Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Another Pile of Rock

Lobotomy – Surviving the Ramones – Dee Dee Ramone (DaCapo Press)

There’s a thin line between collector and hoarder and I’ve almost got my wife convinced that I fall on the side of collector. When my son reached the age of showing an interest in music he gave a longing glance at the crates upon crates upon crates of albums, singles and what I convinced myself, were neatly stacked and organized CDs.

He asked me where he should start his dive headlong into the glorious and vast world of music. Without hesitation on I slid my chair across the room and plucked the Ramones self-titled debut, some 27 years old at the time, but still a what I considered a vital building block in anyone’s journey to music fandom. Careening, powerful and raw it was a true thing of beauty as it roared out of the speakers; from that jumping off point there is a vast array of musical directions to pursue. I guessing I shouldn’t be surprised my son gravitated towards the Clash from there.


Reading the re-issued edition of Dee Dee Ramones, Lobotomy – Suriviving the Ramones brought back to the moment and to the first time I saw the Ramones live as the blasted through 27 songs in 75 minutes. I you’re expecting a piece of literary work, offering deep insights, then I have to question your sanity. Dee Dee serves up a fly by the seat of your pants look into his world, from his often twisted perspective, at nearly the same velocity as the band served up its music.

His book and his world moved at a blistering pace and he serves it up warts and all style. When he details his decent into the New York music scene it seems amazing that the avatars of what would become punk rock got their start in pink patent leather and silver lame’ of the glam/glitter rock movement.

Dee Dee is often brutally honest, especially when he seems to scratch his head in wonderment over the fact that he became a rock star.

Trouble Boys – The True Story of the Replacements –Bob Mehr (DaCapo Press)

Veteran music writer and author Bob Mehr serves of an amazingly intimate portrait of the Minneapolis based power pop band the Replacements, who are easily on e of the most talented, most misunderstood and at time misguided rock bands of all time in Trouble Boys – The True Story of the Replacements.

Mehr immerses himself in his subject matter without coming off as some fan boy. Anyone who is a fan of the band knows so much of what the band was all about was based on the inner workings of their relationships with each other. There is a striking similarity to all of the band member’s upbringings; troubled childhoods, abuse, and a powerful attraction to music that brought them all together.

While the band’s front man, Paul Westerberg is often cited as a influential musical force, Mehr makes the case that it was the frenetic nature of the four member’s relationships that somehow added a raw edge to the finished work and upped the ante for the band’s influence on other artists.

There is also a detectable level of sadness infused throughout Trouble Boys; almost a longing for what could have been, about what was lost along the way and a bit of frustration that these four guys couldn’t quite manage to pull it all together and a achieve the level of greatness that they were so poised to achieve.

Small Town Talk – Bob Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix & Friends, in the Wild Years of Woodstock – Barney Hoskyns – (DaCapo Press)

After the recent passing of Eagles founder Glenn Frey, I soldiered through the seemingly never ending (3 hours and 17 minutes!) History of the Eagles on Netflix. Aside from the nostalgic trip through the band’s oft-troubled history, there was a bit of focus placed on the musical hot bed of the Laurel Canyon scene that spawned the likes of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and many others.

At around the same time on a completely opposite end of the country, there was a similar hot bed of music occurring in Woodstock, New York. Woodstock…one of the great misnomers of rock music history. The generation shifting music festivals occurred some sixty miles away from the idyllic town located in the Catskills Mountains of New York State. But it was in that town that that gathering of musical genius was taking place.

It is that story that music historian and author Barney Hoskyns is focuses on in his latest effort Small Town Talk – Bob Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix & Friends, in the Wild Years of Woodstock. It struck me that Hoskyns managed to bring the Southern California music scene into the same focus in his earlier work Hotel California, which I have not read, but I couldn’t get past the synergy at play here.

Hoskyns write with a clear cut knowledge of his subject matter; he has the ability to delve deeply into his subject matter and engage those involved in the story he is seeking to tell to gain a level of trust to the point that they share inside details of the times and the characters involved in the story, making the tale ultimately accessible.

The impact of the town, the surroundings, the studios that sprung up seemingly overnight and the influence of Dylan’s first manager, Albert Grossman can be felt not only throughout the story, but throughout music history. Much like it’s West Coast sister, the interactions both musical and personal that occurred in and around Woodstock have left a lasting impression in the music.


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