Tag Archives: autobiography

Book Review: “Rememberings” by Sinead O’Connor

rememberings sinead oconnor On May 18th, I was browsing through Facebook when I saw a post by Elaine Schock (wife of Mikael Gilmore and former publicist of Sinead O’Connor) with a link to a NY Times article about the upcoming release of Sinead O’Connor‘s autobiography – Rememberings. I immediately headed over to Amazon to pre-order a copy for it’s release on June 1st.

I’m guessing that most people have a pretty good idea of how the rise and fall of Sinead’s career occurred back in the early 1990’s, but to make it really, really brief for those that don’t know…she rose to international fame with the song “Nothing Compares 2 U” that was written by Prince…and then on an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1992, she tore up a photo of the Pope on live TV and her career crashed. Then to make matters even worse, it was reported that she refused to perform if the national anthem was played before any of her concerts in the U.S. She became a publicity nightmare!

So…that’s the story…that’s what I remember…and pretty much all I knew about Sinead for a couple decades. Just like everyone else in the word, I have always loved the song Nothing Compares 2 U, but never paid her any mind after she seem to fall off the face of the earth. That is until she showed up on social media in the early 2000s when I started following her…and what a ride that was! She was brutally honest and severely messed up…at one point asking her fans to find her a husband! And they did…and she married him in Las Vegas, but like everything else in her life that crashed. It wasn’t long before she was on social media pleading with her followers to get her help immediately…she was holed up in some motel in New Jersey and was suicidal. I lost track of her  and her craziness after that…until now…

Sinead begins her story by letting her readers know that the book is written in two different voices. Of course, the first thing one thinks upon hearing this is…how many voices does she hear? Are these different people living inside her? She gives no really good explanation and the book begins as if it’s written by a child as she tells the story of her troubled upbringing in Dublin. The grammar police would have a field day with her over the way it’s written. Some of the stories are nothing short of bizarre and sickening as she tells of the abuse of her and her siblings at the hands of a mentally ill mother and an emotionally distant father. It’s nothing short of weird and it’s not something I could just speed read through. I had to put the book down and pick it up over several days.

The story continues through the beginning and height of her career and the eventually fall from grace after the SNL episode. Then Sinead takes a weird turn…she starts breaking down each of her albums and telling about the meanings behind each song. WAIT! What happened to how she ended up with four children? What about the husband she married in Las Vegas and the breakdown in the hotel in NJ? Is she really going to skip over all the CRAZY parts?!

Actually…no. And in a different voice from the rest of the book (that actually started with the stories behind the songs), Sinead starts getting brutally honest about adulthood, her children, and much of her time dealing with her mental health. It’s not a complete story…but what she does remember is as honest as can be. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Society’s Child” by Janis Ian

Society's Child Janis Ian

This is another review of another book I picked up a couple week’s ago at a used book store for $5 – Society’s Child: my autobiography by Janis Ian. Now here’s a strange little twist…I follow Janis on Facebook, but I couldn’t tell you why or when I started. I just do. I don’t own any of her albums, nor have I ever followed her career. She’s just been kinda there…and I do enjoy her posts. So, when I saw this book, I guessed it was about time I got to know her a little better.

You know the story…little Jewish girl from New York makes it big and leads a fabulous, glamorous life filled with the very best of everything? Well, this ain’t that story! This is the story of a young girl from a family where her father was blacklisted during the McCarthy era forcing him to find a new job and move his family every two years. It’s the story of an awkward 15 year old that wrote her first hit song ‘Society’s Child’ in 1966 and had to leave a stage midway through the song to the yells of “Nigger lover!”

What should have been an amazing life, was nothing short of tragic. Only once before have I ever read an autobiography and thought to myself, “Why is this person still alive?”, and that was Danny Bonaduce’s book. Despite her overwhelming success in Japan and Australia, behind the scenes Janis was used and abused by a series of friends, lovers and colleagues. And then in 1975 came her Grammy winning song…At Seventeen…a song that brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. I lived the pain in that song…

By the age of 37, Janis Ian had been robbed, drugged, physically abused by her husband and eventually lost everything she owned to the IRS when her accountant (who was stealing from her) failed to inform her for 7 years about several IRS inquiries. And yet, she endured. This tiny, fragile little woman chose to live on.

