I think we live in a very exciting time for music journalism, particularly when it comes to books. Self-publishing, whether digitally or physically, has become a more affordable proposition and allows for music writers to publish books that might only appeal to a niche audience that wouldn’t justify the expense expended by a traditional publisher. I talk often about those types of authors here, and today I want to point out a couple of new works.

Someone I’ve reviewed here a few times, and interviewed here as well, is Neil Daniels. He’s what has come to be known as a hybrid author – one that both publishes traditionally and also self-publishes. His model is something I have been looking at quite a bit and I really believe that it is the way of the future for many music writers (I won’t get into all of my reasons for those thoughts here, now, but maybe soon.). For example, by the end of 2014, he will have released eight books this year. Five of those are traditionally published (one of them steps outside of the music world).Bryan Adams Final Front Cover

The three self-published books are a series Daniels created that carry the subtitle, A Casual Guide. These books delve in to an artist and provide an overview of their career and music. They aren’t in-depth bios and their meant for casual fans of those artists, to enable them to learn a little more. The first was on Neal Schon (and I reviewed it here). He currently has two new ones available: Richie Sambora (Stranger In This Town – A Casual Guide To The Music Of Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora) and Bryan Adams.

Of the new two, I’ve only Reckless – A Casual Guide To The Music Of Bryan Adams, but it’s certainly the work we’ve come to expect from Daniels, offering in-depth research looking at contemporaneous reviews for their work and archival interviews. Daniels offers little in the way of commentary or criticism, but that’s in keeping with the “casual guide” theme of the works. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from him and I hope to continue to do so.

Another veteran musiPower_Pop_cover_low_resc journalist that has been making the move toward hybrid authorship is Ken Sharp. Sharp has been traditionally published for several years and then last month he self-published his book Kooks, Queen Bitches and Andy Warhol: The Making of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory.

This month he has a new offering, PLAY ON! Power Pop Heroes – Volume 1. The book, of nearly 500 pages, is the first of three volumes that serve as an oral history of Power Pop including interviews with members of the Beatles, the Who, Bee Gees,vSmall Faces, The Raspberries and more.

But this one is being offered with a twist. You have to order the book by October 28, 2014 to get it. If you miss it, you’re out of luck. Sharp will only be printing the exact number of books being ordered. He won’t be keeping an inventory of them – once they’re gone, they’re gone! If you’re interested, you can order here.

I think what these writers (and several others) are doing is exciting for the future of book-length music journalism!

The Week’s Releases (9/28-10/4)newreleases

[Note: These are affiliate links, but if you are going to buy it anyway, why not help out the site at the same time?]

Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia, Fiona Ritchie, Doug Orr, and Darcy Orr, University of North Carolina Press, Sept 29, 2014

Austin City Limits: A History, Tracey E. W. Laird, Oxford University Press, Oct 1 2014

Dream Weaver: A Memoir; Music, Meditation, and My Friendship with George Harrison, Gary Wright, Tarcher, Oct 2, 2014

The winner of the copy of Nashville Songwriter is…



Randy Prewitt!


The Week’s Releases (9/21-27)newreleases

[Note: These are affiliate links, but if you are going to buy it anyway, why not help out the site at the same time?]

Rock ‘n’ Roll Love Stories: True tales of the passion and drama behind the stage acts, Gill Paul, The Ivy Press, Sept 22, 2014

Bowie: The Biography, Wendy Leigh, Gallery Books, Sept 23, 2014

Chris Stein / Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk, Chris Stein, Rizzoli, Sept 23, 2014

Lenny Kravitz, Lenny Kravitz, Anthony DeCurtis, Rizzoli, Sept 23, 2014

Through the Eye of the Tiger: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Life of Survivor’s Founding Member, Jim Peterik, Lisa Torem, BenBella Books, Sept 23, 2014

This Is Country: A Backstage Pass to the Academy of Country Music Awards, Lisa Lee, Insight Editions, Sept 23, 2014

Michael Jackson’s Dangerous (33 1/3), Susan Fast, Bloomsbury, Sept 25, 2014

Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album (33 1/3), Charles Fairchild, Bloomsbury, Sept 25, 2014

Life with my Father Glen Campbell, Debby Campbell and Mark Bego, Overlook, Sept 25, 2014

Without Frontiers: The Life and Music of Peter Gabriel, Daryl Easlea, Overlook, Sept 25, 2014

Jake Brown as written over 30 books, several of which focus on a given artist (like Heart, Iron Maiden, and Tori Amos, to name a few) work in the studio. In Nashville Songwriter: The Inside Stories Behind Country Music’s Greatest Hits he steps out of the studio to talk to some of the songwriters putting hits on the charts. Jake was gracious enough to talk to us a little about the book.NashvilleSongwriter_FrontCover

Music Tomes: The book tells the stories of many hit country songs, but instead of structuring the book around the songs, you did it around the songwriters. How did you decide to do that?

