Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: “Forever Young: A Memoir” by Hayley Mills

Forever Young Hayley MillsBefore you discard my review of Forever Young: A Memoir (Sept. 2021) by Hayley Mills as an off-topic book review, try to bear with me for a few minutes before I get to the link between her and the Beatles.

For those of us of a certain age and generation, there will forever be only one real version of the movie ‘The Parent Trap‘ and it will be the one put out by Disney in 1961, starring a young, 14 year old, English actress by the name of Hayley Mills. Maybe some of you will even remember her in her first Disney movie, Pollyanna, in 1960! Truth be told, her movie career was one that was fast and furious, as you will obviously notice while reading her book.

Hayley Mills is the daughter of actor Sir John Mills. Granted, I had no idea who he was until I read this book, but to make a long story short, he played the father in the Disney classic – The Swiss Family Robinson. And though he was a well-known actor and household name in the 50s and 60s, he only got that part because Walt Disney was so determined to sign Hayley to a 6 year, 6 film contract, they offer him the lead in another film project they were developing.

Hayley is also the younger sister of Juliet Mills – the actress who played the nanny in the 1970-1971 television series Nanny and the Professor (I feel  embarrassed that I didn’t know that!). One of the major themes throughout her life (and this book), is how much Hayley adored her sister and at the same time,  the guilt she felt when she shot to fame ahead of Juliet.

George Harrison Hayley MillsSo, where’s the Beatles connection? Well, like all the girls of her generation, Hayley was a huge fan of the Beatles and talks often of it within the context of her life. By the time, she became famous, she would occasionally run into them (and other famous rockstars) at exclusive clubs or parties around London. It was during one such party, in 1964, that a 17 year old Hayley would spy her mother in conversation with George Harrison and watch in horror & surprise as her mother asked (and received) George’s phone number! But if she thought that wasn’t embarrassing enough, when a charity event presented itself where Hayley would need an escort, her mother was so bold as to call up George and ask him to take her daughter! You’ll need to read this book to learn all the juicy details of that night and breakfast in the morning!

There’s cute story Hayley shares of the night she saw the Beatles perform at the Hollywood Bowl and the unbelievable after party in the Hollywood hills! Another great tale for the Beatle fan that absolutely needs to know every detail of the Fab Four’s whereabouts.

Though Hayley spends a lot of time talking about her costars and their personal history in this book, I couldn’t help but get drawn in by her story of a young girl swept up in the Hollywood movie star life, surpassing her father and sister’s stardom and still coming out the other side unscathed and squeaky clean. And at 76, she’s still acting today. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

Advertisement

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: “Wham! George and Me: A Memoir” by Andrew Ridgeley

Wham!, George Michael and Me: A Memoir by Andrew Ridgeley released October 2019 was not at all what I was expecting…but in a lot of ways, that’s a good thing!

I’ll let you all in on a little secret as to how I pick some of the books I read – when I see a suggestion for some music related book on Amazon, I’ll click on it to see when it was released. After that, I click on the Kindle version, then click on “See Inside” (above the picture). Usually, there is a search button, so I enter in “Beatles” to see if there is any references to our Fab Four. So before you judge me for reading the story of Wham!, know that “Beatles” was mentioned at least 3 times and Paul McCartney at least once.

If you had asked me to tell you about Wham! before I read this book, I would have gotten the story all wrong. I was in my early 20s when Wham! hit the charts and I was one of the many clubbers dancing to their music. I even have a very distinct memory of sitting at a bar with a friend and watching the video of ‘I Want Your Sex’ playing on a television in the corner. I would have guessed they were just two semi-musically literate, pretty boys from England that were discovered by some A&R person from a record company looking for the next big MTV hit. Not quite…

There was a sudden change in mood in the classroom. Conversations regarding Pan’s People, David Essex and those awkward summer kisses were shushed when our form tutor, Mrs. Parker, entered the room, trailed by a nervous-looking  boy. Dressed in a pristine, box-fresh school uniform, he wore a pair of oversized steel-framed specs. His hair, which looked like a dressing-up wig, appeared to have been made from coarse man-made fibre. And the pressure of facing down a room of new classmates had clearly shaken him.

This was Andrew Ridgeley’s first impression of an awkward and chubby, 13 year old Georgios Panayiotou (aka George Michael). On that day, he would volunteer to show the new kid around and meet his lifelong best friend. The two would become inseparable and later become Wham! despites George’s parents best efforts to keep the Andrew away because they felt he was a bad influence on their straight A son who they dreamed of going on to a university.

