*sigh* The final installment of Tony Fletcher's often-updated R.E.M. biography series. So sad... I think I now have to admit they've really broken up.*sigh* The final installment of Tony Fletcher's often-updated R.E.M. biography series. So sad... I think I now have to admit they've really broken up. (But on the good side, I get another R.E.M. book out of it! One last chance to read about the band!)
I am kind of disappointed at the cover -- all the cover is is a picture that's been floating around the internet (possibly from Q Magazine) for over a decade. And that's all. I mean, I've had that picture on my computer for ages, use it as my desktop wallpaper, and have used it on CDs I've made. I feel like we got cheated on the cover art. There's not even a title! Just that picture (and the author's name in tiny print)! I love that picture, but cover art should be something different from what some other magazine put on their website 10+ years ago. phhht.
Plus, the cover's pretty flimsy. Between the flimsiness and the clip art-type cover art, I feel like this was just printed at home. blah.
One thing I don't love about this version (and I say "this version" because I don't remember it being like this in any of the earlier editions) is the editorializing about some of the albums. Yes, there were some albums that didn't do as well as others, but it seems like Fletcher kind of likes to tear those albums apart and disparage them. Rather than saying in a straightforward manner that such-and-such album didn't sell as well, he basically puts his opinion in about which albums were bad or which songs sucked and why. I didn't particularly care for that. Facts, yes; opinions about why, no thank you. Plus, just because *you* think a song sucked, and you think this is why it sucked, doesn't mean *I* think it sucked, or doesn't mean I think it sucked for the same reason you did. Conversely, he seems to really applaud the final album -- implying (or maybe even outright saying) that they'd found themselves again -- which I really didn't like, in part because I didn't think it felt like at all like R.E.M. So, again, this becomes a book of his-opinion-is-right.
I gave this book a really low rating simply because all of the other books in the "series" were so much better. As I said before, I don't remember there being this much editorializing in the other versions. If I'd never read any of the other books, this one would have gotten a much higher rating, with just a minor demotion for the forced-upon-me opinions. But since the other ones don't do that, this one gets a much lower rating. Yes, it's the wrap-up to their career, but the editorials just got SO on my nerves that it had to be bumped WAY down....more
The short review: As was expected, it was a fluffy, light read. I was kind of torn about this book--it was interesting and had some good history and stThe short review: As was expected, it was a fluffy, light read. I was kind of torn about this book--it was interesting and had some good history and stories about the band, but seemed like it was glossing over a lot of stuff, too. I gave it 4 stars mainly for the subject ("Oh my God! A book about the New Kids on the Block! *fan girl squeal*"), but I think substance would have only gotten it 3-3.5 stars.
The long review: Ah, my childhood.
I was a big New Kids On the Block fan back in the day, but not what one would call a Blockhead. I didn't travel around the country or the world, my room wasn't wall-to-wall NKOTB, I didn't force my parents to take me to concerts. I didn't meet any of the guys at autograph sessions, nor did I wait outside venues to be able to see them for even a fleeting second (Okay, I would have liked to have done that one.). I guess, then, I was just a normal pre-teen (or teen or early 20s, or apparently, in some cases, mother) girl in the late '80s/early '90s. I had a nightshirt with the boys' picture on it, I had two posters, I had the albums, knew the words to almost every song, cut their pictures out of magazines, taped their TV appearances, went to two concerts (less than six months apart, but a two-hour drive difference), had a Jordan doll, and I watched the Saturday morning cartoon. But no bed sheets, no wall-to-wall pictures, no stalking. Like I said, I suppose I was just a normal girl of that era (although maybe the fact that I *didn't* have the wall-to-wall decorations and an entire New Kids wardrobe made me abnormal).
So when I saw this book, with the much older, but still decently cute, faces of the New Kids On the Block staring right at me, I decided I needed to read it. (Not being a Blockhead, I didn't need to read it right away, but being a fan back in the day, I needed to read it at some point. And hey, if someone's going to write a book about NKOTB, I knew I probably wouldn't delay reading it too long.)