Jake Brown: The songwriters in this town are the unsung heroes of country music outside of the immediate confines of Nashville, and though there artists like Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood who co-write many of their # 1 hits with songwriters interviewed in this book and I wanted to tell their story in a definitive book series. For generations and generations, its been one of the better-kept secrets that there was this amazing community of songwriters working behind the scenes composing the majority of country’s biggest hits: Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler,” for instance, was written by a legendary songwriter named Don Schlitz, and “Always On My Mind,” one of Willie Nelson’s biggest hits, was written by another songwriting great, Wayne Carson, who we were lucky enough to interview for the book. Bob DiPiero, who is a VERY respected member of the Nashville songwriting community, and Tom T. Hall, Craig Wiseman, “Whisperin” Bill Anderson, Sonny Curtis, Tom Shapiro, Dean Dillon, Jeff Silbar – there were so many members of the songwriting royalty, if you will, that were willing to share their wisdom, and stories behind hits that go back throughout the decades, allowing us to appeal not just to today’s newest generation of country music fans, but also its classics. In the same time, I’m very proud to say this book chronicles the majority of the hits within the catalogs of today’s biggest country stars: Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, and so on for stars and stars. So it was just a privilege to have such access to the behind-the-scenes stories of how literally hundreds of # 1 hits – chronicled in this book – came to life before they became chart-toppers.

This approach also allowed me – and hopefully the reader- an educational opportunity from hearing these songwriters talk about their heroes, those who gave them their starts in the business, to put the spotlight on some of country’s original movers and shakers: from Willie Nelson and Freddy Powers talking about the pivotal role Texas country great Paul Buskirk played in launching both their careers as songwriters, and the adventures these guys went on chasing their dream: Rivers Rutherford – who wrote “Ain’t Nothin’ Bout You” by Brooks & Dunn- among countless other # 1s – talk about hopping the fence at the house of Chips Moman and getting attacked by watch dogs while trying to deliver a demo of what became the title track off The Highway Man album! The huge chances these guys took – and struggles they survived – in pursuit of their dream to make it as hit songwriters, like Dean Dillon – writer of such George Strait classics as “The Chair” and “The Best Day”- hitch-hiked down here at 18 with a guitar on his back and not much else. This book tells their stories, the songwriters, and through those conversations about their careers, very naturally, the true-life inspirations behind many of country music’s GREATEST hit songs emerged. It’s a book written by songwriters for songwriters, both to inspire and hopefully to teach, because the collective wisdom these writers share within their respective chapters is priceless to an aspiring songwriter just starting out, or a struggling one that’s been in town a while and hasn’t landed a cut yet. For instance, the torture of a song being put on “hold” by an artist or publishing company and not being recorded for years before it then finally became a hit, or a songwriter getting news that a major country star is going to record their song, only to have it get bounced off the record, and wind up getting picked up serendipitously by another star who took it to # 1. These are the true stories behind the journey of those songs, and of their songwriters, and of the 20 writers profiled in this book, not one of them hasn’t won the biggest awards in the business: ASCAP/American Academy of Country Music/NSAI Songwriter of the Year, BMI ICON, Nashville and Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees, CMA/Billboard Hot Country Music Songwriter, Grammy Nominees and on and on- their status as the biggest names in the business is confirmed by their endless parades of hits and accolades for that success as songwriting.

