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  1. #101
    WOM's Avatar
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    Like most things, it's about having a purpose. Retirees and lottery winners struggle with depression because they have time, money and no purpose. Knowing you have something specific (and required) to do when you get out of bed in the morning takes care of a lot of mental health issues.

  2. #102
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    My copy of the Bruce book arrived today. 508pp (excluding photos) of moderately small set type. It's going to take awhile — like one of his concerts.

  3. #103
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    Funnily enough I get same feeling from this book I had when when I heard Springsteen's early songs: Jesus, this guy is good, but he uses too many words. Here's part of his description of Freehold NJ in the fifties:

    When it rains, the moisture in the humid air blankets our town with the smell of damp coffee grounds wafting in from the Nescafé factory at the town’s eastern edge. i don’t like coffee but I like that smell. It’s comforting; it unites the town in a common sensory experience; it’s good industry, like the roaring rug mill that fills our ears, brings work and signals the town’s vitality. There is a place here — you can hear it, smell it — where people make lives, suffer pain, enjoy small pleasures, play baseball, die, make love, have kids, drink themselves drunk on spring nights and do there best to hold off the demons that seek to destroy us, our homes, our families, our town.

    Coincidentally I'm also reading Philip Roth's The Plot Against America which, in part, is his description of Newark two decades earlier. Roth is better at it than Springsteen, but mainly I think because he has more experience in crafting a novel. Which, as is already clear after a dozen pages, is what this memoir wants to be.

  4. #104

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    Amor de Cosmos wrote: Funnily enough I get same feeling from this book I had when when I heard Springsteen's early songs: Jesus, this guy is good, but he uses too many words. Here's part of his description of Freehold NJ in the fifties:

    When it rains, the moisture in the humid air blankets our town with the smell of damp coffee grounds wafting in from the Nescafé factory at the town’s eastern edge. i don’t like coffee but I like that smell. It’s comforting; it unites the town in a common sensory experience; it’s good industry, like the roaring rug mill that fills our ears, brings work and signals the town’s vitality. There is a place here — you can hear it, smell it — where people make lives, suffer pain, enjoy small pleasures, play baseball, die, make love, have kids, drink themselves drunk on spring nights and do there best to hold off the demons that seek to destroy us, our homes, our families, our town.

    Coincidentally I'm also reading Philip Roth's The Plot Against America which, in part, is his description of Newark two decades earlier. Roth is better at it than Springsteen, but mainly I think because he has more experience in crafting a novel. Which, as is already clear after a dozen pages, is what this memoir wants to be.
    I don't know. When I read that passage you quote, I felt the same way and I thought I could identify sentences that could be cut. But each sentence I identified for the chopping block said a lot when read on its own. For example, "it’s good industry, like the roaring rug mill that fills our ears, brings work and signals the town’s vitality" seemed a bit too much on first read but knowing that the Nescafe and the rug manufacturer are there says that this isn't a one company town. And what the Nescafe factory adds to the site and literal feel of the town is complemented by the sounds of the rug manufacturer. So each sentence seems needed if such details are desired. The other move is to scale back the whole thing buy cutting it all. Does the existence of the Nescafe and the rug manufacturer really shape who he was as a kid and who he became as a songwriter? Probably not. It's his family and immediate street-level surroundings.

  5. #105
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    I think you're right. I don't think anything should be cut, anymore than a line from Lost in the Flood should be. It's more that each one could be a paragraph, or even a chapter. It's just dense that's all. If he was to write more prose — as I hope he will — I think he'd probably pare things down to a Nebraska-like spareness. Actually as the book becomes more anecdotal, with the introduction of music and band-members it begins to happen here.

  6. #106
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    After saying elsewhere that I rarely read music bios — I’ve almost finished Robbie Robertson’s Testimony, his memoir of life with The Hawks/The Band. I bought it partly because I’d heard it was better written than Born to Run — it’s not close — and partly because of the Dylan connection. It does deliver in that regard, particularly in the ‘post-motorcycle accident period’ when Dylan was off the grid in Woodstock, and The Band were holed up at Big Pink. They’d work together everyday (producing what would become 'The Basement Tapes.') Dylan emerges as a more sympathetic, even paternal, figure than he usually does. Overall it’s a decent read. Much more about actually making music than Born to Run, but much less “writerly” and intimate.

