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

Bob Dylan and The Beatles
By Al Aronowitz

Al Aronowitz was a catalyst of the music of the '60s with a single act - that of bringing the Beatles & Bob Dylan together in one room with marijuana in 1964. However, Aronowitz didn't arrange this historic summit meeting with that intent - it was just the end result. He just thought that they would dig each other, as he described Dylan & Lennon as almost being mirror images (intellectually) of each other, just born in different countries. But the result of this seemingly innocent meeting had far reaching effects, with the Beatles (especially Lennon) taking their lyrics more seriously and Dylan going electric. You can even say that this single even snowballed into psychedelia, with the Beatles ultimately leading the way by the sheer force of their popularity.

Now this isn't the only story in the book (although it is my personal favorite). Aronowitz also recounts memories of hanging out with the Beatles and Dylan in the '60s, Woodstock, The Isle of Wight festival, George Harrison at Friar Park and many other fascinating stories. While he was eventually banished from Dylan's inner-circle (by reasons that he himself is unsure of) - he did remain in contact with George Harrison well into the '90s. His recollections of George are especially poignant, as you see a side of George that you don't often get to see - his patient humanity.

This book is a must-read for all rock 'n roll aficionados - especially those who like finding new revelations and not the simple rehash of well repeated stories. One of the best rock 'n roll books I've read in quite awhile.

Review by Ronnie

Blondie, From Punk to the Present: A Pictorial History
Compiled by Allan Metz

This gargantuan, almost coffee table sized book is the definitive collection of all things Blondie - one of the most influential proto-punk bands to come out of the burgeoning New York scene in the '70s. The virtual plethora of information includes: interviews with the band spanning their entire career; album reviews; concert reviews; photos; discography; web links; band genealogy and even a timeline.

I especially enjoyed the numerous essays about punk and the New York scene that take up the first section of the book - the historical relevance of these articles makes this book a necessary addition to any library of rock 'n roll historians.

While the book's title says, "a pictorial history" - and there are tons of photographs - the true value of this book is the immense collection of writings that puts the influence of Blondie in its true perspective.

Review by Ronnie

Party Out of Bounds: The B-52's, R.E.M. and the Kids Who Rocked Athens, Georgia
By Rodger Lyle Brown

This book originally came out in 1991, went out of print and became a sort of "cult classic". Thankfully, it is now back in print and is well worth searching out if you want an accurate portrayal of the genesis of the Athens Georgia music scene in the late '70s and '80s. Unfortunately, when most people think of the music scene in Athens, only REM (and maybe the B52s) come to mind. But, as the book points out - REM didn't appear until much later after the Athens "scene" started (and REM doesn't make an appearance in the book until after 100+ pages). The subtitle of the book says it all, as there were other "kids who rocked Athens, Georgia" - including Pylon, Love Tractor and the Side Effects.

The book also points out Michael Stipe's attempted manipulation of the media when it came to his influences, i.e. trying to hide his previous love of such "corporate" rockers as Aerosmith, Boston & ELO. I love myth busting and PARTY OUT OF BOUNDS gives you the pure, unadulterated truth about the creation of a musical scene.

Review by Ronnie

This Whole World: The Complete Beach Boys Singles and EP Cover Collection
By Manfred Schmidt and Christian Haschke

THIS WHOLE WORD is a godsend to vinyl record collectors that specialize in the Beach Boys. Truly a monumental task - this book documents all of the Beach Boys 45 rpm's and EP's from all over the world (hence the clever title and wordplay on the Beach Boys song "This Whole World"). Listed alphabetically by country, the full-color photo of every release is shown, along with estimated value. If there was not a picture sleeve issued for a single, the label is shown instead (including label variations). Also, obscurities, solo and Beach Boys-related 45's are shown. This lavish book also has introduction text for each country, explaining the release policy of each country in regards to the Beach Boys. While the book is originally printed in Germany and has German text, it also has English translations.

Although I'm not a 45 collector, it is fascinating to see the various picture sleeve art (truly a lost art form with the advent of the compact disc) and how it changes from country to country. Some countries even used the same picture on up to six different releases! Remember those old "Album Cover Album" books, which displayed various album covers in an "art" context? Well, THIS WHOLD WORLD does the same for the picture sleeve cover art of the Beach Boys' 45s.

So, crank up your favorite Beach Boys' album (or CD's for you youngsters) and visit your very own Beach Boys art museum in the luxury of your own home.