This 360 page autobiography published in 2008 is a real page turner. There is honestly never a dull moment throughout, making it hard to put down when it was well past my bedtime because I had to work the next day. (And for those who are concerned about whether this review is on-topic for a Beatles blog, Janis does mention the Beatles twice.)

If you can either beg, borrow or buy a copy of Janis’ story, please do so. It’s going to teach you that everything that shines, isn’t gold, but sometimes it’s not money and fame that matter. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “A Cellarful of Noise” by Brian Epstein

My reading and review of A Cellarful of Noise by Beatle’s manager Brian Epstein has been too long in coming. This book was published in August 1964 and since I was born in July 1964 and was unable to read at the time, I think I have a firm excuse for being tardy.

I’ve known about this book for a very long time, but it was during the reading and review of Peter Brown’s book, The Love You Make, that I finally decided to invest in my own copy. These books don’t come cheaply. My first edition hardcover copy cost me $25 + shipping. If you’re not inclined to spend that much on a book, you can get a copy of A Cellarful of Noise on Kindle for $7.99. But I digress…

I had one trepidation about reading this book and that’s because it was ghost written by my arch-nemesis Derek Taylor. Anyone who has read along with my blog for any substantial amount of time will know that Mr. Taylor just gets under my skin despite the fact that everyone associated with him always writes very highly of him and his place in the Beatles organization. Still, I wasn’t going to let this stop me from reading what I consider to be an absolute must read experience for any Beatles freak!

To give you some background on the writing of this book, let me quote a paragraph from Peter Brown’s book:

The book’s entire interview and research period took place over a long weekend at the Imperial Hotel in Torquay in the south of England. On the first day Brian got through his childhood period without much trouble, but on the second day he started having difficulty telling Derek the story of his teens and early twenties.

At only 120 pages, this book is a short and abbreviated story of Brian Epstein, his life, career (with and without the Beatles) and his hopes and thoughts about his future, the future of the Beatles and his other artists. At some points, it seems to almost become a sales pitch for Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black and Gerry Marsden since it was written so early on in Brian’s career as a manager, but still it is a very enjoyable read with a lot of stories I had already heard and some stories that were new and revealing to me (remember, I don’t consider myself a Beatles trivia expert, so a lot of tales are still very new to me). Brian, always being the consummate professional and purveyor of good manners, is kind throughout the pages and if he does tell any tales of arguments or disagreements, he’s sure to clear up any harsh exchanges with words of peace and harmony in the end. And even though I had my doubts about this book because of Derek’s influence in it’s pages, I’m led to believe that because of Brian’s inscrutable honesty in all manners, that he would have never allowed the release of any book that wasn’t a true story and depiction of himself or those around him. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “All You Need is Ears” by George Martin

There are a lot of authentic reasons why Sir George Martin is referred to as the 5th Beatle…and they’re all contained with the pages of his book, “All You Need Is Ears: The inside personal story of the genius who created The Beatles“. Published in 1979, this book is still a delight to read for any true fan of the Fab Four.

This isn’t a book that’s just about his time working with the Beatles and in the studio. It’s the story of George’s  life along with his thoughts on musical theory, recording and producing. He begins where we would expect George Martin to begin, with when he was born in 1926 and his early days growing up in war torn England and his time in the Fleet Air Army. He spends very little time talking about his private life except to make quick mentions of meeting and marrying his first wife Sheena, the birth of his kids Alexis and Gregory, he impending divorce, his marrying Judy and the birth of his third and fourth children – Lucy and Giles. He talks about his studio engineers more than his own family.

