Book Review: “The Beatles and Fandom: Sex, Death and Progressive Nostalgia” by Richard Mills

This review is written by Amy Hughes…

The Beatles and Fandom: Sex, Death and Progressive Nostalgia Richard Mills

The Beatles and academia may not appear mutually connected, but be that as it may, I have in my casual research of reading material on the band, found a treasure trove of essays, papers and with scholars, their ability to take an in-depth analysis into what is loosely defined as fandom.

Author Richard Mills is the Programme Director and a Senior Lecturer at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, UK. In The Beatles and Fandom: Sex, Death and Progressive Nostalgia (Bloomsbury, 2019 & 2021), Mills has delivered an intrinsic study on how the stages of fandom move and progress, using diverse categories to illustrate essentially the title of his book.

I want to add a few words here: this book is primarily an academic study and is a globally researched project that reflects how the band’s influence imparts nostalgia not from a whimsical standpoint, but as a deep-seated thought-provoking exposition that leans on the reader to get underneath the superficial.

Having noted that, I was taken with Mills’ observation on the beginnings of The Beatles’ sexual attraction to their first fans: the ‘Beatles Monthly.’ As it was the authorized inside track to ‘the boys’ at their start, Mills details the fan letters, the photos and the (mostly, early on) young girl obsession with them. Whether it was their clothes, their hair, their humor, their ‘British-ness,’ young fans were given a packaged version of their ‘lads,’ while letting loose the repressed feelings that were a staple of the times: they screamed and cried at their concerts. As has been noted in more recent books, these girls were the first real supporters of The Beatles and their reaction(s) reported by a (mostly) older, male press did not help to explain the deep-seated attraction and calling they felt in wholly and explicit terms.

While those girls grew up and began careers (with a little help from their friends, The Beatles), Mills moves onto the next phase: fan conventions. The gut-wrenching hysteria was left behind for a next gen communal gathering, a positive environment (as with The Fest For Beatles Fans and International Beatles Week) and more to the point, a place where fans (male and female) have a shared understanding of each others’ love for the band. The atmosphere most notably was one of indifference in the 1970s, until John Lennon’s murder in 1980. Nearly immediately after, the psychological understanding of fan ‘obsession’ changed. Mills goes into detail his reasons for who Mark Chapman was (a mentally disturbed individual) and also into the background of Michael Abram, the schizophrenic person who nearly killed George Harrison in 1999.

Mills correctly identifies that both of these men were not ‘fans’ or could even intellectually connect the dots to their victims. They could not break the cycle of singular isolation and became fixated with an alternative mindset. Fan conventions are diametrically opposite in their group atmosphere and jovial celebration of life. The clear demarcation of the two worlds is one that Mills gives great attention to.

One group of people that can cause a divisive issue are what Mills terms the ‘super-fan journalist.’ He takes to task the most prominent authors of Beatles non-fiction (Hunter Davies, Philip Norman and Ian MacDonald) and proceeds to dissect the apparent and not-so-apparent bias that permeates their writings. Davies (the author of The Beatles authorized biography, 1968) and Norman (author of Shout! from 1981) are given the harshest criticism and not without merit: each has had blatant prejudice against certain Beatles and both have heavily revised their opinions in the intervening years. MacDonald on the other hand did not pretend to write a history of the group per se, but offered his stylistic, one-of-a-kind prose that has grown in favor since first published in 1994 (MacDonald died by suicide in 2003). Mills offers up MacDonald as someone who did not pretend to understand The Beatles’ lives, but instead retrospected their work, thereby creating progressive nostalgia for a new generation of fans.

