Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine” by Joe Hagan

Sticky Fingers Jann Wenner Joe HaganFinally! A book that could hold my attention for entire week. Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe Hagan was published on October 24, 2017 and is 511 pages strong.

As the story goes (and was told to me by the guy who recommended it to me), Jann Wenner asked writer Joe Hagan to write his biography. Wenner opened up to Hagan with over 100 hours of interview time and allowed him access to all his personal archives, diaries and scrapbooks. But after Joe finished writing this very detailed tome, Jann refused to authorize it because Hagan had dug so deep (he interviewed hundreds of friends, family and colleagues about Wenner), the story was a little too intimate for Wenner’s liking.

This isn’t just the story of Jann Wenner, the narcossistic, egomaniac who drank, smoked, snorted and slept his way through the last 3 decades of 20th century. It’s also the story of his wife Jane, photographer Annie Leobovitz, writer Hunter Thompson and so many more people that were vital in the success and creation of Rolling Stone magazine. This book tells of the Wenner’s hidden homosexuality, his wife’s affairs with both men and women and all the casualties of their sometimes reckless lifestyle.

Hagan interviewed the likes of Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Yoko Ono, Billy Joel, and many more who survived a love/hate relationship with Jann Wenner, but knew the importance and success that came with not only getting interviewed for Rolling Stone, but gracing it’s cover. If you want to know why it took for more years for Paul McCartney to get into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame after he gave the speech at John Lennon’s induction, and why Stella wore a t-shirt that said, “About Fucking Time!” to the ceremony, you’ll find out the story in this book.

This is a book that true rock n’ roll fans are not going to want to miss reading. Not only does it verify all the stories of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of the ’70’s, it tells of the glamour, glitz and excess of the ’80’s, and the inside and personal story of Jann Wenner’s relationship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono from not only Wenner’s perspective, but that of Yoko Ono’s too (May Pang gets only a few mentions). And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: “The Beatles: All Our Yesterdays” by Jason Quinn and Lalit Kumar Sharma

Beatles All Our Yesterdays Jason Quinn Lalit Kumar SharmaAfter reading the graphic novel – The Beatles Story a couple weeks ago, I decided to search on Amazon to see if there were any other graphic novels about the Beatles. I’d love to find one that really WOW’d me and that I think would really impress other Beatles fans and collectors.

The Beatles: All Our Yesterdays, written by Jason Quinn and illustrated by Lalit Kumar Sharma is one of two graphic novels I purchased. This book, published in 2016 by Campfire Books (a division of Kalyani Navyug Media in India), is 149 pages and is in full color. The publishers were even kind enough to include an adorable guitar shaped book mark in the back of the book which I chose to leave intact.

Unfortunately, the good impression stops there. Despites it’s beauty, vibrant colors and bonus bookmark, this book is filled with falsehoods and just sloppy storytelling.  The author starts his story at the very beginning with the birth of each of the Beatles and ends with the release of their first single. I was impressed to see it even mentioned temporary fill-in bass player Chaz Newby! There is also a short epilogue to bring the reader up to date. The typos are non-existent and the text itself is beautifully written (meaning it’s easy to read), but so much of the Beatles history is just blatantly wrong.

I guess my search will continue for the ultimate Beatles graphic novel. I have another one on standby that I will review next week.

I rate this book, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, graphic novel

Book Review: “Lennon in America” by Geoffrey Giuliano

Lennon in America Geoffrey GiulianoA couple weeks ago, I was digging through a box of books about the Beatles that I had in search of something to read when I stumbled upon Lennon in America , written by Geoffrey Giuliano and published in 2000. I was surprised to find this book because the author is quite controversial especially in one of the Facebook groups I belong to – Beatles Book Collectors. Though I haven’t kept up with exactly why people don’t like his books, I decided to take a look-see for myself and hoped that I could read this book without prejudice and write a fair review. Here it goes:

According to the subtitle of this book, 1971-1980, Based in Part on the Lost Lennon Diaries, Mr. Giuliano was at some point in time in possession of some of John Lennon’s written and audio diaries which he used extensively in writing this book. I tried to contact a friend to see if I could find out what diaries these were since I had heard of the diaries that were in Fred Seaman’s possession for a short time after John’s death. And… there are the diaries that were stolen that in the past several years that recently turn up in Berlin, Germany. I’m sure someone who reads my blog will be able to clear this all up.

