Tag Archives: Janis Joplin

Book Review: “The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock-and-Roll Life” by Jonathan Taplin

The Magic Years Jonathan TaplinA couple weeks ago, while performing my side hustle as a publicist, I stumbled upon a website where I can get ARC copies of new books for free in exchange for a review. The site is filled with mostly self-published fiction authors, but a quick search on “music” and “biographies” turned up The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock and Roll Life by Jonathan Taplin.

Published May 7, 2021, this 286 page memoir is a real page turner…I only wish I had read a hard copy and could have actually turned pages instead of reading a .pdf, but that’s my problem…not the authors! I love a good page turner…literally!

If you’re a Bob Dylan fan, you’re going to love this book. If you’re a fan of The Band, you’re going to love this book. If you’re a fan of folk music, rock and roll, Martin Scorcese, George Harrison, this is the book for you. Jonathan Talpin has worked with all of them one-on-one and so many more famous names.

A lonely child, sent off to boarding to school and pegged by his father to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer, somehow the universe had other plans for Jonathan when he would take a train into Boston on weekends to go to the folk music clubs. By the time he was in Princeton, he was already working as a tour manager for some of the biggest names in the folk music industry.

Excellent book…but sometimes it can leave you scratching your head as to what was happening in between a lot of the excitement. And then there is the question of how he managed to have $500k to lend to Martin Scorcese to finance a film? I’m sure there is a terrific explanation, but for now we’re all going to have to just keep guessing.

I will add a warning that this book does get a bit political leaning in the last couple chapters and is bound to irritate some people. This is the man who wrote Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy Which left me asking, how the hell he got into that field? And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Cornflakes with John Lennon” by Robert Hilburn

Cornflakes with John Lennon Robert HilburnLast month I decided I needed to get out of the house, and while on my adventure, I came across a used bookstore where I stumbled upon a copy of Cornflakes with John Lennon: And other tales from a rock ‘n’ roll life by Robert Hilburn. I kept thinking the author sounded familiar, but it wasn’t until I actually started reading and realized that he was a Los Angeles Times music critic that it occurred to me that I had seen his name while I was doing research on Jim Croce. Hilburn had reviewed a Randy Newman show in 1972 with Jim opening and had given Randy one paragraph and Jim three & a half paragraphs worth of praise. But I digress…

No reason to beat around the bush, this book rocks from beginning to end. Published in October 2009, this 270 page tribute to rock ‘n’ roll is a real page turner. Hilburn spent over 30 years as the Los Angeles Times rock critic, so he knows what the rock and roll public want and doesn’t let them down with the stories in this book. He starts off immediately with a story about John Lennon, then fills the rest of the books with personal, inside stories and encounters with the likes of Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Janis Joplin, Ice Cube, etc. (Hell, even I liked Bob Dylan after reading this book!) And Robert lets us get a peak into the world of Curt Cobain, or so it appears…

Robert Hilburn becomes with friends with almost every rock, country and folk star he reviews and interviews along the way, even admitting to giving them advice on their shows which he seems surprised to find they take to heart the next time they hit the stage. He gets phone calls and invitations from rock gods around the world…he had the job we all dreamed of having! There were a few hiccups along the way…George Harrison got miffed and stopped taking his calls and requests for interviews. But all-in-all, Hilburn sure makes it all sound like the ultimate joy ride for the last 3 decades.

I don’t know why I’m still talking. If you’re like me and somehow missed this book when it came out, take my advice and go to Amazon.com where you’ll find plenty of used copies for under $5 and add this book to your collection. The stories about Lennon alone are worth $2! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “On the Road with Janis Joplin” by John Byrne Cooke

Several months ago, I embarked on a project that involves writing about several well-known rock stars. Not too many people know about my project, but one of my friends that I’ve been consulting and sharing with suggested I include Janis Joplin (along with a couple other women rockers). “UGH!” I thought. “I hate Janis Joplin. Why would I want to include HER of all people in my work?” Well, I couldn’t seem to shake the idea from my mind, so I did a little investigating to find out if there was a link  between Janis and my project…and lo and behold, there was! But I needed to find out more about her….

