Book Review: “Rememberings” by Sinead O’Connor

rememberings sinead oconnor On May 18th, I was browsing through Facebook when I saw a post by Elaine Schock (wife of Mikael Gilmore and former publicist of Sinead O’Connor) with a link to a NY Times article about the upcoming release of Sinead O’Connor‘s autobiography – Rememberings. I immediately headed over to Amazon to pre-order a copy for it’s release on June 1st.

I’m guessing that most people have a pretty good idea of how the rise and fall of Sinead’s career occurred back in the early 1990’s, but to make it really, really brief for those that don’t know…she rose to international fame with the song “Nothing Compares 2 U” that was written by Prince…and then on an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1992, she tore up a photo of the Pope on live TV and her career crashed. Then to make matters even worse, it was reported that she refused to perform if the national anthem was played before any of her concerts in the U.S. She became a publicity nightmare!

So…that’s the story…that’s what I remember…and pretty much all I knew about Sinead for a couple decades. Just like everyone else in the word, I have always loved the song Nothing Compares 2 U, but never paid her any mind after she seem to fall off the face of the earth. That is until she showed up on social media in the early 2000s when I started following her…and what a ride that was! She was brutally honest and severely messed up…at one point asking her fans to find her a husband! And they did…and she married him in Las Vegas, but like everything else in her life that crashed. It wasn’t long before she was on social media pleading with her followers to get her help immediately…she was holed up in some motel in New Jersey and was suicidal. I lost track of her  and her craziness after that…until now…

Sinead begins her story by letting her readers know that the book is written in two different voices. Of course, the first thing one thinks upon hearing this is…how many voices does she hear? Are these different people living inside her? She gives no really good explanation and the book begins as if it’s written by a child as she tells the story of her troubled upbringing in Dublin. The grammar police would have a field day with her over the way it’s written. Some of the stories are nothing short of bizarre and sickening as she tells of the abuse of her and her siblings at the hands of a mentally ill mother and an emotionally distant father. It’s nothing short of weird and it’s not something I could just speed read through. I had to put the book down and pick it up over several days.

The story continues through the beginning and height of her career and the eventually fall from grace after the SNL episode. Then Sinead takes a weird turn…she starts breaking down each of her albums and telling about the meanings behind each song. WAIT! What happened to how she ended up with four children? What about the husband she married in Las Vegas and the breakdown in the hotel in NJ? Is she really going to skip over all the CRAZY parts?!

Actually…no. And in a different voice from the rest of the book (that actually started with the stories behind the songs), Sinead starts getting brutally honest about adulthood, her children, and much of her time dealing with her mental health. It’s not a complete story…but what she does remember is as honest as can be. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 33 with guest Joy Cohen 

Welcome back to episode 33 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s very special guest is Joy Cohen (…and today just happens to be her birthday)! Joy saw the Beatles three times…at the Philadelphia Convention Hall in 1964, at JFK in 1966 and at Shea Stadium in 1965. We also be asking her about her tattoo….

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 33 with guest Joy Cohen 05/30 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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Book Review: “The Beatles 101: A Pocket Guide in 101 Moments, Songs, People and Places” by Vikki Reilly

Beatles 101 Vikki Reilly

This review is by Amy Hughes

What a primer book on The Beatles should be is a concise, informative chronicle (with natural branching off) that gives a reader the very essence of its subject. Author Vikki Reilly has stumbled upon that magic formula in her book The Beatles 101: A Pocket Guide in 101 Moments, Songs, People and Places (Polaris Publishing, 2020)

Reilly has delved into what is considered a complex web of music history that requires extricating the wheat from the chaff: to that end, the best thing about her tome are the examples put forth of the band in chronological sequence: from origins and upbringing, the band’s embryonic beginnings onto Hamburg and Beatlemania and into the studio years, their companions and cohorts, tons of well-placed facts and beautifully sprinkled with a dose of rarely-seen photos (one showing Ringo, George and John in Wales upon hearing of Brian Epstein’s death was especially stunning) which gives the book a higher edge than most of the paint-by-numbers (read: inaccurate) quickies that attempt this same style.

By all means, this is not a dry reference manual or a zippy thumb-thru that skips the details. In fact, Reilly has portioned out the writing in a factual, easy-to-understand language that by turns has much humor (her enthusiasm and infectious laugh poured forth in a recent podcast with presenter Chris Shaw that only heightens her presence in this book) and a deep understanding of The Beatles that will have ‘serious’ fans appreciative of her studious research. I also took note of her witticisms and use of vernacular that may not be familiar to US readers (the word ‘quicksmart’ for example) and having interspersed the chapter entitled ‘The Fifth Beatle’ throughout, assigning it to inner-circle people from Neil Aspinall to Yoko Ono to Phil Spector.