This book, though easy to read, can be a bit choppy. I got the impression that the author was taking information from the diaries and other people’s books and just rewriting it. In fact, the bibliography reads like a Who’s Who of the most popular books about John Lennon, including books by May Pang, Fred Seaman, Cynthia Lennon, Julia Baird, Pete Shotton, John Green, Albert Goldman, etc.. What made me come to this realization was the continual contradiction of events, even within the same paragraph without explanation. I can only guess that without actually researching the events, the author was just trying to cover all bases by including all the stories from everyone who was there. Mr. Giuliano also writes heavily about John’s sex life. In fact, the entire 21 page prologue of this book is about every story ever told about John’s homosexual tendencies. I guess sex sells, doesn’t it?

I kinda left this book not knowing what to believe and more confused about John’s life than I ever was before. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Book Review, John Lennon

Book Review: “The Authorized Roy Orbison” by Roy Jr., Wesley and Alex Orbison

The authorized Roy Orbison Alex Wesley Roy Jr.The Authorized Roy Orbison by his three sons Roy Jr., Wesley and Alex Orbison is a 256 page, 10.5″ x 10.5″ hardcover wonder. It’s big enough to be considered a coffee table book but it’s so much more than that. It’s the story of musical genius Roy Orbison from his birth in Vernon, TX on April 23, 1936 until after his death on December 6, 1988 at the young age of 52 as told by his three sons.

The Authorized Roy Orbison was published on October 17, 2017 and the pictures in this book alone make it worth the purchase. (The cover price is $30, but at the time I bought it on Amazon, it was only $15.) Filled with colorful concert photos, B&W family photos, album covers, promotional and concert posters, the reader could easily just spend several hours taking in Roy’s life in only photos and by reading the captions.

For the Beatles fans, the book doesn’t stop at telling about Roy and the Fabs touring together in 1963, it talks about them meeting up later on the set for A Hard Day’s Night and socializing whenever Roy was in the U.K. on tour himself. And don’t forget about Roy’s huge comeback in 1988 as Left Wilbury in the Traveling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and George Harrison. You Got It…

And then…there’s pages 27 & 28. Why? Why did there have to be a huge glaring error in this otherwise almost flawless book? The text in the first five paragraphs on page 27 is repeated verbatim on page 28…only the pictures have changed. This really left me shaking my head. Someone really messed up. The only plus side I can make of this is that it will be a collector’s item someday. “Yeah, but do you have the edition with the repeat on pages 27 & 28?!” Ugh.

But please, don’t let that stop you from buying this amazing book reading along to the sometimes tough, sometimes tragic, but  still successful life of Roy “Lefty Wilbury” Orbison. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Roy Orbison

Book Review: “Once There Was A Way: What if The Beatles stayed together?” by Bryce Zabel

Where to start with Once There Was a Way: What If The Beatles Stayed Together? by Bryce Zabel? I think maybe first I need to write the definitions of “historical fiction” and “alternative history” since it is the later category that Mr. Zabel uses for this novel.

From Wikipedia:

An essential element of historical fiction is that it is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions and other details of the period depicted. Authors also frequently choose to explore notable historical figures in these settings, allowing readers to better understand how these individuals might have responded to their environments. Some subgenres such as alternate history and historical fantasy insert speculative or ahistorical elements into a novel.

Alternate history or alternative history sometimes abbreviated as AH, is a genre of fiction consisting of stories in which one or more historical events occur differently. These stories usually contain “what if” scenarios at crucial points in history and present outcomes other than those in the historical record. The stories are conjectural, but are sometimes based on fact.

There is also fan fiction which I define as complete works of fiction using real life people as characters.

I know these categories are very similar, but the best way for me to describe the difference is on a personal level. I love historical fiction novels about Edgar Allan Poe. The authors of these books (click to see the Poe books I’m talking about) use real life events in Poe’s life and build a story around it with minimal, if any, changes to Poe’s history. Fan fiction would take Poe and put him into situations that he would have never been in, altering the outcome of his life completely. Another example of historical fiction would be Can’t Buy Me Love by Dan McNeil in which he wrote a great mystery novel around the night that the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show without changing their story.

So, given the definitions above, I would put this book in the Fan Fiction category because the author doesn’t start the story at the end of the Beatles story when the band officially broke up. Mr. Zabel went back to the year 1968 and changed the history of the Fab Four including the title and song list of several of their albums. Imagine, if you will, if songs that were released on each of the their solo albums were part a group album. Imagine #9 Dream without May Pang saying “John….John…” Imagine Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney as friends, and Allen Klein and Lee Eastman all working together to keep the Beatles together. The Beatles win Oscars for their work in Stanley Kubrick’s The Lord of the Rings. They star in a remake of Murder on the Orient Express. John is kidnapped by the politically far-left group the Weather Underground and eventually pardoned by Gerald Ford. A nineteen year old Steve Jobs befriends George Harrison and becomes the head of Apple Computers…a division of Apple Corp. Could this things have happened if the Beatles broke up in 1975? Can you dig it?

