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Paul McCartney: The Biography
Paul McCartney: The Biography
by Philip Norman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.00

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars McNothing McNew, 15 May 2016
I expected more from this book when I heard that it had been written with McCartney's "tacit approval." However, 'approval' appears simply to mean that the subject of the biography didn't seek to prevent it being published and allowed some former colleagues to talk without fear of punishment. Crucially, McCartney wasn't interviewed for the book and doesn't appear to have shared his archives. Oddly enough for a doorstopper of a book (864 pages) he only did 50+ new interviews which means that almost all the information in the book is derived from already published sources (particularly the excellent Many Years From Now written by Barry Miles in collaboration with McCartney). This gives the book the quality of a re-heated meal. It's not awful, but there's nothing new, and you kind of expect something new when a seasoned journalist writes this many pages about one man. He's mostly factually correct but makes daft mistakes like saying that Revolver was the Beatles answer to Pet Sounds (Revolver was close to completion when Bruce Johnston played them the album). This is probably because having written Shout! and the Lennon biography he tends to write about the Beatles on autopilot and no longer wastes time checking facts, going back to the archives or talking to new people. Basically, I don't see the need for this book. It fills no gaps, except a huge one on your bookshelf, and I kind of resent the 133 cubic inches it's going to take up on mine.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 15, 2016 12:41 PM BST


Shake It Up Baby!
Shake It Up Baby!
by Norman Jopling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stirred and Shaken, 2 May 2015
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This review is from: Shake It Up Baby! (Paperback)
This is the best book I've read on the life of a rock journalist. Norman Jopling was writing about pop music and meeting the people who made it during the most vital decade in recent history - the sixties. He started around 1961 and the book ends around 1973 and during that time he meets everyone from Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry through the Beatles and Stones on to a remarkable encounter with Hendrix right before he died. He's frank about his shortcomings and about some of the opinions he's expressed in the past but you enjoy him all the more for this. The book starts with him meeting Paul McCartney on the set of Help! and carries on with his passion for American R&B (he was a pioneer enthusiast for this influential form of music in Britain) through being the first music journalist to write up the Stones (and thereby alert Andrew Loog Oldham to their talents) and on to encounters with almost all the great musicians of the decade. Jopling was writing at a time when weekly music papers sold in huge volumes (I hadn't realised that NME and MM topped a million each during this period) and access to stars was relatively easy. He's an easy person to identify with because he can hardly believe his own luck and he's honest enough to share his failings. Shake It Up Baby! gives us a unique journey through the sixties. It's chronological but because it's one man's pilgrimage rather than a historical survey we get an incredible sense of what the sixties felt like to someone at the heart of the action rather than a dry account of chart positions and tours.


Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man
Going into the City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man
Price: £3.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pap and Jizz, 21 April 2015
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Robert Christgau is very clever. How do I know? Because he tells me so, repeatedly, in this memoir. He's smart. He's nerdy. He's an egghead. And on and on. Raised as a Presbyterian he's far too clever to believe in God (although he never actually spells out the grounds for his rejection) and it seems that the replacements he found for God and the Bible were - Robert Christgau and his opinions. He labours under three central illusions that I blame his editors for encouraging. One is that he has made a major contribution to popular culture by reviewing records for a small circulation magazine in an American city.Two is that we all know his friends and acquaintances in the media-ocracy. Three is that he's such a genius that we will want to know every detail of his life from his involuntary teenage ejaculations to the operation he had on a testicle (the left one, if you're taking notes). His approach to sex is downright embarrassing. He seems to regard lovemaking (or 'f***ing' as he more frequently refers to it) as something he both does and reviews at the same time and he has no concept of privacy being related to intimacy. The most disappointing aspect of the book though is that I imagined it would be about music and writing about music only to find that music plays second fiddle to details of how he parted his greasy hair in the 1970s, his penchant for working partly naked in hot weather and descriptions of girlfriends moist vaginas and pert nipples. He's a great writer about music but these reviews are usually on the very short side. He's basically not very good at long-form writing and awful at reviewing himself. There's no attempt at humour in Going Into The City (writing about music is a tough, cerebral job that can only be successfully handled by serious men with degrees) but there's a goldmine of unintentionally funny stuff in this book that results from his incredibly high view of himself, his tastes and his friends. There's probably a good book to be written about being a rock critic.This ain't it.


