Tag Archives: Memoir

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.

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Book Review: “Not Dead Yet: The Memoir” by Phil Collins

As soon as I read online about the release of Not Dead Yet: The Memoir by Phil CollinsI knew I had to read it. It wasn’t long after the announcement of this book that rumors started flying about Phil Collins long standing grudge with Paul McCartney. And though the story of the feud doesn’t appear in this book, many other Beatles stories that appear in it’s pages.

Phil opens the book by saying that it contains his memories of the events in his life and they may not match other memories of the same events, but they are as honest as he remembers them. Apparently, his first wife has very different recollections of their time together because she’s currently suing him because his wholly false statements “not only seriously damaged my reputation, but have also caused me considerable distress,” she said. I thought he was very kind to all three of his ex-wives and his ex-girlfriend throughout the book and took on great responsibility for the demise of all his relationships…we he details greatly.

But his marriages aren’t why we’re interested in Phil Collins, is it? No, it’s the music. So much music! In fact, there are times when even he and his fellow Genesis members admit there was too much Phil Collins! But for Collins, it was built into his personality to never say no to a idea. That included working with such greats as George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Sting, Robert Plant, etc. And though the battle with McCartney isn’t contained in the book, you do get the sense that Phil doesn’t think to highly of him without coming right out and saying it.

Then there’s his acting career and all that wasted film laying on the cutting room floors. Read the book if you want to know more about all his almost great movies roles, including his appearance in “A Hard Day’s Night”. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir”

I really should learn to be more disciplined in my reading. It really doesn’t set me up to write good reviews when I have to spend an entire Saturday reading the second half of a book. It’s usually not the author’s fault. Nothing wrong with the book itself. I just have a bad habit of procrastinating. But I digress…

I pre-ordered I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir months ago when I heard about it’s release. After all my other various reviews of Beach Boys books, movies, documentaries and concerts over the past year, this was a must read for me.

I must start out by saying that having seen the movie ‘Love and Mercy‘ really set this book  up for me. I think the movie and this book go hand in hand in explaining the life and mind of founding Beach Boys member, Brian Wilson. In fact, the book is going to fill in a lot of the blanks that the movie left out, including Brian’s first wife, Marilyn, and their two daughters Wendy and Carnie.

One interesting factor in the book is the infamous plane flight to Houston. The movie Love & Mercy opens with the scene of the Beach Boys getting on that flight and Brian having a full blown panic attack almost immediately after take off. This obviously painful memory is brought up over and over throughout the book. It was the turning point in Brian’s life that led to his depression, use of drugs and unfortunate ten years of being held mentally and physically hostage by Dr. Landry. The plane flight would shape Brian’s entire future.

Brian, in his child-like manner, does his best to explain his difficult and tumultuous relationship with his abusive father, but I’m not sure that he ever really gets to the bottom of it. He explains early on in his writing that to talk about his dad, he has to revisit a very painful time in his life. A situation that he really doesn’t want to think about or analyze anymore. He does his best when he does bring up his father, Murry Wilson, to be fair in his assessment.

And for the Beatles connection: Brian gives major props to George Martin and does hope to someday write a song with Paul McCartney.

To truly understand this book, be sure to see Love & Mercy. It’ll explain the child-like way that this book is written. It’s not deep…but one has to believe it was cathartic for Brian to write. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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Bonus Book Review: “Dick Van Dyke: A Memoir” by Dick Van Dyke

I’ve creates a new headline for books that are not Beatles related in nature. If you see “Bonus Book Review” in the headline, you will know that book doesn’t mention the Beatles, making it easier to just pass-by the review if you’re not interested.

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I love this man! And I’ve been wanting to read My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir by Dick Van Dyke since it was released in 2011I finally bought a copy a year ago and am just now getting around to reading and reviewing it. And believe it or not, I will mention the Beatles several times in this review!

Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, but I never noticed that throughout his long career, Dick Van Dyke has always made family friendly movies! In fact, he insisted on it. A devout, church going family man, he saw his career in show business as his job and a way to provide for his wife and children. And he considers himself one of the luckiest men alive to have been to do what he loves and raise a family.

Probably best known for his role in his hit series, The Dick Van Dyke Show, it came as a surprise to me that the show was actually canceled after the first season. But, it was during the reruns that following summer that Americans started tuning in and fell in love with the show, causing CBS to do an about face and continue the madcap series for another four years.

While the Beatles were heading back to the U.S. for their second tour in 1964, Mary Poppins was hitting the big screen. And though the Billboard charts were dominated by the Fab Four, Super-cali-fragil-istic-exp-iali-docious, sung by Julie Andrews & Dick Van Dyke, hit No. 66 on the Hot 100 in 1965. “Mary Poppins” was nominated and won several awards for it’s songs including two Oscars. Dick Van Dyke loved making this movie, but at 39 years old, said it was difficult at times keeping up with dancers that were almost half his age.

The making of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968 was a whole other story for Dick Van Dyke. He turned this roll down several times, but every time, they would come back and offer him more money, until it hit the seven figure range. He didn’t like the script and thought their were too many holes in the plot. When he finally accepted the part, he made it perfectly clear that he would not be revisiting the English accent he had used in Mary Poppins because of the heat he got (and still gets) for how bad it was! Even though the film became a huge success and is considered a classic children’s film, he still doesn’t like the way it turned out. As you watch the clip below, keep in mind that he was 42 at the time:

Now here’s a unique tie to the Beatles that’s not mention in this book. In 1974, Dick Van Dyke make a made-for-tv movie called The Morning After, that much is mentioned and talked about. And even though I was just 10 years old, I distinctly remember seeing this movie…it moved me that much. It’s the story of a man who destroys his life by abusing alcohol. The soundtrack contained the song Yesterday by Paul McCartney and it was played at the end of the movie. Dick did this movie because of his own dependence and battle with alcohol.

I could go on and on about Mr. Van Dyke and continue to sing his praises and talk about his career, but it would be best for my readers to just pick up a copy themselves, even if it’s a library copy. I think you’ll find his life amazing. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink” by Elvis Costello

Well folks, here it is…the book that took me way to long to read!

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink is a 670 page memoir from Elvis Costello.  Written in his poetic hand with a lot of discussion and samples of the lyrics to his songs, you’re going to wish this book came with a soundtrack to follow along with the stories.  It’s not that I don’t know Elvis’ music, but being more of the pop music fan, I’ve never felt the need to listen to any of  his entire albums.  Maybe it’s my own fault then that I had trouble keeping up.

But there are other problems too.  Mr. Costello loves to tell you of his family history, just not in one or two neat and tidy chapters.  He likes to digress throughout the book, never letting his reader know at any given moment what decade they may end up in whether it be with his great grandparents or parents or someplace else in time.  I could almost swear that several times, he flashed back and never came back to the original story he had started telling.

Still, some the stories he tells of the artists he’s worked with are truly amazing.  He sings the praises of working with Johnny and June Cash, Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint and so many others.  (Note: Oddly, I got to the part about his working with Allen Toussaint the day after Allen passed away.  Cue Twilight Zone music.)  Elvis worships his father and tells the heartbreaking story of his passing within days of the untimely death of his wife (Elvis’ stepmother).  And yes, he talks about working with Paul McCartney, but I was surprised that it wasn’t with as much gusto as I would have expected.

Unless you’re an over the top Elvis Costello fan that has followed his every move from the very beginning of his career, don’t plan on this being a fast read.  Sit back and just enjoy the storytelling.  And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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