Another fascinating aspect within this book was exploring the longer-term collaborative relationships between key songwriters and country music superstars who worked for album after album over multi-decade associations, like Dean Dillon and George Strait, or Chris Dubois and Brad Paisley, or more recently, Luke Bryan and Dallas Davidson. The kindred nature of these relationships were fascinating, and very authentic, with one instance being Kenny Chesney’s hit “Out Last Night” which he co-wrote with Brett James on a trip they took down to the Islands together. So those authentic backdrops were always cool to hear about as they inspired a song idea that went on to become popular enough to top the charts. It speaks to country’s almost universal relatability within the subject matter of the songs we talk about in this book, and its an important point the writers make over and over, the necessity of being able to relate to the audience. To paint “a 3 minute movie” as Craig Wiseman, co-writer of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” and “The Good Stuff” by Kenny Chesney, and the skill with which these writers reflected the every-day language of Nashville and their respective rural roots or hometowns in the lyrics of these hits. Dallas Davidson, one of Luke Bryan’s main hit writers – including this summer’s monster # 1 smash “Play It Again” – put it best when he said in the book that “I tell people all the time, my job is to ‘speak the language,’ and if you’re going to have a hit, especially in today’s time, you need to speak the language, you need to talk hip and you need to put that in your songs, because it relates to a new generation, and to my generation. You have to do that, and I think just going out and living and listening to people and the way they talk, and translate it in your words and in your songs, it will work.” So the chance to get inside these amazingly creative minds, really for the first time in a book of this kind, it was never lost on me how unique an opportunity I was being given as a biographer. I’ve written 36 books in the 14 years I’ve been doing this, and this is by FAR one of top 2 or 3 favorite books I’ve ever been involved with.

MT: You interviewed some classic songwriters and some current songwriters. What traits or qualities did you find that they all shared?

JB: I found often that the routines were the same, getting up every morning and coming on to Music Row, getting in a room with a co-writer or co-writers and working 8, 9 hours a day banging out songs, day in and out. The work ethic is truly amazing, especially with just the natural talent for output that these writers’ musical minds have, some of them write up to 200 and 300 songs a year, and a good number of them go on to be cut, if not turned in many cases into hits. Even before they ever had hits though, almost every writer in the book hammers home the importance of doing as much co-writing as you can for the practice, as an up-and-coming writers especially.

MT: What are some differences in their process?

JB: Where that culture varied was within the approaches some writers took, for instance writing from a chorus first, or from concept down, but there were commonalities too within things like happy accidents where a hit song emerged spontaneously out of ANOTHER song a pair of writers may have been working on that day, like Brad Paisley’s hit “Whiskey Lullaby”, which began as “Midnight Cigarette,” or “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which though it went on to become a monster pop crossover hit actually began as a # 1 country hit. Another thing that I found fascinating was to hear about how song ideas came to writers when they may have been driving in that day to a session and that then guided the rest of the writers involved to stick with that idea because they all found it so hooky. There were a million variations on that of course from one song to the next, but my favorite – I have to say – were the hits that songwriters said “wrote themselves.” Kenny Chesney’s “There Goes My Life,” Rascal Flatts’ “Banjo,” and Jason Aldean’s “Fly Over States” were poignant examples of that magical moment, where in other instances, you learn about the importance of laboring over an idea when a songwriter felt in his gut it really had promise.

MT: Can you narrow it down to a favorite interview?

JB: Not really, I was an equal fan of everyone I had the opportunity to speak with, but I will say there were some highlights for me personally, one of them being the opportunity to work with songwriting great Freddy Powers, who sadly has been stricken with Parkinson’s for the past 10+ years. We had some help from an amazing club of fans/friends, including longtime co-writer Merle Haggard, fellow Texas writer/star Willie Nelson, and John Rich of Big & Rich, who also gave us a great list of tips of new writers that we closed with as the book’s last chapter. I had the great fortune of speaking with Dallas Davidson, Luke Bryan’s co-writer, and Ashley Gorley, both of whom are wildly popular right now as hit-writers for stars ranging from Luke to Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Jake Owen, Chris Young – just a bunch of today’s biggest and fastest-rising stars. I loved the insight they shared into writing for today’s teenage country fans, who are the next generation that might pop up here in town in a few years with the same dream. Then, from a whole different angle, I had favorite moments that I think country fans will love actually getting a front-row seat into the songwriting process itself. Then you have vets like the aforementioned Rivers Rutherford & Brett James (who co-wrote “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood, Neil Thrasher (who co-wrote “Fast Cars and Freedom” by Rascal Flatts), David Lee Murphy (who wrote “Big Green Tractor”, one of Jason Aldean’s biggest hits), and Lee Thomas Miller (co-writer of “The Impossible” by Joe Nichols, which was nominated for the Best Country Song Grammy). Hearing about the tricks and tips these guys have used throughout years of writing hits, and then guys like Chris DuBois, one of Brad Paisley’s principle co-writers and President of SeaGayle Music Publishing, which is one of the hottest Millennium publishing success stories in country music, and Craig Wiseman’s Big Loud Shirt. These companies have mentored and developed a lot of the newest faces on Music Row who are writing chart-toppers, so the advice songwriters reading this book get on the business of becoming a Nashville Songwriter in the current musical climate is priceless. I feel like every writer we interviewed in this book had something invaluable to offer the conversation, so really, its impossible to pick. I think readers will hopefully feel the same, BUT if you have a favorite hit you want to read about by a favorite artist, there’s a better-than-likely chance its covered in the book.