There are plenty of well-known stories here for readers to digest and a good number of pages are dedicated to ‘Fab Facts’ in regards to their singles and albums (which are handy to have if you’re caught blank in a trivia quiz!). And as a pleasant diversion, Reilly presents a chapter on the always-debatable ‘Beatles vs. Stones’ in a Friends-Rivals breakdown.

The conclusion takes on several chapters of post-Beatles history, the deaths of Lennon & Harrison, ‘Anthology,’ and the digital/streaming era of their music. While there is nothing earth-shattering in these passages, I was happy to see the inclusion of relevant material that completes the story and frames the narrative more wholly.

With the title that pretty much lives up to its’ subject matter and presented in down-to-earth dialogue…

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Society’s Child” by Janis Ian

Society's Child Janis Ian

This is another review of another book I picked up a couple week’s ago at a used book store for $5 – Society’s Child: my autobiography by Janis Ian. Now here’s a strange little twist…I follow Janis on Facebook, but I couldn’t tell you why or when I started. I just do. I don’t own any of her albums, nor have I ever followed her career. She’s just been kinda there…and I do enjoy her posts. So, when I saw this book, I guessed it was about time I got to know her a little better.

You know the story…little Jewish girl from New York makes it big and leads a fabulous, glamorous life filled with the very best of everything? Well, this ain’t that story! This is the story of a young girl from a family where her father was blacklisted during the McCarthy era forcing him to find a new job and move his family every two years. It’s the story of an awkward 15 year old that wrote her first hit song ‘Society’s Child’ in 1966 and had to leave a stage midway through the song to the yells of “Nigger lover!”

What should have been an amazing life, was nothing short of tragic. Only once before have I ever read an autobiography and thought to myself, “Why is this person still alive?”, and that was Danny Bonaduce’s book. Despite her overwhelming success in Japan and Australia, behind the scenes Janis was used and abused by a series of friends, lovers and colleagues. And then in 1975 came her Grammy winning song…At Seventeen…a song that brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. I lived the pain in that song…

By the age of 37, Janis Ian had been robbed, drugged, physically abused by her husband and eventually lost everything she owned to the IRS when her accountant (who was stealing from her) failed to inform her for 7 years about several IRS inquiries. And yet, she endured. This tiny, fragile little woman chose to live on.

This 360 page autobiography published in 2008 is a real page turner. There is honestly never a dull moment throughout, making it hard to put down when it was well past my bedtime because I had to work the next day. (And for those who are concerned about whether this review is on-topic for a Beatles blog, Janis does mention the Beatles twice.)

If you can either beg, borrow or buy a copy of Janis’ story, please do so. It’s going to teach you that everything that shines, isn’t gold, but sometimes it’s not money and fame that matter. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

 

 

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 32 with guest Laura Wishinsky | Pop Culture

Welcome back to episode 32 of I Saw The Beatles! Today’s very special guest is Laura Wishinsky who got to experience seeing the Beatles at Shea Stadium in both 1965 and 1966!

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 32 with guest Laura Wishinsky 05/30 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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Book Review: “It’s All In The Mind: Inside The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine Vol. 2” by Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D., and Laura Cortner

This review is by Amy HughesIt's all in the mind yellow submarine 2

More often than not, understanding the impact of The Beatles is first formed by our personal experiences and then interactions and collaborations with like-minded individuals. Whether through music or books or films, new and improved impressions help to see what wasn’t available ‘back in the day.’ And as an archaeologist of Beatle-knowledge, I welcome those finds as a breath of fresh air.

Created as a supplemental companion, It’s All In The Mind (Hieronimus & Co., Inc. Publications, 2021) is another deep dive (Volume 1 – ‘Inside The Yellow Submarine’ – having been published in 2002) into one of The Beatles most storied movies: how the animated ‘Yellow Submarine’ was concepted, created and put together in a blindingly fast, short period of time.

Although not known to the general public at the time, there was no finished script, no complete narrative in the timeline for ‘normal’ animation. While those around them struggled to find ways to keep the film on track (chronicled here by impossible deadlines and diminishing budgets), the animators and artists furiously working at their desks at London’s TV Cartoons (TVC) would have little to no idea if a sequence was coherent or how it fit into the grand scheme of the movie. That the film was finished at all (read the passages on the ‘kidnapping’ of the almost-completed footage) is testament to everyone’s emotional commitment to the feature and unwavering dedication to The Beatles.

Historians Robert Hieronimus (affectionately known as “Dr. Bob”) and Laura Cortner have continued the narrative from Vol. 1 and found the people, traveled the avenues and asked the questions that so many of us take for granted when it comes to ‘Yellow Submarine:’ detailing the lives of the creators, animators, their families, the hard-nosed business aspects and the free-wheeling comradery that helped to keep this sub afloat for the 11-month engagement (and for some, beyond). To that end, many of the stories coming from the crew were alternately hysterical (read: “The Distasteful Floating Poop Sign” entry) and touching (an entire chapter devoted to art director Heinz Edelmann from Dr. Bob is revelatory and personal).