The next chapters concern more modern practices of coercing the well-known entity of The Beatles by wrapping them into new technology and writing: as YouTube has allowed 21st century manipulation of their image via audio and visual mashups and next gen bloggers have re-imagined real-life events by inserting The Beatles (and their associates) into slash & tribute fiction, i.e. time-travel, McLennon and the like. Mills also analyzes award-winning ‘fanfic’ couched in the love for re-writing history vis-a-vis Kevin Barry’s 2015 novel ‘Beatlebone. Be that as the written word allows critical examination of an alternate universe, we have witnessed in this progressive nostalgia, the ultimate immersion experience come to fruition: tribute bands. Every stylistic angle – from the mop-top era to Sgt. Pepper and even painstakingly recreated classics such as The Analogues’ note-for-note live recreations of the ‘White Album’ – are given due credit. The respect that fans have fostered onto excursions and tours in cities like Liverpool, London and Hamburg fold into the reverence and outwardly devoted atmosphere when it’s shared with family and friends. These are the multiple incidents and ideas that Mills has encapsulated and demonstrated for students and practitioners of Beatle fandom.

Transformative nostalgia when applied to The Beatles universe is continually expanding and moving ahead. As recognized in these pages and acknowledged by so many, Mills has detailed the changes and moves into the unexpected areas of ‘Beatledom.’ With a caveat noted at the start of my review that this publication is more likely appreciated by the scholarly among us…

I give this 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

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Off-topic Reviews: Hemingway & more Hemingway

This review is written by Jenn Vanderslice…

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway 5Well, as you may have discovered by now, I can’t get enough of reading about Ernest Hemingway and so it should be no surprise that I’m going to review The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 5 (1932-1934). This series of books is published by the Cambridge University Press with authorization from The Hemingway Society. I was just reading on their website that this series of books is going to be a seventeen volume set of over 6000 letters written by Ernest Hemingway. I guess Ernest wasn’t much for making phone calls, huh?

Hemingway never bores me. His letters are truly fascinating, though at times he can talk a little too much about the details of hunting or trying to catch a marlin off the coast of Cuba. But the letters make it incredibly obvious where he got the details to write his Nobel Prize winning – The Old Man and the Sea, which wasn’t published until 1951. He continually says, “Write what you know” and he does just that as he details his life in letters to everyone from his family to F. Scott Fitzgerald to his editor.

While reading this series of letters, you’re introduce to each of Hemingway’s short stories, articles and novels as they are developed, rewritten, edited and published. This led me to my next book…

the complete short stories of ernest hemingway the finca vigia edition The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition. (Finca Vigia was the name of Hemingway’s hacienda in Cuba). I love that the intro to this book was written by Ernest Hemingway’s three sons (by two different wives). I read this book to familiarize myself with the short stories that I was reading about in his letters. The bonus is that there are a couple unpublished stories and a few unfinished stories that he had written before committing suicide in 1961. As was said early, Hemingway only wrote about what he knew, so a lot of the stories are based on his real life experiences and people he knew. Anyone that got on his bad side (which apparently wasn’t that hard to do), could possibly find some of their most embarrassing personal experiences written in a short story. This is proven in the letters that he exchanges with his editor when they discuss changing names in the stories and the disclaimer in most of his books that all the names and people are fictitious and any resemblance to living people is just a coincidence!

Earlier this year,  I was glued to my TV set when PBS aired the three part series – Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It was an incredibly informative 6 hour program, but at the same time, it seemed to project a different Hemingway than his letters would make him out to be. I have no doubt that Ken Burns thoroughly and tirelessly researches every topic he makes a film about, but I had to ask myself, “I wonder if he’s read the letters?”

But then again…I don’t know if anyone knew the real Ernest Hemingway…even himself!

Still…I’d rate all three of these, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Beatles 100: One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History” by John M. Borack

This review is by Amy Hughes…

The Beatles 100: One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History John M. Borack

One of the first 100 things you’ll ask about John Borack’s book The Beatles 100: One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History (Rarebird Books, 2021): are they actually pivotal? Do they carry that weight, to coin a lyric.

On one hand, any narrative that hinges on The Beatles’ most important moments can be considered subjective. I’m more than sure that while perusing each chapter, you as the reader/Beatles factoid gatherer/historian could compile your own list and match it to author Borack’s condensed history.

