Sunday, February 02, 2014
Music Sunday: The "I've been off reading music books" edition
Due to unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances, I was mostly away from Music Sunday for a couple of weeks. But, I'm back, and in the meantime I've been reading books about music.
No, really. Since the middle of January I've read four music-related books and am now working my way through the fifth. The ones I've finished reading are:
1) 27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, by Howard Sounes (2013, Da Capo Press; 359 pages)
2) Lennon: The Man, the Myth, the Music - The Definitive Life, by Tim Riley (2011, Hyperion; 765 pages)
3) Ticket to Ride: Inside the Beatles 1965 Tour that Changed the World, by Larry Kane (2003, Running Press; 272 pages)
4) Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, by Eric Burdon with J. Marshall Craig (2001, Thunder's Mouth Press; 326 pages)
And right now I'm reading Beatles vs. Stones, by John McMillian (2013, Simon and Schuster; 304 pages).
These are all good books, although I suspect that Sounes just wrote 27 so that he could write about Amy Winehouse. Still, he does a good job covering the lives and deaths of the other 27 Club members that he highlights. Riley's book is long, but it is comprehensive, perhaps a little too comprehensive in its detail about recording sessions, but that is a minor quibble. I very much liked the way that Riley seemed to go out of his way to not forgive the times that Lennon acted like an ass, but also gave context as to why he might have been acting that way and also related that Lennon also had times when he was kind and generous and thoughtful. I've read other biographies of Lennon and have found that some writers either try to make him a saint or make him a demon when in fact he seems to have been a very complicated man. Kane's book was more historical in nature and, despite the title, covers both the 1964 and 1965 American tours (he was the only American journalist who traveled with the band the full length of both tours). He also goes out of his way to show that the members of the Beatles were full human beings rather than cutout cardboard figures. He didn't try to whitewash flaws out of existence, but he didn't try to portray any of them, or the support staff who toured with them, as completely flawed. And Burdon's memoir...well, it must have been good, because I more or less read it in one sitting. It seems to jump around in time a lot, but that is a minor quibble. I like that he doesn't approach his life the way some rock stars do, trying to play down the adventures and misadventures of their lives, but plainly says, "these are the things I did, and I might regret some of them now but I'm not going to deny them at this point."
The book I'm reading now, Beatles vs. Stones, is more academic in tone, but that's to be expected since McMillian is an historian and an assistant professor of history at Georgia State University. So far (and I'm on page 109 at the moment) it seems to me he's leaning more toward being as Stones fan than a Beatles fan even though he declines in his introduction to say which band he favors although he admits that he does have "a preference for one group over the other" (p. 5).
At any rate, these books highlight the lives of people who have made some classic music, and since it is Music Sunday, of course I'm going to share some if it with you. I will say that I have probably shared some of these songs before, but all these people have made music that stands up (I think) to repeated listenings.
But, I'm going to start out with something I know I haven't share before, because I didn't know it existed until a couple of days ago. Anyone who grew up in the 1970s probably knows the Three Dog Night version of Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me Not To Come". That 1970 cover went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. But the first recording of the song was by Eric Burdon and the Animals in 1966, although it was never released as a single and ended up on the 1967 album "Eric is Here", and the band playing behind Burdon is not the Animals, but the Horace Ott Orchestra. This original version is edgier than the more commercial-sounding Three Dog Night version:
Here's a live performance of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" from Burdon and the Animals at Wembley Empire Pool at the New Musical Express poll winners' concert on April 11, 1965:
I found a clip of the Beatles singing "All My Loving" at the Hollywood Bowl concert on their 1964 tour of the United States. This show took place on my 8th birthday, I lived in Southern California at the time, and even at the age of 8 I was very bitter that I didn't get to go to the concert:
One of the notable details in this early clip of a live Rolling Stones performance of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is that there look to have been a lot more males in the audience than in audiences for the Beatles' shows. And, if that young gentleman in the audience shown near the end of the song is any indication, some of them were as emotional about their favorite band as the girls were. This was the first single by the Rolling stones to go to number 1 in the United States:
Jim Morrison was not only a singer, but a poet as well. His poetry has gotten mixed reviews over the years, but I quite like some of the things he wrote. A few years after Morrison's death, the rest of the Doors got together and put some of his recorded poetry on record along with music. This cut from the resulting album, "American Prayer" (released 1978, with the spoken word parts recorded in 1969 and 1970), called "Stoned Immaculate", shows a crossover between what the Doors recorded as a band and what Morrison was doing with the written word:
Since I'm running out of room for today's post, I'll just end with this, my favorite Janis Joplin song. Don't get me wrong; I like all of her work. However, this song just seems...perfect. So, here is Janis, and "Mercedes Benz", from the album "Pearl" (1971):