From ancient times to the 21st century musicians and artists have shared one thing in common: they lack inhibitions. The average person does not feel...moreFrom ancient times to the 21st century musicians and artists have shared one thing in common: they lack inhibitions. The average person does not feel compelled to jump up in front of crowds and impress them with their ability to entertain. Nor do they pour out their deepest feelings in print, paint, film etc. for all to see. Given that the creative person lacks the inhibitions common to the common man, it should not be surprising to find that this lack of inhibitions often leads to excesses of one stripe or another. Of all the creative types whose biographies I have read, Elvis Presley takes the cake for the most messed up.
He was a pervert, a glutton, a drug addict, a liar, an egoist, who was shy, generous, a pathological momma's-boy, a homophobe, extremly sensitive, a practical-joker, a shopaholic, a clotheshorse, a new age mystic, a book worm, a party animal, a fashion sophisticate, a capbale actor an musician who became satisfied with output he himself deemed "crap," very very image-savy, crazily dedicated to his fans...the dude was a complex mess.
However, I would not read this book, unless you like pseudo soft-core porn. The authors convey Elvis' story through a narrative that at times sounds like a Harlequin romance novel. (less)
eh.....it's an ok intro to the blues, but even some of the greats only get a few paragraphs. The author, who seems to know Jazz, Rock and Roll, C&W,...moreeh.....it's an ok intro to the blues, but even some of the greats only get a few paragraphs. The author, who seems to know Jazz, Rock and Roll, C&W, Rap, Ragtime and R&B as well as Blues, spends much of his time discussing the economic, geographic and socio-cultural factors that shaped the Blues. That's interesting, as is his connecting the Blues to other genres, but it still boils down to a critic giving his impression of the "important" musicians.
He gives an even-handed rundown--i.e. doesn't slight the popular Bluesmen in favor of the obscure--but he committs a cradinal sin in my book: he says all Elmore James' songs are basically variations on Robert Johnson's "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom." Everytime I hear someone say this I think to myself, this writer is either deaf, stupid or a big fat liar. At least, as I recall, the author does it jokingly and throws James a little praise as well. I don't know how critics can say things like, 'the musicians of the 30s probably built songs out of components that were around from before the turn of the century,' and then fault Elmore James for using some of those same components while praising Robert Johnson as THE Bluesman. Robert Johnson came after Son House, Tommy Johnson and several other Delta Blues founders. He was the LAST of the great Delta Blues guys, not the first. I wouldn't trade ten of him for one Elmore James. (less)
It shouldn't be a surprise that this book is a poetic, stream-of-consciousness rumination, that references many characters in popular culture during t...moreIt shouldn't be a surprise that this book is a poetic, stream-of-consciousness rumination, that references many characters in popular culture during the past 40-odd years--sort of like one of Dylan's longer compositions ("Desolation Row" in book form?). What is, somewhat, surprising is how human Dylan comes out in this, almost, dare I say it, normal.
The way Dylan is always trumpeted in the writings of the aging baby-boomer/hippie set, he comes off as ultra-cool and aloof; above mere mortals. But, by his own estimation, he's just a dude from Minnesota who wanted to be an artist: not a spokeman, revolutionary, etc., just a guy who makes music. Several times in the book he reminisces about muscians from his era, who though talented, never had the counter-culture/hipster cred that he did. He compares himself to Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers and Bobby Vee, feeling more kinship with them than Abbie Hoffman and other 60s era gurus. In fact, he vents alot of spleen at the hippies who would show up at his woodstock home, looking for a messiah, and often try to cajole him into leading an overthrow of the system. He talks about recording "Nashville Skyline" so he would seem uncool to these people, and that they would leave he and his family alone. By the late 60s he was married with three kids, and all he really wanted to do was spend time w/his family, go to his kids little league games, and not be accosted by crazies.
All that said, he's still an artist, so "normal" isn't the right word. As an artist he lives by creativity, and so his writing is not merely a chronicle of his life, but a kind of cerebral exploration of its many facets. Hence the book is organized, not chronologically, but thematically. It can seem a bit annoying, as you expect him to take you up to certain points in his career, building on what went before, so you understand the linear development of his life. But, being an artist, he's got to jump around through his days, like Dr. Sam Beckett, whenever it suits the point he's trying to convey.
It's Dylan, but he's much deeper, more sentimental, not as cynical as you might expect.(less)
This book tells a sad story. I read the first 130 pages or so, which describes his pre-army recordings, and then forced myself to skim through the la...more This book tells a sad story. I read the first 130 pages or so, which describes his pre-army recordings, and then forced myself to skim through the last few hundred which discuss his decent into madness. Madness? How else can you explain a guy who goes from inventing rock n' roll in Memphis, combining R&B, Country, Gospel, Blues and Pop in songs like "Mystery Train," to recording utter crap like "Yoga is as yoga does" for the "Easy Come Easy Go Soundtrack"? He did make a comeback in the late 60s, but he had already spent 9 years churning out some of the silliest nonsense ever put on record. What a waste of talent. Everybody blames the Colonel, but this guy was savy, he knew what he was doing. His friends recalled that he wouldn’t let them play his records at parties at Graceland, saying things like “turn that crap off.” He was also known to be so amused at the stupidity of the stuff he was recording that he could barely keep from laughing long enough to get it on tape. He only had himself to blame. At least we can listen to the early stuff, and forget the stupid movies, and later fat/amphetamine/incoherent stage babble/paranoid/Howard Hughes period. (less)