couldn’t give a shit about anything.
But at that moment I wasn’t too interested in Keith’s feelings. I sat at the far end of the sofa, my legs and arms crossed, smoking a cigarette and drinking my Scotch and Coke as if it were straight Coke. I was pissed. Sure, I knew they were just being competitive, but I couldn’t stand listening to them make fun of George. I wanted to jump into the conversation and tell them to leave him alone. But what could I do? I worked for the Stones now, not the Beatles. This is weird, I know, and particularly strange in the context of the Stone’s remarkable longevity, but at that moment I had a sinking feeling that I was beginning my climb down the ladder. I’d started at the very top with the Beatles and now I was on the rung below. I found myself thinking at that moment that the Stones were sometimes a little too raw, too raunchy, too negative. I liked their music, and I liked each of them individually, but if I had to choose, the Beatles would win.
“You know,” I said, trying to smile but having a hard time of it,
“George is my friend.”
Mick looked over at me as if he had forgotten I was there. “Oh yeah, Chris, you’re a Beatle person, aren’t you? Sorry about that”
We let it go, then, but after I dropped Mick at his house and headed home through the dark canyons, I felt a sudden, intense longing to see Pattie and George. Mick was right. When it came right down to it, I was a Beatle person.”

Miss O’Dell

I’m the only one down here
Who’s got nothing to say
About the war
Or the rice
That keeps going astray on its way to Bombay.
That smog that keeps polluting up our shores
Is boring me to tears.
Why don’t you call me, Miss O’Dell?

I’m the only one down here
Who’s got nothing to fear
From the waves
Or the rice
That keeps rolling on right up to my front porch.
The record player’s broken on the floor,
And Ben, he can’t restore it.
Miss O’Dell.

I can tell you
Nothing new
Has happened since I last saw you.

I’m the only one down here
Who’s got nothing to say
About the hip
Or the dope
Or the cat with most hope to fill the Fillmore.
That pushing, shoving, ringing on my bell
Is not for me tonight.
Why don’t you call me, Miss O’Dell?

Why don’t you call me, Miss O’Dell?

Led Zeppelin: The Biography …by Bob Spitz

This is the second Led Zeppelin book I’ve reviewed in a row…hope you are not getting too tired of it. I’m moving on to something else with my next book.

This is a good book about Led Zeppelin by Bob Spitz. This book surprised me when I read it. The reason is that Spitz wrote a biography of the Beatles that felt uninspired with no new info…I was thinking this one might be the same. Well, I was wrong…this book is the best book I’ve read on Led Zeppelin and that includes Hammer of the Gods and others.

The book uncovered things I didn’t know and gave a different point of view on instances that happened. There are constants about the band that run through every book about them. John Paul Jones was the constant professional and multi-instrumentalist of the band. John Bonham was an incredible drummer but could flash in a violent rage at any minute. Robert Plant the optimistic never say die singer who would change after his family’s bad car accident. Jimmy Page was the absolute leader of the band until he couldn’t function in that role because of the different chemicals he was taking.

Below is a Swan Song band Detective with a weary Jimmy Page asleep on the couch behind them.

Detective Band
Detective… A Swan Song band with Jimmy Page fast asleep at the photo session.

One thing that was known about the band is that they had an inferiority complex about The Rolling Stones. This is explored more in this book. They couldn’t understand why the press and celebrities hung out and liked the Stones and not them… although Zeppelin outsold them. The answer to that was pretty obvious…other bands such as The Who could shrug off bad reviews and go on…Led Zeppelin would call the critics out from the stage. The press was also threatened by manager Peter Grant and touring manager Richard Cole to give good reviews. Zeppelin also barred the press for years…so it wasn’t a big mystery here except to them.

On the 1977 tour the press was given some rules by the band:

  1. Never talk to anyone in the band unless they first talk to you.
  2. Do not make any sort of eye contact with John Bonham. This is for your own safety.
  3. Do not talk to Peter Grant or Richard Cole – for any reason.
  4. Keep your cassette player turned off at all times unless conducting an interview.
  5. Never ask questions about anything other than music.
  6. Most importantly, understand this – the band will read what is written about them. The band does not like the press nor do they trust them.

Hmmm….wonder why they weren’t as liked as much as the Rolling Stones by the press and public? They also became more separated from their audience in the later 70s.

The book also focuses on their vanity label Swan Song. Drugs had taken over by that time and no artists were really cared for except Bad Company who was hot right out of the gate. Any questions from a Swan Song artist would fall on deaf ears because no one was really running the label. By this time, Grant carried a bag of cocaine and dipped it out with a bowie knife. He stayed secluded at his mansion surrounded by his security cameras… like in a scene out of Scarface.

The band was the top band in the world but in 1975 it all changed with Robert Plant’s car accident that left him recouping for months while his wife was hurt more seriously. In 1977 a guard that worked for Bill Graham stopped a kid from getting a Led Zeppelin sign off their door…all hell broke loose. That was Peter Grant’s son. Grant rounded up his “security” people and beat the guard and they almost popped his eye out.  After that happened they played what was to be their last show in America. A few days later Robert Plant’s son Karac died of a respiratory virus.

