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Classic Rock News And Views
November 8, 2012
Anyone wanting the full story on the lives of Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson can find pretty much all of it within the pages of their recently-released book, Kicking & Dreaming. The format of the book is a bit different since each of the sisters took turns authoring their own passages throughout the book with a few sections authored by guests such as their sister Lynn and close friend Sue Ennis. In addition, former Heart managers, producers and band members also got a chance to make their contributions.
This is the story of the Wilson sisters and their journey with Heart from the very beginning. Ann and Nancy seem to hold very little back in this book as they reveal difficult childhood experiences in school and the many relocations they endured as children of a military man. With their decades-long reputation as two of music’s hardest-rocking women, who would have imagined Ann Wilson as a shy, stammering schoolgirl? A far cry from the legendary rock icon she eventually became. Who knows how many girls she inspired to seek the best teachers to school them in the art of guitar playing or singing?
It’s difficult to overestimate the influence The Beatles had on Ann and Nancy Wilson. In the book, the Nancy Wilson describes it this way: “The Ninth day of February of 1964, a lightning bolt came out of the heavens and struck us. We had our life before February 9, and we had our life after.”
Like so many others caught up in the frenzy over the arrival of these long-haired British rockers, Ann and Nancy Wilson first saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. The difference between the Wilson sisters and most other adoring female fans is that they were not interested in being married to one of The Beatles – they were more interested in being The Beatles. The rest, as they say, is history.
As bona fide rock stars, Ann and Nancy Wilson has occasion to rub elbows with some of the music industries most iconic personalities. In some instances they sound as if they were just as star-struck as a fan on the street, driving home the fact that rock stars, movie stars and other celebrities are just human beings just like the rest of us.
Kicking & Dreaming isn’t without what some might consider indiscrete revelations. Ann and Nancy Wilson talk openly about some of their personal relationships. At times Kicking & Dreaming reads like a tell-all book that doesn’t hold back a whole lot. I admit to being a bit surprised by some of their revelations but at the same time, I admire the honesty and courage it must have taken to tell it like it is.
As two of rock’s most-recognized figures, Ann and Nancy Wilson have enjoyed tremendous success and the rewards that come with it. What’s lesser known is the story of their humble beginnings, their ups and downs with Heart through the decades and the challenges they met head on and overcame.
For dedicated Heart fans, Kicking & Dreaming is a must-read. Not only does it chronicle the creation and evolution of Heart but it also tells the story of Ann and Nancy Wilson in great detail. As someone who does not know either of them personally, it’s not possible for me to know what may have been left out of the book, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say very little.
March 23, 2011
In 1974, at a time when the world was in turmoil and the music scene was filled with flamboyance and excess, Bob Dylan returned to his home state of Minnesota and re-recorded some of the most iconic songs from his legendary album Blood on the Tracks. Unknown to the album’s producer Phil Ramone, Dylan wasn’t happy with the state of the recordings and wanted some fresh perspective. With the help of his brother David, Bob recruited a cast of unknown but talented musicians and recorded some of the most endearing music of his career.
One of the “north country boys” as they were called by Rolling Stone was guitarist Kevin Odegard, who would eventually write A Simple Twist of Fate with co-author Andy Gill. Fate is a huge theme in the book, and fates change quickly and with little remorse.
Early in the book, Odegard recalls how he nearly missed his opportunity to contribute to the album when he almost ignored the ringing telephone, thinking it was the dispatcher from work trying to coerce him to come in on a cold January evening. Music store owner Chris Weber’s life was changed forever when Dylan astounded him by asking him to sit in on guitar for the recording session. Others felt bilked when their takes were cut from the album during the production process.
It’s easy to overlook how many lives are affected by the creation of an album like Blood on the Tracks. Some artists’ misfortunes are others’ lucky breaks when songs are recorded or reworked. This is one of my favorite things about this book. Authors Andy Gill and Odegard skillfully weave all the loose threads of the story into a compelling tapestry that illustrates the sheer quantity of talent and inspiration that went into creating Blood on the Tracks.
Surely, fans of Bob Dylan have a lot to appreciate about this book. They will appreciate the candid look into the recording habits and methodologies used by the folk rock genius. The authors dive into the back story surrounding many of the songs on the album and their root in real events and relationships in Dylan’s life.
You don’t have to be a die hard Dylan fan to appreciate this book, however. Anyone with an appreciate of history, especially music history, will love how the authors root their story in a relevant historical context. Those with an interest in recording and production will love the detail paid to the equipment used during the sessions. I really enjoyed how Gill and Odegard managed to wrap all this together into a compelling and engaging package that is as easy to read as it is entertaining.
A Simple Twist of Fate was published in 2004 by Da Capo Press. This article was written by John Imsdahl on behalf of T-Shirts.com. T-Shirts.com carries a wide selection of band t shirts in vintage and contemporary styles.