What I considered relevant were that the moments were not in chronological order, nor was the book confined to The Beatles’ inner orbit. Several passages at length called out the solo years and in that context, how each contributed to the canon of post-Beatles history.

Borack addresses the better known episodes in Beatledom: Hamburg, Love Me Do, Pete Best, Ed Sullivan, Shea Stadium, MBE’s, the Paul Is Dead hoax and even the Mono LP Box Set release. However, he also ruminates over numerous chapters concerning their solo careers and lives: Paul losing Linda tying into Run Devil Run; John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy leading into John’s death; George’s marital issues with first wife Pattie running into his 1974 Dark Horse album and subsequent tour and Ringo forming his All-Starr Band. Each chapter is headed by a quotation from a random Beatle or associate applicable to the subject matter.

While the events showcased are familiar, the narrative is casual and readable. I would not consider this a “list” so to speak, nor is it a perfunctory bulleted style treatise, pointing the reader in any certain direction. Choosing what moments to delve into is probably the most important note for anyone engaged in learning something more than superficial facts.

I will state that Borack does spend considerable time and effort in stating where most of the stories come from: mostly interviews with the press and such. A good load of quotes are coming directly from The Beatles Anthology and from Paul, his book by Barry Miles. There are also a number of rock press quotes as well, especially in context to the time of album releases from the group or in the solo years.

Overall, I found the book a good reference read and for a nice epilogue, Borack gives us his opinion on solo tracks, cover versions, and soundalikes. With all that said and sung…

I’m giving this book 4 out of 4 beetles

 

 

 

 

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 44 with guest Janice Mitchell 

Welcome back to episode 44 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s special guest is author Janice Mitchell who ran away to England at the age of 16 to be closer to The Beatles. The incident caused quite a sensation on both continents, making headlines news across the globe!

Also, check out Amy Hughes‘ review of My Ticket to Ride at Beatles Freak Reviews.

Don’t forget to buy a copy of her book after you hear her tale – My Ticket to Ride

Listen at: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 44 with guest Janice Mitchell 

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Book Review and Interview: “My Ticket to Ride: How I Ran Away to England to Meet the Beatles and Got Rock and Roll Banned in Cleveland (A True Story from 1964)” by Janice Mitchell

Book reviewed by Amy Hughes.

My Ticket to Ride Janice Mitchell

Intrepid believer. Not the usual description to hang onto a 16-year-old female fan of The Beatles, circa 1964. But one that aptly fits the life events surrounding author Janice Mitchell who has now come forward with the mind-blowing circumstances surrounding the title of her book.

My Ticket to Ride: How I Ran Away to England to Meet the Beatles and Got Rock and Roll Banned in Cleveland (A True Story from 1964) (Gray & Company Publishers, 2021) hinges on Mitchell’s September 1964 whirlwind account of seeing The Beatles at Cleveland’s Public Auditorium and the very next day, jetting off to the UK with her best friend Marty, nearly all their belongings and holding onto the belief that no one would care where they ended up or if they would be found.

Be that as it may, the sum of the story doesn’t rely on the anecdotes or hard-to-believe storyline. What is documented clear and simple is Mitchell caught in the middle of a life not of her choosing and the desperate attempts to find meaning and reasoning beyond her grim upbringing. While winding the reader through the lifelines that gave her hope, one comes away with an understanding of why she needed to turn this adventure into something real, and travel to somewhere she could be happy for essentially the rest of her life.

Mitchell describes a harrowing childhood in an all-too-brief summary, riveting in it’s narrative and strikingly honest from her viewpoint. Her birth parents’ abandonment of her and her siblings forced her to live singularly with an aunt, uncle and cousin that at first glance seemed a more idyllic setting than anything she could have dreamed. But with the sudden death of uncle Mac, the closed environment of being with aunt “Toots” and older cousin Margie, coupled with a strict Catholic school atmosphere propelled her to seek out avenues of enlightenment.