Brooke Shields The “Michael” Popstar Groupie (Jackson, George & Bolton) | FeelNumb.comThis book is Andrew Ridgeley’s story of his friendship George Michael and how they created Wham! He respectfully avoids any controversy about George’s sexuality, dating habits or history. He does disclose when George came out to him and his response. Andrew does reference George’s autobiography, Bare, a few times to clear up some varying points of view, but stays true to respecting George’s story and estate.

They were best friends until the end. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Beatles influence, Bonus Book Reviews, Book Review

Book Review: “Shake it up, Beverley” by Suzan Holder

You know that beach book you’ve been looking for this summer? Well, I think I found it thanks to Roag Best and The Liverpool Beatles Museum!

Over the past week or so, Roag has been posting on Facebook about the first ever book to be launched held at the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. I don’t know why it took me a week to look it up on Amazon, but when I finally did, I immediately ordered myself the Kindle version of Shake it up, Beverley by Suzan Holder. It’s only $2.99 and I didn’t feel like waiting for the paperback edition that’s not deliverable until June 10th (not sure why that is).

I know I should be reading more non-fiction Beatles related books for this blog, put for the past week or so, I’ve really needed a distraction…something I could enjoy without having to actually think about it. It was then that the posts started popping up on Facebook about this book. I knew then that it was meant to be reviewed for my site.

What a fun, relaxing read this was! How could I not love a novel where the protagonist, Beverley Wilson, is a fifty-something year old, mother of three, like myself? I think every middle-aged, female Beatles fan will be able to relate to her mild-manner, ordinary, ‘careful’ life that gets turned upside down when she decides to re-enter the dating world after the death of her husband. Her kids are all grown…what could possibly go wrong?

One of the fantastic elements about this book is that the author mixed in so much Beatles history and plenty of the Fab Four’s Liverpool landmarks into the story, including the McCartney’s home in Speke. And no wonder the book launch party was held at The Liverpool Beatles Museum, when the main character not only visits the museum, but also spends an evening at the Casbah Coffee Club!

I read this book in less than 2 days and the only bad part about it was that it had to end. I thoroughly enjoyed Beverley Wilson’s exploits, adventures and mishaps. Just when you thought you figured out one mystery in this book another one pops up to keep you entertained throughout. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Beatles influence, Book Review

Book Review: “Fab4 Mania: A Beatles obsession and the concert of a lifetime” by Carol Tyler

Fab4 Mania Carol TylerAnother Amazon suggested book that I bought back in February is Fab4 Mania: A Beatles obsession and the concert of a lifetime (Fantagraphics Books, 2018) by Carol Tyler. Don’t know why it took me so long to read…are my readers as tired of my excuses as I am of making them? 😉

It almost seems to go without saying that one of the major trends in Beatles books over the last decade is for mostly women to write their memoirs about their love for the Fab Four. A Date with a Beatle by Judith Kristen, Confessions of a Beatlemaniac by Dee Elias, Diary of a Beatlemaniac by Patricia Gallo-Steadman, Do You Want to Know a Secret by Pat Mancuso, and My Ticket to Ride by Janice Mitchell are just a few of the books that have passed over my desk or been reviewed here on this blog.

And that’s just fine with me…keep them coming!

So what makes Fab4 Mania any different than the rest? Why should you want to read another teenage diary obsessing over John, Paul, George and Ringo? Well…for one reason, it’s filled with fabulous drawings and artwork by the author herself, Carol Tyler, who grew up to be a well known cartoonist. Carol’s work has graced the pages of such publications as: Weirdo, Wimmen’s Comix, Street Music, Zero Zero, Mineshaft Magazine, Prime Cuts, LA Weekly, Drawn & Quarterly, and Tower Records’ Pulse!

Like most memoirs by Beatles fans, Carol’s story comes straight from the pages of the diaries she kept as a teenage girl. The pages are fill with her bubbly stories of her friends and love for the Beatles, and also, teenage angst at the antics of her parents, siblings and teachers. The whole story culminates to her finally attending her first Beatles concert! The whole book is just wonderfully fun! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, graphic novel

OT Book Review: “Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted” by Sulieka Jaouad

Between Two Kingdoms Sulieka JaouadI made a trip to Target for a couple things and as I perused the book section, I came across Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Sulieka Jaouad. It’s far, far away from being anything music related, let alone Beatles related. Though, she does mention dancing with her circle of follow cancer patient friends to Beatles music at one point. It brought me a warm feeling to know that the Beatles could bring a bright moment into the lives of several people dealing with cancer, chemo and radiation.