All in all, it was a good book and I would recommend it to any rock fan. I am a fan of the band, especially the albums between Led Zeppelin III and Physical Graffiti. I wasn’t a big fan of the bombastic blues songs as much as the light-heavy moments. The book tells you how management built walls around them while being surrounded by violence, threats, and later on drugs.

Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin… by C. M. Kushins

The book has a forward by Dave Grohl. I liked the book, it keeps you interested and doesn’t slow up. It’s a look at seventies rock and roll and it will make you realize how much has changed now…not only in music but in the real world.

I’ve always thought Led Zeppelin had a dark cloud that followed them..reading this book reaffirms that feeling. I always admired John Bonham as a drummer. I think Moon and Bonham were the best drummers of the seventies and I would pick them as my top two favorites of all time. They both were different from each but had a feel like no other. They didn’t have the precision of Ginger Baker or Neil Peart but they changed their band’s sound completely.

The book goes over Bonham’s early influences like Gene Krupa. One of his first rock drummer influences was Keith Moon because of how Keith pushed the drums to the forefront. Bonham also liked Ginger Baker and would go see him in his band Air Force.

The author does focus on Bonham but you get a Led Zeppelin bio with it also. It’s a good book and I did learn a lot about him and the band that I didn’t know. Plant and Bonham were from the rural  Midlands, a major difference from London studio pros like Page and Jones. It was an interesting mix.

It seems like Plant and John Paul Jones were a little more down to earth as people and didn’t get caught up long-term with drink and hard drugs that Bonham and Page did. This also states what other books say…Bonham didn’t like being away from his family and was two different people on tour. He would be fine until liquor was added…then he would turn into The Beast.

One reporter describing Bonzo said: “Loathsome…Keith Moon with all of the dynamite and none of the charm.” There are many stories about him but not many are too humorous. He once drank two bottles of champagne on a flight…went to sleep in first class. When the stewardess served dinner, the other passengers begged her not to wake John up. When John woke up…he realized he urinated on himself and called for his drum tech Mick Hinton who was in coach…Hinton gave him some more pants and Bonham then instructed Hinton to take his wet seat in first class while Bonham went to coach in Hinton’s dry seat.

Peter Grant and the rest of the band sometimes got two rooms each in hotels. One as a decoy so Bonham couldn’t find them at 3 in the morning in a drunken rage. He did seem to be a good father and husband though but just didn’t like being away from his home.

One funny story happened when John took his son Jason to see The Police. Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers were really polite and excited to meet Bonham…Sting, being cocky and pretentious was very distant and cool.  Bonham accidentally  stepped on Sting’s foot and Sting said “Hey man, don’t step on my blue suede shoes.” Bonham looked at him and said “I’ll step on your fu**ing head in a minute.”

I would recommend this book to any Led Zeppelin fan. The author does go into his drum technique for any drummers out there and what size kits he used. We all know how this story ends but it shouldn’t have ended that way. In 1980 Led Zeppelin was mounting a comeback and was rehearsing for their first American tour since 1977. Bonham arrived at the first rehearsal and had been on a drinking binge.

Bonham died after drinking what amounted to 40 shots of Vodka in a 24-hour period.

John Paul Jones:  “Benje and I found him. It was like,  let’s go up and look at Bonzo, see how he is. We tried to wake him up… It was terrible. Then I had to tell the other two… I had to break the news to Jimmy and Robert. It made me feel very angry – at the waste of him… I can’t say he was in good shape, because he wasn’t. There were some good moments during the last rehearsals … but then he started on the vodka.” 

Turn It UP! My years with Lynyrd Skynyrd…. by Ron Eckerman

Not long ago I had to fly somewhere and I’m a nervous flyer. I usually dread getting into a plane but I was determined I would enjoy this flight to Texas and then Colorado. We got into the air with my right ear-popping like crazy and I decided to listen to an audiobook once we were flying. I opened my audible library selection and just picked one at random. Well, needless to say, I picked this one. I was 30 minutes into the book before I discovered the irony of the situation. I quickly picked another book (Grateful Dead bio) and listened to that but…I finished this one on the way back while… driving safely on the ground.

This is not an autobiography of the band… it is an account of their mid to late-70s tours. The book was written by an insider (the road manager) book from 1974 to the 1977 plane crash. Lynyrd Skynyrd was a wild bunch who was ruled by lead singer Ronnie Van Zant with an iron fist. It was partly about babysitting a bunch of up-and-coming rock stars and yes…very entertaining. These guys learned from the best… they had opened for The Who on the Quadrophenia tour in 1973. Keith Moon showed them the path to destruction in hotels across the globe. They took it to a new level though…not only fighting with people who annoyed them…they fought each other. Contrary to popular belief…most of them were well-read and intelligent men but with a wild side. 