    Robertson, Springsteen and Dylan have been professional musicians since their teens, never done anything else. How each of them has evolved, as artists, as individuals, is intriguing. In their bios Springsteen and Robertson reveal how they took control of their lives and careers at a young age. It was a clear decision for both. For Robertson it was a necessity as three band members had ongoing drug issues so someone had to keep the train rolling. Springsteen did it because he required absolute control (he and Robertson are both extreme perfectionists.) Dylan OTOH, though uncompromising about his work, always needed looking after. Sara, Al Grossman, Bob Neuwirth, someone had to be there to give him money, wash his clothes, make sure his guitar was tuned and so on. In Testimony he spits out work like other people take a piss. Song after song, each one recorded in one or two takes, and then on to the next, with lyrics bashed out on a manual typewriter, while surrounded by other people. Remarkable.

  7. #107
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    Two recommendations: Tracey Thorn's 'Naked at the Royal Albert Hotel', a worthy sister book to 'Bedsit Disco Queen', but focusing on the vagaries of singing and singers. And Johnny Marr's autobiography 'Set The Boy Free', which I devoured in two days. It's not that well written or anything, but it's just the right era for aging farts sitting around after Christmas wallowing in nostalgia. He comes across as a decent, honest bloke and he doesn't get into any bitching about Morrissey (or anybody much), just expresses regret at the lapsed friendship. Tails off a bit as he becomes a health nut and lists all the famous people he's played with, which I suppose he felt obliged to include for the record, but of course it's the formative years you're going to be interested in.

  8. #108

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    Just finished "altamont " by Joel Slevin highly recommended goes deep into the chaos of the time and the total anarchy of a gig that wouldn't happen now and shouldn't happen then, only gripe is his obvious dislike for Jagger which lets others, particularly the hells angels and the grateful dead, off the hook

  9. #109
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    To the ever growing list of bios by significant musicians of my generation add Jimmy Webb. (Jimmy, never Jim “It’s on my birth certificate.”) As you'd expect The Cake and the Rain: A Memoir is one of the better written of the recent crop.

    As with his songs Webb is meticulous when it comes to form. His book is organised in alternating short chapters each running chronologically, the first deals with his early life, the second begins when he’s, arguably, at the peak of his success in 1969. It’s a simple but effective formula, ensuring variety of content throughout. There are no really boring bits.

    There’s also no false modesty here “Writing songs was so damn easy I fantasized I could write one when ever I wanted or needed to," he says on page one. Webb comes across as a complex, quite likeable, but ultimately somewhat dissatisfied individual. His father was an itinerant preacher, moving from one tiny church to another through the Texas panhandle and Southern Oklahoma. This was tough on his kids who were regularly bullied for being the new “Preacher’s kids.” Jimmy, the eldest and seriously myopic, frequently took the brunt of the abuse. The conventional story would say he escaped into music, but that’s not quite true. His mother maintained a watch on his daily piano practice because he was needed to accompany his father’ services. It wasn’t until he began to discover the potential for arranging, and rearranging songs, that his musicianship, and particularly writing — which began before he entered his teens — really took flight.

    Professional writing success for Webb came early, maybe too early. It threw him into the grown-up world of Sinatra, Paul Anka, Mel Tormé, rather than that of his own generation. He smoked tons of weed, opposed the War in Vietnam, and roared around Beverly Hills and Vegas in Carroll Shelby’s Cobra prototype, but didn’t have any counter-cultural cred. Unsurprising when he’d stay in the most expensive hotels and swan off to Venice for a weekend with Joan Collins. But Jimmy wanted it all. MacArthur Park won a Grammy for Best Orchestration. He was disappointed, it should have won best single.

    Though personable, Webb seems to lack close friends. Perhaps because of the constant moving when he was a kid, or the fact that most of his early colleagues were older than him. There’s a sense of trying a bit too hard to fit in, and of attempting to be the Main Man. While I wouldn’t say there’s a whiff of bullshit about this, there’s a feeling that certain stories might be somewhat decorated. That is the story-teller’s art of course, and Jimmy is nothing if not that so, if true, it's forgiveable. Anyway, highly enjoyable and recommended.

  10. #110
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    I've got David Cavanagh's Good Night and Good Riddance on my unfeasibly high to-read pile. Anyone else read it?

