Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: “The Beatles: Fifty Fabulous Years” by Robert Rodriguez

The Beatles Fifty Fabulous Years Robert RodriguezThis week, I buried my head in The Beatles: Fifty Fabulous Years by Robert Rodriguez. Though I’ve known Robert for several years and I own a couple of his books, this is the first of them that I’ve actually sat down and read. Truth be told, I tend to shy away from my friends books when it comes to reviews. It’s really not fair to either of us.

As I’ve already alluded to, Robert is the author of several books about the Beatles. He is also the host of the very popular Something About The Beatles podcast. To call him a Beatles expert, historian, enthusiast, etc. is being simplistic at best! He is additionally a well known figure around the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago and New York.

The Beatles: Fifty Fabulous Years was published in 2010. I admit that when I bought it, I assumed it was from 2014 and celebrated the Beatles fifty years in America, but it’s actually starts their story in 1960 when they first acquired the name…The Beatles! It’s filled with beautiful pictures of the Fab Four, including pictures with Stuart Sutcliffe, Pete Best and Jimmy Nicol. There are also colorful pictures of posters, albums, fans, and other trending bands of the day, along with quotes and ‘Fab Facts’ in the margins on almost every page.

This is a really fun book to own. It’s larger than most books (9″x 9.5″) but not quite as a large as most coffee table books. Robert Rodriguez did a great job making this a smooth an easy read as he tells the complete story of the Beatles without getting hung up on the controversies or filling up the pages with a lot of jibber-jabber to increase his page count.

The only problem I can say I have with this book is…the DVD that’s included with it. The DVD – “Beatles – Their Golden Age” a documentary by Les Krantz was produced especially for this book. It reminded me of a lot of the free movies about the Beatles that are available on Amazon Prime. Though it does provide some never before seen footage, it’s most repetitive scenes of screaming fans and news reel footage set to somewhat annoying music that is actually recycled Beatles tunes that have been altered just enough to not get sued by Apple (My husband actually commented on the poor choice of music).

Yeah, the DVD is a bonus with the book and if you buy a used copy of the book, I would recommend you get a copy with the DVD if you’re a collector. The book, on the other hand, I would highly recommend for collectors or adults/children/teens who are new to the Beatles. As I said, it’s beautifully written without all the hype or controversy that any amateur Beatles fan can dive into later when they want to learn more about the Fab Four.

The book on it’s own, easily rates as a 4 Beetle book, but because of the amateurish work on the DVD, I’m going to have to take it down a notch. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Riding So High: The Beatles and Drugs” by Joe Goodden

Riding so High the beatles and drugs Joe GooddenRiding 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.

From Amazon:

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!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Dirty Hippies” by Scott Paulsen

Dirty Hippies Scott PaulsenDirty Hippies by Scott Paulsen was recommended to me by a friend and former colleague of the author Dennis Benson. Author Scott Paulsen has spent most of his working life as a radio personality in the Pittsburgh, PA area, but he’s also written several books which I can’t seem to find online. He’s also the author of a daily column about LPs which you can find by checking him out on Facebook.

Dirty Hippies is a fictional story set in Chester, West Virginia in 1974 and is built around the premise that a large entertainment company that owns the local horse track has built an amphitheater in their little town. The problems arise when they schedule a large rock music festival with four bands that summer. The old town folk spend their summer worrying about their small town being invade by….you guessed it…dirty hippies, while the younger residents look forward to seeing their favorite bands when they come to town.

This book is both funny and touching at the same time, but I do wonder how much of it is actually fiction and how much is based on the author’s real life. Scott Paulsen is originally from Chester, West Virgina and was formerly a dishwasher at Waterford Inn just like one of the main characters Jay Mastro. A lot of the characters seem very familiar as if the author pulled them from life experiences, while at the same time creating a his own personal childhood dream experience of girls, guitars and rock concerts. And in case you’re wondering…yes, the word ‘Beatles’ does appear in this book!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this 444 page self-published book, but it really could have used one more set of eyes to scan over it for typos before taking it to print. As a publicist, it’s one of my pet peeves to see a book rushed to print before it’s ready, when one more day and one more edit could have made it right. And even though I doled out that $20 for the paperback, I do think it was a bit pricey and would probably recommend that if you’re interested in reading this fine book, you get the e-book at just $9.99. But since I don’t base my reviews on price, but on content…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