MT: What are you currently working on?

JB: I like to stay busy, and I have a history writing in rock the past few years: I just had a memoir come out last May with guitar legend Joe Satriani titled Strange Beautiful Music that we’re still promoting, but coming up, I’m wrapping work with celebrated rock drumming great Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp, John Fogerty) on his authorized autobiography, then I begin writing what I’m proud to say is the first definitive rock & roll drummer’s anthology, featuring exclusive interviews with many of the biggest living drum legends alive, including players from Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Foo Fighters, Jane’s Addiction, Santana, Lynyrd Skynyrd among many others, and finally, I’m starting work this fall with iconic R&B/Hip Hop producer Teddy Riley on his memoirs, hailed as “a genius” by Michael Jackson at Grammy Awards at the height of their collaboration, and working with Freddy and Catherine Powers on Freddy’s authorized autobiography, The Spree of ’83. So I have a pretty full slate luckily.

MT: Can you recommend some of your favorite music tomes?

JB: As far back as 10 and 11 years old when I was first really reading because I wanted to, it was Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine every week in and out till I was out of high school, and because I grew up before the internet was around, if it wasn’t music magazines, it was music biographies, and books like Sound Advice, Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business and The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Commerce anywhere I could gain an inside look at how the music business worked. When it wasn’t those books, it was mostly music biographies, and I grew up reading guys like Danny Sugarman, who wrote the Doors book, writers who really gave you a front-row view inside the lives of the artist or band you were reading about. More recent favorites have included Tommy James & the Shandells’ Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells, always Motley Crue’s The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band is classic, Willie Nelson’s Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road, Keith Richards’ Life, I could go on and on. I hope country music fans will add “NASHVILLE SONGWRITER” to their own list of favorites when they’re done reading. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the book!

Win a copy of Nashville Songwriter! We’ve got one copy to give away, so tell us who your favorite songwriter is in the comment section to enter to win it. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, Sept. 23.

For casual fans of blues and early rock, the name Big Mama Thornton is often associated a a footnote to the rise of Elvis Presley, who covered her song “Hound Dog.” But as Michael Spörke set out to discover, there was a lot more to Thornton’s life and music. Today Michael took some time to tell us a little about the book, Big Mama Thornton: The Life and Music.Spörke_978-0-7864-7759-3

Music Tomes: What drew you to the story of Big Mama Thornton?

Michael Spörke: I discovered Big Mama Thornton through her song “Ball & Chain,” the version by Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company. At that time I was writing the biography of Big Brother & the Holding Company, Living with the myth of Janis Joplin. Janis Joplin`s cover made me curious about the woman and her music. I did listen to more of Big Mama Thornton`s music and I just loved it. So I started to research about her. But I mostly found stories about her being a difficult person and other kind of sensational stories. But not so much info about her whole life. That was the reason for me to look deeper into her life. And what I found was a great life story that wasn’t told yet. So I did it, because Big Mama Thornton deserves it.

MT: You mention in the introduction that doing the book was a “race against time” since you interviewed many people that knew Thornton personally. How did you go about finding those people?

MS: I was searching for people who did know her personally. To find them I researched via the internet, books, old articles, posters and other materials, just the way you do it when you do historical research. I tried to find the musicians that she recorded or performed with, her managers and friends. And than I contacted those persons via phone and asked them for a chance to talk with them about Big Mama Thornton. This whole process took several years. And I´m very glad that most of the people that I asked for an interview agreed to work with me. Some people that I talked to years ago for the book are no longer with us now, like Big Walter Price, Jimmy McCracklin, Texas Johnny Brown and others. I feel blessed for being able to talk with those great musicians and preserve their recollections about Big Mama Thornton.

MT: Was there anything you found in your research that surprised you?

