Book Reviews - August, 2003
By Jack Teague

We Can Be Heroes - Life On Tour With David Bowie
By Sean Mayes

The late Sean Mayes's book, We Can Be Heroes, is an interesting account of the life of a hired musician on a huge 70's arena rock tour. This book can be marketed in a variety of ways. It can be sold as a look at the effects that a long tour has on the nomadic professional musician. It could be sold as an insiders look at a hugely successful rock star's tour during the age of touring debauchery. It SHOULD be sold as one man's struggle with his sexuality as he dabbles with the delights of casual sex with the throngs of fans who one meets while under the employ of a huge rock star.

This book is not for the average David Bowie fan. The only mention of Bowie is the author's passing comments about being invited to different tour parties with his greatness. Bowie seems to enjoy the obviously talented musician's company on the road, but no great friendship is formed. Instead, the reader bops from town to town with the author as he succumbs to the fruits of temptation while touring the world. It is a shame to review this book in a negative way since the author has died since writing the manuscript, but while it is an entertaining read, it is not for the average rock fan.

New York Dolls: Too Much Too Soon
By Nina Antonia

Now this is a humdinger. Gather around children and let Ms. Antonia tell you the tale of one of the most important bands that you have never HEARD on the radio or seen on VH1 Classics. Now with that statement, I have angered some hard core fans, but I ask you to calm down and think about the situation. Founded at the beginning of the seventies, the New York Dolls were a band that combined the Stones & Warhol's gender bending of the era, the disregard of musicianship of the Velvet Underground, and the individual ethnic background of the members. While their career only lasted a brief three or four years, their look and behavior acted as a blueprint for years to come. The New York Dolls influence can be seen from the punk bands of the mid to late 70's to the rise of Guns and Roses. The personal stories of the band members are not a pleasant read. From the beginning, they were one of the most dysfunctional groups of men that have ever graced the planet. Their first drummer dies days into their first tour overseas. From that point on, the remaining members of the band reeled from the excesses of drug and alcohol abuse. Upon their final destruction in 1974, we watch as band members blaze a trail straight to hell while living on their glory days, which weren't so glorious. Yes, David Johanssen has made a decent living as Buster Poindexter, but for God's sake, how can he be proud of that mess.

Nina Antonia does a great job of telling this story. Like any good biographer, she takes away the need for prior knowledge of the subject, and relays the facts as if they were some wonderful piece of fiction. I might complain about the lack of after-dolls information, but the rest of the book is so damn good that I won't. Now get off your ass and buy it!

The Life and Times of Little Richard
By Charles White

Damn! Why is it older black musicians complain about the treatment they have received, but they allow their selves to be written about in the worst light possible. Don't they have managers to keep this from happening? Jesus! Two of my all-time favorite black musicians come off looking like absolute freaks in their biographies. My wife still screams when I chase her around the house reading excerpts from the BB King biography. Tales of BB's cracked foreskin and his dabbling in orgies during the early 70s make her tremble. Now, with Charles White's bio on Little Richard, I have more unnecessary information to torture her with. Hey Honey! One time, Little Richard was having a wank while his female companion played with his nipples, when lo and behold, Buddy Holly bursts into the room and gives the little lady the ..... My wife screams once more in disgust, violently reacting to my choice of reading materials.

NOW HOLD ON! I didn't say it was a bad book. In fact it is a great read. I personally think Mr. White got Little Richard loaded and impersonated his therapist, goading him into telling his deepest and darkest secrets. On a lighter note, I would love to have footage of some of the concerts they describe. I have no doubt that Little Richard can kick just about anybody's ass that ever graced a stage, just be careful when you walk through his dressing room door. Look what happened to Buddy Holly.

Close To The Edge: The Story Of Yes (Small Format)
By Chris Welch

Chris Welch does a great job describing the existence of one of the most BORING bands in music history. Now I do love a little Yes when I am in the right mood, but they are not well known for their exciting lives. Instead, we hear stories about lawsuits, bankruptcies, and meddling wives. Not all is lost here. If you are a Yes fan, go for it. Chris Welch does his work in describing the creative cycles the band went through during their career, and I must admit, the boys had it going for a while. Former South African Backstreet Boy member, Trevor Rabin, gets the short end of the stick out of deference to the original band. You have to admit, that if it wasn't for Trevor, Yes would be no more. He was what made the band a successful unit during the late 80s and early 90s.

No bitch slappin, pit bulls, or heroin here pal, but Yes fans have always thought themselves to be better than that anyway, haven't they.

Led Zeppelin: A Celebration (Small Edition)
By Dave Lewis

This fine book about the career of Led Zeppelin has everything you need to know about the band in it. The only problem is that it is SO DAMN SMALL. Measuring a whopping 5 inches by 5 inches, my fingers have trouble fumbling through the pages. This book would be great for the fanatic Zeppelin fan who needs a quick fix of Zep facts in his or her pockets at all times. I suggest taking the book and letting it sit in water til it swells to a size that is useful to most regular sized humans. It is a damn fine book, don't get me wrong. Big on info, small on size.

Random Precision Recording: The Music of Syd Barrett 1965-1974
By David Parker

On July 28, 1967, Syd Barrett left for the weekend and came back a changed man. While he had always been eccentric, I have pinned his total departure from this Earth to the very date mentioned. Upon returning from the weekend in which he missed some important band dates, he was never the same. The legend beings at this point.....

I am fixated on the career of one Roger 'Syd' Barrett. I will admit that the careers of loony British pop stars, such as Barrett and Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green, always make for an exciting read. David Parker's book is for the fanatic like myself who find joy in reading the remembrances of the studio engineers who suffered through working with this genius. Syd was well known for walking out in the middle of takes with no regard for anyone there. Much of the book describes David Gilmour's efforts to piece together Syd's work and release it in some comprehensible form. I have respect for David Gilmour's attempts to help his childhood friend release material that was of some worth instead of allowing uncaring label employees to piece together whatever they felt like. This one is for the fanatics, but it is good just the same.

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