Posts Tagged ‘Biographies’

Bad Reputation. The Unauthorized Biography of Joan Jett by Dave Thomson. Pub.Backbeat Books, 2011.

January 23, 2021 Comments off

” I love rock’n roll put another dime in the Juke box baby..” yes this hit for Joan Jett and The Blackhearts was one of my favourite rock songs not only of the 80’s but of all time. Jett had that attitude and a sneer that could curdle milk.

Joan Larkin entered the world of rock’n roll as Joan Jett via an impressario Kim Folley and an all female rock band called the Runaways. All the girls were 15 and 16 and they came from South Los Angeles which was the hub of American rock music.

This is a sort of biography of Jett but mostly a portrait of rock music in LA and later to London through the punk era and into the 80’s and 90’s and how Joan Jett evolved her musical image from rock chick to lesbian roll model. It is not a life story but it is bloody interesting. Her musical influences from Suzi Quatro to the Ramones is documented with many quotes from notable people of her era.

Sexuality has always been a huge part of rock’n roll and The Runaways her first band were portrayed more for their sexuality than for their music but good music is what they were all about. It is a sleazy story in parts but that is because of the male attitudes to a girl band that toughened Joan Jett up. You can read about the rest yourself and it is very enlightening.

When Jett formed the Blackhearts in the early 80’s she wanted guys in the band. She was sick of the all girl thing. Her image had toughened and I love Rock’n roll sealed her reputation for ever.

Kristin Stewart and Dakota Fanning made a film in 2010 called The Runaways that brings credibility to Joan Jett’s bands and music and women’s rights.

Taking the Lead. how Jacinda Ardern Wowed the World. by David Hill, illus. Phoebe Morris.

February 26, 2020 Comments off

jacindaTaking the Lead. how Jacinda Ardern Wowed the World. by David Hill, illus. Phoebe Morris. Pub.penguin Random house 2020.

Released 3 March 2020

This picture book sized profile of the best known and most admired New Zealander in the World , Jacinda Ardern , is written for the age group 5-12 years.

It begins with her early life in Murupara where her father was a policeman and she was a strawberry blonde. It bothered her that some of her classmates sometimes had no shoes and no lunch.

Meeting Marilyn Waring and helping  the Labour Party in the 1999 election drew Jacinda into politics. The rest they say is history.

In 2019 US magazine Fortune put Jacinda on it’s list of the World’s greatest leaders for her role after the massacre of Muslims in Christchurch on 15 March 2019 when she declared “We are One”

There are more facts about Jacinda including family life, in this book plus a Timeline of women in politics since NZ Women gained the vote in 1893. She regards herself as a Mother not a superwoman.

Not a political book at all just an inspiring life. Phoebe Morris’s illustrations fit the bill. An essential purchase for primary and intermediate school libraries.

The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen.

December 14, 2019 Comments off

stonesThe Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen. Pub. Headline Publishing Group, 2016.

From the author “you’ve never seen or heard the Stones unless they are playing in a bar, you’ve had 3 drinks, Charlie has gotten loose, Keith has found his groove and Mick has remembered who he really is.” I think that is about right and how I would have loved to see them play like that.

This very literate, entertaining, opinionated, factual and perceptive book not only about the Rolling Stones but also about the cultural movements that occurred in the 60’s & 70’s when they were in there heyday. Jagger once said “I’d rather be dead than singing Satisfaction when I’m 45″. Well he is mid 70’s now and still performing. Keef seems to think they will keep going till they can’t.

The Stones were wild,”Would you let your daughter date a Rolling Stone” screamed the press. They were middle class boys who dressed and acted down unlike the Beatles who were working class boys who were dressed up like the middle class. The Beatles were better musicians in my opinion but the Stones had the blues roots that I adored. The contrast between the two bands is a theme of this book.

I first heard the Stones on the radio on the West Coast doing It’s All Over Now but the song that grabbed me was Little Red Rooster. The blues was everything from the beginning for the Stones and they owed this to Brian Jones. His decline within the band and his death is another theme of this book.