MS: Well, a few things, yes. Mostly it was fascinating to see how much the official image of Big Mama Thornton as the tough, difficult person, is so different from what many of your fellow musicians told me about. She was in fact a very sensitive and humorous woman and as Nat Dove, her long time piano player says, Big Mama was many things: a comic, a dancer, a singer, an actress, a songwriter, and a person of true passion. And there are a few other wrong “facts” about her, that have been told over and over again and I very happy that I could clear some facts. For instance a rumour is that Big Mama Thornton traveled with a woman that was her girlfriend. In fact this woman she used to travel with was her half-sister Mattie Fields.

MT: How did Elvis’ cover of “Hound Dog” affect Thornton?

MS: Well, first of all as Elvis Presley recorded “Hound Dog” to international acclaim, Peacock re-released Big Mama Thornton’s original version (Peacock #1612). So it brought her new publicity, but only very shortly. But while she could only reach the black audience with her first version of the song, Elvis had the opportunity to reach the black and white audience. It sure made her bitter that Elvis could reach much more people with his version of the song and therefore made more money with it than she did.

MT: What are you currently working on?

MS: I currently have a lot to do with promoting the Big Mama Thornton book and holding book reading and signings. Also, I’m working on a new edition of the biography of Big Brother & the Holding Company, Living with the myth of Janis Joplin. But there is a new idea in my mind for a new book. And it will be about another blues musician.

MT: Can you recommend some of your favorite Big Mama Thornton music?

MS: As for Big Mama Thornton: “That Lucky Old Sun”, “Summertime” and her record with the Muddy Waters Band
And in general: One of my all time favourites is the “St. Louis Blues” sung by Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong in the backing band.

The Week’s Release (9/14-20)newreleases

[Note: These are affiliate links, but if you are going to buy it anyway, why not help out the site at the same time?]

Gimme Indie Rock: 500 Essential American Underground Rock Albums 1981-1996, Andrew Earles, Voyageur Press, Sept 15, 2014

Motown Artist by Artist, Pat Morgan, G2 Entertainment, Sept 15, 2014

Yankee Twang: Country and Western Music in New England (Music in American Life), Clifford R. Murphy, University of Illinois Press, Sept 15, 2014

Arlo Guthrie: The Warner/Reprise Years (American Folk Music and Musicians Series), Hank Reineke, Rowman & Littlefield, Sept 16, 2014 (Paperback Edition)

Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool, Primus and Greg Prato, Akashic Books, Sept 16, 2014

Mavericks of Sound: Conversations with Artists Who Shaped Indie and Roots Music, David Ensminger, Rowman & Littlefield, Sept 16, 2014

The View from the Back of the Band: The Life and Music of Mel Lewis (North Texas Lives of Musician Series), Chris Smith, University of North Texas Press, Sept 20, 2014

Veteran Rock writer Joel McIver has written books on a wide range of musical interests. His newest takes a look at the Death Metal band Cannibal Corpse and is the official biography authorized by the band. Joel stopped by to tell us a little about the project, the band, and upcoming projects:Adobe Photoshop PDF

Music Tomes: How did you come to write the official history of Cannibal Corpse?

Joel McIver: It was a classic case of a) journalist interviews band for magazine, b) journalist and band become friends, c) journalist suggests book to band. This is how many, many rock biogs and autobiogs get started. The guys in Cannibal Corpse were on board with the book idea right from the start of the process and we’ve ended up with a great, entertaining, informative, slightly disturbing book.

MT: You note, as early as the first few pages, that while the themes and lyrics of the songs are often pretty gruesome, the guys in the band are just normal everyday guys. When a horror writer writes similar things in a book or screenplay they are lauded as creative and imaginative. Why do you think people think a musician’s work must be autobiographical?

JM: Great question. In this case Cannibal have been playing these songs for so long, touring them with such commitment and sticking to the super-graphic lyrical angle with such consistency that people understandably think that the band must take their lyrics seriously. Of course, they’re not endorsing or recommending the horrible things that take place in their songs, any more than Stephen King endorses the stuff that goes on in his novels. Cannibal Corpse are simply telling horror stories. Now, the music in the songs is a different matter and the musicians take that part of their craft very seriously indeed. Each of them is a world-class musician, composer and performer, a fact which sometimes gets overshadowed by the lyrical content.

MT: The band has been together for nearly 30 years. How do you think they’ll be remembered in the metal history?