Imagine being 22 years old, out of college with a new boyfriend and having just moved to Paris with your whole life ahead of you…when you’re diagnosed with leukemia. Suddenly, all those dreams, plans and the freedom you thought you had are taken away in a flash.

I could feel her pain, and I could feel the pain of her caregivers throughout this book. There were moments when I got angry with her and her selfish attitude towards those who were caring for her as she demanded their time and attention or didn’t stop to realize what they were giving up in their own lives to take care of her. I was the caregiver to both my parents during their cancer battles (which happened simultaneously) and it cost me. I developed panic attacks that would plague me for the rest of my life.

Then there were the moments while reading this book when I wanted to say out loud, “I get ya…I completely understand.” Those moments when you go through the ‘why me’ and ‘where do I go from here’…just like when I (yes ME!) was diagnosed with smoldering multiple myeloma. I will never go through what Suleika has gone through, but I could relate to lying on a table while having the bone marrow biopsy, the bloodwork that reminds you constantly that there is something inside of you that’s not right, and that feeling you get when you go to get a tattoo because it feels like you get to reclaim your body from the parasite within you. And that feeling of living between two kingdoms…the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick.

After her long battle with not only cancer, but a failed love relationship, Suleika sets out on a 15K mile road trip to visit some of the people who wrote to her during treatment…cancer patients, caregivers and even a man on death row in a Texas prison, journaling her trip along the way to create Part II of this book. But after publication of her story, Suleika Jaouad’s leukemia returned and she’s currently back in the hospital going through treatment again while watching her boyfriend Jon Batiste take home four Grammys in Las Vegas.

I wish her well…and I hope she writes a new book on this new chapter and what’s she’s learned about life so far. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Off Topic

Book Review: “The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family” by Ron Howard and Clint Howard

The Boys Ron Howard Clint HowardI’m always on the lookout for a Beatles related book that can hold my attention. I’m a huge fan of biographies and first hand experiences as compared to academic studies of the Beatles work and catalog. I’ve been lucky in the fact that Amy Hughes came along and asked if she could review books for this blog since she seems to excel at not only writing reviews, but she also likes reading those books that I can’t seem to get into. Thank you Amy!

About two weeks ago, I saw The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Ron Howard and Clint Howard on Amazon and knowing that Ron had directed the documentary – The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, I ordered a copy for myself. And lucky me…there was a used SIGNED First Edition for just $11 available!

The best way to describe this book written by Ron and his younger brother Clint is to imagine if the cast of Leave It to Beaver were a real family in Hollywood! We all know that in his younger years, little Ronny Howard played Opie on the Andy Griffith Show and..

a lot of first generation Beatles fans may remember Clint Howard as the adorable little boy with a pet bear on the TV show Gentle Ben. Star Trek fans will also know Clint from a first season episode where he played a 600 year old alien named Balok (Clint was 7 years old at the time).

And who can forget Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days! Well, these two were actually that cute as children growing up with parents who both put their own acting careers aside to support their two sons’ stardom. Not as stage parents…but as loving, supportive parents who were always there as they juggled auditions, rehearsals and stage time while maintaining a normal, all-American family life. It wasn’t always easy, but Ron and Clint tell the story honestly and with undying love and respect for their parents.

Only twice is the word “Beatles” uttered in this book, once when Ron admits to having donned a Beatles wig in his youth and once when he mentions that he was a fan in the 1960’s, but the lack of mentions of the Fab Four doesn’t stop it from being an exciting story of two brothers who were both the same and very different at the same time…but have a never-ending tight bond. It’s a true tribute to the American family and the more beautiful side of Hollywood fame. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: “The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music” by David Grohl

The Storyteller tales of life and music david grohlUnfortunately, I didn’t give The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music (Dey St. Publishing, October 2021) by Dave Grohl the respect that it deserves. I actually let it sit HALF READ on the end table next to my couch for a month! Oh…the humanity…I hang my head in shame. But now that my load has been lifted (I work as a temp, but have decided not to take any new jobs this month), I finished it in two days…something that any sane person could have done with the entire book!

Is this book everything you think and expect it to be? Well…yes and no!

Does it contain:

The grungy little details about Kurt Cobain?…no.