The book is about what you'd expect of a biography about one of the most famous pop bands, and the band that (supposedly) Started It All. Van Noy has access to the band members, so there are a lot of current quotes used, rather than using "their own words" from back in the '80s and '90s (Ugh, I hate when authors do that. I could have gotten the same information from just reading the newspaper!), as well as lots of interviews with fans (And who knew the fan base was still so strong? Or that there's an annual cruise?! I want to go on that!). One thing that gets to me, though, is that she uses so many quotes at times that they don't flow into the text all that well. It also feels like there should be more substance. Not that the book isn't substantial, just that it feels like I remember hearing more controversy and gossip about them, and she's barely touching on any of that. Still, though, even the substance is what you would have expected in a biography about one of the most famous pop bands: girls everywhere (EVERYWHERE, even in their parents' kitchens), backlash against the band, fighting between band members after being on the road for nearly three years straight. So there's nothing really groundbreaking, but there are some things and some details you might not have previously known. I get the feeling that maybe some of the substance or in-depth details were sacrificed so that Van Noy could tell the fans' story, as well. There are so many quotes from fans--at times seeming like there are more fan quotes than there are band member quotes--to tell about the fans' relationships with the guys and their views of the band that it probably took away space in the book for the deeper stuff or particular details that had to get ignored or glossed over. At the end of every chapter, she also highlights some touching thing the band members did for fans, which can either warm your heart to the band and their humanity, or get on your nerves (For me, it's the latter. Their fans think they saved the world; I got it. They have done some nice things for their fans, though.).
Overall, the book is a decently-written flashback. It's not Deep Literature, but it's also not a piece of junk that just got thrown together to cash in on a death or reunion or anniversary. Van Noy's access to the guys means we have their memories of the era as it happened, as well as 20 years of hindsight. I keep getting "Tonight" from Step By Step stuck in my head (which is always odd to me, since it isn't my favorite song on the album; just the easiest to latch on to, I suppose, with its "la la la la la la"s), and I oftentimes will play some NKOTB on my iTunes after sitting and reading the book for a while. It makes me long to be in fifth grade again, but I'm okay with having moved on. It is kind of sad, though, when in the book both the band members and the fans say that you could tell it was coming to an end--between the backlash against pop, the backlash against the constant NKOTB merchandising, the rise of grunge, and a fan base and band structure (five young men in their teens and early 20s) that, by definition, had to grow up and thus move on. I also feel slightly guilty that I did move on and never came back, even when the band did. But it makes me appreciate the time we had together. Going to see them at the now-defunct Kingdome in September 1990, then seeing them the following Valentine's Day (yup) thirty miles away; my heart fluttering at Jordan Knight's dimples, smile, and intense eyes; watching the Saturday morning cartoon (especially the episode where they were performing at the Kingdome!), even with all of its cheesiness; listening to my older cousin pine for Joey (and here's how *I* knew their time was up and the fans were moving away: the day my cousin started to tell me about her crush on Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day)... It was a simpler time, being 10 years old.
I may have grown up and like more manly male singers now, like Michael Stipe (umm...) and Dave Grohl, and like more sophisticated lyrics like those of Ken Stringfellow and Sean Nelson, but you should never forget where you came from, or forget the innocence of youth. Many people my age now embarrassedly admit they used to like the New Kids on the Block, or don't admit it at all. I, though, will always tell you loudly and proudly that I loved NKOTB. I was 10, and what girl didn't? They were exactly what I wanted back then--catchy music I could dance to, light-hearted lyrics about hanging out or having a crush, and cute boys who could dance. There's nothing wrong with admitting that once you were young and had different tastes and priorities than you do at an older age. I still have the cassettes I owned back then, even bought the CD versions of two of them (and obviously have them on my computer), still pull out the Christmas album in December, and can still sing along to most of the songs I could over 20 years ago. And most importantly, I can still remember what it was like to be 10, have a crush, and have my biggest cares in the world be whether an international superstar who was 9 years older than me might fall in love with me, or whether I was going to hear one of their songs on the radio that day. Nikki Van Noy's book offers a chance to return to that time, relive some memories, and hear a few stories I hadn't heard before....more
A great trip through the life and mentality of Dave Grohl, including genealogy, rock & roll history, and U.S. history -- a bit of something for evA great trip through the life and mentality of Dave Grohl, including genealogy, rock & roll history, and U.S. history -- a bit of something for everyone!