The band was managed by Peter Rudge who was known to be very cheap with bands. He also managed the Stones and The Who. It was Ron Eckerman’s (tour manager) job to collect the money and figure out the most economical way of traveling. In early 1977 he saw that traveling by plane would be cheaper than by bus. The band toured constantly and was rarely at home adding to the short tempers. They lost their guitar player Ed King in 1975 because of that plus madness exploding out of pure exhaustion. Keeping a road crew together while you are not touring was near impossible unless you play over 200 – 250 shows a year. 

Reading this book is truly like being transported in time back in the seventies rock world. It was back to a time when bands had to build up an audience. It didn’t happen with a youtube video or a Facebook page. There were no auto-tune or backing tracks to save you in concert. Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the best live bands around. They played at Knebworth in 1976 and were heralded in the press as the next great band in league with the Stones and Who. They never got that chance and were different than most bands. They had no production values at all…just a mirror disco ball. Ronnie Van Zant did not dance around like Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler…he was more like a field general directing his troops to conquer the audience. 

After losing Ed King, a great California guitarist… they picked up Oklahoma native Steve Gaines who would have had a chance to be a huge star. Gaines was an absolute phenom on guitar and had he not died at 28 in the plane crash, he might well be a guitar legend now. The book is hilarious in places but you know what is coming. They climbed the rock ladder and the new album Street Survivors showed what they might do. The album was not a “southern rock” album…it was a rock album by a band from the south. 

They never would get a chance to fulfill their promise. The new album was their biggest yet and in two weeks’ time, they would have headlined Madison Square Garden for the first time. It really did look like they were about to be elevated to the top bracket of touring rock bands.

I was a kid when all of this was going on but I am amazed at how much the world has changed since then. If a band, no matter how successful, would do what they did in today’s world…the band would be in jail and shunned. Not only Lynyrd Skynryd but Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Who, and a host of other rock bands. The book will truly transport you back to that time. Even if you are a fan or not…it’s worth a read. Ron Eckerman was in the plane when it crashed and his description is truly chilling. 

Eckerman took the blame for the crash but it wasn’t one man’s fault. A short while after releasing the book he died of acute myeloid leukemia. His wife said he never got over the guilt for the crash and he died three years after the book was published. 

So Many Roads: The Life and Times of the Grateful Dead …. by David Browne

I’ve read a few books about the Dead but this one is probably the best I’ve read. I just finished re-reading it after finishing it three years ago. It is their complete history from beginning to end. The book I enjoyed the most was Deal: by Bill Kreutzmann The Deads drummer. He has some great stories and Steve Parish’s book is good also…but as far as the history…this has been the best.

This is not like reading a book about the Beatles, Stones, Dylan, or even the Allman Brothers. The Grateful Dead were totally different in the way they came about and what path they took. They were such a hippy band but along the way they turned into a corporate organization…a different kind of organization but one all the same. Their crew was known to be loud and sometimes violent along with the Hells Angels by the mid-seventies and the craziness wore off on everyone around them.

I always thought of them as this loose ensemble that just loved playing. Yes, they loved playing but they weren’t above pointing fingers when something went wrong on stage. At one point Weir and Pigpen were “fired” although accounts differ on if they really were let go. In other words, they were human… like anyone else. They did however think differently and for a bunch of hippies…they were very ambitious.

Speaking of Pigpen (Ron McKernan)… that was a wonderful thing about this book…his importance is highlighted and you see how important he was to the Grateful Dead. Jerry wasn’t the key focus when they started…it was Pigpen. Although he looked like a biker…he was described as an incredibly nice and sensitive man. He was the showman of the band and Jerry commented that he was the best musician in the band in the beginning.

The book covers their entire career and along with the way, there are many twists and turns. They cover Garcia’s slide down until his diabetic coma in 1986 when he had to re-learn how to play guitar again. Less than a year later they were back on the road and then recorded the In The Dark album.

The band never had a big hit single and now…over 20 years of being together and touring they were suddenly huge with the song Touch Of Grey. They even agreed to play the game with the record company and they made a video. They were signed to Arista Records and the record company and band were at a meeting. Garcia suddenly asked, “I don’t have to do Dick Clark, do I?” With that, the executives laughed at the thought of the Grateful Dead appearing on American Bandstand.

There were points where it looked like Garcia would beat his addictions but the threat of him going back to heroin was always there. They also cover all the members rather well…Garcia wasn’t the only one with drug problems but his problem probably affected the band the most.

If you want to learn about their history…this is a really good read.

Skydog – The Duane Allman Story: by Randy Poe

After re-reading Gregg Allman’s biography My Cross To Bear  I noticed this book about his brother Duane… the founding member of the Allman Brothers Band. It’s a good read and an informative book. Its forward is written by one of his friends…ZZ Top’s guitarist Billy Gibbons.

The Allman Brothers Band formed in 1969 and they lost their leader Duane Allman in 1971. They continued on to be one of the most successful American bands ever. They finally called it quits in 2014.

