This being the only book about F.Z. that I've read so far, I'm not sure how it stacks up against the growing volume of muso-lit concerning him.
SlavenThis being the only book about F.Z. that I've read so far, I'm not sure how it stacks up against the growing volume of muso-lit concerning him.
Slaven is clearly a mega-fan and his writing shows it. He seems reluctant to criticize even Zappa's lyrical excesses, such as in "Jewish Princess" and "Dinah-Moe-Hum"...and possibly his nadir, "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats" (don't ask). The only time he even dares to is when he's discussing the almost-universally panned "Thing Fish" album.
There are some fascinating insights into Frank's childhood and his schooldays. I found the anecdotes about the early years of the Mothers Of Invention quite interesting as well. I was hoping for more detail on F.Z.'s contentious relationship with Don Van Vliet (a.k.a. 'Captain Beefheart'), but the little that's there seems (naturally) more slanted in Zappa's favour.
The chapters on the '80s and '90s just seem a treadmill of album, tour, album, tour, band personnel change, album, tour, etc. and didn't hold my attention as much. The only highlight being Zappa's fights with Tipper Gore's "Parent's Music Resource Center". It was funny to me, reading about that again - and almost how quaint some of the musical "evil" that the P.M.R.C. was concerned about seems now (remember W.A.S.P.'s "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)"? or Twisted Sister?).
Slaven does treat Zappa's bout with cancer and untimely death with reverence and poignance. Even if you don't like his personality or his music, one does feel that F.Z. had a lot more music to create and was stopped too soon.
"Electric Don Quixote" moves along at a good pace and would probably be good for the casual F.Z. fan. The hardcore may want to try one of the other books on offer....more
I managed to score a hardcover copy of "Inside Out" at a record fair for £12--not a bad find. I was a bit disappointed after reading it, though, as itI managed to score a hardcover copy of "Inside Out" at a record fair for £12--not a bad find. I was a bit disappointed after reading it, though, as it's not exactly the "compleat insider history" of Pink Floyd I had imagined it to be.
Mason's flashes of very dry wit do help and the early years are covered in some depth, especially the nascent London underground happenings and the recording of "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn". The following years, however, seem to pass by in a blur--just studio/tour/studio/tour/ad nauseum. Mason spends a little time on Floyd's magnum opus, "The Dark Side Of The Moon", but then it's back to discussing lighting rigs, pyramid-shaped stages and their infamous Britannia Row studio. His other ventures as a sometime producer, for The Damned, Robert Wyatt & Gong barely get a page each (Gong doesn't even get a mention).
He handles the band's eventual dissolution during and following "The Wall" sessions and re-forming Floyd as a duo (or "Pink Fraud" if that's how you choose to view their latter out-put--retaining Rick Wright on keyboards as a hired gun), with panache--but it all seems too congenial. Mason has described himself as the "Henry Kissinger" of Pink Floyd and I'm assuming he means the diplomatic envoy bit, not the war criminal bit.
If anything, Mason's tome keeps most of the mystery surrounding the band intact. You never learn much more about the five of them than from reading Nicholas Schaffner's excellent "Saucerful Of Secrets" (which I recommend). An extra star is awarded for the many rare photos included in the hardcover edition, however....more
As pop/rock bios go - this one's not bad. Mr. Leitch writes a competent look back at his childhood in Scotland, his discovery of music and youthful waAs pop/rock bios go - this one's not bad. Mr. Leitch writes a competent look back at his childhood in Scotland, his discovery of music and youthful wanderings in Cornwall.
He covers his first flush of fame with a level head and lets the reader in on some of the details of his songwriting and studio recordings. That hotel incident with Bob Dylan (seen in D.A. Pennebaker's "Don't Look Back") is also re-interpreted by Donovan. He becomes the first 60s pop star busted for marijuana possession, hangs out with The Beatles and gets a private session with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
The book's narrative ends around 1970-'71, when the psychedelic scene that had nurtured him had virtually disappeared. As one critic put it, Donovan "floated away into the lilac mist". I would have rated it higher, but for "The Don"s self-aggrandizing in places (he claims to have invented 'Celtic rock', 'new age', 'world music' and was responsible for getting Led Zeppelin together, among other things).
