Friday, July 30, 2010

Top 5 best muso books

List by Rachel

"Most people use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living. But serious music was never meant to be soporific."
- Aaron Copland

Beats, tracks, compositions, sounds, tunes, mixes - all of these terms are sometimes used in place of the word 'MUSIC' and I have nothing but major respect for musicians. Yes, even the really bad ones I've heard at some awful, awful gigs - you know who you are! When those musicians decide to write musical bios/autobios they often provide some great (and terrible) insight into how much dedication, hard work, and commitment it takes to make it big. In amongst much of the laughter and the memories you'll also find the not-so-great stuff such as the extramarital affairs, drugs, booze and backstabbing. Let's face it, sometimes the bigger the muso the better the gossip ;) Today's list is courtesy of the very lovely Rachel (who, I swear, reads at the speed of light) who shares her top 5 musical biographies/autobiographies.

Do you have a book that you think would make a great addition to this list? Simply leave us a comment :)

Learning to fly : the autobiography / Victoria Beckham
Since she was eight years old Victoria wanted to be a star. This autobiography covers her childhood, marriage and motherhood, the Spice Girls and her current career.

Rachel's note: Why is this here, you ask? Because it's funny! When I was in Year 9 (the peak of Spice Fever), all the girls at school wanted to be either Baby or Sporty. I was a Posh girl all the way - not because I thought she was a fantastic singer (she probably had the least lines and half the time it appeared that her mic wasn't even on) or dancer (Tinman comes to mind) - but because she had nice manners, dressed like a lady and found herself a cute, rich and not-too-bright athlete for a handbag. Her autobio is honest and just bedaubed with dry, witty English humour. I love how Posh maintains this same attitude. She admits she was never pretty, never talented, etc. etc. - but hard work and thick skin got her to where she is today. Plus - this does make for light reading after all the gloomy business of sex-drug-booze-fuelled rock'n'roll.

Wonderful today : the autobiography / Pattie Boyd with Penny Junor
Pattie Boyd caught the eye of Beatle George Harrison while on the set of 'A Hard Day's Night'. Her subsequent marriage to him was the beginning of an extraordinary life as an iconic muse to the nation's musical icons, adored by countless men including her devoted second husband, Eric Clapton. This is her story.

Rachel's note: Not many people give Pattie Boyd the credit she deserves for inspiring "Something" by the Beatles and "Wonderful Tonight", "Layla" and "Bell-Bottom Blues" by Eric Clapton. At first glance she does look your typical doe-eyed, blonde-haired, air-brained dolly-bird. The kind of waif any famous musician wants strewn around - with enough doll-faced innocence to make one feel less than sinful about anything bazillions of dollars could buy. It's a book you almost love to hate. I will say that Boyd's consistent "I couldn't help this" "I couldn't help that", "I didn't mean to make Eric fall in love with me ... blah blah blah", attitude got on my nerves more than once. Worth a read though - it shows that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Clapton deserves a medal for finding any commonalities between Layla, the dark-haired, perplexing siren and well ... a disturbingly vacant Boyd.

Faithfull / Marianne Faithfull with David Dalton
Marianne Faithfull, the daughter of a professor of philology and an Austro-Hungarian baroness, was convent-educated before she turned rebel in the 1960s. At just 17-years-old, she met the Rolling Stones and their manager, Andrew Oldham, at a party. Oldham asked her two weeks later to record a song. That single, "As the Tears Go By", reached number four in the charts and heralded the beginning of a celebrated singing career. Faithfull became Mick Jagger's girlfriend and soon attained notoriety as the "girl in the fur rug" at a much-publicized drugs bust. She also became a screen actress, appearing in such films as "Girl on a Motorcyle". These memoirs tell the story behind the headlines, and details of the life and achievements that transcend Marianne Faithfull's well-known role as Mick Jagger's consort and as a symbol of the decadent 1960s. She describes her life with the Stones and her friendships with many of rock's greatest figures, such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. She discusses with honesty her experiences as a junkie and her attempted suicides, as well as her growing will to survive and not to become the beautiful doomed character everyone perceived her to be. She was also much haunted by the drug-related deaths of her close friends, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison. In the mid-1980s, she relates how she finally kicked the habit and took up her singing career with renewed vigour, building on the success of albums like "Broken English". Her co-writer, David Dalton, is the author of "Piece of My Heart: Travels with Janis Joplin" and "Mr Mojo Risin': Jim Morrison, The Last Holy Fool".