I saw this book about Duane and I was excited to read it. Going in… I had read Gregg’s bio, Duane’s daughter’s (Galadrielle Allman) book Please Be With Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman, and One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band so I was well rounded on the Allman Brothers. Duane lived a short life but Poe seemed to find many of the musicians he played within the 60s and 70s.

Duane believed in brotherhood…not just with his brother but the band and the entire cast around them. Phil Walden was the president of Capricorn Records, The Allman Brothers record label. He would call for a meeting with the band…he really only wanted to see Duane. Duane not only brought everyone in the band but he brought the roadies also. He told Walden flatly.. .you will not talk with just me but with all of us. Walden would reply …but Duane why are the roadies in here? Duane said they were just as important as the band…without them, we can’t play. The roadies would stay. Duane’s lack of ego in his vision for the Allman Brothers Band made them who they were even after he was gone.

He created a family atmosphere with the Allman Brothers organization. Their 3rd album At Fillmore East was their breakthrough…the album cover shows the band against a brick wall. On the other side of the album shows the roadies in front of the wall also…and a picture of one roadie Twiggs Lyndon who couldn’t be there that day. Another band that shared that same philosophy was the Grateful Dead where the roadies were family. Modern businesses would be wise to take this philosophy and use it.

Duane worked with many musicians and touched their lives. Many that drifted in and out of his bands were not forgotten. The original keyboard player for the Allman Brothers was Reese Wynans until Greg joined. Duane broke it to Reese that the band didn’t need two keyboard players.

In a short time, Duane met Boz Scaggs and recommended Reese to play with him and he did. That started his successful career and he would play with many musicians in his career and was the keyboard player in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band Double Trouble.

This book doesn’t stop at Duane’s death. It follows the band all the way up to their end in 2014. In the end, he gives a good discography of Duane’s studio recordings. It’s really incredible how many sessions the man was on and he didn’t even reach the age of 25.

The book goes over why he turned Eric Clapton down on joining Derek and the Dominos. This was before the Allman Brothers had made it. He remained loyal to his band because it took him so long to find the right mix of musicians to get the sound he wanted. They didn’t have a hit until the Live At Fillmore East album was released in July of 1971. It would go gold 5 days before Duane was killed. 

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about Duane and The Allman Brothers. It is full of great information. After you read it you will want to look up all of the recordings he was on. His playing was edgy, tasteful, and like great jazz…takes you on a journey.

At the end of the book, you have to wonder how far he would have gone if he would have lived.

One passage from the book: “In September 2003 ‘Rolling Stone’ published its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”, placing Duane at #2 just behind Jimi Hendrix. Gregg Allman commented that he thought it was a very wonderful gesture and said “…I thought ‘You made your mark man. You didn’t make any money, but you made your mark.”‘ Rounding out the top five were B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Robert Johnson—pretty impressive company for a kid from the South who didn’t even live to see his 25th birthday.”.

If you want to read about the Allman Brothers I would recommend these books also.

My Cross To Bear by Alan Light and Gregg Allman

One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul

For a more personal view and her journey to know her dad…

Please Be With Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman by Galadrielle Allman

All Things Must Pass Away: Harrison, Clapton, and Other Assorted Love Songs by Kenneth Womack and Jason Kruppa

As a huge Beatles and Clapton fan, I was hoping to find out things I didn’t know…I certainly did. No revelation about The Beatles but many about George who just started his life without them.

I’m more familiar with Harrison than Clapton but I did know some about him. They go through each artist’s history up until around 1972 and then do highlights after that. The book centers around the making of Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass and Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos Layla and Assorted Love Songs and their friendship.

The authors picked a point in time to concentrate on (70-72) …and they did in detail. From Phil Spector to the “Apple Scruffs” outside the studio’s door. They also cover Duane Allman, Tom Dowd, and more helping out Clapton on the Layla album.

Harrison and Clapton had a genuine and later complicated friendship that started in earnest in 1966 when they met while Clapton was in Cream and George in the Beatles.  Out of the two, George had a better childhood with a caring family and later his family with the Beatles. The Beatles were tight like brothers and although they fought…it was a love and closeness there.

Clapton had a rocky childhood where he was raised by his grandparents and his sister, he found out later, was really his mom. He felt abandoned and that partly explains the reason Clapton never stayed in a band more than a few years. He never wavered in his friendship with Harrison though.

The book would not be complete without getting into the Patti Boyd-George Harrison-Eric Clapton triangle. Clapton wanted Patti for years, but she resisted him, and he turned into a heroin addict. They didn’t get together until Harrison and Boyd split up and Clapton got off heroin. The cause of the Harrison Boyd separation was said not to have anything to do with Clapton. Drugs and a certain affair that they could not get past was part of it.

They remained friends for the rest of their lives and while they always got along…George would occasionally throw a verbal jab about Boyd and Clapton…which was his sense of humor but uncomfortable sometimes for Clapton and those around, but he never said anything publicly about it.