Where he gives an outstanding explanation of the mathematics behind chords (something I’ve heard of but never had it explained to me), at the other end of the spectrum, he gives a wordy and tedious chapter on the ins and outs of mono, stereo, four track, eight track, etc., recording. There is also a rather long and (and I think) unnecessary chapter on becoming a record producer in the 1970’s when the book was written. At times it almost felt like either he, his co-writer Jeremy Hornsby or his editor was attempting to add quantity between the cover pages only to sacrificed the quality. Though, I do know a few people who will find the technical mumbo jumbo very interesting.

For those looking for possibles hints as to why Sir George left his first two children out of his will when he passed away on March 8, 2016, you won’t find any answer in these pages. Even though the whole matter is really none of anyone’s business, the fact that it made headlines can’t help but make one wonder what went so terribly wrong that a man would exclude two of his flesh and blood from enjoying his wealth. I have personally talked with Greg Martin and he’s a lovely man. By day, he’s an actor, but in his spare time he’s a gifted astrologer. He did a live reading of my chart for me via Skype about 4 years ago and he was able to tell me things that did eventually come to be. (In fact, if anyone knows how to get a hold of him, please send him my way. I’d love to have him read for me again).

Anyway…I digress…

This book is a must read for any true Beatles fan, McCartney fan, Lennon fan, etc. He doesn’t pay a whole lot of mind to Ringo and George, but does spend a good deal of time telling of his interactions with Brian Epstein. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Bobby Rydell: Teen Idol On The Rocks” by Bobby Rydell

I don’t remember where I first saw this book – Bobby Rydell: Teen Idol On The Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances by Bobby Rydell, but when I saw there was a snip about The Beatles in it, I sent away for a copy.  And I’m glad I did…

Born Robert Louis Ridarelli on April 26, 1942 in Philadelphia, PA, Bobby Rydell became a household name by the time he was 17 years old. His first hit was “Kissing Time”, but he’s probably best known for his song, “Volare” which rose to #11 on the Billboard charts in 1960.

Bobby Rydell paints a picture perfect version of his life up until about 2/3 of the way through this book. That’s when he hits his readers with the downside of what was going on behind the scenes. Still, he remains positive and grateful for all that has been given him throughout his time as a teen idol, recording star and world class performer. He talks of his desire to preserve his Philly roots, the ins and outs of being a south Philly family and his friendships with the likes of Frankie Avalon and Frank Sinatra.

There are two Beatles connections to Bobby Rydell. He tells of his surprise meeting with them while HE was on tour in the U.K. with Helen Shapiro and of Paul McCartney on the Beatles’ Anthology album giving him credit for influencing their early music. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

4beetle3beetle2beetle1beetle

 

 

 

Bobby Rydell is on tour right now and is throwing in a couple local/Philly area book-signings along the way! Here’s where he’ll be signing books:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Doylestown Bookshop
16 S. Main Street, Doylestown, PA
6:30-8:30pm
 *
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Main Point Book Store
116 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, PA
3-5pm
*
Friday, October 14, 2016
Wildwood Crest Library
6300 Atlantic Avenue, Wildwood Crest, NJ
2-4pm
*
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Books & Greetings
271 Livingston Street, Northvale, NJ
1-3pm
*
Saturday, November 19, 2016
B&N – Broomall
1991 Sproul Road, Broomall, PA
1-3pm

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Book Review: Do You Want to Know a Secret?: The Autobiography of Billy J. Kramer

I don’t request review copies of new books too often.  I prefer to spend my own money so I don’t feel obligated to give a decent review in exchange for the freebie.  This time, it’s going to be difficult!

When I first got my copy of Do You Want to Know a Secret?: The Autobiography of Billy J. Kramer I noticed the page count was only 180 pages.  “Cool!”, I thought, “This will be a breeze of a read.”  I should have realized that the low page count would mean there wasn’t much sustenance to this autobiography.  I guess that goes along with Billy J. Kramer’s belief that after he leaves a stage, his life is his own and no one should bother him or invade his privacy in any manner whatsoever.