Review by Ronnie

Village Idiom: Tribute To John Lennon
By Tim Biancalana

Tim Biancalana is back with a follow-up book to his excellent CD, VILLAGE IDIOM-THE TRIBUTE TO JOHN LENNON. While the CD mixed spoken word with songs, the book is a thoughtful tribute to the writing prose of John Lennon, presented in the style of Lennon's book, IN HIS OWN WRITE. VILLAGE IDIOM contains stories, poems & Lennon-styled drawings. The talent of Biancalana is evident as VILLAGE IDIOM is no mere pale copy of Lennon's '60s books, but so effective that if you didn't know any better you would think they came from Lennon himself. This book is really a companion piece to the CD because most of the performance pieces from the CD are also in the book (but there are some that are not on the CD).

Biancalana hopes to take his John Lennon tribute to the next stage - the real stage - a live presentation of his Lennon-esque persona in the same style as Hal Holbrook's depiction of Mark Twain in MARK TWAIN TONIGHT. I hope this project reaches fruition, as Tim's talent at evoking Lennon is more than evident on his CD, video and (now) book.

Review by Ronnie

The Field Guide To Elvis Shrines
By Bill Yenne

THE FIELD GUIDE TO ELVIS SHRINES is a perfect travel companion for Elvis fanatics and should be included in the luggage of ANY true traveling Elvis fan. An easy to use reference book, it groups Elvis-related sites by sections of the country including relevant addresses, phone numbers, maps and pictures.

What Elvis sites are included? Well, of course you have all the concert venues that he played, homes that he lived in, sites related to his films and Elvis-related museums. But the book also contains the unusual: restaurants the he liked or frequented, chapels in Vegas that perform Elvis-themed weddings, the pharmacy in Vegas where Elvis obtained the bulk of his (prescription) drugs and even the Presleytyrian Church in New Jersey! I also found two fascinating facts that I did not know before. First, Presley played a show in my hometown of San Marcos, Texas in 1955. Secondly, that Elvis played three shows in Canada, which were his ONLY shows outside of the U.S. territory (due to Colonel Tom's fear of his sordid past and illegal alien status catching up to him!).

I know one thing - THE FIELD GUIDE TO ELVIS SHRINES will definitely be packed for my next trip to Vegas and my pilgrimage to Memphis!

Review by Ronnie

Da Vinci Code Decoded
By Martin Lunn

Based on the wildly popular DA VINCI CODE book, THE DA VINCI CODE DECODED analyzes the facts behind the novel. In previous centuries, Martin Lunn would have been burned at the stake for such "heretical" revelations. But Lunn brings this so-called "medieval heresy" to the 21st century as indisputable FACTS.

Was Jesus married? Do his direct descendants live to this day? What are the secrets of the Holy Grail? What was left out (or edited) out of the Bible since it did not tow the political line of the times? Why do some current reigning monarchs and heads of state have no true claims to their power? These are just a few of the uncovered long-lost truths that Lunn finally brings out of the dark veiled closet of Christianity. My personal favorite is the chapter entitled, "Jesus Christ - the facts and fiction".

THE DA VINCI CODE DECODED is a truly astounding book that packs quite a reality punch in its 174 pages! It does nothing less than challenge Christianity on both moral and ethical grounds. So, the next time that a Bible-thumping zombie parrots Bible verses and indisputable "facts", arm yourself with the knowledge and facts that this book reveals. The knowledge that the New Testament as we now know it is a perversion of huge proportions - propaganda written by less than moral men with ultimately less than spiritual goals.

Review by Ronnie

The Disinformation Book of Lists (Subversive Facts and Hidden Information in Rapid-Fire Format)
Written by Russ Kick

When I first heard about this book I was really psyched! I was a huge fan of the original BOOK OF LISTS when I was a kid, with its sometimes strange & offbeat subjects (especially compared to the yearly GUINESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS). The DISINFORMATION BOOK OF LISTS uses the same theme of the original, but upgrades it with a 21st century hip-ness that also includes subversive themes and the ominous presence of "big brother". Topics range from: "25 tips for interrogating a prisoner from the CIA"; "17 questions you'll be asked when applying to become an FBI agent"; "20 mishaps that might have started a nuclear war"; "21 Biblical contradictions" and many, many more. And of course I scanned the book first to find rock ‘n roll references, such as “rock stars with FBI records” and “songs with drug references”. Guess the date of the oldest song on this drug-reference list? Are you thinking the 1950’s? Nope, try 1944 with the hilarious ditty, "Who put the benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine?"!

The only flaw I saw in this book was its rather slanted and one-sided view on politics in "8 stupid political quotes" and other politics-related lists. But, this ignorant bias shouldn't keep you away from this book - it is an offbeat, entertaining volume that models itself on the original, with the same entertainment value of the original. And the numerous quotes scattered throughout make this book well worth seeking out.

Review by Ronnie