George and Eric helped each other musically throughout their careers. Clapton formed a backing band for a tour of Japan in the early 90s for Harrison.

After George’s death…George’s wife Oliva called on Clapton to put together a show… Concert for George…with musicians from Harrison’s past. That show was Concert for George. There were many special moments in that show. The one for me personally would be Paul McCartney singing All Things Must Pass.

I would highly reccomend this book!

Heaven and Hell – by Don Felder and Wendy Holden…Book

Let me start this out by being completely truthful. I am not an Eagles fan whatsoever but I like biographies and I do respect the band as musicians and songwriters. This is a good book for Eagles fans and rock fans in general. It covers a lot of history of the Eagles and rock in the 60s and 70s.

Felder by far was the most versatile of the band. He was offereded a teaching job at Berklee College of Music in Boston before he even joined the Eagles.

What made me want to read this book was…the documentary on the Eagles released in 2013 (I also love rock documentaries). One of the reasons they made the documentary was because of this book! Don Henley and Glenn Frey were livid about Heaven and Hell and wanted to tell their side. The funny thing is… they ended up proving Don Felder right on most of what he wrote.

It’s a good book…I liked it because it helped document an important time in rock music…the sixties and seventies. The book is interesting for more reasons than the Eagles. Florida in the 1960s was a hotspot for future rock and roll stars. Don Felder, Tom Petty, Allman Brothers, Stephen Stills, and Lynyrd Skynyrd just to name a few were all playing clubs on both coasts of Florida.

Don Felder grew up in Gainesville Florida and worked at a music store. He gave young Tommy his first guitar lessons…that Tommy would be Tom Petty. He played in a band with Stephen Stills in high school. He then met future Eagle Bernie Leadon and they started to play in bands together. Felder was taught slide guitar by no other than Duane Allman! They played many of the clubs that the Allman Joys did.

It’s worth reading just for his pre-Eagle days.

When the Eagles first formed, their goal was to divide the writing and singing equally. That way, they reasoned, nobody would become a star or feel like a sideman. That had happened in their previous bands, and they didn’t create the Eagles to go through all that again. After a while that plan went out the window and the problems started.

You learn about the dynamics of the Eagles and how everything changed after Hotel California. Henley and Frey took over the band and called the shots. The problem was Felder was a full member (owner) in the band unlike Timothy B Schmit and Joe Walsh who were just paid employees then and now. When Felder would sugggest something or would want to know where the money was going…he was ignored or pushed off to Irving Azoff the manager by Henley and Frey.

He also covers the problems that Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner had with Frey and Henley….and the close friendship that he had with Joe Walsh.

This is not a gossip book. Felder doesn’t use the book just to slam Frey and Henley. Felder has faults and we see them in this book. He does seem to try to be even handed. As I’ve mentioned before…one look at the Eagles documentary and most of what he says will be verified. He covers their career…up until he was let go.

It’s an enjoyable book and I would recommend it. As I said, I’m not an Eagles fan but I enjoyed it.

Bon: The Last Highway…by Jessie Fink

This book covers the last three years of Bon Scott, the lead singer of AC/DC.

Bon: The Last Highway is a fun read. It gives you more than just a look at Bon Scott. It gives you a peek in the world of Rock and Roll in the 1970s. It was a much more of a loose time then compared to now to say the least…both good and bad. The music business was a completely different ballgame than now.

Although this just covers the last three years of his life…you get to know Bon pretty well. I knew nothing about the guy until I read the book. He seemed to be well read, likeable, and a basically good guy to his friends and fans. O f course he did  have substance abuse  problems that haunted him.

There are a lot of stories about fans coming up to him and starting friendships. Fink interviewed other bands and most if not all had great things to say about Scott. He did find people who never have been interviewed and got stories that never have been published.

The working relationship between Bon and the Young brothers surprised me the most. Bon wrote the lyrics and they would censor what he wrote. Nothing political or controversial. They didn’t want the formula to be messed with. Offstage they didn’t tend to hang out as much with each other.

I never knew how popular Scott was in Australia even now. His grave site has become a cultural landmark; more than 28 years after Scott’s death, the National Trust of Australia declared his grave important enough to be included on the list of classified heritage places. It is reportedly the most visited grave in Australia.

The two things that author Jesse Fink concentrates on is how Bon died and if Bon did write some or most of the lyrics to the Back In Black album that was released after his death.

As far as the way the man died…Fink has some theories and they center around heroin. He interviewed some that has never been interviewed and got their story around Bon and the ones around him that night. The coroner’s report lists “acute alcohol poisoning” as the cause of death, classified under “death by misadventure.” Fink talked with people with him when he died on February 19, 1980.

The Young Brothers  have denied they ever used any of his lyrics on Back in Black…but AC/DC did cut a deal with the Scott family for a share of royalties on the album. In interviews they have denied it but did contradict themselves in others.

