Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Rock Pile

The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made A World of Difference – Paul Morley (Gallery Books)

With the passing of David Bowie comes an avalanche of books recounting his impact on rock ‘n’ roll. While most do an admirable job of covering Bowie from that limited perspective, they miss the mark on the broader impact that Bowie had on our popular culture as a whole.

With The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made A World of Difference, writer, broadcaster and culture critic Paul Morley delves deeper into full range of Bowie impact on the world. Morley doesn’t shy away from the some of the more controversial moments in Bowie’s career ranging from his outrageous transformations, both physically and in persona.

Not really a biography, The Age of Bowie, does offer up insider perspectives on Bowie’s transmutations from Ziggy Stardust to the creation of his collaboration with John Lennon, Fame. Morley delves into Bowie’s career transitions into film and stage. He also raises the question if there could ever be another Bowie; someone who could impact music to the point of having a hand in the creation of his own genre. He concludes that it is highly unlikely.

Fleetwood Mac On Fleetwood Mac: Interviews and Encounters – Edited by Sean Egan (Chicago Review Press)

How did the British band Fleetwood Mac make the difficult transition from  working man’s blues-based band to chart topping pop culture phenomenon and one of the biggest selling bands of all time? Who better, than the band themselves to answer that question? It is the band story, told in their own words, culled from dozens of interviews from publications ranging from Circus, Creem, New Musical Express, Mojo and more.

Fleetwood Mac On Fleetwood Mac: Interviews and Encounters, stitched and together edited by author/editor Sean Egan. The book really highlights the almost glaring differences in the personalities that make up the band. It makes you wonder how they ever came be melded together to so much memorable music.

If you are a true fan of Fleetwood Mac, this collection is a must have; imagine trying to gather an collect all of these disparate sources. Egan does a masterful job of pulling these wide ranging sources together to make paint a clear, cogent picture?  

Terminated for Reasons of Taste: Other Ways to Hear Essential and Inessential Music – Chuck Eddy (Duke University Press)

Veteran music journalist Chuck Eddy has plied his trade for a wide range of music and pop culture outlets including: Village Voice, Billboard, Creem, Spin and Rolling Stone. In his latest book, Terminated for Reasons of Taste: Other Ways to Hear Essential and Inessential Music, Eddy parades his almost painfully eclectic musical tastes by gathering pieces from the aforementioned outlets and even dipping back to his high school newspaper!

Eddy is steeped in music so wide ranging he touches everything from classic country to alt music so obscure it hurts. His knowledge is beyond encyclopedic and he writes with such passion that you can’t help but seek some of this stuff out to give it a listen. If you're bored to death with cookie cutter, Mr. Microphone, Auto Tuned schlock, then Eddy’s book will be the equivalent to a travel guide to new music.   

A Stray Cat Struts: My Life as a Rockabilly Rebel – Slim Jim Phantom (Thomas Dunne Books)

I loved the Stray Cats. U.S. expats, guitarist Brian Setzer, upright bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom first found an audience and a modicum of fame in England. I vividly remember when a friend first dropped the needle to vinyl and handed me the cover with the photograph of three mop-topped guys who looked like they stepped out of a re-make of 50s teen angst movie. The sound was amazing; how could three guys generate so much noise? The thing that really jumped was the propulsive, driving beat coming from the guy with nothing more than a bass, snare and and one cymbal.

That guy was Slim Jim Phantom, born Jim McDonnell. In the grand scheme of music, it’s easy to forget the impact that the Stray Cats had when they finally exploded here in the States. They came at a time when music was at a crossroads; punk, new wave, and MTV were all conspiring to change the face of rock music forever and here was a band looking to take bits and pieces of those elements and drag them kicking and screaming back to the roots of the musical form.

It’s also easy not to think of Slim Jim Phantom as a rock star, but he serves up a reminder that he is a card carrying rock star in the form of his autobiography, A Stray Cat Struts: My Life as a Rockabilly Rebel. If you pick up this book expecting to hear the familiar tale of a guy who pulled himself up by his motorcycle bootstraps to become a rock star, you may walk away disappointed.

In A Stray Cat Struts, Slim Jim offers up a string of great stories from his rock ‘n’ roll life. Tours, backstages, recording studios, rubbing elbows with other high profile types from music and pop culture, not to mention his time with Swedish, blonde bombshell Britt Eklund. Yeah this guy is a rock star! Quite frankly I didn’t miss the childhood remembrances; I usually skip those to get to the good stuff anyway!

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