From the first guitar janglings of The Beatles on Cleveland radio station WHK at Christmastime 1963, Mitchell’s world opened up. In her words, she “had something to live for.” Constructing the framework that would lead to her independence was in some way, more than she bargained for. Her alliance with KYW DJ Harry Martin – innocent on the surface from her perspective, but which proved fortuitous in just a few short months – paved the way for her first meeting with another up-and-coming British band: The Rolling Stones.

The Stones were embarking on their first American tour and were stopping by ‘The Mike Douglas Show’ (then broadcasting from Cleveland) on June 18. Invited remotely by Martin, Mitchell arrived only to be told she couldn’t enter. As was her luck, she managed to enter into The Stones dressing room, watched from the side of the stage and after, was propositioned by bassist Bill Wyman (who kissed her). Little did Mitchell know that this episode in her life would circle back around to highlight her escapade in only three months time.

Mitchell chronicles the hysteria (after she managed to get front row seats with Marty) surrounding the now well-known Beatles gig in Cleveland on September 15: the show was stopped after the third song. The Cleveland police demanded The Beatles leave the stage until the crowd was brought under control. The chaos and screaming abated with the help of DJs Martin and Specs Howard and the Beatles returned and finished the set. For all that, the thought went through Mitchell’s mind as she walked amongst the broken chairs and shredded signs: she and Marty were leaving for London at 8am the next morning for “Beatleland.”

While the ensuing days there were a mix of finding living accommodations (a flat in Notting Hill), possible job opportunities for the two (Mitchell had sent letters to both The Stones’ fan club and Brian Epstein in hopes of finding employment), Mitchell nonetheless spins an air of innocence that to some could seem incomprehensible in its lack of forethought for the future. She had secured money from her savings, as well as Marty’s college fund and the duo appeared to have it all under control, living in Soho, going to clubs nightly and even meeting young musicians – the latter with circumstances that were not wholly explained to them in detail, lest Mitchell and her friend were questioned as to their real motives.

Meanwhile… back in Cleveland Heights, the law enforcement community were actively seeking their whereabouts, circulating flyers with their likenesses and as days wore on, involving the US State Department. The flimsiest thread to their location came back: Mitchell’s letter to the Stones fan club (calling out Wyman) and Epstein had been discovered. Both girls were “somewhere” in England.

Jumping from clubs to Tube stations, roaming the streets of London and even managing to meet with their musician friends and hitchhike to Liverpool,where Mitchell was crushed in not being able to enter the Cavern Club due to time constraints… it all seemed to be working out. There had been no communication with their families back in Ohio and both were oblivious to the havoc they had caused with their departure.

As with all the good things that came of this adventure, it did eventually end. As Mitchell and her musician friend walked along Oxford Street, she was spotted by a bobby. It was over. Mitchell and Marty – handled by her account very well by the British system – were speedily jettisoned back to the US. While Mitchell continually wondered what was going on, Marty in the ensuing timeframe during the transit froze her out. Both were hauled into the county juvenile system rather brutally and Mitchell in her innocence could not comprehend what they had done wrong. Through the harrowing ordeal, she remained stoic but scarred from the experience. Remanded back to her aunt, she felt the isolation suffocating.

While she recovered, rock and roll was moving on. Mitchell’s high profile shenanigans lifted her presence to a level that she didn’t expect: while facing the judicial system in tandem with her London exploits, a judge ruled that her and Marty’s actions directly affected live performances in the Cleveland area. Such music was condemned (including a return appearance of The Rolling Stones) and effectively, rock ‘n’ roll was banned in Cleveland.

As Mitchell stewed over the insanity of the ruling, she coped with daily life. She managed one last phone call to the musician who she befriended in London. But Marty – her Beatle cohort – had moved with her family from Cleveland Heights and their last communication was in 1968.