February 1, 2011
I’m biased. I’ll admit that right off the bat. I’m a (very amateur) drummer, so a brand-new coffee table-style book featuring pictures of renowned drummers behind their kits is something that definitely caught my attention. Drummers are accustomed to being pushed to the rear. That in and of itself is not a problem, since it’s a long-standing tradition to set up the drums behind the rest of the group, especially when the drummer has one of these monster kits that could probably hide every other band member behind it if they decided to try.
It’s probably just us drummers – and perhaps a few air drummers – that have problems with the other aspect of how much attention drummers get whenever we get to see them perform. Live performances are undoubtedly the best way to get a good look at a drummer’s kit and their technique, depending on how close you can get to the stage or how powerful your binoculars are!
Catching your favorite groups on video is a different story. Most often it seems like we’re lucky if we can get a 2-second glimpse of the drummer every once in a while. The vast majority of face time is devoted to the folks who stand out front, particularly the lead singer. It’s always been frustrating for drummers who are trying to get a feel for what their favorite players are using, or how they choose to play.
Is that a 13-inch or 14-inch high hat? Was that a switch to a traditional grip for that drum roll? Those are the kinds of things drummers want to know but cannot often not see due to the fleeting attention they get on video or simply because they are pretty-well hidden behind their kit.
I don’t what this to come off as a rant, or worse yet, a whining piece that’s all about how underappreciated drummers are. I’d like it to be more about celebrating a new book that features a lot of great pictures of drummers and their kits. David Phillips, a U.K.-based author and drummer has published a brand-new book entitled A Drummer’s Perspective, a hefty hardcover that’s jam-packed with photos of drummers in action. This book is all about the photos, so don’t expect this to be full of the history and biographies on your favorite drummers. Phillips obviously had a very specific goal in mind with the publication of this book: Show us the drums! Yeah, and the drummers, too!
It may be obvious that someone like myself is most interested in pictures of drummers like Neil Peart, Nick Mason, Roger Taylor and Terry Bozzio, all of whom are featured in the book. This new release goes much further than that, however. Quite a few names were unfamiliar to me, but I’m already thinking about checking out some of these players based on their kits or the artists they have performed with. My first look at the book already helped me make a decision I had recently been mulling over.
Since it’s been a little more than 20 years before I was able to get behind a kit, I have been thinking a lot about whether I want to go electronic when I finally decide to pick up a new kit. My kids are grown now and my wife an I are on the verge of becoming “empty nesters,” so I see an opening in the near future for a place to set up a music room for a new kit.
Recalling my younger years of whaling away on an acoustic kit that could sometimes be heard by my neighbors three or four houses away (yes, I was in the house and the doors and windows were closed!) I was a little apprehensive about a new acoustic kit and how my wife’s brain may be rattled even if she was as far away in the house as possible from my little “studio.” Having always loved the look of an acoustic kit and my doubts about the feel and response of an electronic one, I was very doubtful about an electronic option despite the tremendous advantage of the peace and quiet it would provide for my wife and neighbors.
Paging through Phillips’ new book I came across a couple of photos of Thomas Lang playing a Roland electronic kit that was actually pretty nice-looking. Before too long I was watching Lang play a very similar kit on YouTube at a demo at the 2007 NAMM event. That pretty much put my fears to rest regarding electronic kits – it’s clearly the way to go for an amateur like myself who wants to bang around a bit for the sheer enjoyment of it without rattling every window in the house and the silverware in the kitchen drawer.
As usual, I digress and should get back to the book. This colorful volume weighs in at over 2 pounds is about a foot wide, 10 inches high, with its 157 pages adding up to a little over a half-an-inch thick. You definitely do not want to be hit in the head with this thing!
It’s hard for me to gauge how interesting a book like this would be to a non-drummer, but for drummers I am almost willing to say that this book is a must-have. If you’re a notch or two beyond a drummer and are a no-holes-barred drum fanatic, I would say that you need this book in your collection. Rest assured that I will find a prominent place to display it in my new “studio” when I get the chance to set it up!
For more information or to order, visit the A&R Marketing website.
November 4, 2010
Led Zeppelin: Arguably the biggest name in the history of rock. During 1975 the group embarked on a U.S. tour that got off to a rocky start as they introduced fans to new music from what turned out to be an album that was widely considered a defining release for the group.
Rock writer Stephen Davis, author of Hammer of the Gods, managed to land himself an assignment from Atlantic Monthly to join Led Zeppelin as they jetted from venue to venue on the aptly-named “Starship,” a modified Boeing 720B equipped with all the amenities a 70’s-era rock star might desire.
The circumstances that resulted in the creation of LZ-‘75 are a bit unusual considering that Davis had misplaced his notes, memorabilia, photographs and original fan letters he compiled during his time spent on the road with Led Zeppelin. Thirty years later, he stumbled upon his cache of goodies stashed in a friend’s basement that he probably had never expected to see again.