JM: As pioneers, certainly, but also as a band which defeated the paradigm. On paper, the idea of Cannibal Corpse making a successful living for three decades out of frankly terrifying music simply doesn’t add up. The music is fast and complex, the lyrics are unsettling and the vocals demonic – and yet a large chunk of the international public buys their albums and concert tickets, enabling the band to pay their bills without resorting to day jobs, which so many other musicians cannot hope to do. What does that say about human nature?

MT: You were pretty familiar with the band when you started the project, but was there anything that surprised you to find out or any misconceptions you held?

JM: The depth of commitment that it takes to maintain a commercially successful band such as this one blew my mind. From record label to management to the musicians themselves, everyone has to work in perfect sync to make it all happen, and happen it does. A lot of corporations, let alone metal bands, could learn from the workings of Cannibal, essentially a finely-tuned machine that delivers a focused, consistent performance.

MT: You’ve written books on as varied musicians from the Sex Pistols to Erykah Badu. What draws you to a subject enough to write on it?

JM: I listen to all kinds of music, not just hideously grisly death metal, so I’m open to working with artists from various genres. Usually I choose subjects based on how interesting their careers have been, rather than what kind of music they play. Obviously the deal has to be right and various other logistical boxes have to be ticked for a book to work, but assuming that is the case then there really are no boundaries to my choices. I like the personal element: of the 26 books I’ve written since 1999, the ones I’ve enjoyed most have been those where I’ve formed a close bond with the subject, specifically the autobiographies of Glenn Hughes, David Ellefson and Max Cavalera, as well as the new Cannibal book. Each is a real insight into a creative personality.

MT: What are you currently working on?

JM: Three new books with various musicians and bands that you’ve heard of, to be announced later this year. I’m also the editor of Bass Guitar Magazine, which comes out 13 times a year, and I write for a bunch of magazines and newspapers. I got to interview Steven Segal for Classic Rock magazine recently, which was hilarious, and it’s Ryan Adams for Acoustic mag next week. It never gets boring around here.

MT: Can you recommend some of your favorite music tomes?

JM: I have tons. Anything by Mick Wall, Martin Popoff and Mark Eglinton, plus I really liked Jon Wiederhorn’s biog of Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, Howie Abrams’ Merciless Book Of Metal Lists and Murder In The Front Row by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew. Tom Gabriel Fischer’s amazing Hellhammer memoir, Only Death Is Real, which has an introduction by me, will blow your mind. I really enjoyed Dave Mustaine’s autobiography too: it’s completely venomous. I’ve probably missed out quite a few, there are hundreds of them.

Keep up with Joel at his Web site.


[Music Tomes is proud to partner with AllMusicBooks.com to present a review every month here on the site. Be sure to check out the other great reviews they have!]

mccartneymccartneyMan on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s by Tom Doyle
Reviewed by DrewA

Being a massive fan of not only The Beatles, but also Paul’s work with Wings in the 1970s, I was very excited when I’d heard about this book a year ago.  Thankfully, I’ve read the book and present here my full review for your information.

The Wings-era has always been underrepresented and almost dismissed when any discussion of Paul’s career is at hand, and I know that personally, as a fan, I’d always found this very frustrating, especially given the quality and quantity of material Wings produced. They were one of the biggest bands of the 1970s, although they’ve been almost forgotten beyond the realm of actual fans of the band. In this book, author Tom Doyle, who had interviewed Paul extensively over many years in the 2000s, focuses on the period beginning in the midst of The Beatles’ disintegration in late 1969 up to the release of the quasi-Wings/solo-Paul #1 album, Tug of War, in 1982, and everything in between. His general thesis for the book is that Paul was, literally, a man on the run in 1970s, from his past as a Beatle and his name and reputation, as well as from the law and the press (which I will delve into more later on in this review). The layout of the book is straightforward, with an introduction and an epilogue focused on more recent interviews between the two, while the individual chapters flow in chronological order from September 1969 up to the release of Tug of War in 1982.  What I like, however, is that leading into each chapter is a question from Doyle and an answer from Paul that frame the forthcoming chapter. Think of is as Paul setting up, from the present, what you’re about to view through the window into the past. A simple device that the author used, but one that I really liked.

