Monday, November 9, 2015

The Sixties Comes Alive

On the Road with Janis Joplin – John Byrne Cooke (Berkley Books)

Live at the Fillmore East and West: Getting Backstage and Personal with Rock’s Greatest Legends – John Glatt (Lyons Press)

Just when you thought that the 60s rock era has been examined from every possible perspective along comes another author who dusts off a different perspective on a familiar story line.

On the Road with Janis Joplin penned by John Byrne Cooke who acted as tour manager for Joplin from 1967 until her untimely passing at the ripe old age of 27. Cooke first crossed paths with Joplin when he was part of the film crew assembled by D A Pennebaker to capture the historic Monterey International Pop music festival and the legendary performances of not only Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, but the landmark Jimi Hendrix set. Six months later, Cooke signed on to manage the group’s tours.

Joplin had moved on from Big Brother to strike out on a solo career by the time Woodstock rolled around and he offers an amazingly intimate portrait of life on the road with one of rock’s most legendary performers. It is from that close up perspective that Cooke offers up the amazing cast of characters, both musicians and music business types that were in Joplin’s orbit at a heady time period in music history.

It is that cross pollination that is the focus of John Glatt’s Live at the Fillmore East and West: Getting Backstage and Personal with Rock’s Greatest Legends. Glatt weaves the tales of legendary music impresario Bill Graham, one of the most bombastic and combative figures in the history of the music business, with the likes of Carlos Santana, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead at the genesis of their careers.

Aside from outsized personalities, Glatt also details the historic Fillmore venues in New York City and San Francisco, which became synonymous with landmark performances. These two halls play a huge, star-making role in so many future hall of fame performer’s careers, that it can’t be understated.

In the end it is those outsized, over the top personalities that Glatt captures so well the propels the entertaining tale. While Graham is either beloved of outright hated, Glatt captures the promoters enterprising genius, and willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed. Along the way it amounted to stellar successes, world famous tantrums, and rock bottom lows.  


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