Still, for all that - I did enjoy reading "The Hurdy-Gurdy Man", a decent memoir from one of the inner circle of 60s British counter-culture....more
I found this in a used book shop and for the price, couldn't pass it up (hardback, too!). Heylin attempts to scale the monumental hype and legend surrI found this in a used book shop and for the price, couldn't pass it up (hardback, too!). Heylin attempts to scale the monumental hype and legend surrounding "Sgt Pepper's..." and cut it back a bit. Does he succeed? Well, yes and no. The guy clearly knows his stuff and there's loads of info on contemporary acts (The Pink Floyd - when they still used "The", The Beach Boys, Dylan, Cream, The Rolling Stones, etc.), who were creating their own 'far-out' albums around the same time The Fabs were tinkering in Abbey Road Studios. There's a helpful list of singles and albums from 1966 and 1967 that Heylin recommends listening to.
I found his writing style a bit smarmy and condescending, so that put me off of the book a bit (he refers to Meredith Hunter, the man killed at Altamont in 1969, as a 'coloured gentleman'...ouch!). If you can get by that, though, it's a worthwhile read about one of the most (depending on your view) important records of the 'rock and roll' era....more
I downloaded this to read on Scribd, as first-print copies are now going for around £200-£300 on eBay and other used book sites. I think there's a cheI downloaded this to read on Scribd, as first-print copies are now going for around £200-£300 on eBay and other used book sites. I think there's a cheaper re-print due out soon, so I may buy one of those.
"England's Hidden Reverse" concerns the art and music scene built around three (interconnected) groups: Psychic TV/Coil, Nurse With Wound and Current 93. Coil consisted of the late John Balance (formerly Geoff Rushton) and Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson. N.W.W. was pretty much built around Stephen Stapleton, with help from various collaborators. Current 93 was much the same, except with David Tibet at the helm.
All of them started in the late 1970s/early 1980s, following the post-punk flourish in 1977 and 1978. While they themselves had little to do with back-to-basics rock, they found the D.I.Y. spirit liberating. Stapleton himself was a devotee of left-field groups, especially German progressive music. They also shared interest in the occult, particularly the writings of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare and John Dee and Edward Kelly. Balance and Christopherson were also gay and brought their sexuality into their music as well.
Keenan, a (former?) writer for UK underground/obscure music magazine The Wire, chronicles the development of both the happenings and records of the three groups - starting with their childhoods. Tibet's seems the most exotic, being born in Malaysia to English parents and returning to England at about age 11. He romanticises England as he felt like an outsider for most of his life. Stapleton was an obsessive record collector who journeyed to Germany to meet some of his musical heroes, before finally recruiting a couple of friends to make a noise album. Christopherson was part of the Hipgnosis art collective, but after meeting Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis P-Orridge - formed proto-Industrial group Throbbing Gristle. Balance was a fan of T.G. and other noise bands and met up with Sleazy, eventually becoming his partner in music and life.
There's loads of detail and eyewitness accounts given for time in the studio and early live gigs by the main players (supplemented with like-minded cohorts: Drew McDowall, Rose McDowall, Stephen Thrower and Thighpaulsandra, etc.). Stapleton and Coil became mainly studio concerns after a couple of disastrous early shows (though Coil did perform live for a bit shortly before Balance's untimely death). I admit to finding the N.W.W. and Coil accounts more interesting than Current 93. Tibet seems to be too flighty and inclusive - swapping ideologies and tastes quite often. The Current 93 tracks I've listened to have a maudlin charm, but rarely does the actual music have any spark. He also kept some dubious company*, like Tony Wakeford (of neo-folk band Sol Invictus), Douglas Pearce (of Death In June), William Bennett (of 'power-electronic' noise merchants Whitehouse) and Boyd Rice. Keenan does his best to make most Current 93 releases sound like essential listening, but perhaps I'm missing something in the music.
In spite of that and Keenan's implied snobbery (he wrote for "The Wire", after all), it's a good account of an overlooked grouping of non-musicians and visual artists, who created their own niches and are still active now (with the exception of Coil) - the photo section at the end of the book provides a great bonus to the text.
*See the "Who Makes The Nazis?" blog for more information on the fascist leanings of D.I.J., Boyd Rice and Tony Wakeford...more