Posts Tagged ‘Rock Music’

Mellencamp by Paul Rees. Pub. ATRIA Books, 2021.

December 31, 2021 Comments off

I love rock music and this compelling biography is one of the best I have read about a rock’n roll star. It tells you the background to the man, how he wrote his songs, the albums he recorded, the personnel that he worked with, the concerts and how everybody reacted to him.

John Mellencamp is one of the most complex characters I have ever read about and he is quoted as saying “I’ve been right to the top and there ain’t nothing up there worth having”.

Born in Seymour Indiana, a farming community that is now referred to as “heartland America”, John was a troublemaker as a child and youth. The men in his family were all angry and John was angry too. What he managed to do was channel this anger into what he wanted to do and he produced some of the great songs of American rock’n roll. His first song that rated on the charts was I Need a lover ( who won’t drive me crazy) and it had that driving beat. He charted with many other songs including Small Town, Pink Houses, Jack and Diane, Cherry Bomb and my favourite Hurt So Good. Musically he was a perfectionist. If the song in his head was not replicated in the studio or by the band he could be fierce in his criticisms and sack everybody or do it again.

One of the great things about reading this book is that I could go on YouTube and play all the songs and know how they were written and who played them.

John was not an easy guy to deal with. He was intense, difficult, competitive and at times violent. He said “happy is not a normal way to be, if you see some guy who is happy all the time, there’s something fucking wrong with him”.

In spite of being from redneck Indiana he did not hold redneck views. Reaganomics unsettled farmers and cost many farmers their farms as Reagan introduced free market economics to America in the 80’s. John is quoted as saying “I am for the total overthrow of the capitalist system”. His songs are not patriotic songs they portray the poor and down trodden and black people. He was not racist and often portrayed poor blacks in his videos. Jack and Diane one of his break through songs was about the relationship between a black boy and white girl but he was forced to tone this down. Later in Cherry Bomb he was able to portray this situation.

The book is written in four parts from his birth until 2020. It is fascinating. Like all rockers he burnt out. Around 1989 he quit music and took up painting- “I like painting better than girls, better than motorcycles, better than music” but he came back. You can read the rest for yourself.

One of the best biographies of a man who ranks with Dylan, Springsteen and John Prine who he was very good buddies with, in writing songs about ordinary people living ordinary lives and growing up.

Sweet Dreams are Made of This. A life in Music by Dave Stewart.

January 2, 2020 Comments off

sweet dreamsSweet Dreams are Made of This. A life in Music by Dave Stewart. Pub. New American Library, 2016.

I have read many books about Rock n roll music and the people that created it. One of the things that has always astounded me is that the music world is one big family. They all know each other and these relationships can be sustaining and toxic at the same time.

Dave Stewart is from Sunderland a town mad about football and filled with people who have one of the best accents in the world. they all sound immensely funny to me and I think it was this that endeared Dave Stewart to so many people. He could make them laugh and feel comfortable and make the task of song writing, producing and performing fun.

In this book he tells of his life and the personalities he met and it is a bio. of my favourite 80’s band The Eurythmics. Experimenting was always at the heart of the Eurythmics work. They had the courage to break rules and make something different. All their albums starting with Sweet Dreams were an experiment and this is what attracted other artists including Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Katy Perry and others to Dave Stewart’s door.

The strength of this book is it is all about the music. How the songs were written and produced. Dave Stewart’s big break came when he met Scottish lass Annie Lennox who has one of the most astonishing singing voices the world has ever heard. Their relationship was stormy but the music always came first. They wrote about their relationships and turned out some of the most astonishing songs in rock n roll – Here Comes the Rain Again, Love is a Stranger and others.

Stewart talks of all his wives and their children with great affection and the drug fueled world that he existed in. It will blow your mind.

I loved this book from start to finish and you will too. Just one little gem from the book- he co-wrote Don’t Come Around here No More with Tom Petty and directed and features in the Alice in Wonderland video that went with the song.

Mick Jagger writes the Foreword and he says “we’ve shared a love of beautiful women, blues music, films storytelling and the Caribbean”. You’re not wrong Mick.

Lonesome. When You Go by Saradha Koirala.