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Book Review: “Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Early Years, 1926-1966” by Kenneth Womack

Maximum Volume George Martin Kenneth WomackI met Kenneth Womack, the author of Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Early Years, 1926–1966in 2013 when he was the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a professor at Penn State (Altoona). Ken has written three books about the Beatles: Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles; The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles; and The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four. In February of 2014, Ken organized and hosted “It was 50 Years Ago Today – An International Beatles Celebration” – a 4 day Beatles conference at Penn State in Altoona, PA. He also holds a PhD. in 20th-Century British Literature and has written three novels. Pretty impressive, huh?

I remember attending a lecture on the Beatles a couple years ago and sitting down next to Ken in the auditorium as he was typing away at this book, the first book in a two volume set. I was really amazed at how he was doing it with no notes, just his fingers frantically beating away at the keyboard. After chatting with him briefly about what he was creating, I began really looking forward to reading it since everything else I’ve read about George Martin just seems to skim the surface of his life beyond the Beatles.

This book isn’t a simple read as it took me two weeks to take it all in even though it’s only 314 pages. The first half of the book is really intense, but unfortunately, the second half seemed to lose its gusto. No longer is the reader reading much about George’s personal life outside the studio (all the stuff I was looking forward to hearing about). Except for a couple paragraphs thrown in here and there about his divorce from his first wife was being final, and a spattering of paragraphs about the other artists he was working with, the second half of the book reads like a combination of George’s autobiography and Geoff Emerick’s book “Here, There and Everywhere”. The book seems to become just a daily log of recording the Beatles, what tracks were used for which instruments or vocals and techniques used for each song.

And then there is page 85! Whoa! *shakes head in utter disbelief*

The day before the meeting, which had been set for 11:30 AM on May 9 at Abbey Road, Brian asked Derek Taylor, a Liverpool journalist and his close friend and confidant, “What’s the point? Should I even bother going?” He then turned to Derek’s brother Alistair, his colleague at NEMS…”

WHAT?! Derek and Alistair were brothers? Why am I just hearing this now? How could I have read Derek’s book, Alistair’s book and Brian’s book…let alone all the other books I’ve read and never have heard that they were brothers? Did Kenneth Womack uncover some deep dark Beatles secret in his research? Ten pages later, I was still wondering about it, so I text a Beatles expert and friend and asked him about it. He said he’d get back to me and sure enough a couple hours later, after he consulted with a couple other Beatles experts and confirmed….it’s an error!

OMG…it’s a glaring error by the guy who wrote The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four.

I’m still looking forward to reading the second volume in this set when it’s released, but for all the above reasons…

I regretfully rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

UPDATE (Oct 2, 2017): After reading this review, Kenneth Womack contacted me via email to say: “Thanks for the review. The error has been corrected in the eBook and new edition, which is being published next week.” Thanks for the update, Ken!

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Book Review: “Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life” by Cindy Williams

Shirley I Jest Cindy WilliamsI bought this copy of Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life from the woman herself…Cindy Williams, when I visited the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention last weekend in Maryland. I had gone to the convention to support my friend Garry Berman, the author of several pop-culture books including We’re Going to See the Beatles!but the place is jam packed with celebrities signing autographs. And while I don’t usually stand in line to meet celebrities, I happen to be walking by at a moment when there was no one at Cindy Williams table, so I bought her book, told her I wished I had brought my “Laverne and Shirley Sing” album for her to sign and then got a quick photo.