Mitchell also moved on, married, became a journalist, then a capital case investigator in New York City. She left after the trauma of 9/11 and moved back to her hometown. And while compiling and reliving all the moments of this lifetime ago escapade, Mitchell learned that Paul McCartney had been on the precipice of seeing them off at Heathrow back in October of 1964. However, the US Embassy nixed that plan. She did end up visiting Liverpool more extensively in 2018 and again nearly came in contact with McCartney during his ‘Carpool Karaoke’ segment on the Albert Dock. She was not lost thinking about the ironic twists of her life.

Stories from first generation Beatles fans such as Mitchell’s are very rare and her insightful perceptions, coupled with her 16-year-old gumption make this memoir colorful and poignant.

I’m giving this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

Listen to Jenn’s interview with author Janice Mitchell…

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Book Review: “Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar” by Oliver Craske

This review is by Amy Hughes

Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar Oliver CraskeRavi Shankar feels like a forever presence. For the ones he touched with his music, that feeling of immortality is an apt descriptor. For the man – the human being – that roamed this earth for 92 years, the state of existing is hard to describe.

With author Oliver Craske, Shankar’s official biography Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar (Hachette Books, 2020) paints a portrait rich in colors: the muted tones that inhabit his childhood to the neon tapestry of the Swinging Sixties to the earthy, husky embers inhabiting his later years, all brought together in an extensive and complex tome.

Craske is well-versed in Indian culture and music and his extremely helpful notations on Indian instrumental and musical terminology are sprinkled throughout the chapters, bringing into focus how Shankar rose from his dysfunctional, distant family and embraced a worldwide audience with his masterful techniques that helped bring not only Indian music but Indian culture to the forefront like never before.

Having said this, a review that merely lists his chronological accomplishments is a disservice to his legacy (Shankar passed in 2012). Herein are my thoughts and impressions of a full and rich life.

Shankar’s connection to George Harrison is well-documented in Beatledom history. However, Craske paints a more nuanced portrait of these two souls, with varying degrees of master & student, “father” and “son.” What one should come away with is a deeper appreciation of Harrison’s love in helping Shankar overcome the tragedies of his cultural homeland (“The Concerts for Bangladesh”) and bringing Shankar and his support for his 1974 Dark Horse tour.

Harrison continued his love and devotion for Shankar throughout his life, helping produce his music and taking great concern and care for his daughter Anoushka (herself an accomplished sitarist) when the weight of her father’s legendary status would come to bear on her own career.

Shankar’s musical abilities were not first and foremost in his youth. That he was a dancer in his older brother Uday’s troupe as a youngster is revelatory to a reader not fully immersed in his story. His childhood revolved around dance, traveling and performing throughout India, Europe and the United States. But while he was engaged in this creative aspect, his personal life was torn apart numerous times. Craske reveals the painful memories of Shankar’s sexual abuse as a child, his detachment from his father (a prominent figure who was assassinated), the death of a brother and ultimately the passing of his beloved mother.

His relentless work ethic in these pages is unmatched. Moving from dance to sitar (an alliance with Allauddin Khan started his official training), the dedication to not only the instrument that came to define him, but also his innate ability to focus and move ahead with passion (which included training with Khan’s daughter Annapurna, who he married in 1941) and by extension his love for country (beginning work as the music director at All India Radio in 1949). He composed continually: ballet, orchestration, film (working closely with director Satyajit Ray) and music director for several Hindi movies.

It came as a surprise then to delve deep into Shankar’s personal history of love. One would surmise that Shankar embraced love to fill the gaping hole left by his father. In as much as he tried to be a “parent” to his son Shubho (born in 1942), the father-son bond was tied primarily by long distances. As Shankar began (and continued) an arduous touring schedule, coupled with the demands of composing, he was constantly away from ‘home.’ Craske (as his official biographer) was able to extract Shankar’s deepest feelings towards not only his family issues but also how he felt a deep bond with his extended family: the audiences he performed for.

