You don’t have to be a punk to enjoy The Hard Times—but it helps.
Why is it funny that The Ramones forced their studio’s janitor to change his name to Gary Ramone? Because none of The Ramones were related in real life and all changed their name to enter the band. Why did a punk survive the Kool-Aid at Jonestown? Practice, practice, practice (of ingesting all manner of substances at punk rock concerts).
The articles collected here are actual reprints from the magazine during the past four decades. In between the original stories are a behind-the-scenes look at the zine’s creation and a bit of punk’s evolution over the years. Beginning with the 90s, the zine began covering emo, grunge, and alternative rock bands too.
I was pretty heavily into the LA punk scene from the late 70s through the 80s so I really enjoyed The Hard Times. It reminded me of bands I haven’t thought of in decades. Even if you are not into punk, the stories frequently have a Mad Magazine sense of parody that is enjoyable. 4 stars!
Thanks to Mariner Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Humor Tagged with: music, Oct 29 2019, punk rock
I love comics and the Rolling Stones (sorry Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) so I had to read the Rolling Stones in Comics!
It tells the Rolling Stones story from its humble beginnings as a R&B cover band through its last tour. It details the issues between the band members, the drugs, the deaths, the music, and the groupies. The books states that Bill Wyman was the first person to coin the term groupies. The books is full of interesting tidbits like that.
The artwork is bright and clear. The book has an innovative solution to the usual problem of trying to stuff too much information in comic book speech balloons. It has a prose introduction to each chapter. Most are about three pages long and also contain pictures of the Stones at the time period referenced in the chapter. It worked for me.
Overall, the Rolling Stones in Comics! Is highly recommended for Stones fans and others who want to revisit the turbulent 1960s and 70s. 4 stars!
Thanks to NBM Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Graphic Novel Tagged with: Mar 15 2019, music
Daisy Jones & The Six is the best non-thriller that I have read this year!
Set in the turbulent late 1970s Sunset Boulevard band scene, The Six is a five member middle-of-road rock band who are effectively forced by their label to add a sexy new lead singer, Daisy Jones. Daisy is a free spirit who dresses and acts without worrying about what others think. She is also stunningly beautiful and a drug addict. The Six’ singer, Billy, has recently returned from rehab and is determined to not relapse for his wife and newborn daughter’s sake.
Daisy Jones & The Six is compulsively readable. I was late to work two out of the three days that I read it. I just had to read the next interview. While not a traditional thriller, the book has a mystery: why did the band break up. However, it was the convincing character interactions that heightened my enjoyment of the book. All the characters seemed so real with genuine and frequently conflicting emotions driving their actions. I can’t recommend this Reese’s Book Club pick highly enough. 5 stars!
Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Literary Fiction, Romance Tagged with: 1970s, Mar 5 2019, music
With brief descriptions of their lifestyles, Rock Stars at Home offers an inside look at lives that can only be dreamed of by regular folks.
Starting with Frank Sinatra’s famous Palm Springs home all the way to Noel Gallagher from Oasis, this book has a chapter for fans of all ages. It also goes outside the rock genre with Ike & Tina Turner, Johnny Cash and Michael Jackson. Some of the stories are familiar like Neverland Ranch—others not like Blondie’s start in the 1970s Bowery slum. There are separate features on the rock lifestyle like chartered jets and rock hotels.
Overall, Rock Stars at Home is a good choice for rock (especially in the 70s and 80s) fans. I would have enjoyed more pictures. 3 stars.
Thanks to Apollo Publishers and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Jan 15 2019, music, photography
For decades, performers have known they have made it big when they hear, It’s Showtime at the Apollo!
More than just about the Apollo Theater in Harlem, this fact-filled graphic novel tells the story of African-American music in NYC from the Harlem Renaissance after WWI through the present. All the greats from all the eras have played the Apollo—Lena Horne, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Gladys Knight, Nicholas Brothers, James Brown, the Jackson 5, Sammy David Jr., Funkadelic and L.L. Cool J.
There are some interesting little known facts. Who knew that February in the 1960s was reserved for the drag show, the Jewel Box Revue? Or about the bomb threat that forced the Revue’s closure? I also learned where the famed Tree of Hope stump came from and why it is lucky.
Most graphic novels do not have so much text. Showtime at the Apollo reads more like an illustrated history than a true graphic novel. Even when the pictures alone could tell the tale, there is a text box labeling what is depicted. The artwork is clear. It is easy to recognize the famous faces.
