Book Reviews: December 2004
Note: Reviews are in no particular order

Lennon Legend: An Illustrated Life of John Lennon
By James Henke

This book is simply one of the best Beatles-related books I have even seen. It is more than just an overview of John Lennon's life, but an interactive one as well with exact duplications of Lennon memorabilia. You get everything from recreations of his lyrics, report cards; bubblegum cards; music programs (from the Quarrymen, Beatles and solo shows); and some of his art with Yoko. For those Beatles fans that can't afford those Sotheby auction originals (or even some of the overpriced Beatles memorabilia on e-bay), this is an excellent opportunity to have an instant John Lennon collection! I'm really surprised that they didn't think of this format when releasing the BEATLES ANTHOLOGY book. There is even an audio CD included which completes the John Lennon interactive experience. Every true Beatles/John Lennon fan must have this book!

Review by Ronnie

The Beach Boys:The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio
By Keith Badman

With apologies to David Leaf, who before I believed had written the most important book on the Beach Boys, I think I've found the all-time greatest book on the Beach Boys! (Well, that is not totally fair as the David Leaf book IS essential to any Beach Boys reading.) Keith Barman's book, "The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio" is an exhaustive and detailed account of "America's band" from 1961 to 1976. Not only do you get a day-by-day approach to the band's history, trivia and touring (along with rare photos) but now you get those all-important studio logs of every recording session. That's right, even Smile! (But there is so much more in this book.)

This book elevates the Beach Boys to the literary level of the Beatles, who until this time had the market on über-authors like Mark Lewisohn ("The Complete BEATLES Recording Sessions"), who set the standard for rock 'n roll book excellence. For years I had wondered why there was not a Lewisohn-type analysis book on the Beach Boys. Sure, there was one Beach Boys author (who shall remain nameless) who had a book along this theme, but it quickly went out of print and he resorted to Ponzi-like pyramid schemes to finance his 'new' book on the subject (Taking the money from Beach Boys fans and ultimately giving them nothing in return).

Whether you are that Smile-phile that craves for more information in regards to that 1966-67 creative period of the Beach Boys, an overall Beach Boys fan or simply a new fan who is searching for that all important first Beach Boys book, you must search out this Keith Badman meisterwork. It is a staggeringly detailed analysis of 'America's band' that has no equal!

Review by Ronnie

Nirvana: The Lyrics
By Nirvana

This book presents the lyrics of Nirvana as poetry and the format of the book is a simple and small poetry-like journal. It contains all of their well-known commercial songs of the band, as well as b-sides and rarities. The somber mood is set by Black and white photos of the band, which sparsely adorn the pages between songs. In keeping with the theme of "displaying the lyrics as art", there is no "intro" to this book, no short biography of the band or an explanation - just the lyrics of Nirvana songs printed as poetry. The only "addition" is a listing at the end of the book as to when and where each song was released.

Is Kurt Cobain's work true poetry or pathetic rants? Is he the John Lennon of Gen-X or just a guy whose band hit it lucky? I'm on the fence on this one - but I do know that I got a better appreciation of Nirvana's work after I read this "lyrics only" book. Sure, some I think is pretentious, but you can't argue one thing - Curt was a talented and creative individual.

Review by Scott H. Platt

Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock
By Jim DeRogatis

While some books might concentrate on the "golden years" of psychedelic rock (during the '60s), Jim DeRogatis covers four decades of psychedelic rock, from it's beginnings to the present day groups that keep the psychedelic flag flying. Although there are a few things in this book that I don't agree with (such as his ranking of the Beatles psychedelic records or some of the groups that he claims are 'psychedelic') it is an invaluable resource for those 'advanced' record collectors who are always looking for something new. (And that is the real 'rush' of being a true music fan, there is always some undiscovered gem to add to your collection! And using this book as a guide, I was able to score several vinyl albums from groups that I had not been aware of before.) In addition to the mini-bios of the bands, there is the trivia aspect for such rock 'n roll trivia buffs like me. For instance, I wasn't aware that Kenny Pickett of the Creation later co-wrote "Teacher Teacher" for Rockpile in 1980!

A welcome addition to the rock 'n roll reference book library of any true rock fanatic.

Review by Ronnie

Nowhere Man - The Final Days of John Lennon
By Robert Rosen

There have been so many books written about the last five years of John Lennon's life, that it is sometimes hard to get the full picture. For instance, some books claim that John intended DOUBLE FANTASY to be just a John Lennon-only solo album, until he was 'worn down' by Yoko to make it a John-Yoko collaboration. However, in NOWHERE MAN-THE FINAL DAYS OF JOHN LENNON, Robert Rosen presents a version in which John planned the collaboration all along. I guess we'll never truly know, until John Lennon's personal diaries are ever released. Speaking of which, Robert Rosen once had access to these diaries, transcribing them for Fred Seaman (who had 'stolen' them with the story that it was John Lennon's wish to have them published).

Although Rosen recreates some of the diary from memory, there are no new revelations in this book. That's not to say that it is not valuable to the study of Lennon's most mysterious years (those "house husband" years from 1975-1980). It is almost painful to read how Lennon was filled with such self-doubt and lethargy during those years. You get the feeling that he was just pulling himself into a personal renaissance when an assassin sadly cut him down in 1980. This is one of the best accounts of Lennon's mindset during those years.

Review by Ronnie

Yellow Submarine
By The Beatles

What better way to introduce your young children to the Beatles than with this Yellow Submarine bedtime storybook! It follows the storyline of their 1968 film in lavish color and easy-to-read text (for those older kids who have just started to read). Although the music is almost a necessity to the Yellow Submarine experience, kids will be fascinated by the Beatles adventures through Pepperland. Parents be forewarned: once you read this book to your kids, they are going to BEG you to get them the DVD, then the music on the CD song track and then maybe even some of the recent Yellow Submarine toys!

I only wished this book had been available when my son was young enough to read bedtime stories to - he would have loved it.

Review by Ronnie

Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime-the Stories Behind Every Song
By Ian Gittins

Using the same format as some of the popular "Beatles stories behind every song format", this book covers the Talking Heads, the art-rockers from the first-wave of New York City punks in the mid-'70s. It puts a lot of information in a mere 143 pages [granted, the book is a large format]: Not only does it take each album in their career and dissect them song-by song to give the stories and inspiration behind each song, but it also gives a mini-history of the band as each album unfolds. There is also a section for b-sides, live tracks and rarities, as well as a band chronology and discography. The book is also generously illustrated with color pictures of the band. For me, the most interesting part was about the music behind TRUE STORIES, the music for the film of the same name [and one of my favorite Talking Heads projects]. While this book might not appeal to every rock fan, it will be a welcome addition to the library of Talking Heads fans.

Review by Scott H. Platt

Chasing Elvis
By Glenn P. Marcel

Elvis looms large not only as a musical icon, but a cultural one as well, although he died in 1977. Or did he? That is the whole premise of CHASING ELVIS, a fictional novel that follows a tabloid reporter on her investigation to find the story of the century: if Elvis faked his death and even committed a bank robbery in 1982. Sounds farfetched? I thought so at first, but after reading just a few chapters I was hooked in this music-related mystery. Just when I though I had figured out the mystery…WRONG, keep reading! But I'm not giving away the ending - you'll have to read it yourself!

Although I'm not really a fan of fiction, I found CHASING ELVIS totally absorbing. This book is begging for a film version! A must for all Elvis fans.

Review by Ronnie