Friday, November 22, 2013

i'll Give it an 85. It's Got a Good Beat and You Can Dance To It--The Rock and Roll Roundup.

This is not the best way to put together a display, but one takes where one finds it. In this case, inspiration was in overstock, where I saw several multiple copy piles of music books, and I thought, what's the point of having books only in overstock and not on display? Since our "we saw heaven" display was completed with the appearance of Eben Alexander it seemed time for a pop music display.

I don't generally like doing displays from one section, so I wish I had been able to pull something history or photography or fiction, but this round table (I will not tell you its origins) doesn't fit that many books.

To get in the mood, I watched some old video clips of American Bandstand. There's nothing like gals and guys rocking out to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's cover of "Mame" to get you in the mood. That's the source of this "Rate a Record" illustration.

Beatles Vs. Stones (Simon and Schuster), by John McMillan, upends the traditional myth of the Beatles as the clean-cut kids and the Stones as bad boys. From the publisher: "McMillian reveals how the Beatles-Stones rivalry was created by music managers intent on engineering a moneymaking empire. He describes how the Beatles were marketed as cute and amiable, when in fact they came from hardscrabble backgrounds in Liverpool. By contrast, the Stones were cast as an edgy, dangerous group, even though they mostly hailed from the chic London suburbs." Here's a little more from Slate Magazine.

While every rock star of the 1960s and 1970s has had a contract thrown at them, high-profile biographies continue to get a big push, though in my opinion, they rarely do as well. Being that the memoirs are "as told to," isn't it just a detail of merchandising in the difference between a positive biography and an as-told-to memoir?  Robert Plant: A Life (It Books) is out from Paul Rees, which chronicles his life from boyhood through solo career. The publisher notes that his current output is "some of the most acclaimed work of his career." I guess I don't keep up as well as I should. Here's Scott Porch in Salon on big bios.

Also featured in Porch's roundup is a new Johnny Cash bio from Los Angeles Times music critic Robert Hilburn called Johnny Cash: The Life (Little, Brown, as opposed to "a" life). It has the exciting tie-in of a commemorative postage stamp. Hey, I bought a sheet of 'em, so it must work for something. There are a lot of great reviews out there for this one. David Cantwell in Slate (apparently my go-to media organ for rock bios) observes: "Hilburn's work is far and away the most insightful, entertaining, comprehensive, and well-told Cash biography to date."

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen has a memoir called Eminent Hipsters (Viking) that starts with growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, and looking to such inspirations as WOR DJ Jean Shepherd and no less than Henry Mancini and his "swank, noirish soundtracks." He met up with Walter Becker at Bard College, where their blend of rock, jazz, poetry, and swank noirishness led to a legendary career. Why do I remember that the album Aja debuted at #26 on Billboard and then moved to 3? Memories are a strange thing. In The Wall Street Journal, David Shifflet reviews not just Donald Fagen's memoir, but also Graham Nash's Wild Times and Ray Davies' Americana.

Just to get us into this century, I should also mention Cee Lo Green's Everybody's Brother (Grand Central), written with Big Gipp and David Wild. As not quite the elder statesman of some of these other subjects, I haven't really found traditional print/online reviews on Everybody's Brother, but Publishers Weekly wrote: "Brassy, often snarky, and totally madcap, Cee Lo mouths off in this ribald tell-all, to the enjoyment of his fans and newbies everywhere."

If you think there is too much testosterone in this blog post, feel free to read about Linda Ronstadt's Simple Dreams memoir. 

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