Tag Archives: John Lennon

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!

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Janis Joplin

Book Review: “The Meaning of Contentment” by Mary McGuinness

The Meaning of Contentment by Mary McGuinnessSome of you may remember me NOT reviewing a book called Mary’s Prayer several years ago because of my rule not to review books of people I do PR work for. Well, The Meaning of Contentment by Mary McGuinness is the follow-up book that was just released this past December 2018…And since Mary has been doing such a swell job of promoting her own books, she hasn’t needed my help in any way…so here’s a review of her latest book.

For those that haven’t read Mary’s Prayer yet, Mary McGuinness wrote the book to tell the story about her struggles when she developed depression and panic attacks in her mid 30s while working as an accountant in Glasgow, Scotland. She talks of being forced to drop out of the workforce and her need to make peace with the fact that things will never be the same for her. Mary talked a lot about how music, especially that of the Beatles and John Lennon, really spoke to her during this difficult time and helped her to understand what she was going through.

Now, Mary McGuinness has continued her personal story in The Meaning of Contentment. In this 256 page memoir, McGuinness continues the story of how despite her best efforts to return to the workforce after getting an Honors Degree in Psychology, the universe led her in another direction. It was though helping her elderly uncle John with his daily needs that Mary learned that sometimes life isn’t about working 9 to 5 and bringing home a paycheck and that maybe her focus should be about helping others who also struggle with the hardships of life. She learns that contentment is found in some of the most unlikely places.

It takes a brave soul to be as open as Mary McGuinness is in this new book (and in Mary’s Prayer). Combined, the books cover 20 years of her personal battle with depression and panic attacks. She also continues to tell the story of her love of The Beatles and John Lennon and how her trips to Liverpool and The Peace Tower in Iceland brought so much joy back into her life. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Beatles influence, Book Review

Book Review: “Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics” by Adam Thomas

Lennon vs McCartney The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics Adam ThomasI guess I was browsing around Facebook (or maybe it was on Twitter) a couple weeks ago when I saw the author, Adam Thomas, of Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics post about his book being half price on the publishers website, so I thought I’d give it a go since it seemed like a topic that I hadn’t fully delved into where the Fab Four are concerned.

This book was self-published in November 2014 but is able to withstand the test of time since it starts back at the very beginning of the Beatles career and because there are now only two original Beatles who are still with us here on earth. Paul and Ringo still may write songs about their heydays as Beatles, but most of it is reflective and nostalgic with very little, if any, controversy.

This book is only about 200 pages, but does a great job of pointing out the songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote about each other (both good and bad), both during their time as a writing team and after the split up of the band. The one problem that I found with Adam Thomas’ presentation of this material was that he very rarely quoted the lyrics of the songs and instead would just give his interpretation of what was contained in it. I can only guess that he did to avoid dealing with any copyright issues, but unless you know the words to every Lennon and McCartney song ever written, it can be a little trying. Still, he does do a great job explaining the meaning behind the songs. And…not only does he analyze John and Paul’s hidden messages, he also takes on Ringo and George’s work as well.

The first hundred pages of this book are about the songs in question and the second half of this book is a charted “Relationship Timeline”. I’ll admit that I haven’t read through the time-line yet, but I’ll get to it in the very near future. After reading the first half, I think it’s obvious that Adam Thomas did his homework for this book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under beatles, Beatles books, Book Review

Book Review: “Maharishi and Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru” by Susan Shumsky

On September 3rd, I received an email asking if I’d be interesting in being part of a Blog Tour for a new book. The subject line of the email was “NEW BOOK: The Beatles’ India – sex scandals & mental breakdowns (Inside Story)”. As a publicist who works with authors, a book that was released seven months earlier is not considered a new book…but what the hell. Also, I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Susan Shumsky, last week at the Beatles’ White Album Symposium at Monmouth University in New Jersey. I introduced myself and told her I would be reviewing her book. We had a brief conversation, I attended one of her talks and then said our goodbyes at the end of the seminar.

Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru by Susan Shumsky was released on February 13, 2018.  It’s a 300+ page book about the author’s experience with the same Maharishi that the Beatles spent time with in 1968. The book is very well written and an easy read. Of course, you may get tripped up on all the Hindu terminology, but not enough to distract too much from her personal story of following and living at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and practicing transcendental meditation for over 20 years.

Now for the more personal side of this review…and strictly my opinion: There are many times throughout Susan’s story that the word ‘cult’ would come to my mind. Even the author herself brings up the topic along the way, but easily finds ways of dismissing it at times. It can become almost disturbing to the reader and I still haven’t come to terms with her justification of some of the things that she brings to light about the Maharishi’s organization. Even after being kicked out of the TM organization, she still supports the Maharishi to the very end.

