Category Archives: Book Review

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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Book Review: “My Beatles Hell: The Tragical History Tour of Beryl Adams” by Lew Baxter

My Beatles Hell: The Tragical History Tour of Beryl Adams by Lew Baxter is one of those books that you keep seeing popping up in Amazon’s recommended reading list or on other people’s bookshelf and eventually you hunt down a used copy and probably pay way to much for it, only to realize that ….yeah, you paid too much for an awful book!

To be completely honest, I started this review yesterday, but decided that I needed to read more than 93 of the 222 pages in this book to be able to give an honest review. Sixteen pages later, I’m more adamant in my opinion that this book is a sham!

She was scathing about the legions of folks – mostly men – although the recently published “ramblings” of Pauline Sutcliffe on her newly “exotic” brother caused incandescent ire in Beryl. These are people, she ranted, who’ve relentlessly jumped on the Beatles’ bandwagon over the last four decades; many touting mythical tales of links with the Fab Four or fabricating stories to make themselves look good or to savor some vicarious pleasure.

This is just a huge embarrassment to the Beatles world. There are very few who don’t/didn’t come under fire from Beryl in this book including Alastair Taylor, Peter Brown, John Lennon, Cynthia Lennon, Bob Wooler (who was married to Beryl), Allan Williams (who was Beryl’s live in lover) and Brian Epstein (for HIS decision to sack Pete Best). I’d truly like to believe that if Beryl hadn’t passed away suddenly (from mad cow disease), she would never have allowed this awful portrayal of her, her time as Brian Epstein’s secretary and her life to have ever been published!

Lew Baxter should be ashamed of himself. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

4beetle

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Longest Cocktail Party” by Richard DiLello

Oh dear sweet lord, where has this book been all my life?…

The Longest Cocktail Partywritten by the Apple Corps ‘House Hippie’ Richard DiLello and published in 1973, is just the book I needed after reading both Peter Brown‘s book and Alistair Taylor‘s book.

This book as quite the refreshing look inside the workings of the Fab Four’s company Apple Corps. Richard DiLello was a New York born hippie who was traveling around the world trying to find himself, when he picked up a newspaper in London and saw a picture of Beatles PR man Derek Taylor whom he had known from when he spent some time in Hollywood. After giving Derek a call, Richard was offered a job working under Derek as a Client Liaison Officer, (but he was given the unofficial title of House Hippie). Technically, he was a gofer who spent from 1968 to 1970 working at his dream job.

This book is absolute for all Beatles freaks. I’m just sorry I took so long to get a copy after hearing about it for several years. It offers a humorous and very real look inside the going ons and ultimate demise of what was to be the Beatles dream production company that was going to turn away no one with talent. At the start of the company, the Fab Four had put out ads telling any and all talented people to send in their tapes, poems, scripts and artwork for consideration for financial backing by the Beatles new no nonsense company. This book gives us all a glimpse of the diverse characters that walked through the doors, call on the phones and even took up residency within the walls of 3 Savile Road, London. Richard also let’s us in on the early management of Apple’s most successful talent: Mary Hopkins, James Taylor, The Iveys (Badfinger), White Trash, Jackie Lomax and others.

There were a couple points of interest for me in this 286 page memoir that left me scratching my head. The first was the mention of the car accident John had in Scotland. Richard’s book only mentions John, Yoko and Kyoko in the car, but fails to mention that Julian was with them. Odd that he would be left out. Second after reading the book Miss O’Dell in which Chris O’Dell mentions Richard over 30 times (according to the index), Richard only very briefly mentions Chris maybe six times (“Chris O’Dell stuck her head in the door and asked…”). I expected to read more about her having a bigger part in this ‘party’.

Note: In 2010, Liam Gallagher of the band Oasis took on the project of making this book into a movie. In 2014, Liam was picking actors for the film, but by 2016 he was unable to get financing and the production company Revolution Productions pulled out of the project. Boy, would I have loved to see that movie!

I know this review is choppy, but there is just so much information in these pages it’s hard to organize my thoughts onto a page. It’s definitely a book that I would love to sit down and discuss with friends and freaks alike! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “With The Beatles” by Alistair Taylor

Last week I said I would touch upon the commentary given by Alistair Taylor in the documentary Brian Epstein: Inside the Fifth Beatle. It just so happens that I was reading Alistair’s autobiography last week when I took a break to see the film. With the Beatles was the last book written by Brian Epstein’s personal assistant Alistair Taylor. It’s actually revision of his 2001 book A Secret History. Alistair also wrote a book Yesterday: The Beatles Remembered in 1988 that was reissued in 1991 under the title Yesterday: My Life With the Beatles.

Why so many books by one man?

Alistair Taylor started working at NEMS in late 1960 at the age of 25. Originally he had been interviewed for a sales clerk position, but after a two hour interview, Brian Epstein hired him as his personal assistant. The rest my friends is history. Alistair would become Brian’s right-hand man throughout his time as the Beatles manager and would come to be known as “Mr. Fixit” in the Beatles circle.

Mr. Fixit was exactly as his name implies. He was in charge of any problems that arose in the Beatles professional and personal world. Alistair would shop for cars, houses, islands or anything else the Beatles might request.  If a pregnant fan showed up, Alistair could make her go away with a check from Brian. If a Beatle happened to unfortunately come down with a STD, Alistair would find the cure and hand deliver it to them. And so it went, for 9 years Alistair Taylor literally waited on John, Paul, George and Ringo hand and foot even after Brian’s death. He was even a shoulder to cry on when Jane Asher left Paul. Until 1969 when Allan Klein did a clean sweep of Apple Corp., fired Alistair and the Beatles stopped taking his calls. Life would never be the same….

This is Alistair’s story of those years. Interestingly, much of the first half of this book is quoted a lot in the documentary I watched last week about Brian. Still, it’s a book worthy of shelf space with any Beatles freak’s collection. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “How Music Works” by David Byrne

Stop what you’re doing and go get yourself a copy of  How Music Works by David Byrne of the Talking Heads. You won’t be disappointed.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a review. I usually post these reviews as a Bonus Book Review, but since this book is actually about music and the Beatles get mentioned about 5 times, I thought I should just make it my weekly review. Plus, it was just too good to limited its readership.

David Byrne gently walks readers through the hows and whys music is created. From the drums of Africa to the sound editing software on a laptop, readers can’t help but get engulfed in this book. How Music Works is an easy read, but not one that should be attempted in one sitting or two. You’ll want to read a chapter or two, digest what you’ve read, then pick it back up and learn more. There were times when I thought maybe Mr. Byrne could have backed away a little on his own personal history with creating his own albums, but there is still a lot to learn about music and sound while reading how his genius mind works and how he collaborates with other musicians. And just when you think he’s covered it all, he introduces a new topic like – why CBGB in the Bowery was such a successful music club or why it’s important to support not just large opera and musical halls, but also amateur musicians and music education in schools.

This book is truly a great read for anyone truly and deeply interested in music, including all you Beatles freaks out there. I also think it would be a very interesting book for music educators. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

P.S. – The winner of the Mea Culpa Contest is Joe Birish! Congratulations Joe…please email me your mailing address so I can get your winnings out to you ASAP!

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