I thought this was a really great biography of Dave Grohl. Yes, it is unauthorized, and yes the author does sometimes spend a little too much time talking about tangential topics, and sometimes not enough time talking about how a particular event really affected Grohl or what he thought about something (which might be a result of it being an unauthorized biography, not one Grohl sat down for and spilled his guts out), but still, I thought it was a really good book.
I can see how some readers might think there's too much rock history and not enough Grohl, but for someone who doesn't know a lot about the history of punk or metal, Branningan's background info was an enjoyable lesson and gave me a frame of reference for the people, places, mentalities, and styles that would later be referred to.
The middle of the book does get Nirvana-heavy and more about the band overall or Kurt (and Courtney), and not so much about Grohl or Grohl in relation to the band/the band's reception/fame. However, I do think Brannigan was attempting to make the connection between Nirvana history and how Grohl was affected by it... those connections just weren't all that clear sometimes, and it seemed like the book was becoming a Nirvana/Kurt Cobain biography, rather than a Dave Grohl biography.
So, on the one hand, I found it informative and an interesting biography, if not 100% of Dave Grohl, at least of the music scene and the bands he's been a part of. However, I could see where superfans of DG might get bored with this book -- this is the kind of book that if it had been about R.E.M., and I've read literally almost every substantial book written about them, I might start to say, "Oh, my God, enough already. We don't need your critical theory take on every song! Oh my God, we *know* such-and-such." However, I did think that Brannigan incorporated those analyses and tidbits into the text better than some R.E.M. authors I've read.
Good book, 4 stars. By the way, best f'ing part of the book: "the most memorable incident at Word of Mouth [recording In Utero] saw the Seattle police department arrive at the studio door following up a noise complaint, as Dave Grohl's ferocious drumming inside the soundproofed live room was so loud that it could be heard echoing throughout the surrounding neighborhoods" (210) [emphasis added]. Mother of God. The man is a BEAST. (And a sexy beast, too.)...more
Michael Stipe is such an enigmatic figure, and he either plays into that, or he's completely misunderstood, depending on who you ask and/or when you aMichael Stipe is such an enigmatic figure, and he either plays into that, or he's completely misunderstood, depending on who you ask and/or when you ask.
Michael Stipe is famous for giving these (what seem to be) outrageous answers to questions about himself, and telling these (what seem to be) outlandish stories about his life. Is his first memory really of having scarlet fever and having his picture taken? Did he really have scarlet fever and his parents still insisted on having his picture taken, or was that a delirious dream that has stuck with him? Or did he completely and unknowingly make that story up? Does he really remember everything he ever got for Christmas from age 7, or was he misunderstood/misquoted?
Here, supposedly we get the "real" Michael Stipe, or at least as much of the real Michael Stipe as anyone could ever know. Jovanovic interviews people who know Stipe (at least I'm guessing he interviewed them, given that they're thanked in the acknowledgments), and uses past interviews to (try to) piece together the "real" Michael Stipe.
It makes one wonder, though... If Stipe, in 1984 for example, tells one crazy story, then in 1997 says he was misquoted by the journalist.... and told another "fact" in 1980 but then in 1998 says he was misunderstood by the journalist.... How much is Michael Stipe constantly pulling our leg? He either stretched the truth when he first told a story (for example, remembering every Christmas present he ever got since the age of 7), or when he said he was misquoted/misunderstood by a journalist, OR both times.