July 11, 2016 Comments off

lonesomeLonesome. When You Go by Saradha Koirala.. Pub. Makaro press, 2016.

Thoroughly enjoyed this novel about rock bands, music, school and teenage angst. It was like, and I quote from the author, opening a hot meat pie and having all the meatiness flood out at you.

The main character and narrator is Paige, a cool bass player for a school Indie band called Vox Pop.The band aspire to win the Rockfest competition for high school bands, they think they are pretty good but life does not go smooth for them. They have musical differences and personal differences and of course problems about school and in their family life.

Paige has a best friend Lily who is flighty, another friend Molly who has an eating disorder and a sister Rose who has relationship problems but is a really good older sister.

The bass players role in any band is to keep a steady rhythm and Paige does this in spite of the chaos all around her. Two male band members have a thing about Paige and she doesn’t know it. Cool chicks never do.

The drama derives from the Rockfest competition, will they won’t they, then the ultimate crisis when a band member has to be replaced on the eve of the final.

Musos will love this book and it will fill a gap in many school collections.

Structured in day by day accounts during all 4 school terms and in the first term of the following year. Well written, witty, perceptive and real. As Bob Dylan once wrote “get sick get well, hang around the ink well”.

Reckless. My Life by Chrissie Hynde

January 3, 2016 Comments off

Chrissie HyndeReckless. My Life by Chrissie Hynde. Pub. Ebury Press, 2015.

This intelligently written and literate auto from Chrissie Hynde will rock you. It is not pretty it is not glamorous and it begins with a quote from Tony Bennett “Life teaches you how to live it, if you live long enough”.

Well Chrissie Hynde is still alive but there was a lot of carnage left behind and her own survival is quite remarkable as she tells in this exposee of the rock music world.

She opens with ‘here it is girls my reckless life’ and that is an understatement. She says it is about drugs and drug abuse and she is not wrong.The only thing she didn’t like about drugs were the assholes she had to hang out with to get them. She had tried LSD and hard drugs before she lost her virginity.

No parent wants to hear that their daughter or son went through all that Chrissie Hynde did and to her credit she waited until their departure from this mortal coil. to write it.

By her own admission she was a total prick when she drank and she didn’t think she was much of a guitar player or singer. She was wrong there of course, I remember how the Pretenders emerged out of the mire of punk music with their first album which was just divine. I still have the LP.

I highly recommend this book, the best from a rock star since the one by Marianne Faithfull also reviewed on this blog. In fact they tell a similar story. I would have liked to know more about the music she wrote and how songs came about. Songs like Kid, Private life and Brass in pocket need an explanation. The history of the Pretenders although short was a tragedy and is eloquently told.

The best thing I can say to Chrissie Hynde for this book  is “thanks for keeping it real”. Celebrities these days couldn’t write the way Hynde has. They are to into Instagram and twitter to write anything meaningful.


Faithfull An Autobiography by Marianne Faithfull and David Dalton

January 10, 2014 Comments off

faithfullFaithfull An Autobiography by Marianne Faithfull and David Dalton. Pub.Cooper Square Press, 1994.

I finished my adult reading for this year  with this revealing and hopefully honest book by one of the legendary women of the 1960’s Marianne Faithfull.

I say hopefully honest because for much of her career she was stoned out of her head. She smoked a lot of dope, dropped a lot of acid, handfulls of pills and so much heroin and cocaine that her brains must have been fried. Still she came through it all and when she was last in Christchurch the reviewer from the Press who went to her concert said it was one of the most unforgettable experiences in his life.

I can understand why he said this because Marianne is a very literate woman. She read and obviously thought deeply about everything. She made love to hundreds of men without ever liking sex and had many girlfriends as well particularly Anita Pallenberg.

What makes this Autobiography different from that written by a male rockstar is that you get lots of talk about the fashions and clothes that stars wore also the houses that they lived in and the gossip about their lives. Intriguing stuff.

This book rocked me really especially with her portraits of Mick Jagger, Keith Richard and Brian Jones. She had them all but what shocked me was she considered that the Stones and Englishmen in general are mysogynists. And of mick she says the great love of his life was not Marianne, not Bianca, not Jerry but Keith.

Make your own mind up, there is a lesson in here for everyone.