  11. #111
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    I haven't read the Cavanagh but would be interested to know what you make of it. Someone gave me a rushed out hack biography of John Peel after he died and I've always fancied reading something more substantial.

    I'm currently reading Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti. She adopts a direct style which works well as the material doesn't really need any embellishment. It has a very strong sense of time and place, so far post war childhood and late '60s/early '70s arts lab experimental living. Genesis P-Orridge already comes across as controlling and manipulative, with much worse to come by all accounts.

  12. #112
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    Was browsing in Waterstones earlier and happened upon a copy of Electric Don Quixote: The definitive story of Frank Zappa by Neil Slaven. Impulse purchase complete.

    So, erm, has anyone read it? Is it any good?

  13. #113
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    I'm reading books about musical years - Jon Savage on 1966, David Hepworth on 1971, Wingco on 1996.

  14. #114
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    David Hepworth's new book, on the rock star era, is very thin stuff but with a few gems embedded. Not worth the current price but if you see it going cheap, might get you through a long train ride.

    It's odd because Hepworth and Ellen sound erudite on their blog and Twitter feeds but their books are sub-Maconie platitudes about topics that others have already covered with far more depth and wit.

  15. #115
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    Quote Originally Posted by imp View Post
    I've got David Cavanagh's Good Night and Good Riddance on my unfeasibly high to-read pile. Anyone else read it?
    Essential. It is the definitive account of the Radio 1 shows and is not afraid to criticize when Peel has an off day. Does not assume that Peel always made the right choices.

  16. #116
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    Good to know, SD. Still saving it for some magical future time when I have nothing to distract me and can simultaneously listen to old music, or download stuff I missed the first time around.

  17. #117
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    I'm reading 'Simply Thrilled', Simon Goddard's account of Postcard Records, which I bought at the National Museum of Scotland this week after walking through the very well-presented History of Scottish Pop exhibition. Obviously I'm enjoying it because I love every single bum note ever released by that short-lived label. It's not taking itself any more seriously than Postcard itself did, which is mainly fine, but there's something about his writing style that occasionally jars, as if he's trying to write it in the style of a cocky early 1980s 21-year-old. Or maybe that is his style.

    This summer I finally read Robert Forster's 'Grant & I', which is now among my top five Best Music Books Ever. And this is not just because I'm an ÜberFan of the Go-Betweens, but also because it beautifully tells the story of a band and a friendship that endures despite never quite making it to the level their talent deserves. I don't often cry while reading any kind of book, let alone a music book, but this pushed me to tears, and probably not in the places you'd expect.

  18. #118
    David Cavanagh's Good Night and Good Riddance is decent, yeah - very simple and effective premise, listening back to countless episodes of his shows with the benefit of hindight – is very revealing. He's quite critical of Peel at points. And it reveals loads of stuff that Peel played that's rarely commented on –*reggae, jungle, pop music in the early 1980s, etc.

    It's probably one of the best things written about Peel, who should but isn't served better.

  19. #119
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    Yes, I started 'Margrave of the Marshes' after finding it in a charity shop a few years back, and gave up after 30 pages.

  20. #120
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    Is that the autobiography? Cos that was bloody terrible

  21. #121
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    Two great reminders from imp- that exhibition and the Go-Bs book (I will be in floods, as some of the songs send me as it is)

  22. #122
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lang Spoon View Post
    Is that the autobiography? Cos that was bloody terrible
    Yes, and it is. Should donate it to the Book Exchange cupboard down the road on my next foray. Though sometimes books are so bad you don't want other folk to waste their time reading them.

    Someone I know in publishing worked on a Peel book that they managed to rush out an unseemly three weeks after he died. He advised against buying it.

  23. #123

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    Quote Originally Posted by imp View Post
    Yes, and it is. Should donate it to the Book Exchange cupboard down the road on my next foray. Though sometimes books are so bad you don't want other folk to waste their time reading them.

    Someone I know in publishing worked on a Peel book that they managed to rush out an unseemly three weeks after he died. He advised against buying it.

    In Fairness, I'm sure "Margrave of the Marshes" would have been a better book had he not died halfway through writing it.

    Agree that "Goodnight and Good Riddance" is definitely the one to go for if you're interested in Peel.

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