In addition, Dr. Bob and Cortner have also included their personal thoughts about the film’s (possible?) hidden messages – were there any and if so, what was the meaning we as an audience should glean from it? Dovetailing into that, there are also passages that showcase alternate storylines and characters that never saw the light of day, providing thought-provoking, what-might-have-been’s had events turned out differently.

Helming all this organized chaos were a group of dedicated visionaries that at the time had no plan or purpose where their ground-breaking work would lead: director George Dunning (unassuming by nature, but determined to push boundaries), animation directors Robert Balser (the creative glue that kept everyone together) and Jack Stokes (a beloved character and one of the few that connected with all four Beatles), special sequences director Charlie Jenkins (his ‘Eleanor Rigby’ segment and the ending scene for ‘It’s All Too Much’ are legendary) and art director Heinz Edelmann (“astonishingly creative” a superlative not uncommon in describing his work.) Among the points to be made crystal clear: Edelmann was the one responsible for the style and feel of the film – from character development to backgrounds – his unique vision and distinctive color palette shaped the flow for all involved. And to be blunt: artist Peter Max (world-renowned in his own right) had ZERO to do with ‘Yellow Submarine.’ The authors make no bones in their opinions about Max’s decades-long fabrications that he invented the ‘look’ or was instrumental in the film’s making. To quote the book “‘Yellow Submarine’ was not his design.”

As mentioned, great lengths are taken to include a dozen or so personnel in Vol. 2 who were involved in the day-to-day creation of the film. Most did not receive screen credit in 1968, yet their contributions were key: Cam Ford (who gives the book added weight from his concise personal recollections and photos from inside TVC), Chris Caunter, Malcolm Draper, Lawrence Moorcroft, Diana Ford, Norm Drew and Ramon Modiano. Their memories – day-to-day activities, inspiration from the co-creators, hijinks, familial gatherings at the local pub The Dog and Duck, visits from notorious producer Al Brodax and their deep love for Edelmann –  are invaluable and insightful, giving new meaning to “hard work” and “fun” over the course of what Drew called “this wonderful graphic banquet.”

As a side note: one group of men who need attention: the voice actors for The Beatles. Despite the Beatles live-action inclusion at the very end, it was John Clive, Paul Angelis, Geoffrey Hughes and Peter Batten (who was later arrested for being AWOL and had his work finished by Angelis) who went almost uncredited for their work. Cleverly disguised for recognition by higher-ups, their talents were “Blue-Meanie-d” at the time and have only become more prominent since anniversary screenings now give them the recognition they deserve.

The film has gained more mileage in the years since it’s release due to the accelerated interest in animation, pre-CGI. To wit: ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ with it’s contributions from animator extraordinaire Bill Sewell’s visuals to Diana Ford’s detailing how she drove the rotoscoping ‘bicycle,’ to the Trace and Paint department’s literal hands-on input is fascinating from a making-of standpoint. With that history, the book makes the argument that a remake or why the almost-happened Robert Zemeckis 3-D motion capture version (which was deep-sixed in 2012) cannot occupy the same space as the original.

Quite honestly, it’s hard to encapsulate in this review all the personalities that saw ‘Yellow Submarine’ through from beginning to end. What is most appreciated from a reader who goes through ‘It’s All In The Mind’ (and Vol 1. ‘Inside The Yellow Submarine’) is the resolve of the talented, global team in making this film something they would be proud of, knowing it was a labor of love for The Beatles first and foremost. Dr. Bob and Cortner should also be given major credit for undertaking this logistical journey, championing the behind-the-scenes innovators, chronicling the imaginative environment and dispelling myths while letting the crewmembers impart their fascinating anecdotes that gave ‘Yellow Submarine’ it’s unmistakable character.

With the appreciation that has grown for ‘Yellow Submarine’ over the past 50 years, plentiful inclusions of color sketches from Edelmann, private snaps from the lens of Cam Ford, stories aplenty in the behind-the-scenes battles (and wins!) and the details of how particular scenes were created…

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock-and-Roll Life” by Jonathan Taplin

The Magic Years Jonathan TaplinA couple weeks ago, while performing my side hustle as a publicist, I stumbled upon a website where I can get ARC copies of new books for free in exchange for a review. The site is filled with mostly self-published fiction authors, but a quick search on “music” and “biographies” turned up The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock and Roll Life by Jonathan Taplin.

Published May 7, 2021, this 286 page memoir is a real page turner…I only wish I had read a hard copy and could have actually turned pages instead of reading a .pdf, but that’s my problem…not the authors! I love a good page turner…literally!