The book tells how the Stones got together as Brian’s band and how Andrew Oldham changed the dynamics by encouraging Mick and Keith to write the songs. Charlie became the safety valve between factions in the band and Bill followed the girls and laid down the base line. Even  the author  was mocked by Charlie when he first got the job of interviewing the band. Keith said “if Charlie mocks you you are alright, if not he is silent”

Cohen also looks at the perspective that the story of the Stones is about drugs. Yes and no. Keith certainly, Mick often in the early days, Brian big time, Charlie and Bill never. The raid on Keith’s house at Redlands is described as is Brian’s decline and death and Marianne Faithful’s overdose in Australia. All the goss including the alleged Mars Bar.

All the albums, all the big songs are discussed, plus the view by Bruce Springsteen that “what more can a poor boy do except to sing for a rock n roll band” is the best line from a rock n roll song. Ever. From Street Fighting Man if you don’t know. The account of Altamont will blow your mind.

I’m not going to tell you any more you can find out for yourself by reading this very readable and fascinating biography of  the band that has been called The greatest Rock n Roll Band in the World. Mick was not pleased when this title was given to them by Sam Cutler the organiser of the Stones free concert in memory of Brian Jones in 1969 and of Altamont.

There is so much in this book that even if you don’t like the Stones, you get a portrait of the 60’s & 70’s which in my opinion is one of the best ages that people on this planet have had. I feel privileged to have been a Boomer and witnessed it all. I can relive it through this book.

Go ahead spoil yourself this Xmas by reading a rock n roll book of real substance. The author concludes that history gives way to legend about anything with the Stones.

Jammin’ with Steven Adams; off Loading Sonny Bill Williams; & Steppin’ with Benji Marshall by David Riley

November 24, 2015 Comments off

Jammin’ with Steven Adams; off Loading with Sonny Bill Williams; & Steppin’ with Benji Marshall by David Riley

These three tittles are for reluctant boy readers who are into sport and need to read for their own good. Steven Adams, Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall are three admirable role models for boys and their stories from boyhood to superstars are mapped out in these books in short information bites with photographs, facts, aspirations, hopes and achievements of all three. All three are of Polynesian origin and the value of their cultural roots is stressed by all of them. They are easy to read, interesting and inspiring and would be a valuable asset and resource in any school library particularly at High school.

steven adamsJammin’ With Steven Adams.

Raised in Rotorua from a Tongan mother and 7 foot English father he had a hard childhood and was fortunate to be taken by his half brother Warren to wellington to be educated at Scots College and set his goal of becoming an NBL basketballer.

His Tongan culture was valuable to him and he quickly realised that education and reading were more important than basketball. At 2.13 metres tall and a hand size bigger than Shaquille O’Neill, Steven’s progress from schoolboy player to Saints, Pittsburgh University and NBL draft top 12 and so to Oklahoma City Thunder is a thrilling story.


sonny billOff Loading with Sonny Bill Williams.

While injured in his early days with the Bulldogs Sonny Bill asked what he was to do and given the job of scrubbing all the bird poo from Bulldogs stadium seats. It made him humble one of his greatest traits. His Samoan heritage is sacred to him and his respect for fellow players is to be admired

A man of impressive stature and strength he was the youngest  forward for the Kiwis ever at 18years. A drink driving charge while at the Bulldogs changed him forever “my body feels better without alcohol”. A player who continually learns his skills as a player  are second to none. The tattoo on his leg took 8 hours and the one on his arms 18 hours, and they hurt.

benji marshallSteppin’ With Benji Marshall.

Not a big man like the above two men and more prone to injury. But he was tough, had a sidestep that left p[layers groping, a magnificent pass and the speed of a Gazelle. he won a World Cup with the kiwis and a Four nations Cup both times beating Australia against the odds. A genius at League.

In 2005 he wore the same undies in every game with stunning success, he played touch for Australia Secondary schools and puts his speed and fleet footedness down to dancing. At school he loved Maths and he too treasures his Maori heritage.


You will not get three better short books on such great New Zealand sportsman than these three.