When and who Dave lost his virginity too?…no.

Details of his first marriage?…no.

The suggestion that he may have been abducted by aliens?…yes!

The gory details of him falling off the stage and breaking his leg?…yes!

For those of my readers that may are not aware, Dave Grohl was the original drummer for Nirvana and the founder of the Foo Fighters and he is a huge Beatles and Paul McCartney fan. So, if you’re looking for Paul McCartney stories, he doesn’t disappoint. The book is filled with stories of meeting his musical idols and how he himself turns into a ‘fan’ upon coming face to face with them.

As a doting father, Dave also tells of the excitement he feels when he gets to introduce his daughters to rock royalty. Imagine Paul McCartney playing piano with your three year old or Joan Jett reading her a bedtime story! And Dave tells the stories so humbly that (unlike other rocker memoirs) it doesn’t come off as bragging. Along those same lines, you won’t be forced to read through endless tales of his sexual conquests, but you’ll learn how much he loves and respects his mother.

In 375 pages, Grohl covers a lot of ground, but leaves so many things untold. This book will definitely leave you wanting more. And I have a feeling there will be at least one more book to follow this one. After spending much of the book telling stories about being the father of three daughters, the youngest two don’t get their fair share of page worthy stories. Also, in the credits, he thanks his publisher Liate Stehlik, “who allowed me the honor of telling my story (or at least a tenth of it) to the world. Thank you. Someday I’ll have to tell you the rest.” I look forward to hearing them too!

And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Beatles influence, Book Review

Book Review: “Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson” by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow

Up Jumped the Devil Robert Johnson Conforth Wardlow“Robert Johnson”

“World’s greatest blues guitarist”

“Went to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil to play the blues.”

These are the things I had heard over the years, but not being into the blues, I had no idea who Robert Johnson was…and this lead me to buy Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow last week and read it in 3 days. It was published in 2021 and just 270 pages (without including bibliography and index).

I’ll admit, I’ve never been a fan of the blues, though a lot of people will say it’s the roots of rock n roll. But after spending years hearing about a mysterious blues artist from the Mississippi Delta that was so good, people said he had to have gotten his skills by hoodoo or the Devil, the only way to find out for myself was to find the best book written about him. And from this list of awards this book has won, I think this one is it.

The Mississippi Delta wasn’t an easy place to grow up in the 1920’s and 30’s. Most black families were sharecroppers working for plantation owners. On the weekends, though, these hard working people would find their release at balls or jukes (without or with alcohol, respectively), dancing and listening to music. This is where Robert Johnson was born in 1911. But he wanted no part of farming, he just wanted to play music. He’d sneak out and sit outside jukes at night just to hear the music. At 11, he built himself a diddly bow on the side of the family shack (strings connected between 2 nails on the side of a house), just so he could play.  Not long afterward, his sister bought him his first guitar and from that moment on, he study and played wherever he could, learning from anyone who could teach him.

How good was Robert Johnson? Listen to Dead Shrimp Blues….a song that people have insisted there was no way one man was playing…there had to be 2 guitar players, they said. But there wasn’t….this was Robert Johnson:

Robert Johnson loved women almost as much his guitar. Families would hide their daughters when they saw Robert coming…”He plays that devil music!” He would be married twice and widowed twice by the age of 25. And just when the time had come for him to become a major musical force at age 27, he was poisoned by the husband of one of his lovers.

Did he sell his soul at the crossroads? Well, this book sets out to find out the true story behind this legend…a man who influenced Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin. Well researched, the authors have found more details about this man of mystery…a man who they say would turn his back when playing his guitar, so no one could see how he formed his chords. Now, it’s your turn to decide…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

OT Book Review: “These Five Words Are Mine” by Jennifer Lynne Croneberger

These five words are mine jennifer cronebergerA little over a month ago, I attended a local women’s event called Lifting Your V.O.I.C.E. (don’t ask me what the acronym stands for…I don’t know). I had heard about this event for a couple of years and in fact, I worked through a temp agency as a server at the country club where the event was held in previous years. I had hoped that I would be called up to work the event, but that never happened, so this year, I decided to cough up the money and go it alone. The event is hosted by local news anchor Tracy Davidson and motivational speaker Jennifer Croneberger. I decided to get a copy of Jenn’s book –  These Five Words Are Mine: Conversations With Life. My Journey to Awareness . . . Five Words at a Time after spending the morning listening to her speak.