Below is an excerpt from the book  where more was said about the subject than any other time.

Then in 1998 Elissa Blake of Australian Rolling Stone caught him napping.

BLAKE: Have you ever thought about quitting?

ANGUS: The only time was when Bon died. We were in doubt about what to do but we had songs that he had written and wanted to finish the songs. We thought it would be our tribute to Bon and that album became Back In Black. We didn’t even know if people would even accept it. But it was probably one of our biggest albums and the success of that kept it going. We were on the road with that album for about two years so it was like therapy for the band after Bon’s death.

Bizarrely, before and since, Angus went with an altogether different story.

1981: “Some things we can’t do, you know, that was strictly Bon’s songs, and things.”

1996: “No, we were gonna start working on the lyrics with him the next week [after he died].”

1998: “The week he died, we had just worked out the music and he was going to come in and start writing lyrics.”

2000: “Bon was just about to come and start working with us writing lyrics just before he died.”

2005: “There was nothing [on Back In Black] from Bon’s notebook.”

It’s a line the band now doggedly sticks to despite mounting evidence that Bon’s lyrics were used. As Ian Jeffery admitted to me, cagily: “Not totally certain about Back In Black but I seem to remember a couple of words, lines [of Bon’s being on there]. Maybe not.”

Fink talked to Scott’s ex girlfriends and friends in his life and many claim that he did write many of the lyrics to You Shook Me All Night Long as well as other songs. Others say he had said some of the lines in letters. He basically gives you what he found and lets you make up your mind.

I would recommend this book to rock fans…and to AC/DC fans who mostly only know Brian Johnson as the lead singer.

The Ox: The Authorized Biography of The Who’s John Entwistle…. by Paul Rees

When I see the word “authorized” I get really skeptical that they will not tell the complete story. This one proved me wrong. John’s son Christopher had said that this book was going to be warts and all. He was correct in that. I was super excited to read this. In the past year, I re-read Pete Townshend’s autobiography, Roger Daltrey’s autobiography, and re-read Keith Moon’s biography by Tony Fletcher and to top it off the Kenney Jones biography.

John actually wrote 4 chapters himself in 1990 when he wanted to write his own book. He soon grew tired of it and just stored it away. Rees did manage to incorporate some of what he wrote that included stories about him and Moon I never heard. John Entwistle is the least written about of the four. Any info on him is nice and a lot of this was new to me. Rees goes over the highlights and you don’t get dragged down at any point. The only thing I didn’t like was…like Daltrey’s autobiography it’s short…only 320 pages long.

The book goes through the history of the Who that Who fans know but with a lot of anecdotes. I found out more about John’s life than I ever knew. You see where he developed his black humor and he was probably the best pure musician in that band. I would recommend this book to any rock music fan. You get some funny stories also…

One about the Who opening up for the Beatles and listening to them through monitors in the dressing room rolling on the floor laughing hearing The Beatles sing obscene words to their songs “I Want To Hold Your ****”…A Hard Day’s ****. because the screaming was so loud and they couldn’t be heard out front.

Why I looked forward to this book…

___________________________________________________________________________________________

John was a bass hero of mine growing up. I started off learning trying to learn the riffs he did by slowing Who albums with my finger so the riffs would be slower…but they were still fast. Most bass players fill in the empty space but with the Who, there wasn’t much empty space because of Moon’s playing. He played what amounted to lead bass and it worked well…his harmonics made up for the lack of other instruments.

Keith Altham (journalist): John was an enigma. That he was the best bass guitarist of his generation is not in dispute, but because of the peculiar demands placed upon him by The Who he wasn’t a bass player in the accepted sense of the term because he didn’t play bass like anyone else, any more than Keith Moon played the drums like anyone else or, for that matter, Pete Townshend the guitar. “His playing was so dextrous and inventive that he was often indistinguishable from a second guitar.”

Lemmy: “He’s the best player in Rock and Roll ever…no contest”

John Entwistle: “I just wanted to play louder than anyone else …

Bill Wyman: John was the Jimi Hendrix of bass players

Bring It On Home: Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin, and Beyond–The Story of Rock’s Greatest Manager… by Mark Blake

I had a business trip this past week driving a car for at least 10 hours to and from Atlanta and finished up this audiobook about the legendary manager Peter Grant. I have read one book about Grant by Chris Welch but I like this one better. Both of Grant’s kids were interviewed by author Mark Blake and they gave a perspective and info that has never been shared.

Grant had been a van driver, bouncer, stagehand, wrestler, and Don Arden’s assistant. He was 6’3″ and at one time over 300lbs… He road managed the tough and a little crazy Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and The Animals before he took over the Yardbirds which then turned into Led Zeppelin.

Grant changed the music business across the board. The promoters would enjoy a 60/40 split and better until Grant. He changed it all to 90/10 split with the artists actually getting the windfall instead of the promoters. His saying was 10 percent of Zeppelin was better than nothing. Now it is an industry-standard. The one other manager that I have read about is Brian Epstein who managed the Beatles. Grant and Epstein were complete opposites except for one thing. There was nothing they would not do for their respective bands. They were both loyal and trustworthy with the band’s finances unlike other band’s managers at the time. That is where the comparison ends.