As Shankar’s popularity grew worldwide, he hopped, skipped and jumped across the globe. Several world-shattering moments though fueled depression and thoughts of suicide in 1940, namely the assassination of Gandhi. His father’s murder (unsolved) and increasing detachment from his wife & son led him to what would now be considered a promiscuous lifestyle. He admitted as much to the many liaisons – public and private – two of which resulted in the births of daughters Norah and Anoushka. Norah’s upbringing (unconventional as her mother Sue Jones decided to stay in the US and raise Norah as a single parent). She remained mostly under the radar until her late teens and then at age 23, she exploded onto the music scene with her album ‘Come Away With Me.’ Shankar grew in his admiration for Jones (and with a family bond that obviously was hard to fathom), she also found a way to connect with not only Shankar, but also with Sukanya Rajan, his second wife and Anoushka.

Craske also notates to great extent throughout the chapters Indian terminology, with regards to composing, instrumentation and how to understand the differences between East and West musicianship. While Harrison went to extraordinary lengths to incorporate Shankar into modern music, Shankar had already accomplished this and more with his indescribable sets at both Monterey Pop in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. Several iconic musicians had already lent their lives (as it were) to Shankar including saxophonist John Coltrane and violinist Yehudi Menuhin. While Shankar struggled with the concept of merging his beloved Indian music with ‘the West,’ his collaboration with composer Philip Glass starting in 1965 was beneficial and lifelong. While Glass to most ears is considered experimental and minimalist, Shankar’s work gave him a life-altering course in composition and performing. Their 1990 album “Passages” is the hybrid of their brilliant philosophies.

While Shankar appeared content with his masterful work – performing, teaching, mentoring, building study centers, composing – he nonetheless became a member of India’s Parliament for six years and then in 1992… his son Shubho (in his adult life had become an accomplished sitarist thru his mother’s strict teaching) succumbed to pneumonia, leaving behind a wife and son. Shankar was devastated – a “cruel blow” as he described it and threw himself into work. Whatever his misgivings about his role as a parent, he knew that as time went on, his ill health which began in childhood would catch up with him in some fashion.

Craske entered his world in 1994 as an editor and assistant in procuring his life’s work into his 1997 autobiography ‘Raga Mala.’ His friendship with Shankar permeates ‘Indian Sun’ in ways that only someone who has spent decades with could understand. As it is meticulously researched, the openness and trust between the two help illustrate, as noted in this review, the complex, multi-faceted cultural figure who was more at home in front of an audience than anywhere else in his lifetime. He was blessed to perform one last time in November 2012 with Anoushka and as his heart was failing, had surgery in December which he did not recover from. He died December 11, 2012.

While I can’t fully expound on this mammoth medium to the extent it deserves, I fully and wholeheartedly recommend it as required reading for everyone who thinks they know “Pandit” Shankar merely as a great musician. He was so much more.

I give this book 5 out of 4 beetles (one extra!)

 

 

 

 

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 43 with guest Jim Berezow 

Welcome back to Episode 43 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s special guest in Jim Berezow who saw the Beatles perform in St. Louis in 1966 and oh so much more!

Runtime = 1 hour

Listen here: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 43 with guest Jim Berezow

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 42 with guest Eric Bazilian of The Hooters

Welcome back to a very special episode of I Saw The Beatles! This week were are thrilled to be interviewing Eric Bazilian – founding member of The Hooters! Eric shares with us what it was like to see the Beatles play twice, the influence that had on his musical career and the really jaw-dropping experiences of meeting Paul, George and Ringo after he became a Hooter!

**Eric called into the show from Sweden on his cellphone so the audio may sound uneven, but we’d like to thank Cliff Hillis for his outstanding work in making it as smooth as possible!

Friday, August 13 – Hooters in Quakertown, PA tickets

Saturday, August 14 – Hooters at Appel Farm, NJ tickets

Friday, October 22 – Hooters at The Keswick, Glenside, PA tickets

Runtime = 51 mins.

