Book Reviews - May, 2003
By Jack Teague

Abbey Road: The Story of the World's Most Famous Recording Studios
By Brian Southall, Peter Vince, Alan Rouse, & Paul McCartney

Abbey Road: The Story of the World's Most Famous Recording Studios is an in-depth look at the recording facility that has spawned more important recordings than any other studio to my knowledge. After the Beatle's explosion on to the scene in the early to mid 1960s, Abbey Road became the studio of choice for pop stars hoping that some of the magic would rub off. Of course, the artists that made Abbey Road famous made their pilgrimages to Chess and Sun studios as soon as they landed in America. While Sun's recording facility in Memphis is nothing more than a museum at this time, Abbey Road is still a thriving operation. Authors Southall, Vince, and Rouse do their best to tell the history of Abbey Road, and they also try to explain the magic that it holds for recording artists. They describe the technological changes that have occurred over the years, the struggles that the studio has had in its attempts to expand, and last of all, the horrendous parking situation at the studio.

The only way that this book fails is that it is a reprint that has only been improved upon with the use of a few new photos. Other than this, the book succeeds in its attempt to tell fans of the music that was created there about the birthplace of some of the most incredible music of our time.

British Beat: Then, Now, and Rare 1960-1969
By Terry Rawlings

Terry Rawlings has put together one hell of a book on the history of the explosion of bands that took place in England during the 1960s. It is absolutely amazing to look at all the photos of the bands that were waiting to be the next Beatles or Stones. The really cool thing for me while reading this book was recognizing faces of artists that would soon go on to fame in another band. Rawlings does a nice job of tying all these bands together. A great example is the band The Easybeats. The Easybeats had a member named George Young who had another brother named Alexander who was in a band while having another brother named Angus...... You get the picture. My god, Steve Howe of Yes fame was in no less than 4 bands during this period of British music history. A stupid side comment on my part is my observation of the appearances of many of the band members of this period. My god they tried to make English girls fall in love with some homely characters. If you get a copy of this book, and you should, take a look at the band The Flies. One look will tell you why I made such a comment.

The book is packed with pictures of great quality, as well as loads of information about the bands. Whether you are a music fan, a sociologist, or an aspiring dentist, Terry Rawling's book on this period of English music is a worthwhile investment.

Hey Ho, Let's Go: The Story of the Ramones
By Everett True

Hell yeah! Now this is a real rock story. Everett True does just what is needed by a successful biographer. He tells the tale of the Ramones, warts and all, without destroying their image in the process. For every time I shook my head in disbelief at the book's mentioning of Johnny and Joey's long running feud, I was still able to remain convinced that the Ramones were one of the greatest bands in rock n roll. True does a wonderful job of giving insight into the backgrounds of the assorted Ramones which helps the reader understand some of what happens to them as a band in the future.

  • Joey was a bubble gum pop dreamer that never lost his enthusiasm for his art until the day he died.
  • Johnny was the asshole of the group who kept the machine running, and without whom, the band would have folded years earlier.
  • Dee Dee was a mess, but he was also the songwriter that they depended upon so much.

Having seen the Ramones many times in my youth, it is nice to go back and take another look at what they were all about, as well as take a look back at the scene from which I was spawned. Thank you Everett for a job well done.

Gimme Danger: The Story of Iggy Pop
By Joe Ambrose

Joe Ambrose has taken on the Herculean task of writing a biography on the man known as Iggy Pop. And how did he do on this assignment? Well..... Gimme Danger does a grand job of telling about Iggy from his childhood in Michigan through his current status as a popular culture icon. The problem is that at the point where Iggy's character starts developing, Ambrose's storytelling skills begin to fall short. I felt as if I had read every word written in other published sources. This might be due to a lack of support from Iggy, and it just doesn't work. I never felt that I had a grasp on Iggy's personality from what I read. Ambrose's description of Iggy is constantly in a state of conflict. Is he the father of punk or is he a closet conservative. I believe this lack of clarity is due to Ambrose culling his information from so many different sources. You cannot expect a clear picture of an artist if much of your information is taken from years of press where Iggy was trying to sell his self to the journalist. Ambrose needed Iggy to fill in the gaps and sort out the contradictions in order to bring some cohesiveness to his work. Chronologically sorting 35 years of press clippings and book quotes is no way to succeed at writing biographies. Talk to the man Joe, talk to the man.

Layne Staley: Angry Chair
By Adriana Rubio

Angry Chair, Adriana Rubio's biography on Layne Staley, is one of the most confusing books I have had the pleasure of reviewing. Unlike most biographers, Rubio does not give a year to year account of the rise and fall of her subject's career. Instead, she attacks her subject with the use of her personal feelings for Layne Staley, as well as using the input of Staley's mother and sister. You will read no comments by former his band members in Alice in Chains, and few from other band mates (Mad Season), business associates, roadies, former girlfriends, etc… The lack of outside sources is where the readers' frustration comes in. We all know that Staley died a horrible death, but there is little cohesion in Rubio's telling of what got him from his stardom to his death. This fact is also where I have some sympathy for what Ms. Rubio was trying to do with this book. The question that seemed to be running through her mind while writing this book is " How do I write a biography of someone that I truly admire without trashing him at the same time?" This is an impossible task. Rubio became friends with Staley's mother and sister during her research and even spoke with Staley on a limited basis. This led to her attempt to protect her subject, which is the downfall of any biographer. Questions constantly ran through my mind concerning the lack of outside sources. I also had the guilt from wondering about the sordid details of Staley's last four years of his life. By sordid details, I mean all the personal information about his health and drug dependency. I might be guilty for this, but after reading all the personal information about Kurt Cobain that his wife released over the last couple of years, you can't help but feel cheated by Rubio's respect for her subject's privacy. So the final word on Angry Chair will be the following: if you want a tell all book on the tortured life of Layne Staley, stay away, but if you want a compassionate look at the tortured life of a human being, this just might be what you are looking for.

Peter Grant: The Man Who Led Zeppelin
By Chris Welch

As a young teen in the 70s, there was no other band that had an air of mystery hanging around it than Led Zeppelin. I remember Circus magazine selling special issues on the curse of Zeppelin due to the bands meddling with the dark powers. I couldn't afford those issues, so I just had to wonder what it all meant. In retrospect, there is no doubt that Led Zeppelin was one of the most important bands in rock history, and there is little doubt that Peter Grant had a lot to do with this. He took two talented session musicians and two country boys and created a band that would send hippies into headspins. They were the band that brought an end to peace and love artists, while creating the ultimate, hedonistic, stadium filling, blues assault. It was Grant who let the boys play their music, while he designed the blueprint that mega-bands are still following today. He performed this task with a mix of genius and brute force. Give us a poor review, and you'll never interview us again. Try to swindle us out of gate receipts, and we'll rip the place apart. Don't play my bands music, and we'll never release a single in this country. (England) Bootleg our product, and you'll be lucky to survive. Instead of the old story of promoters taking advantage of musicians, this manager took advantage of promoters. Instead of record labels sticking the band with the bill, the band stuck the record company with the bill.

Now Grant was no perfect human, nor were the members of Zeppelin. We've heard thousand of tales of Pages drug abuse and Bonham's drunken rampages. These will not be mentioned in the book. Chris Welch does a great job of telling the story of one of rock's most notorious and important figures without slinging too much mud. One complaint could be the lack of information on Grant's years after Led Zeppelin. Welch cannot be blamed for this due to the fact that Grant pretty much stopped living after the end of the band.

If you are a fan of Zeppelin, you need this book. If you are a student of the business, you must have this book.

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