Grant indeed was loyal to a fault…but he did business by suggestion and intimidation. Pouring water in bootleggers tape recorders, smashing film cameras by fans at concerts, and threating anyone that got in Zeppelin’s way or anyone who might be getting something they shouldn’t. He added to their already dark reputation. He started a Zeppelin label in the mid-seventies called Swan Song and signed Bad Company. He became their co-manager and traveled with them when Zeppelin wasn’t touring. He was even asked by Queen in 1975 if he could manage them…he turned them down because he didn’t have the time.

After Bonham died it became close to impossible to get him on the phone. His drug intake, already heavy, escalated during the early eighties. He did eventually get clean, lose weight, and turn into a living legend and he tried to be an English gentleman.

The book moves at a good pace and it goes over the hype and myths that Grant and Page built for Zeppelin.

If you are a Zeppelin fan or a fan of rock in the seventies it’s a good read. Although Grant could be tough, intimidating, and frankly scary at times…he did have a soft side for his family and of course…Led Zeppelin. I would give it 4.5 stars.

I did learn a new name for a certain drug… “Peruvian Marching Powder”

 

When Giants Walked The Earth…. by Mick Wall

I read this book about Led Zeppelin over a year ago…and recently while waiting for a Beatles book to get released I  went through it again. The book is much better than The Hammer Of The Gods released in the 80s. There are many things in this book that I didn’t know. Overall I liked it…but..

Mick Wall would do these interludes that are supposed to be some kind of interior monologue by the protagonists (but in second person). The book is well researched and he would be going along great and then all of a sudden he would try to get into each member’s head and have a monologue (in cockney many times) on what they were thinking at that moment…I don’t care how much you researched someone you do not know what they were thinking at that time.

He would sprinkle these monologues out so it’s not like they are the entire book but it was totally unnecessary to me…and it was annoying.

Here is a small example of a Jimmy Page interlude…and “G” is Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant.  Now it’s down to just the two of you, Jimmy and G. And of course, the name, for what it’s still worth: the Yardbirds. Or maybe the New Yardbirds – G’s suggestion. That way, at least, it won’t be like starting again from scratch, he says. Not entirely, anyway. And you can still get paying gigs. Keep the wolf from the door until you can come up with something better. That’s the plan anyway, this long, rainy summer of 1968…

From 1968 to 1980 Led Zeppelin were together and left a giant legacy and myth behind. The book is solid and I found out many things I didn’t already know. I am a fan of some of their music…the less indulgent side of them anyway. I’m not the person who wants to listen to a 25-minute live version of No Quarter.

The author does go in-depth about Page’s infatuation of black magic and the dark image of the band. He also goes into the songwriting and about how they got the sound they did…so he covers the personalities, the music, and events that happened.

Things were going great for them until 1975 when Robert Plant was in a car wreck with his family and from that point on everything started to go downhill. This book covers everything you would want and it covers what happened after John Bonham died. They did think about regrouping many times through the decades but it was always Robert who had doubts…and after what he went through I cannot blame him. His wife was almost killed in the car wreck and Plant’s leg was badly hurt…then when he recovered his young son (Karac) died of a stomach virus and 3 years later Bonham died.

After Zeppelin unlike Plant and Jones, Jimmy Page didn’t adjust as well to life without the band. The book was written in 2009 and he does cover the O2 Arena reunion.

If you are a Led Zeppelin fan or a fan of classic rock through the seventies…this is a good book. Out of five stars, I would give it 3.75 out of 5 for the information it gives…without the monologues, I would consider a 5.

 

 

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties…Tom O’Neill

Hanspostcard had mentioned he was reading this book and from what he said I had to give it a try. I got the audible version. The author Tom O’Neill has an interesting quote that sums up the book… “My goal isn’t to say what did happen—it’s to prove that the official story didn’t,”

When I first started to listen I thought it was going to be a big conspiracy book but I was pleasantly surprised…Tom O’Neill took pains not to go there. He is pretty open that he does not find the “answer” to the murders. He also made it clear he wasn’t trying to clear the guilty parties of the Tate/Labianca cases. They are no doubt guilty but it was more about the circumstances around the question of why and the Helter Skelter theory brought by Vincent Bugliosi. Vincent was the prosecutor in the case and later wrote the book Helter Skelter…the best-selling true crime book ever.

Manson’s parole officer Roger Smith was really baffling. Manson was on parole through the late sixties and did everything he could to break his parole…Smith kept giving him a pass, protecting his family, and even fostering one of Manson’s kids. Manson must have had a hell of a rabbit’s foot or someone or some organization was looking out for him. If any of us would get caught with an underage girl, stolen cars, and narcotics… a trip to jail would be in our immediate future…even in the 1960s…much less being on parole at the time.

