Riding So High: The Beatles and Drugs by Joe Goodden is another book I came across on the Facebook group ‘Beatles Book Collectors’. This time the author himself posted about it, so there was no expectations on my part from a glowing reader’s review.
As most of you regular readers may know by now, I’m not a fan of the Beatles’ drug use. I know it happened because between their interviews, busts and lyrics, there really is no way to not know. Despite all this, I tried to go into this book with an open mind and will try to write the fairest review I can.
Joe Goodden is a journalist, blogger and paperback writer living in south Wales. Formerly a senior online producer at the BBC, he is a music lover and founder of the Beatles Bible website (www.beatlesbible.com – “Not quite as popular as Jesus…”). Riding So High – The Beatles and Drugs is his first book.
Mr. Goodden did his homework for this book. His bibliography and footnotes are extensive and impressive, making the reader aware that this is not just another book to get his share of the Beatles’ pie! The author starts with the story that I had never heard of in all my reading, that occurred at the early days of the Fab Fours history when they were introduced to ingesting the Benzedrine strip inside a nasal inhaler in June 1960 by Royston Ellis. Goodden continues throughout this 3 part, 351 page book, hashes out the sometimes familiar and sometimes unknown stories of the Beatles (and their wives) ups and downs with various drugs throughout their early days, Beatles years, and solo careers. Also included is the story of Brian Epstein’s substance abuse battle and death from an overdose.
This book is very, very well written with few (if any) typos and an easy reading experience, but at first, I was easily bored and was having a hard time sticking with it. I felt like I was just reading a lot of the already over told drug stories (prezzies, Dylan introducing them to pot, etc.) and having to just force myself to continue. But like so many books before it, by the second half, the story and words seems to become their own telling and I felt like I was finally reading a new story…not just the same old, same old. And for that reason…
I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!
4 responses to “Book Review: “Riding So High: The Beatles and Drugs” by Joe Goodden”
I think Joe Goodden deserves four beetles. He gathered all the info about the Beatles and Drugs that was already published anywhere, and put it together in a little book, for everyone to see. He is almost without judgment, which is fine with me. Most of the text is so factual that we are not drawn into the story, that is a pity, but could have been intentional.
The last chapter ‘It don’t come easy’ is about alcohol addiction by Ringo and his wife Barbara going completely out of hand… a sad but intense story. IT convinces me again that talking lightly aor even appreciatively about the drugs abuse by The Beatles is inappropriate and naive. There is so much damage done by substance abuse, it is just not funny…
The last paragrah in the book is revealing too…
“Ringo Starr was a man finally at peace with his past and in love with the present. Yet memories of his darkest of days were never far from the surface. At a Los Angeles dinner in 2015, Paul McCartney regretted making light of them. ‘I know Ringo has been sober for years, so I joked, “C’mon, Ringo, have a whiskey.” Ringo looked at me for a second and says, “What, and end up looking like you?” I deserved it.”
So much for friendship and brotherhood. Let’s face it The Beatles made great music and still have a lot marketing power within their own bubble, but the closeness and mutual inspiration is gone.
The book is filling in a gp, that was left wide open, after too many people dismissed Goldman’s ‘Lives of John Lennon’…
“He gathered all the info about the Beatles and Drugs that was already published anywhere, and put it together in a little book, for everyone to see.”
And that’s great…but he didn’t research it himself.
As always, thanks for your comments, Rob. They’re always appreciated. 🙂
sorry for the many typos. By the way, I really think Joe Goodden’s ‘Riding So High’ is a worthwhile book. In a little essay I am working on I write:
“With Erin Torkelson Weber’s ‘The Beatles and the Historians’ and Kenneth Womack’s ‘Maximum Volume’, ‘Truant Boy’ by Martin Shough, Joe Goodden’s ‘Riding So High’ is one of the Beatles books I spent and spend a lot of time with in 2017.”
Most of what Albert Goldman wrote about John is sensationalistic lies to sell his book.