Tag Archives: rock stars

Waitin’ On A Sunny Day

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin (Touchstone, $28.00, 494 pages)

I was living in Los Angeles in the winter of 1975 when a live concert by a then-unknown East Coast band was stereo-cast late one evening by a Metromedia FM radio station.   The group, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, was playing at the Roxy Theatre and for all of Southern California.   The performance began with a song called “Thunder Road,” and the band proceeded to play all of the songs that we would soon come to know as the Born to Run album.   (I saw Springsteen and the E Street Band when they hit San Francisco the following year.)

Fans of Springsteen know that despite all of their digging, not much is known about his personal life.   Peter Ames Carlin, author of the well recommended Paul McCartney: A Life, and of Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson, attempts to remedy this in Bruce.   Carlin draws upon numerous interviews to flesh out a picture of a real human being behind the rock legend.

Some will be surprised to see how vulnerable Springsteen is.   He’s a man who often worries about what others think of him, one who has been unsuccessful in numerous personal relationships, one who has experienced a high level of depression and relied upon years of professional counseling, and one who has often sought a geographical solution to his problems (moving from East Coast to West Coast and back, to the South and back to the West before settling back down in New Jersey).   The mature Springsteen is now a family man, with a wife, son and daughter, who has repeatedly stuck his neck out for social causes and for political candidates – notably supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races.

Carlin has an insider’s ear for music and provides a quite satisfying amount of information about Springsteen’s recording sessions over several decades; some of the insights may cause readers to purchase albums or revisit the ones they already own.   Carlin’s best, detailed work comes in reviewing how The Rising album – a work of healing and redemption if there ever was one – was recorded after 9/11.   His analysis is excellent except for the fact that it fails to mention the very best song on the album, “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day.”   (How did that happen?)

“(Springsteen is) an artist fixated on the intimate stories of ordinary folks whose labors make wealthier mens’ dreams come true…”

Bruce provides the insight that Springsteen has crafted his albums in the same manner in which a movie producer crafts a film.   Each album is intended to represent a story, generally about the people left behind in an otherwise prosperous society.   It’s no wonder that Springsteen’s most recent release pleaded for us to take care of our own.

This story of a performer and his unique band of brothers is more satisfying than most musician bios and it makes for a fast read despite its length.   It is, however, likely to have a short shelf life as the “definitive” biography – to quote Publishers Weekly – of The Boss.   As with bios of Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Mick Jagger and other rock notables, there’s certainly more to come

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.  

“There are many things I could and should be doing right now, but I am not…  I am reading and rereading this book.   Why did you do this to me?”   Jon Stewart to Peter Ames Carlin  

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin.

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I Dig Rock ‘n Roll Music

Death in the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules – A Starlight Detective Agency Mystery by Mitchell Scott Lewis (Poisoned Pen Press, $24.95, 225 pages)

The townhouse had been gutted and its contents piled into an ugly trash container on the street that took up two precious parking spots.

There’s good news for fans of New York City astrologer/detective David Lowell, whose first caper was the subject of Mitchell Scott Lewis’ debut novel, Murder in the Eleventh House: A Starlight Detective Agency Mystery.   (Murder in the Eleventh House was earlier reviewed on this site.)   Happily, Lewis has maintained the civilized and charming tone in this, his second mystery novel.   The story line revolves around a group of aging musicians who are dying off at an alarming rate.   The latest to die is Freddy Finger, lead singer of the group Rocket Fire.   His daughter, Vivian Younger, is an actress whose fame and beauty insure that her father’s death will be investigated thoroughly by the New York Police Department and their special consultant, David Lowell.

His chart does show that he has a temper, and he’s overly emotional, but then he’s a musician.

While the names of the various musicians are fictitious, their exploits are clearly taken from real life.   This site features the biographies of many famous musicians, both living and dead.   Any one of them will provide proof of this point.

Lewis is master of building plenty of fascinating information into his plots.   Although astrology in its purest form is a complicated discipline, detective David Lowell makes it almost easy to understand as he tutors the various members of his staff, family and Vivian Younger.

The names Lewis gives to his characters are clues in themselves.   The reader will most likely delight in the wealth of double entendres and the pun-like quality of his writing.   This seemingly innocent little book packs plenty of punch and entertainment!

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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A Book I Want to Read

Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones will be released by Touchstone Books (Simon and Schuster) on Tuesday, July 3, 2012.   Jones is an award-winning rock journalist and author who has crafted a 350-page portrait of Mercury: the complex man and the myth.   She has toured widely with Queen and has had full access to the band members.   In Mercury she makes use of more than 100 interviews conducted with those closest to the late Freddie Mercury, many of whom are just now speaking, twenty full years after his tragic death.   Mercury was the first major rock star to die from AIDS.

Meticulously researched, sympathetic and yet not sensational, Mercury offers an unvarnished, revealing look at the extreme highs and lows of life in the musical fast lane.   Jones details it all from Queen’s slow yet steady rise to fame, to the creation of ground breaking songs like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, to the decadent, raucous after parties Queen became quite infamous for, to the band’s creative process and their ongoing quest to challenge themselves musically.

To gain a better understanding of Mercury’s early life and his somewhat difficult relationship with his troubled, conservative past Jones traveled to Zanzibar, his birthplace, and India, where he attended boarding school.   She also provides new insights into the great loves of Mercury’s life — long-time girlfriend Mary Austin, chef Joe Fanelli, German soft-porn star Barbara Valentin, and live-in lover Jim Hutton — and what these relationships meant to him.   Mercury provides a compelling, full-screen portrait of this enigmatic performer-entertainer-artist whose magnetic performances once thrilled audiences around the world.

Joseph Arellano

Adapted from information provided by the publisher.   Adam Lambert, a lifelong fan of Mercury’s, will reportedly join Queen in concert at the Sonisphere Festival next month.   Lesley-Ann Jones’s expertise has been incorporated into a screenplay for an upcoming film version of Mercury, which will star Sacha Baron Cohen.  

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Love is the Cure

In the 1980s, Elton John saw friend after friend, loved one after loved one, perish needlessly from AIDS.   In the midst of the plague, he befriended Ryan White, a young Indiana boy ostracized by his town and his school because of the HIV infection he had contracted from a blood transfusion.   Ryan’s inspiring life and devastating death led Elton to two realizations:  His own life was a mess.   And he had to do something to help stop the AIDS crisis.

Since then, Elton has dedicated himself to beating the epidemic and the stigma of AIDS.   He has done this through the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has raised and donated $275 million to date to fighting the disease worldwide.   Love is the Cure is Elton’s personal account of his life during the AIDS epidemic, including stories of his close friendships with Ryan White, Freddie Mercury, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, and others.   It is also the story of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.   With powerful conviction and emotional force, Elton conveys the personal toll AIDS has taken on his life — and his infinite determination to halt its spread.

Elton writes, “This is a disease that must be cured not by a miraculous vaccine, but by changing hearts and minds, and through a collective effort to break down social barriers and to build bridges of compassion.   Why are we not doing more?   This is a question I have thought deeply about, and wish to answer – and help to change – by writing this book.”

Love is the Cure: Ending the Global AIDS Epidemic will be released by Little, Brown and Company on July 17, 2012.   All proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

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