O’Neill has the documents to back up his claims. Bugliosi did suppress evidence and most around the case are still afraid to talk. Some of the evidence yes could have got by him but not to this extent. Tom interviewed a countless number of people… including tense interviews with Bugliosi.

Tom spent 20 years on this book. The story of him writing the book is just as interesting as the story. He became depressed and obsessed with the murders. In 1999 he was writing an article for Premier Magazine and kept extending the deadlines for the 30th anniversary of the murders. Then in 2009, it was going to be a book published by Penguin for the 40th…that didn’t work out because he kept finding new leads and information. Finally this year the book was released for the 50th anniversary of the murders.

What I found interesting also was the other subjects that were brought up…COINTELPRO, Operation CHAOS, and MKULTRA…goverment secret programs that could come into play. There is much more in the book than I’ve touched on…I would recommend getting it…it makes you think and question.

Below is a great review of the book.

https://www.straight.com/arts/1283716/extended-interview-50-years-after-manson-murders-tom-oneills-disturbing-new-book-chaos

 

The Big Fella by Jane Leavy

This is one of the many books on Babe Ruth. He was one of the most written about person in the 20th century. Jane Leavy took a different approach to write the book. She jumps around in time periods but it’s not distracting. I found out things I never knew about the Babe and that is the reason I wanted to read it. Thanks to Hanspostcard again for another great recommendation.

When I was growing up I read everything I could about Babe Ruth. I never was a Yankee fan and never will be but I do love this period of the Yankees. Unfortunately, some people think of Ruth as this huge obese baseball player because of movies like the terrible “The Babe” in 1992. When Babe came up he was a great athlete and didn’t start getting out of shape until his last years. One thing that I would love to see about the Babe is a well-made movie…we have yet to see it.

The man’s popularity was only rivaled by Charlie Chaplin. If anyone was made for a time period it was this man. He could be crude, brash, stubborn, and generous and was the idol of millions of kids during the 20s and 30s. He was so much better than anyone of his peers that it seemed unfair. The man could rise to the occasion when needed. He did everything big, whether it was hitting a home run, striking out, or living his unfettered life.

Sometimes an athlete is just so much better than his peers and they would be a generational talent. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordon would be in this select group.

When Babe retired in 1935 with 714 home runs the closest player to that mark at the time was his old Yankee teammate Lou Gehrig with 378 home runs (after the 1935 season)…that is a difference of 336 home runs. That is domination.

Ruth had an agent by the name of Christy Walsh. Walsh was basically the first sports agent of his day. He created a highly successful syndicate of ghostwriters for baseball’s biggest stars, coining the term “ghost writer” in the process. Walsh, in many ways, was a pioneer in the public relations field. The relationship between the two was interesting to read about.

The Babe made 70 grand a season playing for the Yankees and at least the same on advertising and barnstorming across the nation in small towns bringing baseball to towns that never would have seen Major League Baseball in the offseason. He was still grossly underpaid for the money he brought into the Yankees. When he would play, the crowds would increase dramatically.

Although black players were stupidly not allowed to play in the Major Leagues at that time, Babe and Lou Gerhig’s teams played black teams in towns all around in the offseason.

If you have interest in Babe Ruth I would recommend this book and Robert Creamer’s book Babe Ruth: The Legend Comes to Life.

“I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.” – Babe Ruth

 

 

Careless Love…The Unmaking of Elvis Book

Hanspostcard recommended Last Train to Memphis and this sequel Careless Love The Unmaking of Elvis Presley… and both are excellent recommendations for anyone who wants to learn about Elvis. This one begins where the other left off with Elvis going to Germany in the Army and ends…at the end.

Guralnick covers everything here. Elvis’s gradual distaste of the movies he was making, the great comeback special, Las Vegas, the Richard Milhous Nixon meeting, two concert documentaries, recording good music again, Aloha from Hawaii, the freefall, and then death. In between these events, we see the girls, his buddies the Memphis Mafia, the drugs, the paranoia, his search for something more, and his huge generosity.

I always wondered why he didn’t try to blend in a little more and not be so noticeable…but he loved so much being Elvis Presley. Once he was in a restaurant and no one was noticing him…he walked by a couple of women near the bathroom and gave them a smile just so they knew. He also loved making people happy by being over-generous. If you were in the right place at the right time you could end up with a car or a diamond ring.

He was raised well by his parents and seemed like a good person. He could show flashes of anger at people around, have jealousy, even a Christ complex at times, unpredictable and living in denial about his drug problem. In other words…he was human and that is what I like about the book. It’s not elevating him too high nor turning him into a parody of himself.

The book also goes into his manager “Colonel” Tom Parker who at one point was getting 50 percent of what Elvis was earning. He could have done much better than Parker but Elvis was loyal and in some ways insecure. If you want to know about Elvis…get Last Train to Memphis and this one…Careless Love.

Here is a fan-made “trailer” of the book.