If you’re a Bob Dylan fan, you’re going to love this book. If you’re a fan of The Band, you’re going to love this book. If you’re a fan of folk music, rock and roll, Martin Scorcese, George Harrison, this is the book for you. Jonathan Talpin has worked with all of them one-on-one and so many more famous names.

A lonely child, sent off to boarding to school and pegged by his father to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer, somehow the universe had other plans for Jonathan when he would take a train into Boston on weekends to go to the folk music clubs. By the time he was in Princeton, he was already working as a tour manager for some of the biggest names in the folk music industry.

Excellent book…but sometimes it can leave you scratching your head as to what was happening in between a lot of the excitement. And then there is the question of how he managed to have $500k to lend to Martin Scorcese to finance a film? I’m sure there is a terrific explanation, but for now we’re all going to have to just keep guessing.

I will add a warning that this book does get a bit political leaning in the last couple chapters and is bound to irritate some people. This is the man who wrote Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy Which left me asking, how the hell he got into that field? And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 31 with guest Ida Langsam 

Welcome back to Episode 31 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s very special guest is Ida Langsam of New York who saw the Beatles three times in New York City!

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 31 with guest Ida Langsam 05/27 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 30 with guest Rick Snyder 

Welcome to Episode 31 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s special guest is former Albany, NY, radio disc jockey Rick Snyder. Rick saw the Beatles three times, compliments of the radio station, including one time while escorting six busloads of kids!

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 30 with guest Rick Snyder 05/18 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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Book Review: “The Boys Next Door” by Dan Greenberger

This review is written by Amy McGrath Hughes.

The Boys Next Door Dan GreenbergerIn the surroundings that revolve around The Beatles history, none is more fascinating than their time in Hamburg. Setting off that, author Dan Greenberger immerses his narrator and chief character Alan Levy into an alternate universe where Levy delves into the dirty, foul and fascinating period in those all-to-real hard times.

The Boys Next Door (Appian Way Press, 2020) is a coming-of-age story – albeit one that involves copious amounts of booze, drugs and sex. In this situation, Greenberger lets loose the unhinged, rogue-like characters of 1960 Beatles that we’ve come to know – all very un-PC in language, attitude and social interaction. And with Levy, migrating from the comforts of the US, he quickly realizes his standing here is on shaky ground.

Levy sets out as a post-graduate student from Columbia University with hopes for higher education in Hamburg. Nearly immediately we see him set down in that Beatle-y familiar hellhole: living in squalid conditions in the Bambi Kino, arranged by the thoroughly unlikable Bruno Koschmider and being awoken at night constantly by this band he has yet to meet. By casting Levy as an American Jew, we know right off the bat where this is headed in humor: off-color descriptions from Levy’s first-person account on the German people (and vice versa on the anti-Semitism still prevalent in post WWII Germany), the temptations of the Reeperbahn red-light district and through letters back home, we get an idea that he believes he is ‘all that’ as a poet and serious artist. Until he meets Astrid Kirchherr.

As he becomes smitten with the cooler than cool photographer, he manages to finally meet his next-door neighbors: John (all potty-mouth and pusher-of-buttons), Paul (all touchy-feely-huggy), George (all puppy-eyed and young), Pete (all nothing) and most importantly Stuart, who becomes the object of Astrid’s affection and the thorn in the side of Levy’s pursuit of her.

We get an eye-opening sense of the carnal atmosphere and near lethal encounters that The Beatles endured during that first club run. Author Greenberger weaves well-known scenes: Astrid’s photographing the band, the revolutionary haircut and the introduction of Klaus Voormann and Jurgen Vollmer with the fictionalized characters that showcase Levy’s interaction as a student which makes way for a dive down a rather unexpected path.

As posed here Levy works his way into The Beatles inner circle, hanging with them (in and out of the clubs), fantasizing that he and Astrid are a couple and using this time period to showcase the harsh realities of how life can change so dramatically – from promising student and aspiring poet to beer-guzzling, pill-popping hanger-on willing to throw away a pretty good life and become one of them. For good measure, Greenberger exits the story with Levy hastily leaving via the real-life incidents that led to The Beatles deportation and wondering about his and the band’s future; for good or bad is left up to the reader.

I found the writing style alternatingly engaging and repulsive and by repulsive, I mean the transformation that took place in Levy’s character – not the way he visualized but certainly crafted by his involvement with the group and their lifestyle. Not everyone who orbited around The Beatles in real-life at this time escaped without damage and Greenberger’s take was fairly point on without being overly maudlin or drama filled.

I also found his letter-writing to friends and family back home hysterical. Without giving away a spoiler, a near-to-the-end note composed as a bit of farewell to his best friend back in NYC had me howling at the reveal.

Appreciative of the period narrative, the immersion into the seediness that ultimately was The Beatles real growth as a unit and an unusual perspective that involved clever character dialogue…

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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