I don’t intend to go through the entire narrative in detail, since that would defeat the purpose of reading the book to anyone who hasn’t done so yet. However, the overall arc of the book covers Paul’s nervous breakdown and deep depression in the midst of the Beatles’ breakup in the autumn and winter of 1969 when he and Linda retreated with their daughters to their Scottish farm. After wrapping up Beatle business (mainly recording and overdub sessions) in early 1970, Paul recorded and released his debut solo album, McCartney, and finished the year by suing his three best friends and former bandmates. The remainder of the dissolution of Apple Corps. and the Beatles’ partnership is covered in greater (and excellent) detail in Peter Doggett’s “You Never Give Me Your Money,” which will be the subject of a later review of mine. In any event, Doyle does touch on the surface of this as it pertains to Paul’s career in the 1970s, mainly in the background. He then takes us through the recording of Paul’s second solo album, Ram (one of my all-time favorite albums by anyone, ever, as a disclaimer), which gave Paul the germination of an idea to form a new band and build it from the ground up. What follows are chapters on the formation of the original Wings line-up, their early growing pains, trials, and tribulations, from their initial rehearsals and lack of material, to the release of their first two albums (Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, respectively) and their first two tours; the first tour had the band showing up unannounced at small universities to play impromptu gigs until they could no longer outrun the UK press, and the second tour saw them playing more polished shows in Europe, traveling in an open-topped double-decker bus, earning a large fanbase while outrunning the European authorities for everything from marijuana possession to unpaid hotel tabs! Eventually, immediately following their first proper UK tour, the band splinters on the eve of recording their breakthrough album (and one of the finest albums of the 1970s, and all time), Band On the Run.

This perseverance in the face of ridiculous adversity is a recurring theme throughout the book, with Paul and Linda (and the ever-loyal Denny Laine) having to overcome their drummer and guitarist quitting right before Band On the Run, to the numerous problems they had keep a stable line-up together from here on out. Bringing Jimmy McCulloch and Geoff Britton in didn’t last very long before those two fought so much that Britton was sacked. Joe English then joined on drums to form the “classic” Wings line-up, the one that would record two further #1 albums (Venus and Mars and Wings at the Speed of Sound) and break records on the mammoth Wings Over the World tours of 1975-1976. However, just when Paul was at his post-Beatles peak and had a sense of vindication, it all came crashing down again: Jimmy proved to be too combustible a personality and was sacked, Joe English quit, and Linda became pregnant again, grinding all momentum to a halt. Two more albums and a final line-up followed, leading into one of the most famous/infamous incidents in Paul’s career.

The 1980 Japanese tour followed a lacklustre 1979 UK tour and was to serve as the warm-up for a 1980 return tour to America. However, upon landing in Japan, half a pound of marijuana was found in Paul’s luggage. The rest of the story is very well known to everyone: he was jailed, the tour canceled, and he was eventually deported. There has been debate, none more so than from Paul himself, as to how and why it happened. The consensus he has come to is that he subconsciously sabotaged the tour in order to precipitate the end of the band as he was tiring of trying to hold yet another line-up together. In any event, he bookended the decade with a second self-performed album, McCartney II, and began work with George Martin (former Beatles producer, for those who don’t know) on what was half-heartedly mooted to be the next Wings album, Tug of War, before Paul disbanded Wings and made it his next solo album.

Throughout the book, in various asides, Doyle also touches on the evolving post-Beatles relationship between Paul and John Lennon, from bitter feuding and anger in the early 1970s, to a softening of feelings and a happy reconciliation in 1974. For the most part, their relationship was better as the decade went along, leading, however, tragically to John’s still-senseless murder in 1980. Even having lived through (OK, I was 10 months old when it happened) and read about it countless times, it still managed to bring a tear to my eye reading Paul and Linda’s firsthand accounts of hearing the news and how they felt at that moment. While obviously not the main thrust of the book, the Lennon/McCartney friendship was still a very important part of Paul’s post-Beatles life during the decade and it did have an impact on his music, so I was pleased that Doyle included these bits. It’s especially bittersweet given the fact that John was *this close* to collaborating with Paul during the Venus and Mars sessions in 1975 before certain…events, shall we say…conspired to prevent this, and robbed the world of what could have been even more glorious and joyous music.

