Saturday, November 06, 2010


It's turning into another intense holiday season for the pop culture geek that reads. I've been seeing at least a couple of new books that I gotta own come through the bookstore every week for the last month or so, and as a result I'm yet again in the middle of a bunch of books that will take me forever to get through. I want to read them all at once, you know? I'm sure a bunch of you also suffer from this condition.

This post is just gonna list a bunch of the things I'm plowing through right now, and with a bit of luck I might actually finish them!

A Very Irregular Head: The Life Of Syd Barrett, by Rob Chapman.

The author is a big Syd fan, and he actually got to see one of the legendary solo shows Syd performed, so that's rather cool. Usually accounts of those shows are third hand, and they are filled with myths that have grown over the years. Actually, a big part of this book is spent debunking the legends that have grown around Syd's life, and Chapman goes to great lengths to figure out the origins of them. That aspect alone makes this a wonderful read for Barrett fans that are looking for something beyond the "freak show" that has become a part of Syd's history.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made The National Lampoon Insanely Great, by Rick Meyerowitz.

The author actually worked in the bunkers of National Lampoon with the brilliant minds that created the single most influential humor magazine in america, if not the world. There's no way to overstate how imporant this magazine was to humor. Probably the only thing bigger than it as far as influence would be Monty Python.

I first got my hands on National Lampoon when I was a freshman in high school, and fortunately what I found was a collection of the best of the original magazine. The stuff I read was so smart and obscene and irreverant that it completely changed my outlook on what constitutes funny. It didn't hurt that much of my favorite material was by Michael O'Donoghue, whom I had discovered in junior high through Mr. Mike's Mondo Video (now on DVD.)

What appealed to me about O'Donoghue (who virtually created the Lampoon sensibility) and the magazine, was that nothing was sacred. AT ALL. In fact, if something was considered sacred it pretty much had to be torn apart. This sensibility became part of how I personally view everything.

Over the years The Lampoon started to be written by people that were influenced by the original magazine, and it started to feel like it was parodying itself. Those first four or five years, however, changed everything.

Life, by Keith Richards

A book by the man who LITERALLY wrote the book on rock and roll excess. A man who's face should be in the dictionary next to "rock and roll." I've only read the first 40 or so pages, but already it is funny and smart and filled with the kind of great storytelling you'd expect from a guy that has lived and seen everything. The guy opens his bottles of Rebel Yell Whiskey with a switchblade, for crying out loud.

Keith's my favorite Stone, and the thing that gets me so excited about this book is that he's the kind of guy that has nothing to hide at this point. He's lived scandal and music for nearly 50 years, and somehow he remembers everything. He has no reason to pull punches or gloss stuff over, and I think it's gonna result in a very entertaining read. At least more entertaining that Bill Wyman's book.

Starting Over: The Making Of John Lennon And Yoko Ono's
Double Fantasy, by Ken Sharp

While Double Fantasy has some of Lennon's most recognizable hits on it, it has never been a personal favorite. Even as a kid I felt it to be overproduced, and it was also responsible for making me listen to Yoko Ono. 30 years later, I still feel that way about the production, but now I'm a fan of Yoko's music, so my opinion has changed considerably.

First off, this book is an oral history, which I love. Everybody involved in the making of the album is involved in this book, as well as secondary characters like journalists and fans that through a sad twist of fate became a part of the story. What you get from this is a portrait of two people emerging from a 5 year hibernation into a period of incredible creativity and happiness. If the lost possibilities of Lennon's life already made you sad, then this book will just make it worse. He was loving work again, and in love with Yoko, and they were planning well into the future at the time of his death. It's pretty hearbreaking stuff.

Despite the cloud of sadness that becomes a part of every Lennon and Beatles book, I left this book with a feeling of happiness. At least he was happy when he died, because lord knows he wasn't for most of his life.

The Beatles VS The Rolling Stones, by Jim Derogatis and Greg Kot.

This is a fun read. It is literally two music geek critics debating the timeless question: Beatles or Stones? The argument is entertaining, but beyond that it is filled with great photos. I recommend looking at the ones of John and Paul, obviously drunk, jamming with a house
band during a break from shooting Help. Never saw those before.

You Never Give Me Your Money, by Peter Doggett.

The last couple of books were fun. This one... this is a real stomach churner, but I mean that in a good way. It deals primarily with the end of TheBeatles and Apple Records. It's an ocean of fighting and sadness and regret for the bands. Not a fun time, but a very good read, and one I never really knew much about. Very highly recommended.

I think that's it. There's probably have more stuff laying around that I haven't read. There's ALWAYS more stuff laying around.


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