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Corn Flakes with John Lennon: And Other Tales from a Rock 'n' Roll Life

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  492 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Robert Hilburn's storied career as a rock critic has allowed him a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of some of the most iconic figures of our time. He was the only music critic to visit Folsom Prison with Johnny Cash. He met John Lennon during his lost weekend period in Los Angeles and they became friends. Bob Dylan granted him his only interviews during his "born-again ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Rodale Books
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Marvin
Sep 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
This will be a hard book to be non-biased about. I first started reading Hilburn's columns in the Los Angeles Times in 1968 when I started going to college, coincidentally the very same university that Hilburn went to himself. It was the LA Times trinity of columnists; Hilburn, Jazz critic Leonard Feather, and classical music critic Martin Bernheimer, that taught me there was even a thing called music criticism. Hilburn continued writing during the golden age of rock music criticism and beyond u ...more
Desiree Koh
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
When I was a teenager in the 1990s, I didn't wear flannel shirts. I showered. I didn't cut myself. That's because I was a happy adolescent, and part of the reason why was because I hated grunge music.

Grunge didn't speak to me. It growled, snarled, and grated my nerves. Instead of chasing Cobain, reveling in Reznor and channeling Corgan, I studied the rock & roll canon. I'd always preferred the melodious genius of Sun, Motown, Atlantic, Stax and Casablanca, and thought swiveling hips and punctua
...more
Blog on Books
Jul 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a surprise. As many suspected, but couldn’t exactly put their finger on, Robert Hilburn was keeping a secret. A three decade secret. The secret, finally revealed in this ‘memoir’ of sorts, is that while we all thought he was the pop music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn was quietly on another mission. The search for the replacement Elvis.

As the pop (or more aptly, rock) music critic of one of the nation’s largest daily broadsheets, Hilburn was charged with bringing the world of ro
...more
Lauryl
Jul 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music-boox
Okay, so actually, if I could get fussy, I would give this book 3 and a half stars. Overall, a very good little adventure through mainstream rock of the 70's/80's by Robert Hilburn, the rock critic for the Los Angeles Times. The book is solidly if not sparklingly written...no Lester Bangs-ian bursts of prosaic epiphanies here, but a lot of good rock journalism.

Despite my dislike for the title of this book (BARF!), I especially enjoyed reading about Hilburn's warm relationships with John Lennon
...more
Mike
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I came to read this book after reading Hilburn's incredible biography of Johnny Cash. Robert Hilburn's memoir of his years as a music writer for The Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone opens an intimate window into the lives and artistry of some of the 20th century's greatest musicians. Filled with up-close revelation upon revelation, Hilburn shares conversations and backstage interactions he had with John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger, Johnny Cash, Chuck D, Ice ...more
Erik
Jun 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: bio, library, history, music
p.100
Bruce Springsteen
“You write about what you know. You may not have the same expectations. You're not as open to options. You may have a wife and a kid and a job. It's all you can do to keep those things straight. You let the possibilities go. What happens to most people is when their first dreams get killed off, nothing ever takes their place. The important thing is to keep holding out for possibilities, even if no one ever makes it. There was a Norman Mailer article that said the one freedo
...more
Sandi
One of the better rock memoirs I have read. Hilburn, the former rock critic from the LA Times, has a very readable style and obviously was a great interviewer. All of the stories of the various artists in this book were very interesting and I hope that someday he does a follow-up since I am sure he has many other rock tales to tell.
Len or Len
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really liked it- lots of stories about John Lennon, Springsteen, Dylan, U2 a d others that I hadn't heard before. I feel like Hilburn could have made this book a lot longer and I still would have devoured it. ...more
Wiley
Oct 12, 2009 added it
Shelves: books-i-promoted
AuthorsOnTheWeb Internet Marketing/Publicity campaign for author Robert Hilburn.
Annie Carrott Smith
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
For anyone interested in the minutiae of the rock world gods - this is the book to read! The former LA Times writer has a wealth of knowledge to share about his writings and relationships with John, Bob, Bruce & Bono to name some of his favorites. (there are many others...) He never shied away from telling it as he saw it. Recommended for all of us who love the music of our era!
Mark
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hilburn was able to form trusted relationships with the worlds greatest rock and roll artist. He writes humbly without focus on himself. He was able to express the feelings of the artist he interviewed. If you love music and the behind the scene lives of the musicians you will enjoy it.
Bob
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
If you care about rock and roll...read this. The most beautiful portrait of the genre I've read yet. By the end of the first chapter you'll love and trust the voice of Hilburn who leads you on a great story-telling journey through the most important figures in rock. ...more
Astral Foxx
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was such a fun ride. I loved learned about all of the artists Robert Hilburn met along his music journalist career and getting a glimpse into the more intimate lives of people like Johnny Cash and Bono. If you appreciate what we now call “classic rock”, I think you’ll enjoy this book :)
Liz
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was hard to put down! I enjoyed it so much. Deep, honest, compassionate glimpses of music icons without a trace of voyeurism or name-dropping.
Sharon Falduto
L.A. Times music critic since the 1960s recounts his time spent with the greats, like John Lennon, Springsteen, and U2.
Glenn
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Lots of neat behind the scene stories about hanging out with rock stars.
Lorna Dykstra
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
An interesting behind-the-scenes look into the lives of some legendary musicians
Sean
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A peek behind the curtain with several rock legends, as observed and experienced by a long-term music critic for the LA Times. Hilburn gives us bite-sized morsels and commentary on a large number of acts, but only gets up-close and personal with a select few: Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon and Bono. Johnny Cash gets a more-than-fleeting look, too, but deeper inspection on his career is saved for a later, more dedicated book. Hilburn's credentials are tough to doubt: he was there for ...more
Lynne Perednia
Mar 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Back in the dawn of time, Modern Era, popular music wasn't even as interesting as it is now in this synthesized, American Idol age. Then along came musicians who knew rhythm and blues, who knew how important it was to be young, who knew there is nothing like a backbeat to get people to listen. Robert Hilburn was there when things really began to take off -- getting rebuffed by Colonel Parker in his attempts to meet Elvis, following Bob Dylan through his ups and downs over the decades, talking hi ...more
Tommy
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty remarkable collection of essays and stories from a music critic who has befriended Dylan, Cash, Springsteen, and U2 over the years. He's interviewed Janis, Elvis, Cobain, and Jack White. He enjoyed lunch with Stevie Wonder and shared Cornflakes and Hershey Bars with John Lennon. He takes us through his career by presenting the landmarks that interviews, encounters, and friendships with the royalty of rock allowed him.

