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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Where The Wild Things Are

I loved this book as a kid. When I see it I feel like I’m 7 again. The book came out in 1963. I did know some kids that the book really scared but I thought it was great.

An animated film was made in 1975 and a feature-length movie in 2009.

Where The Wild Things Are was written by Maurice Sendak about a boy named Max who “makes mischief” in his house and is sent to bed without supper all while wearing a wolf suit. His room is then transformed into a magic forest and Max sets off in his very own boat to the land of the Wild Things.

Once there he tames the monsters by staring into their yellow eyes without blinking. Knowing they have met their master, they acclaim Max King of all Wild Things and celebrate their wildness together. When Max decides to return to where someone loves him best of all, the wild things try all their wiles to persuade him to stay, but he sails back into the warmth of his own room and finds supper waiting.

When the book came out some were not happy. Many psychologists thought that the book would be very traumatizing for young children. Sendak has said that the book was banned by libraries for a couple of years and then it started to be accepted and take off.

 

Runnin’ Wild by David Stenn

I got this book in the 90s and just reread it yet again. I’ve gone over Clara Bow earlier but I wanted to add more about this book. It is a well researched interesting book on the great silent movie actress. I have huge respect for Clara Bow as an actress and as a person. She was outspoken in a business where very few women were at that time.

David Stenn separates fact from fiction about Clara. In the book, Hollywood Babylon Kenneth Anger makes many unflattering statements about Clara which Stenn proves were false. Was Clara wild at times? Yes but no wilder than many of the other actresses in the 20s and nothing compared to today…She was just honest about it.

Actress Lina Basquette said: “She wasn’t well liked amongst other women in the film colony. Her social presence was taboo, and it was rather silly because God knows Marion Davies and Mary Pickford had plenty to hide. It’s just that they hid it, and Clara didn’t.” Bow knew the truth. “I’m a curiosity in Hollywood,” she said. “I’m a big freak because I’m myself!”

Her mother suffered from mental illness, Clara once woke with her mother standing over her with a knife saying she was going to kill her. Her father abused her and used her all of his life and may have sexually abused her. She made it against all odds to the top. There was a point in the twenties that she was the biggest female star receiving 45,000 fan letters a month.

Paramount would use her to push lightweight films and hardly ever place her in a great film. Because of this practice, she is only known well for a few films. When silent movies evolved into “talkies” Greta Garbo was given two years to prepare for the change…Clara, who was a bigger star was given a matter of weeks. She would appear on the screen and your eyes would stay with her. She did a few sound pictures and was successful but did not enjoy it as much as the silent films.

She retired and married Rex Bell (a part time cowboy actor) and moved to Nevada in the 1930s to have and raise a couple of children. One of her children, Rex Bell Jr. had this to say about the book.

“A lot of crap biographies have been written about mom, but the one that is accurate is ‘Clara Bow, Runnin’ Wild’ by David Stenn,” Bell said, noting that he first learned his mother was abused as a child from that book that was supported by medical records.

Clara was in the first movie that won an Oscar… Wings … The other movie she is known for is It made in 1927. She was soon known as The IT Girl.

I recommend this book highly. Clara Bow had a hard life growing up in Brooklyn and against all odds turned into one of the biggest stars of the 20s. She was honest to a fault and herself to the end.

Where Clara, Rex, and their children lived…The Walking Box Ranch.

Let The Good Times Roll: Kenney Jones The Autobiography

The audio version is 12 hours and it went by fast… I will get the hard copy of this book.

Kenney Jones was the drummer of three of England’s most influential bands – The Small Faces, The Faces and for a few years The Who. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Kenney keeps the book interesting from his childhood, teen years, swinging London, the Swinging Seventies, up til now.

I never knew much about the Small Faces and Faces and this book answered some questions I had about both bands.  He gave much more information than Roger Daltrey did in his book about Jone’s tenure as the drummer of the Who and their difficulties. Personally, I don’t think Kenney was the right drummer for the Who but then again…I don’t think anyone could have taken Moon’s place. He does give an interesting perspective on it though.