It’s taken me a couple days of thought to figure out how I want to approach reviewing this book. That’s not a bad thing…and it’s not necessarily a good thing. I can’t even think of what category to put this book in…autobiography? self-help? enlightenment? Let’s just go with ‘all of the above.’

Jen Croneberger knew from a very young age that she wanted to write and publish a book and finally in her 30s she got around to achieving that goal. The book is a collection of 60 posts from her personal blog where she explores and examines her life experiences from the past and present.

Is this a feel good book? Yes, but it also made me angry at times. I’d put it down for days and eventually pick it back up again and only to find another beautiful story from her life’s journey.  The book will make you reflect on your own life choices and how you approach various situations in your own life.

Confused? I can’t find the right words to tell you about Jen and what she stands for, so here is a video of her giving one of her TEDx talks:

These Five Words Are Mine is a book you will read and then want your friends to read and probably like me, you won’t know why…but you’ll just know that more people need to connect with Jennifer Croneberger and her work. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Off Topic

Book Review: “What They Heard: How The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan Listened To Each Other and Changed Music Forever” by Luke Meddings

What They Heard: How The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan Listened To Each Other and Changed Music Forever Luke Meddings

An astounding thought crosses the mind when even thinking about the title of Luke Meddings’ book. The metaphorical and analytical analysis of these three entities has been decades in the making.

In What They Heard: How The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan Listened To Each Other and Changed Music Forever (Weatherglass Books, 2021), Meddings has unfolded a heartfelt dissertation on how the three B’s (and for contextual purposes, he also includes the fourth B – The Byrds), with minute clarity, couched in appreciation with the subjects at hand.

Each set out on their own path, yet within the circumstances of the ‘60s music and art scene, diverged at various points along the way. This isn’t a highbrow, how-the-stars-and-planets -aligned tome. It points to the inevitable for the times: Dylan breaking the barriers of folk and be damned; The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson as the troubled genius who saw beyond the accepted musical norms and finally The Beatles whose presence not only affected the aforementioned but occupied a massive, revered space that neither they nor anyone could have foreseen.

The hindsight for this book proves entirely relevant as Meddings intersects the creative influences of that time with the development of his own understanding of musical composition and theory. Translated: he gets us to the core of why we love those unexpected chord changes, why we hear something different every time we listen to every song. And why getting a handle on a note from ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ to ‘Good Vibrations’  to ‘Paperback Writer’ leaves us more confused than ever.

One overall aspect here are the underdogs in this character study: the members of The Byrds. The scattershot pickings when viewed from afar (covering Dylan, influencing George Harrison, conflicting integrations and genres that were amplified by Wilson) is indeed intriguing. I found entire backstories on the individual members enhanced the merit of their music and needed to be brought forth in the context of this narrative.

But while Meddings sets the needle into the groove of where this all began – the very late 50s to be fair – the crux of this book really centers on Wilson. He is living and breathing music. Not content to play in a band and wear the stereotype facade of the perceived groovy  ‘California lifestyle,’ Wilson reaches for stratospheric goals that as we see moved his mind far beyond what Lennon & Co. were tripping to with recreational drug use.

Wilson and the magnum opus of ‘Pet Sounds’ has of course been acknowledged by McCartney as the trigger for ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ start. Dylan on the other hand – in an oblique way – had already pushed the buttons and pissed off the folk purists with his jump into electric-land. Meddings gives us a view that while there had to be changes coming, the face of folk’s movement didn’t have to be nice or polite or meek. And if Wilson placed his Moog-minded, choral-vocal beauty out there, musicians like McCartney had to step out or be run over.

Meddings does conclude ‘What They Heard’ on what I would consider a downturn. As he ruefully reminisces that the paths of the book’s subjects did not cross over much past their heyday and obviously with the loss of Lennon in 1980, that was put to pasture. He does however lend a bit of spark for Dylan in recent years. While McCartney and Wilson have in varying degrees struggled vocally as they age, Meddings puts forth the fact (and I agree wholeheartedly) that Dylan is the one who has aged the best; growing into his voice – the nasal growl – and his learned historical and extensive references for 2020’s epic 17-minute ‘Murder Most Foul.’ Dylan with all his work is still a hard act to categorize to this day.

Charting the course from 1961-68 gives the reader a concise snapshot of where they all stood – eyeing each other through music, personal connection and as this book notes, how all of those ingredients combined gave us what we have today, most importantly for the better.

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Amy Hughes, Beatles books, Book Review