Rachel's note: I loved both this and 'Memories, Dreams and Reflections'. Faithfull is a rather indulgent women, very in-your-face, yes-I'm-a-smack-addict - funnily enough, she never uses the term EX when talking about smack. Oh well ... she must have friends in high places. My one favourite moment in this book is an interview with her son Nicholas (who had actually lost contact with her for close to 15 years during her very worst) when he said "I remember this one time in Spain somewhere. We were on a beach and you were stoned." Marianne quips back "It was the 70's, kid, everyone was stoned." To which Nicholas replies earnestly "No - you'd just split up with Mick. People were hurling rocks and food and God-knows-what at you. You were literally stoned!"

Mick & Keith / Chris Salewicz
"This is the first time Mick Jagger and Keith Richards - Dartford school mates, legendary songwriting duo and archetypal rock icons - have been profiled together. An inseparable double-act they have been together for over forty years: two men joined at the hip, and in being hip. The oldest married couple in rock and roll, their story is the quintessential rock story, made up of the far from mutually exclusive areas of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Chris Salewicz traces their journey from the early sixties jazz, blues and r'n'b scene in and around London, through the swinging mid-sixties and on to Hyde Park, Altamont and the Stones' French exile of the early seventies. Along the way, Mick's numerous and complicated relationships - or 'multiple infidelities' (Jerry Hall's divorce lawyer) - chiefly with Marianne Faithfull, Marsha Hunt and Bianca Jagger, are untangled; while Keith's descent from the almost innocent, scandalous nature of the Redlands trial of 1967, into a more desolate and befuddled heroin addiction in the seventies is assiduously chronicled. A highly respected writer on popular culture, Salewicz delves behind the recording sessions, and places the key Stones records - from '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' through to 'Start Me Up' - in context." "What emerges is a dual biography that provides a portrait of the Stones' extraordinary two protagonists; but also a thoroughly detailed, comprehensive and authoritative slice of rock and roll life in the sixties and seventies, the heyday of the band that changed popular music, and our lives, for ever." -- BOOK JACKET.

Rachel's note: There was Lennon and McCartney and there was Mick and Keith. Salewicz's book uncovers the intriguing relationships between this fabulous duo. They shared everything - music, drugs, clothes, houses, women ... it goes on, really. Rock 'n' roll is all about binary opposites - there was rock and there was roll. Salewicz follows this philosophy in his work, depicting the two men as star-crossed halves of one another, who when together, made up one complete person. An interesting concept is skated over - there is an ever-present though not-blatantly-spelt-out suggestion that Mick and Keith may have had some kind of homosexual relationship (that perhaps wasn't actually consummated ... this one's a blurry topic). This is fuelled by Marianne Faithfull's claim that one evening whilst making love to Mick, he started calling out to Keith, who was in the next room, also amidst the act of coitus with his squeeze, Anita. Intriguing.

Storms : my life with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac / Carol Ann Harris
A consummate insider as the girlfriend of Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac singer and guitarist, Carol Ann Harris leads fans into the very heart of the band’s storms between 1976 and 1984. From interactions between the band and other stars—Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and Dennis Wilson—to the chaotic animosity between band members, this memoir combines the sensational account of some of the world’s most famous musicians with a thrilling love story. Illustrated with never-before-seen photographs, the parties, fights, drug use, shenanigans, and sex lives of Fleetwood Mac are presented in intimate detail. With the exception of one brief interview, Carol Ann Harris has never before spoken about her time with Fleetwood Mac.

Rachel's note: I was a little apprehensive when it came to even reading this, being a firm believer that Stevie and Lindsay should've stayed together forever. The love 'triangle', 'square' (according to Flight of the Conchords), 'pentagon' is the stuff music legends are made out of and this book really examines the depth of this perception. Written by Carol Ann Harris, Lindsay's one-time partner, and a makeup artist of the band, Harris uncovers the details of exactly who was sleeping with who, and when, and why, and interestingly enough - the involvement of outsiders in this complicated little world that created Rumours.

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