But was John Lennon correct when he called the Maharishi a fraud? Well, this is also left open to interpretation. Ms. Shumsky spends several chapters in the middle of her book discussing the Beatles involvement and visit to India to meet with Maharishi at his ashram. She draws the stories from other sources since she wasn’t there to obtain any first hand knowledge. She also draws upon stories from people she knows who were there. In a court of law, a lot of this would all be considered hearsay. My thought is to take what she says, along with any other sources you may have read and develop your own opinion. Or…maybe not, because in the end, does any of it really matter? I think it’s up to the reader to decide what’s right for them when it comes to their personal religious beliefs and not be influenced by celebrity endorsements…or condemnations. Even Susan says in her book that you have to find the right guru for you, so you’ll either find her story about TM impressive or disturbing.

Susan Shumsky does a great job of opening the readers eyes to the making (and life) of a guru by someone who was actually there to witness it. She tells both the good and bad. The stories of her experiences are heartwarming, funny, disturbing and told with a lot of strength. Yes, I would highly recommend that you read this book if you’re a true Beatles fans or just someone considering TM or just wants a first hand experience of what it’s like inside the ashram. It’s a book that can create a lot of discussions about gurus, religion and God. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

***For more information on Susan Shumsky, go to www.DivineRevelations.org

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

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: “When Life Sends You Lemons, Make LENNONAID: What John Lennon’s life did for mine” by Kaya John

When Life Sends You Lemons, Make LENNONAID: What John Lennon's life did for mine Kaya JohnWhen Life Sends You Lemons, Make LENNONAID: What John Lennon’s life did for mine by Kaya John was recommended to me by a friend. In fact, I was asked if I would be willing to interview the author for my blog. Instead, I think a review of this self-published autobiography/memoir is in order.

As a publicist for several self-published authors, I’m generally very lenient when reviewing self-published books. I believe everyone has a story to tell and should at some point in their life share their story with the world. I went into this book with the same attitude and early on came to the decision that it would be very hard to rate someone’s memoir, let alone judge their life story. Kaya’s story is that of a broken and abusive childhood and the only thing that brought her joy was the music of the Beatles and John Lennon. I could relate…until page 131.

I somehow feel quieter inside now that Cynthia has finally let it all out. That needed to happen. We needed to know that about John and Cynthia really needed to tell it. I was always so afraid of what her truth might be. I understood about the coldness and the temper but I must say I was relieved to find out he only hit her once, I was really afraid he could have been a real constant physical abuser. So he wasn’t as bad as I though he might be.

Did she really just justify all of John’s abuse because he only hit his wife Cynthia once? Is she excusing the physical abuse against May and Yoko too? I found this one paragraph incredibly disturbing. But the author didn’t stop there.

Ms. John talks excessively about her parent’s flaws, illnesses and addictions that led to her not so happy childhood, but only hints at her own flaws including addiction and a failed marriage at some point in her life. She also goes on to lecture about the importance of becoming a vegetarian or vegan, even sinking so low as to say about those who eat meat: “And I wonder what the mutilation, torture, rape, confinement and murder of conscious, intelligent animals is doing to their soul.”

The last 26 pages of this 180 page book are all about the “Beatles friends and family” that Kaya has met over the years and all of her best memories of attending all but one Fest for Beatles Fans, making this book read more like a blog than a book. In fact, I would recommend she take up blogging instead of writing books…

I couldn’t rate this book even if I wanted to…sorry.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: “Baby’s In Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles” by Arne Bellstorf

Baby's In Black Arne BellstorfBaby’s in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles a black and white graphic novel by German cartoonits Arne BellstorfThis hardcover book measures approximately 6″ x 9″ and is 195 pages long. It was originally published in Germany in 2010 under the title Baby’s In Black: The Story of Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe, and later translated into English in 2011 and released in the U.S. in 2012 with its new title.

This is the latest graphic novel in my quest to find the ultimate Beatles graphic novel. I bought a used ex-library copy off of Amazon.com, so I can really comment on the cover since mine has plastic covering it. I will say that even though this book is in black & white, I enjoyed the artwork much more than the book I read last week in which I had a hard time telling the individual Beatles apart from the artist’s renditions. I believe the author of Baby’s In Black, Arne Bellstorf, was much better at pulling off the emotion of the characters much better than some other cartoonists who used more color and detailed drawings.

This book is the love story of Astrid Kirchherr and Beatles’ bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, from the moment they set eyes on each other at the Kaiserkeller club in Hamburg, Germany, until the day Astrid broke the news to John and Paul that Stu had died. George, Paul and John also play a big part in the story with barely a mention of Pete Best. Klaus Voormann also figures prominently in the story, as does Astrid’s mother. You have to give the author a lot of credit for getting the real Astrid Kirchherr to help in making the story as true as possible. It made it a real delight to read knowing that it came from source. And though I’m weary to label this as the ultimate Beatles graphic novel (since it’s really about Astrid and Stu), I really believe that any Beatle fan would truly enjoy this book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under graphic novel