So, what’s in this book?  Well, Mr. Kramer marches nicely and neatly through his life explaining to us everything he hates and didn’t like about his career in the music industry.  He didn’t like Dakotas, George Martin’s production on his song, his manager Brian Epstein’s choice of songs, the screaming girls at the concert or the fans that mobbed him after the shows.  The only time I felt Billy J. was truly honest and interesting in the telling of his story was when he finally admitted to himself that he had a drug and alcohol problem.  Unfortunately, after the telling of that period of his life, he resorts back to his arrogant “I did nothing wrong…it’s everyone else’s fault” attitude.

If you’d like to know the basic story behind his Billy J. Kramer’s life and how much he worshiped the Beatles, then give this book a read.  If you’re looking to know stuff like where he fell in the chronological line with his 7 siblings, then you’re going to have to consult another source.  And for that reason…

I rate this book 2 out of 4 Beetles!

4beetle 3beetle

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Book Review: “Clapton: The Autobiography” by Eric Clapton

One thing leads to another… and after reading George Harrison’s “I, Me, Mine” and Pattie Boyd’s “Wonderful Tonight,” the next obvious choice seemed to be to read, Clapton: The Autobiography.  (For those not in the know, Eric stole George’s wife Pattie).  The odd thing is…I’m not a Eric Clapton fan.  Oh sure, I like Layla and Tears in Heaven, but those songs were #1 songs, but I always found Wonderful Tonight to be so overplayed and too sappy!  Yet…

I couldn’t put this book down!

Eric Clapton started out his young life a lot like John Lennon did…with an absentee father and being raised by someone other than his mother.  But his story had an odd twist in that he was led to believe his grandparents were his real parents and his uncle was his brother.  This bizarre family situation played out in so many ways throughout his life and career as he spent half a decade looking for the acceptance he never got from his mother.  Sound familiar?

Somewhere along the way, through all the obsessions and addictions with women, alcohol and drugs, Clapton managed to have several short lived, yet very successful bands.  His guitar playing reached a God-like status early and carried him on to become one of the most respected guitar players of today, despite the turmoil going on in the background.

Eventually, Eric cleaned himself up and is now a family man who tires easily on the road when touring.  He even mentions his recommendation for the best parenting book and speaks openly about his need to help others achieve their own sobriety.

You can buy a copy of Eric Clapton’s autobiography for $0.01 at Amazon, or for $0.75 at Half.com.

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

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Book Review: “I, Me, Mine” by George Harrison

Call me a glutton for punishment.  After reading Derek Taylor’s book about his non-stop LSD trips and then seeing Derek’s widow talk about their non-stop LSD trips in “Living in a Material World“, I decide to read George Harrison’s autobiography that he wrote in 1980 with the assistance of …Derek Taylor!  Oh goodie…more acid trips!

Several years ago, I asked a world renowned Beatles expert and radio show host what book he thought was the best book ever written about the Beatles.  His answer was I, Me, Mine by George Harrison, so in realty, this book has been on my list for years.

This book is three separate parts.  Part one is a conversation between Harrison and Taylor about George’s thoughts on everything and nothing at all.  For the Beatles fans that are looking for secrets into George’s past, you won’t find them here.  What you will find is his thoughts on Beatlemania and his religious beliefs.  And of course, you’re going to get the bonus of a lot of mumbo jumbo from Derek in between!

The second part of the book is page upon page of pictures of George throughout his life.  From childhood, adolescence, Beatlemania, Monty Python and beyond, including snapshots from the family album.  I can’t say there was anything that wow’d me.

Part three of the book is meant for the diehard Beatles and George Harrison fans.  Each of the songs that George wrote are presented in their raw handwritten form, typed form and another page with George’s explanation behind what inspired the song.

This book left me a little disappointed.  I guess I was looking for more about George from George instead of Derek’s edited version.  The book almost seems like it was published as a way to placate the ever hungry fans for more information.

Copies run on Amazon and Half.com from $0.75 up to $200.  I borrowed mine from the local library!

I rate this book: 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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