While most of this book contained information that was already well-known, at least to me, it is still very nice to have it all laid out in order as a chronicle of the decade in Paul’s life and music. There were some bits of information that were new even to me, such as former Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell auditioning to be the drummer for Wings in 1974. However, there were also some inaccuracies, such as the apocryphal (and since disproved) story that, after a disagreeable court verdict during the court cases in the early 1970s, John, George, and Ringo threw a brick through Paul’s window. Also, the statement that 1976 was the last time John and Paul saw each other, as well as John’s 40th birthday in October 1980 being the last time they spoke on the phone…I don’t believe either of these are true. There are several interviews with Paul and members of his family stating that they’d visited the Lennons in the late 1970s, with James McCartney (Paul and Linda’s son) even stating he has a photo of John holding him as a 2-year old at the Dakota, which would have to be in 1979 (he was born in 1977). Also, Paul has said in numerous other interviews that he last spoke to John not more than 2 or 3 weeks before his death, in November 1980.  Perhaps memories have been fogged by the passage of time, but it seems a little more research on the part of the author in these areas may have been order. Maybe it’s just the nitpicking of an overanalytical fan on my part, but still, at least presenting the claims I stated as a counterpoint to the conventional wisdom would have been in the best interest of the narrative.  Another minor nitpick is how the departure of Joe English from the band was handled in all of a few sentences, with no mention of his being in a religious cult the last couple of decades made. Again, this is information that is available and I wish the author had delved into a bit more detail on things like this, but to the casual reader, it won’t matter as much.

What struck me throughout, through both new tidbits of information, as well as how Doyle presented it, is just how bohemian and countercultural Paul and Linda’s existence was in the 1970s. His vast fortune from the Beatles tied up in receivership, they lived off of Linda’s photography money and were often at a loss for funds in paying expenses until Wings because more successful in the middle of the decade. They lived a very free-spirited life, bringing their kids everywhere, including on tour, with them, smoking a LOT of pot (and getting busted for it), and living in relative squalor and grime (mainly on their Scottish farm). Even when the money came back, they lived very simply, in 2- or 3-bedroom houses with their four children, either on their farm or in their London or Sussex houses. While Paul has the image these days as a comfortable, rich, expertly put-together elder statesman of music, and John is seen as the hippie/counterculture Beatles, in fact during the 1970s it was quite the opposite, and Doyle documents numerous instances of John’s private jealousy not only at Paul’s success and wealth, but he ability to be rebellious and go against the grain without bringing the disdain from the establishment upon himself that John did throughout the 1970s. However, by the end of the book, Paul reflected back on those years with a contented decision to tone down and eliminate the marijuana smoking as well as clean up (in a literal sense) his home life. As a 40 year old father of four children by 1982, this of course made perfect sense.

While Doyle doesn’t necessarily come across as a massive Wings fan, it is clear that he likes Paul both as a person and as a musician, and he does a good job bucking the conventional wisdom laid down from the 1970s that Wings were a “joke” not to be taken seriously, showing how they were a very hardworking, respected, and successful band, not least of all thanks to Paul’s tireless (and nearly obsessive) work ethic, which he maintains to the present day. The writing style is engaging and enjoyable, and the book is fun to read and flew by quickly. Perhaps it’s a bit too breezy and could have dug down below the surface a bit more; I found the more recent interview bits with Paul quite interesting and wanted to learn more than what was offered. However, that again could be more of my own complaining as a more rabid fan. For the casual or devoted, but not obsessive, fan, this book will be more than enough.

Overall, this is a very, very good book that is informative and important in documenting this inexplicably forgotten era of Paul McCartney’s career, and is another book I’m more than happy to add to the bookshelf housing my collection of Beatles books.

(for more great content, please visit my site at http://www.rnrchemist.blogspot.com and follow me on twitter @blackbookblur)

The Week’s Release (9/7-13)newreleases

[Note: These are affiliate links, but if you are going to buy it anyway, why not help out the site at the same time?]

Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and off the Tracks, Victor Maymudes, Jacob Maymudes, St. Martin’s Press, Sept 9 2014

Johnny Cash FAQ: All Thats Left to Know About the Man in Black (Faq Series), C. Eric Banister, BackBeat Books, Sept 9, 2014

Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words, Malka Marom, ECW Press, Sept 9 2014

Nashville Songwriter: The Inside Stories Behind Country Music’s Greatest Hits, Jake Brown, Benbella Books, Sept 9, 2014

Brian May’s Red Special, Brian May and Simon Bradley, Carlton Books, Sept 11, 2014

The Hip-Hop Underground and African American Culture: Beneath the Surface, James Braxton Peterson, Palgrave MacMillian, Sept 11, 2014

Staging the Blues: From Tent Shows to Tourism, Paige A. McGinley, Duke University Press, Sept 12, 2014