For the past several weeks, I’ve been reading On the Road with Janis Joplin by author, musician and Janis Joplin’s road manager John Byrne Cooke (son of Alistair Cooke). There are several other books about her: One by her sister and one by her lover/roommate, but I decided this one would probably be the most unbiased look at her life.

Reading this book was slow going at first because, well…she’s not one of my favorite people! I was happy to see a couple Beatles references in the early part of the book as the author tried to put her early development into perspective with what was going on in the music world at the time. Janis was originally from Texas, but moved up to the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco in the mid 60’s to join the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. She would end up having two more bands before her death in 1970, and would tour extensively with all of them. It wasn’t until her final album (that would have to be finished without her after her sudden death) that everyone would feel that she had finally learned to control her vocals to put out her very best album.

Interesting trivia from UtimateClassicRock.com:

The last recordings Joplin completed were ‘Mercedes-Benz’ and a birthday greeting for John Lennon. On Oct. 1, 1970, Joplin recorded the old Dale Evans cowboy tune ‘Happy Trails’ for the former Beatle, which is sort of spooky given the lyrics are “Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.” The tune was titled ‘Happy Birthday, John (Happy Trails)’ and released on the Janis box set in 1993. Lennon told talk show host Dick Cavett that her taped greeting arrived at his home after her passing.

But a strange thing happened as I read further and further into Janis’ story. I came to love and respect her for who she was. This is a young woman who was voted “The Ugliest Man on Campus” at the University of Texas at Austin in her freshman year (I was told I was the ugliest girl in the 7th grade), and it would seem that she carried the scars from her unpopularity in high school and college with her into her career. To put it bluntly…she was lonely. Very lonely…and her drug use was to comfort herself through the pain. My heart aches for her now.

If you don’t know about Janis Joplin, but want to learn more about her, this book is a good place to start (I’ll probably end up reading the books by her sister and the one by her lover/roommate). I did get a little frustrated with the author going off on his own story a little too much for my liking, but all in all, this was a fine book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era”

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with my neighbor, Janice, and she mentioned that she occasionally reads my blog. <insert jaw-drop> She asked if she could borrow my copy of “Daddy Come Home” by Pauline Lennon and then offered me her copy of Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portrait of an Era (1993) as collateral. I explained that I trusted her (and I know where she lives) and wouldn’t need collateral, but then I though to myself, “Oh…what the hell!” And I’m glad I did!

I’m really not one for picture or coffee table books. Maybe it’s because I hate dusting and because I’m not a Beatles collector. But, I do like my Beatles books, so I thought I’d thumb through this. It was surprising to me that this wasn’t just a picture book filled with Linda’s photos and quick captions. She tells about how she met each band or singer, her time with them, where the photos were taken and tidbits about the friendships she developed along the way. I also found it interesting when she talked about her techniques for taking the photos.

I was also genuinely surprise at the who’s who list of 60’s artists that she met and photographed prior to meeting Paul McCartney and the Beatles. Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, The Who, The Mamas & the Papas, Ray Charles, etc. And yes, she does talk about when and how she met Paul McCartney and includes with the story her photographs of the Beatles. In the last pages, are included several intimate, sweet, portraits of Paul with their daughters Mary and Heather.

I don’t know if my neighbor remembered that she had put a newspaper clipping in this book of Linda McCartney’s obituary. Just knowing that Linda has passed makes this book almost heartbreaking to take in while reading her words and stories. Still, it’s a great legacy to leave the rest of us Beatles fans. I think it’s a great book for those who, like myself, have never really gotten to know who Miss Eastman was before she became Mrs. McCartney. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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You can find used hardcover copies of this book on Amazon for under $10 and paperbacks on Half.com for under $5.

 

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