So how can we ever *really* know a person like that? I still think he tries to be a confusing enigma, and as much as any journalist wants to try to interview Stipe or the people around him, the story is still just going to be a variation on whatever Michael Stipe wants to put out there. I have a feeling only the Stipe family actually know Michael; methinks even R.E.M. get some percentage of a fabricated Stipe. But I still love him, and will still read books about him, especially ones written by someone like Rob Jovanovic.
The one caveat, though: if you're an R.E.M. fan, you've probably read these stories and quotes elsewhere. The book is still fabulous for completists, but there's very little you haven't heard or read already. Plus, a lot of the book seems like it's just switching out "R.E.M." or "the band" in other books for "Stipe and R.E.M." or "Stipe and the rest of the band" -- as if to make this a "Michael Stipe biography," Jovanovic had to emphasize Stipe more, even when what he was saying was about the entire band. ...more
A good overview of the "music scene" in the Seattle area (but mostly Seattle, with a few mentions of people up north like in Edmonds, or south in TacoA good overview of the "music scene" in the Seattle area (but mostly Seattle, with a few mentions of people up north like in Edmonds, or south in Tacoma) before Jimi Hendrix or grunge. It includes the music of the Duwamish people, settlers' bands, jazz, opera, the symphony, blues, bluegrass, etc....more
Big Star has been such an influence to so many musicians since the 1970s, but the general population doesn't know who they were. The band's history waBig Star has been such an influence to so many musicians since the 1970s, but the general population doesn't know who they were. The band's history was a lot of "wrong place, wrong time" and a lot of Murphy's Law. The band and its albums received critical acclaim, but that didn't make it to the rest of the people, due mostly to bad distribution of their albums. The rock press gushed about how great the music was, but when people went to buy the albums, they couldn't find them in stores. Jody Stephens partially credits the musician fans (e.g. Peter Buck, Matthew Sweet, etc.) who have liked Big Star and mentioned them in interviews for boosting Big Star's popularity as time goes on, calling it a "word-of-mouth, grass-roots movement" (263).
Rob Jovanovic says of the 1992 re-releases: "The original music had slowly seeped into the consciousness of a generation of musicians and writers and the brilliance of the original recordings was finally being properly recognized" (251).
Overall, the book wasn't bad. At times it felt schizophrenic, bouncing from band member to band member, year to year, but that could be because there were SO MANY different members to cover, especially given the revolving line-ups. And since Big Star was really only together a few years here, a year there, another year twenty years later, there were a lot of different eras to cover for each individual, rather than being able to say "From year xxxx to xxxx, all the band members were together doing __________". Also, the typos and missing words! Ugh! Oh, and the endnotes -- what's up with those? Rarely did they have anything to do with the text they were referenced from. They generally seemed more like information Jovanovic couldn't bring himself to edit out. But, overall, not a bad book....more
A decent look at the history of Seattle/Northwest music, from WAAAAAAAY before Nirvana broke out (Yes, we had a music scene before then).
I say it's "A decent look at the history of Seattle/Northwest music, from WAAAAAAAY before Nirvana broke out (Yes, we had a music scene before then).
I say it's "decent" because there's SO much to cover, you can tell a lot had to be left out to make this a normal-sized book. But for the most part, Blecha got the important stuff, with plenty of juicy parts thrown in.
My one problem is that there seemed to be a lot of issues with grammar, punctuation, sentence structure (including repeating words)... all that nitpicky stuff that irks me when I read a book. But the subject matter wins out over the irksome stuff, so the book still gets 4 stars....more
I think I want to have lived in Athens in the late '70s.
A brief history (that is, the 1970s and '80s) of the Athens, GA, music scene that produced TheI think I want to have lived in Athens in the late '70s.
A brief history (that is, the 1970s and '80s) of the Athens, GA, music scene that produced The B-52s, R.E.M., Pylon, The Side Effects, and others.
I've read most (decent) books about the history of R.E.M. so it was interesting to hear about the band and how they were "influenced" by Athens from a different perspective. Most books about R.E.M. mention The B-52s, Pylon, Love Tractor, sometimes The Side Effects, and most of the bands that this book mentions, but this book is able to go into detail about those bands and the crazy times that were happening. ...more