We learn how he earned the trust of guarded artists like Dyla
...more
Thebruce1314
I wanted to give this book five stars. It did manage to keep my attention, and I felt that Hilburn treated his subjects with reverence and respect, keeping his promises not to divulge information that his subjects deemed forbidden. What I didn't much appreciate was the author's tendency to portray himself as kingmaker. With one exception, the reader gets the impression that Hilburn's reviews helped to catapult many musicians to legendary status and, through his influence, he was able to cultivat ...more
Darcia Helle
Oct 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, music
This is a fascinating look at the evolution - and some might say subsequent devolution - of rock music. We begin with early Johnny Cash and John Lennon, and progress to the modern sound of Jack White. Hilburn shares stories of the personal time he spent with many of the artists he followed and interviewed. I found these pieces to be both compelling and entertaining.

My one complaint is that Hilburn dedicates a lot of space throughout the book to Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. While there is no
...more
Tara
Oct 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
An intimate and revealing memoir-style series of vignettes about Robert Hilburn's interactions with the great rock-n-roll artists of the last 50 years--Cash, Presley, Dylan, Lennon, Elton John, Springsteen, U2, Nirvana and White. With rock artists under increasing pressure from digital downloads and TV-borne pop singers like American Idols and Disney teens, Hilburn's book undoubtedly defines an era of music the likes of which may never be seen again.

Hilburn's writing style is straightforward and
...more
Jesse Young
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read this book for Hilburn's wonderful encounters with rock stars, and less for his writing - which is a surprisingly clunky and awkward. Hilburn is an unabashed old-school "rockist" critic -- he thinks authenticity is the best metric by which to judge music, and U2, Springsteen, and Dylan outrank all others for him on that front. He believes music needs "leaders" to inspire young people and tell profound truths. It's a charmingly dated 60's-ish reading of popular music. He's obsessive in trying ...more
Dom
Jan 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Hilburn spent decades reviewing pop, rock, and country artists for the LA Times, so a collection of his memories seems appropriate. There were sections of this book that were quite fascinating, primarily providing some behind-the-scenes anecdotes of superstars in the music biz. However, it seemed to constantly come back to a mere handful of artists time and again: Dylan (ugh, enough), Bono, Johnny Cash, and Springsteen were everywhere. I personally would have loved less of them and more of the o ...more
Matt Comito
Jul 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Not a speed-fueled scatter-gun poet like Bangs, not a synthesizing visionary like Marcus but an enthusiast; relatively clear eyed if (only) occasionally sycophantic Hilburn speaks to the fan in all of us because he plainly is one himself. The book claims to be a memoir; is there such a thing as a vicarious memoir? Hilburn seems to live through the highs and lows of those he covers. Is this true? I suspect not, or at least not to the degree this implies. I suspect he's witholding, focusing on wha ...more
Mara
Mar 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Liked this book for all the anecdotes - Hilburn really got to know the greats of rock 'n' roll, from Elvis and Johnny Cash all the way to Jack White. And I liked what he had to say about the communal experience of music and passion and inspiring hope and the importance of hearing music live. But I don't really think it had a clear theme - it was a collection of stories about different artists he met as he was writing his column. There wasn't a lot of analysis beyond what the individual artists c ...more
Heather
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good intro to Hilburns writing. I picked it up as I am planning on reading his Cash biography and thought this would be a warm up. The Cash book was recommended to me by a number if folks and for a variety of reasons, I'm hoping it lives up to my expectations so thought this would help.

Anyway. Provides a good number of insights to some of the more enigmatic artists of early r/r and shows his musical interests through more contemporary artists as well. A series of anecdotes more than anything?
It
...more
Elaine
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
There are a couple of times in the book where the author writes about one artist or another mentioning to him, "You really like Springsteen, don't you." It must be true, because Springsteen comes up so much in the book that I started to think it was about him. And I'm not really a fan. Actually, I'm not a great fan of many of the artists profiled in the book, yet I did enjoy reading about his interactions with them and his personal thoughts and impressions of them as regular people, not just fam ...more
Robin
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Robert Hilburn writes about his life as a rock and roll writer and the stars he wrote about and in some instances became friends with. Lennon is a touchstone here, as are a couple of others who are sort of woven throughout, their spirits hanging over even pieces about Kurt Cobain for example, which is what makes this book special, the way he weaves them all together. My favorite story is one about Lennon, the one with JL hiding not drugs but chocolate from Yoko, since she wouldn't let him eat it ...more
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