The fans of fan fiction are going to love this book. The writing is exceptional and despite my dislike for fan fiction, there was a point where I found myself caught up in the kidnapping of Lennon. But I believe that the true Beatles fans who are purists are going to roll their eyes and toss this book aside before finishing the first chapter. This makes my job as a reviewer very tough since I need to figure out if I’m reviewing this book for Beatles fan fiction lovers or Beatles purists (and I hope the three winners of this book will comment after reading it)…so for that reason, I went middle of the road…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Fan Fiction, Historical Fiction

Book Review: “David Bowie: A Life” by Dylan Jones

David Bowie A Life Dylan JonesI’d love to say I’ve been loving this book and speeding through it’s pages, but that would just be an outright lie because I’ve been laboring to read it for over a month! I choose this book free as part of the Blogging for Books program because I was a (late to the game) fan of Bowie’s music in the 80’s. I couldn’t get enough of Jazzin’ for Blue Jean.

David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones is a 521 page biography of…well…David Bowie. But it’s not your typical biography. Dylan Jones interviewed over 180 friends, family, colleagues, lovers and rivals of David Bowie. The list of contributors appears at the end of the book as the ultimate who’s who list of the rock and music industry, including Angie Bowie, Tony Visconti, Ricky Gervais, Paul McCartney and even Bowie himself. All the interviews were then broken down and placed in chronological order and presented as an oral history of the life and death of the man born as David Jones on January 8, 1947 in Brixton, U.K..

Though I started out enthusiastically reading this book, about a third of the way through it I got the feeling that a lot of the people interviewed for this book were the ultimate Bowie fans. The praising of everything he wore, sang, said or designed became overwhelming. Occasionally, the author throws in a quote from someone that pretty much amounts to, “David Bowie was a self-centered asshole!” and then the praise would start all over again. For me, it got to be too much.

At the same time, I can’t completely knock this book. This is one of the most complete and informative biographies that I’ve ever read and it really gets at the heart and soul of who David Bowie was and you will learn a lot about him in between the constant adulation of his genius and his sexual prowess.

I haven’t given up on this book yet and I will continue to read it until the end. I’m especially anxious to get to the part about his association with John Lennon and the writing of the song, “Fame“. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: “Imagine” by John Lennon

Imagine my surprise when I got a 20% off coupon in the mail for one item at Barnes & Noble. All I could think was, “How generous of them considering you usually don’t get any discount unless you PAY to join their club!” So I headed off to my local Barnes & Noble store, but I didn’t have to walk far before I found exactly what I wanted!

Imagine was published in partnership with Amnesty International by Clarion Books and released in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia on September 21, 2017, the International Day of Peace and in 10 other countries at later dates. The Foreword is by Yoko Ono and it’s illustrated by French artist Jean Jullien.

“In Partnership” – interesting terminology, but what exactly does it mean? The back cover says, “Published in partnership with Amnesty International in support of their work to protect human rights.” So does that mean that Amnesty is getting all the profits from this book? 50% of the profits? Some articles I’ve read talk about this book drawing attention to human rights. Does that mean Amnesty is getting nothing but their name associated with this book? These are all questions I can’t answer because no one at Amnesty, Clarion Books or at the Dakota will answer the emails I sent them asking (this explains why I’m late posting this review). Does it matter? Yes…

This book is beautiful! With it’s iridescent feathers on the a pigeon on the cover and the gorgeous artwork inside, it would make a great addition to any Beatles book collector’s bookshelf…for $18.99 for 32 pages of the lyrics to the song Imagine. When it comes to being a children’s book, I feel it’s a bit pricey (unless you have money to burn for such things) and it may be a hard lesson to children when you say to them, “Imagine there’s no heaven…” We as adults understand the meaning behind those words, but a small child may not. At the same time, the book would make a great easy reader for a young child.

It’s a tough call. I probably won’t be reading this to my grand-daughters, but it will make a nice addition to my collection. I’d love to know that all the profits are going to Amnesty. The last page of the book is a thank you from Amnesty to the illustrator and Yoko for letting them use John’s song, so one could ass.u.me that they get the proceeds. And for that reason…or until I hear otherwise…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review