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 42 with guest Eric Bazilian 

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Book Review: “Why Marianne Faithfull Matters” by Tanya Pearson

Why Marianne Faithfull Matters Tanya Pearson

Are you looking at this title and thinking ‘Who the hell is Marianne Faithfull?’ Yeah, well, I’m sure there are a bunch of people also going, ‘What?! Is she still alive?!’ I’m thinking this title works then for both questions.

Author and oral historian Tanya Pearson has jackhammered this riveting bio cum critique into Why Marianne Faithfull Matters (University of Texas Press, 2021), unearthing all that was borne of Faithfull from quirky ingenue to the time and tone-worn cliches of ‘surviving icon’ and ‘legendary chartreuse.’ What gives this book its curbside edge is the gut-busting honesty of Pearson interweaving her personal insight as a gay, drug-addicted woman hell-bent on destroying herself and somehow finding a way out of her own demonic dream state.

Pearson as you can guess is no stranger to the life that Faithfull inherits (and by the way, as of this writing, Faithfull is alive, having survived Covid-19’s devastation and the loss of her music partner Hal Willner). Her piercing dissemenation latches onto your head, shaking sense into how Faithfull (like a lot of undocumented female musicians who lived thru the misogynist atmosphere of the 60s and 70s) got through with just enough breath left in her to continue fighting to this day.

Faithfull’s quirky upbringing and bohemian lifestyle (massaged into her by mother Eva) led to her first big break: ‘As Tears Go By,’ penned by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the Stones’ manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. Oldham had been bitten by the beauty of Faithfull and was convinced he could propel her to stardom (past her folk-style presence) just as Brian Epstein had grown and nurtured his stable of stars after The Beatles began their stratospheric ascent.

1964 was just the beginning of a life that Faithfull didn’t voluntarily embrace. As much as noted by Pearson, Faithfull was a product of her times. Not content with her rising status nor well-equipped to handle the circus that put her out for display, Faithfull began the well-labeled and misguided life that has come to represent her public persona: marrying art dealer John Dunbar, having a baby, abandoning her family for Jagger and becoming addicted to heroin.

Pearson weaves her own conflicted identity and addiction struggles as a companion piece, and while this might be off-putting for some readers, Pearson needs to make this point again and again. If Faithfull didn’t have the ‘voice’ to rise above her demons (past the mythology of the drug bust at Redlands or her overdose while filming ‘Ned Kelly’ with Jagger or the explosion of attention for ‘Broken English’), then Pearson has brought her own bile forward to this tale.

Addiction is a vile animal and if you can finally emerge on the other side with purpose and meaning no matter how long it takes, then that life is worth documenting. Pearson has rebuilt her broken past to become someone who documents women in rock and it’s importance for those that experienced and evolved from it. I would agree that Faithfull has lived several lives that aren’t exclusively hers – look at the framework in artists like Courtney Love and Amy Winehouse and make the painful connection: Why were these women publicly vilified for their talents? How did they rise up and yet were beaten down by the male-dominated rock press and where did Winehouse go wrong when Faithfull pushed on?

In many ways, I appreciate Pearson giving us a view that is honest, embarrassing, cringy, brave, head-shaking, and finger-pointing with interludes of hope: Faithfull rose out of alcohol, drugs and ill health and as Pearson was writing at the time, praying to God that Covid-19 in all its stupidity would not take her and that this all would be an extended obituary. Thankfully that was not the case.

I profess to not be a Faithfull devotee and I probably won’t. What drew me into this narrative wholeheartedly was Pearson. Were it not for the overall punch given to how society treats women in the music business, why would Marianne Faithfull matter? Because she holds a microphone and can still speak out loud about her life. In a nutshell. That’s why.

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 41 with special guest Pat Mancuso 

Welcome back to episode 41 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s special guest is Pat Mancuso who founded the original George Harrison Fan Club! And she just released her new book – Do You Promise Not To Tell?: The Final Story of the Official George Harrison Fan Club

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 41 with special guest Pat Mancuso 

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