I didn’t’ realize that Keith Moon and Kenney were as close as they were.  Kenney had played with the Who before in sound checks when the Small Faces and Who were touring with each other and Moon couldn’t be found. After Moon died a few strange things happened to Kenney right before Bill Curbishley (The Who’s Manager) called to see if he would join. The strange events helped him make the decision.

He goes over his career thoroughly and he doesn’t leave any gaps. He also talks about being in the band “The Law” with Paul Rodgers and now he is with The Jones Gang that had a #21 hit with Angel in 2005. He also owns a Polo club, is working on an animation of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, and fighting for the control of the Small Faces music which was lost a long time ago. He doesn’t need the money he just wants it put right.

Near the end, he sums up the three big bands he was involved in… The Small Faces were the most creative, The Faces were the most fun, and The Who were the most exciting and professional. You can tell though that his love is with the Small Faces and he does wonder how far they could have gone if they would have had decent management. He said they never realized how good of a band they were.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

 

Thanks A Lot Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story Roger Daltrey

I just finished the audio version of this book. I’m a huge Who fan and I was looking forward to it. It was nice to hear the book narrated by Roger himself. It’s a solid book but I have only one complaint that I will get into below.

The positive about the book is you find out more about the different personalities of the Who and the reason they fought. Pete the artist, John the dark one, Keith the lunatic, and Roger blue-collar man of the band. We all knew those descriptions before but Roger tries to explain how it worked and didn’t work as a band. If you want to know The Who’s impact on rock music and culture go to Pete Townshend. If you want to get straight to the point with just the highlights…Roger is your man.

Roger is grounded, avoided most of the pitfalls in his profession,  hard-working, and loves interpreting Pete’s music to the world. He goes into how he changed his singing style with Pete’s writing. How he became Tommy and the mod in Quadrophenia. He hits the highlights of The Who and his life without the Who in the 80s and part of the 90s.

The strongest part of this book is about his childhood and his collection of relatives. Roger seems very approachable, likable, and down to earth. Roger was the one constant in the band that you didn’t have worry about his on tour activities. He does talk about the high points of the Who and his acting career.

My biggest complaint is the book is too short. You get the impression that he didn’t think that anyone would want to hear any details whatsoever.  He does give you some good stories but touches a subject and quickly leaves. It’s almost a cliff notes version as he didn’t dwell in any period long.

It is a quick and enjoyable read but leaves you wanting more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beatles Forever

I bought this book 1978 when I was 11 and it changed me. I recommend anyone picking this book up anywhere you can. Any beginning Beatles fan or an older one will like this book. Nicholas Schaffner touches on their history without treating them like Saints. The photos of the collectibles are worth the book.

He covers how the Beatles impacted our culture and some of the changes that took place. He covers the craziness of Beatlemania to the gradual maturing of The Beatles. Nicholas highlights each Beatle along with following the band as a whole.

It’s fun to see the many collectibles that flooded the market during Beatlemania. It has great pictures and enough content to keep you coming back to it. This book was updated after John Lennon was killed but any version is worth buying.

I’ve been rereading it recently and it holds up today well. Of course, history doesn’t change but more details have come out but overall the book is good. He follows their solo careers with honesty.

One thing to remember it’s not a straight history of the Beatles (it starts with Beatlemania) or a strict discography but more about the impact they had on the world with history and a highlighted discography on the way.

For a casual Beatle fan, you can’t go wrong with Nicholas Schaffner’s The Beatles Forever.

In 1979 my Jr. High School librarian knew I would read anything on baseball or the Beatles so she had me paged to the library and showed me this…theboysfromliverpool.jpg

again by Nicholas Schaffner and it’s great for a beginning Beatles fan. This would be a good starter book on The Beatles for a young teen.