Cindy Williams Shirley Feeney Laverne & ShirleyNow…about this book. In case you think I’m daft for reviewing it on my Beatles blog, in my defense the word “Beatles” does appear once in this book. And if you remember the television series Laverne & Shirley, you may remember that they had a very large picture of the Fab Four in their apartment when they moved to California. Laverne Shirley BeatlesAt 159 pages, this book can be read in less than 24 hours, but it’s jam packed with stories that go way beyond what you believe you already know about Cindy Williams. Sure, she played Ron Howard’s girlfriend in American Graffiti…and yeah, Laverne & Shirley was a spin-off of Happy Days that stayed on TV long past the point of jumping the shark. But did you know that before she became famous Cindy Williams was a waitress at the Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood and the first person she waited on was Jim Morrison?! Funny, funny story that made me literally laugh out loud. And it wasn’t the only one. Cindy’s life during her Hollywood years was funny on and off screen. John Belushi, Ed Begley Jr., and Andy Kaufman are just a few of the people she called close friends. But get ready for the funny stories about Cher, Cary Grant, Harrison Ford and Susan Summers to name a few.

Though her life didn’t start out like a lot of actresses in posh Beverly Hills, she endured poverty and growing up in a less than stable household to go on to become a worldwide phenomenon. You can’t help but love her, Shirley Feeney and Boo Boo Kitty just a little more after reading this book. If you happen to stumble upon a copy in your journeys, pick it up and read it. You won’t be disappointed. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Cutting Edge” by Leslie Cavendish

I’m not sure where I first heard or saw The Cutting Edge: The Story of the Beatles’ Hairdresser Who Defined an Era by Leslie Cavendish, but the very thought of the Beatles hairdresser writing a book pretty much made me roll my eyes and snort. Not knowing anything about the author my first thoughts were of a tiny little Beatlemaniac who worked somewhere in Liverpool in the early sixties and managed to cut the Fab Four’s greased back locks long before they ever hit the big time. I could image this girl collecting and selling off these locks to all her screaming little friends who also spent their lunch hours at the cavern club swooning over John, Paul, George and Pete!

Well folks…I couldn’t have been more wrong in my first impression of this book.  You see, Leslie Cavendish is a man! In fact, he’s a man who loves women so much that after accompanying his mother to her hair salon as a teen, he decided that being a hairdresser would be the ultimate job for a guy who wants to be around glamorous, sexy women all the time. Conveniently, his best childhood friend Lawrence had the same idea and recommended that Leslie try to get an apprenticeship at the hottest salon in London…Vidal Sassoon! After two years as an apprentice, and as luck would have it one day, Jane Asher came into the salon to find that her regular stylist was behind schedule and being in a hurry, she remarkably ended up in the chair of junior stylist Leslie Cavendish. If he thought he was nervous working on Jane Asher’s hair, imagine his surprise when she asked if he would come over to her house later that day to cut her boyfriend’s hair. Leslie knew exactly who that was…Paul McCartney. And so the story goes…

This is actually an incredibly fascinating book with little snippets in between of other famous rock stars and artists sitting in Leslie’s chair. Yes, there is sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, but he does keep it clean, funny and oh so interesting in this very well written and quick read. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review & Giveaway: “John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970-1980” by Paul Du Noyer

John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970-1980 is written by Paul Du Noyer – a rock journalist from Liverpool. I picked up this book off the 75% off rack at Barnes & Noble. When I realized it was only going to cost me $1.98, I went back and bought the other three copies to give away to my readers. (But then again, maybe after reading my review you might not want a copy!)

The Stories Behind Every Song 1970-1980 is now in it’s 4th edition. I’m not sure why it takes four tries and 20 years to get a book about John Lennon’s songs right, but obviously it wasn’t to fix the few minor typos throughout. Yet, despite my head scratching moment of confusion over the reprinting, I did find this book really well written and informative.

Du Noyer tells John’s life story while telling what motivated John to write each of his solo albums and songs. Like many other Beatles experts, he believes that when it came to John’s music, he wore his heart on his sleeve. John only knew how to write about his own life experiences…no made up story lines. So I’m happy to report that Du Noyer does include John’s lost weekend years in this book along with his time with May Pang. But I’m also sad to report that the author believes that the lost weekend was also a very dark, drunken time in John’s life where he pined endlessly for 18 months for Yoko to take him back.

Still a great book for those who want to delve deeper into Lennon’s music and the meaning and story behind the albums and songs. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY: I have three copies of this book to give to three of my readers. Just leave a comment below and you’re entered. It’s that simple. Rules: Only one entry per person. I will pick the winners next Sunday morning (September 3, 2017) and announce them in my blog.

 

 

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