Inspired by the discovery, Davis set about writing LZ-‘75, The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour. Readers will find lost interviews with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, detailed accounts of the group’s performances, behind-the-scenes accounts of what went on within the confines of the famed “Riot House,” and first-hand revelations of the extravagant and decadent lifestyle the band lived as they crisscrossed the country to entertain legions of enthusiastic (and sometimes not-so-enthusiastic) audiences.
Although Led Zeppelin was renowned for tales of sexual debauchery, substance abuse and generally outrageous behavior, there’s not a lot of content dedicated specifically to those topics in the book. Those kinds of things are not omitted, however, and there is some content dedicated to the confirmation or denial of some well-known rumors regarding the behavior of various members of the group.
What impressed me most about LZ-‘75 was that it was a genuinely easy read. Weighing in at 215 pages, there’s plenty of content, but Davis breaks it down into 39 easily-digestible chapters, which makes it quite easy for readers like myself who don’t have a lot of time for books, since I can easily end a session at the end of a chapter, which helps keep the flow of the story intact from reading to reading.
Obviously, LZ-‘75 is a book that should be in any serious Led Zeppelin fan’s collection. Released on October 28th, the book is available at Amazon.com where there is also video of the author’s comments.
June 21, 2010
It’s been almost a week since Pat Benatar’s new book hit store shelves. Being a bit of a slow reader (mostly due to time constraints), I just finished reading it last night. Normally, I would conclude that only Pat Benatar fans would have any real interest in reading her memoir, and I was a little bit apprehensive going in.
I remember Benatar from the MTV days when she broke onto the scene – at least for those of us who did not happen to be loyal fans previous to her TV debut. MTV was the first time I had ever heard of Pat Benatar. As far as I was concerned as a 20-ish guy who spent me share of time in front of MTV in those days, she was a good-looking girl who could rock. Generally, I liked the music. Not enough to go buy a record, but it was good.
If I had to come up with one take-away from the book, I’d have to sum it up by saying that Pat Benatar is a human being with emotions, feelings, hopes, dreams, desires, goals, etc. You know, all the stuff that helps define most of us as human beings.
Surely, it’s obvious that Benatar is a human being. However, recall what I said about how I viewed her back when when she first broke onto MTV. I saw her pretty much the way her record company handlers wanted me to. It was all about the sex, and that was certainly not lost on a 20-ish guy who liked rock and roll.
We’ve all heard the stories of the record company weasels who put pressure on artists to compromise their own creative ambitions. If that’s not bad enough from an artists perspective, it may be even worse to have a sex-crazed music mogul chasing you around a piano, hoping to get some “action.” Yes, it happened to Benatar, and no, the weasel did not get any “action.”
Reading Benatar’s book provided a bit of insight into the careers of other female performers who had to struggle with similar obstacles while trying to make it in the music business as an attractive woman. A few years back, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart spoke a bit about some of the obstacles they had to overcome, facing a lot of the same stereotyping and disrespect Benatar dealt with through the years.
There are a number of reasons to admire Pat Benatar. Beyond overcoming all the crap she had to put up with from power brokers who either refused to take her seriously as an artist, or simply viewed her as a sex symbol, she comes across as a very down-to-Earth person.
Unlike so many of her peers, she never fell victim to the party lifestyle. She did not make headlines by landing in rehab or jail. She worked as hard as any performer, but kept her head on straight and her feet on the ground.
One passage from the book really stuck with me, and really solidified the respect and admiration I have developed for Pat Benatar. Although she acknowledges in the book that she has very strong political ideals, she has always opted to avoid using her fame as a platform to further whatever political agenda she supports, and gives no hint as to what that might be. She does, however, seem put off by celebrities who don’t adhere to the same code. On that point, Pat Benatar and I are on the same page, so to speak.
I’ve got no reservations about recommending Benatar’s book. Loyal fans will obviously want to pick up a copy, but even for someone like me, who always had just a passing interest in Benatar and her music, it was interesting enough to keep me reading it until the end, and I am glad I did.
Sure, Pat Benatar is a successful artist and turned more than her share of heads in her day. One of those heads could have easily been mine. I never chased anyone around a piano, or anywhere else, for that matter, but Pat Benatar was just another cute rock chick in as far as I was concerned. Sharing the story of her life and career goes much further than exposing record company weasels – it also puts her in a whole new light.
Celebrities and rock stars are looked up to by their fans and are admired by many. Some of them handle fame well, and others may not. Personally, I always find myself most impressed by those that don’t elevate themselves above the everyday guy or gal. I’d say Pat Benatar is one of those rock stars I really admire. Not just because of her talent, ability, music, or appearance, but definitely because of her character.
Say it with me: Pat Benatar’s Between A Rock and A Heart Place is available on Amazon.com.