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 it...moreI 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.(less)
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 wa...moreAs 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.(less)
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.
Slaven...moreThis 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.(less)
I've only read one other of DeRogatis's books - his history of psychedelic rock (published first as "Kaleidoscope Eyes", then revised as "Turn On Your...moreI've only read one other of DeRogatis's books - his history of psychedelic rock (published first as "Kaleidoscope Eyes", then revised as "Turn On Your Mind..."). I quite enjoyed that and while I didn't agree with all of his opinions, he's a solid enough writer to make the subject matter engaging at all times.
"Staring At Sound" doesn't let you down that much, either. He tackles the long history of The Flaming Lips without bogging down in too much detail. I personally found the earlier years more informative - as there aren't too many interviews from then - unless you scoured indie/punk 'zines in 1988 and 1989.
DeRogatis doesn't shy away from controversy either: Steven Drozd's drug addiction is covered, as is Wayne's control freak/jealousy episodes. Couple those with his penchant for starting beefs with other front-men (Richard Ashcroft, Beck, Win Butler, etc.)--and it does take a bit of the sheen off of "The Nicest Guy In Rock-And-Roll". For all that, though - I still appreciate Coyne's determination and being an 'ideas man'. He's never been afraid of trying something new for the sake of it - even if he misses the mark a bit (The "Boom-Box Orchestra" shows). For those who like to think that The Lips get their inspiration by eating LSD tabs like M&Ms, you'll be disappointed to find out that (apart from Drozd, who's also clean now) they're pretty straight-edge.
I suppose for the die-hard, rabid fans, his descriptions of the content of the records can slow the book down a little - as you've already heard them zillions of times. I liked reading them, only to see how his views stacked up against mine. Pretty close, it turns out, though I like "Hit To Death In The Future Head" more than DeRogatis does.
I'd say that if you're a novice to The Flaming Lips - this is a very good way to get the inside dope (pardon the pun). I reckon even the hardcore fans will learn a thing or two about the band...unless you're an official F.O.W. (Friend Of Wayne). Then you might just nod and say "yep" while reading of their adventures. (less)