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.

 

 

 

 

 

Last Train to Memphis…book by Peter Guralnick

I’ve read numerous books about The Beatles and other rock stars but never one on Elvis. This book is detailed pretty well and you get to know Elvis, his friends, and family up until 1958 and after his mother’s death. Peter Guralnick does a very good job not dwelling too long in one place. He keeps the story moving at a good pace. Guralnick is very even-handed and does not sensationalize his life.

Peter does have a second book called “Careless Love” I will start reading soon that covers the rest of Elvis’s life when things come unraveled.

I grew up listening to Elvis. I was never a huge fan. He was a great entertainer and interrupter of other people’s songs. He helped open the door to blues. soul and rock music for the masses like The Beatles and Stones did later.

You meet some very interesting and historical characters. Sam Phillips who first signed Elvis to Sun Records, Dewey Phillips (famous Memphis DJ) who first played “It’s All Right” on the radio, Hank Snow, and many others. Elvis wasn’t an overnight sensation but his success just continued to grow until it was uncontrollable. He covers the tours and tv appearances.

I’ve never thought too much of Colonel Tom Parker and this book didn’t help. Keeping Elvis separated from anyone who could influence him and caring more about his investment than the person.

Even at this early stage, I started feeling sorry for Elvis because of the isolation of not being able to go out in public without causing a scandal or being chased. He did have some close relationships with girls that were broken up because of the situation Elvis was in.

The part that disappointed me was that Elvis seemed to neglect his band. Scotty Moore and Bill Black were put on salary and could not work for anyone else. Scotty has blamed it on some RCA execs and Parker. They were with Elvis through the lean times and Scotty even managed them at the beginning. Scotty’s guitar help develop Elvis’s sound at the beginning.

Overall Elvis comes off as a good kid who got the world thrown at him and being his age he took it rather well. He was nearly always gracious to his fans, friends, and family.

If I had to give a rating I would give it 5 stars out of 5… A great book on how he began and it did clear up some myths built around him.

Full Moon

I bought this book in the 1980s and in America was called “Full Moon” and in the UK it was called “Moon the Loon”. It was written by  Chris Trengove and Dougal Butler, Dougal was Keith’s personal assistant. Dougal doesn’t try to justify Moon’s actions, he just tells the stories that are now legendary.

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The book will have you physically burst out laughing at different parts of it. Keith left a trail of wrecked cars, wrecked drums, wrecked hotel rooms, wrecked nerves, wrecked bars, and many smiles.

Dougal doesn’t try to tell Moon’s life history. If you want Keith’s life get Dear Boy, a terrific and thorough bio on Keith by Tony Fletcher. Full Moon highlights the tales of Mr. Keith John Moon…Patent British Exploding Drummer. It is a very quick read at around 250 pages. The audio version is approximately 9 hours long.

Butler worked for Moon for ten years and was right there during much of the craziness.  He was behind the wheel of Moon’s AC Frua 428 as it flipped end-over-end through a field off Chertsey Lane after Moon decided to grab the shifter and downshift at around 120 mph.

The book also touches on Moon’s long-suffering wife Kim who endured all the craziness she could and finally leaves Keith. He had the ability or curse of not being able to be embarrassed…this a fun book to read. It was originally published in 1981. It was a collector’s item for a long time but it was republished in 2012.

The audiobook format is read by British actor Karl Howman, a friend of both Moon and Butler, who features in some of the book’s stories and is thus well familiar with the subject matter. Karl reads it in a cockney voice and it fits perfectly.

This book will not give you a history of The Who…just some great stories of my favorite drummer.

 

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