For anyone who is interested in musical history or the story of African-American entertainment in New York City, this is a fantastic choice. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Abrams ComicArts, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Non-fiction Tagged with: history, Jan 8 2019, music
Beautiful photographs of 80s music industry veterans and short summaries of their life now fill 80s Redux.
46 people are profiled. Most are lead singers but other musicians and a few complete bands are included. Here are the artists and/or bands included:
- Dave Wakeling, The English Beat
- Martha Davis, The Motels
- Michael Aston, Gene Loves Jezebel
- Alice Bag
- Valerie Day & John Smith, Nu Shooz
- Ted & Susan Ottaviano, Book of Love
- Lol Tolhurst,The Cure
- Dean Wareham, Galaxie 500
- Debora Iyall, Romeo Void
- Rose McDowall, Strawberry Switchblade
- Marshall Crenshaw
- J.J. Fad
- Cindy Wilson, The B-52s
- Chris Difford, Squeeze
- David Newton, The Mighty Lemon Drops
- Johnette Napolitano, Concrete Blonde
- Tommy Keene
- Midge Ure
- Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Pylon
- Ivan Doroschuk, Men Without Hats
- The Raincoats
- Marv & Rindy Ross, Quarterflash
- Vic Varney, The Method Actors
- Carol Decker, T’Pau
- Matthew Wilder
- Johnny Hates Jazz
- John Easdale, Dramarama
- Modern English
- Cindy Lee Berryhill
- Bill Wadhams, Animotion
- Kurt Neumann, The BoDeans
- Laurie Sargent, Face to Face
- Robyn Hitchcock
- Paul Humphreys, OMD
- Kristin Hersh, Throwing Muses
- Paul Fishman & Baxter, Re-Flex
- Steve Mack, That Petrol Emotion
- Tommy Heath, Tommy Tutone
- Jimmer Podrasky, The Rave-Ups
I would have appreciated a photo of each participant as they looked in their 80s heyday. The ones I remembered look completely different and I doubt I would recognize them on the street. Other than that, the photos are the best part of the book.
As far as the people chosen, it might have been better to pick one genre. There is soul, rap, pop, alternative, dark folk and punk represented here. I had never heard of about 30% of the bands despite being heavily involved in the LA music scene in the 80s. I would recommend listening to one of the listed hits while reading the short artist update. For some, I recognized the songs once I heard them again.
I appreciated hearing that most of the participants were still creative though some had moved from music to artwork. As stated by Steve Mack “There’s a certain freedom that comes with letting go of your ambitions and just letting the music take you where it wants to go.” It’s nice to hear that fame hasn’t made most of the artists bitter or regretful.
Mainly because of the eclectic artist mix and the shortness of the summaries, 80s Redux gets 3 stars from me. But depending on how many of the artists/bands you recognize in the list above, your rating may vary.
Thanks to the publisher, Schiffer Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: 80s, Apr 28 2018, music
Like Beetlejuice’s The Handbook for the Living and the Dead, “this thing reads like stereo instructions”. But if the stereo instructions show Prince behind the scenes, it is worth spending a bit of time reading inconsequential details. Prince and the Purple Rain Era Sessions: 1983 and 1984 describes what Prince was doing, and especially recording, literally day-by-day through 1983 and 1984. It also includes some new and captivating tidbits. Prince was the producer and Svengali of Vanity 6, The Time, Apollonia 6 and Sheila E along with several groups that were not as successful. There were real tensions and competition between Prince and The Time before Purple Rain was even imagined. Prince foretold the rise of a Madonna-like star. Unfortunately and perhaps truthfully, Prince felt that the Purple Rain movie and album would “be hanging around my neck as long as I’m making music”.
I am a huge Prince fan. Jellybean Johnson, the drummer on the Purple Rain album, says “When ‘Little Red Corvette’ became a big pop smash, we started seeing a lot more white people” and that is also when I (and everyone I knew in 1983) started listening to Prince. Prince and the Purple Rain Era Sessions: 1983 and 1984 gives many details about Prince’s recording method and highlights his huge work ethic. It includes information about unreleased tracks that may be released later by his estate. It concludes with the author’s research methodology, which was meticulous and exhaustive. I’m sure that this book will be used by future scholars or biographers for their own books about Prince and the artistic process. The author teases at a sequel sometime in the future. Perhaps Prince: 1985 and 1986? I can’t wait. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, and Netgalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: biography, music, Prince