Have Guitars... Will Travel _ A Journey Through the Beat Music Scene in Northampton 1957- 66
Have Guitars... Will Travel _ A Journey Through the Beat Music Scene in Northampton 1957- 66
by Derrick A Thompson
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars This is a brilliant book, lovingly researched, 20 Feb. 2015
This is a brilliant book, lovingly researched, that captures an era by focussing on the beat music of one English town - Northampton. There's nothing all that special about Northampton but that's what makes the book special. This is the story of Anytown, UK, and the wonderful aspirations of kids who wanted to be Elvis or Chuck or Buddy in the age of Woodbines and Woolworths. Interviewees have supplied wonderful photographs that show what most bands and singers looked like in these pre-hype days. Have Guitars Will...Travel works both as a social document of an important age in British popular culture and an affectionate tribute to particular kids in a particular town in England.


The Beatles Lyrics: The Unseen Story Behind Their Music
The Beatles Lyrics: The Unseen Story Behind Their Music
by Hunter Davies
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Hunter Who Can't Be Bothered To Hunt, 4 Oct. 2014
This book consists of two things - drafts of 100 Beatles' lyrics in their own handwriting and comments on the songs by Hunter Davies. However, the result is not as appealing as it might at first seem. Some of the lyrics are genuine drafts in that you can see changes made and lines not used but most of them are versions that were written out just prior to recording or perhaps to let their publisher know the correct words. These are clean copies that add nothing to our knowledge of how the songs were written or what thought processes went into them. Davies's comments are largely unenlightening. The only time they come alive are when he recounts the times when he was actually with John and Paul when they were writing - mostly between 1966-1968 when he was working on the group's authorized biography. The rest of it is heavily and unashamedly plagiarised from books like A Hard Day's Write (Steve Turner), Revolution In The Head (Ian MacDonald), Lennon Remembers (Jann Wenner), Many Years From Now (Barry Miles) and The Playboy Interviews (David Scheff). He doesn't appear to have done a single piece of original research and his style is relaxed to the point of utter laziness. He'll cite some received knowledge on a song then say he doesn't agree with it but offer no reason for saying so. He dismisses the idea that Dr Robert was about New York 'speed doctor' Robert Freymann and says he thinks the song is about John. What he omits to say is that Paul, near the time of the song's recording, specifically said it was about a doctor in New York. I came away from the book thinking that he doesn't know a lot about music and wasn't even sure that he liked the Beatles. Maybe Hunter Davies, like the man in A Day In The Life, has just been a lucky man who made the grade in being given access to the Beatles when he was a young reporter.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2014 8:41 PM BST


Corporate & Presentation White Matt Presentation Folders A4 Size (Pack - 50)
Corporate & Presentation White Matt Presentation Folders A4 Size (Pack - 50)
Price: £20.48

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Plain, 17 Sept. 2014
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These plain white folders are exactly as described. They are plain. They are white. They are paper. You can put things in them. You can take things out of them once you've put things in them. They are as white as snow. There are as plain as something with nothing on it. They are folded.


Sympathy for the Devil: The Birth of the Rolling Stones and the Death of Brian Jones
Sympathy for the Devil: The Birth of the Rolling Stones and the Death of Brian Jones
Price: £5.49

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Did You Mr Jones?, 17 Sept. 2014
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A well-written and well-researched book. It covers familiar territory but with a fresh twist because of the author's conviction that Brian Jones WAS the Rolling Stones. Trynka's thesis holds up in the early years but struggles when Jagger and Richards start writing songs and Jones gets so doped-out that he can barely follow, let alone lead, one of the biggest rock bands of the sixties. Contentiously Trynka argues that even the bad boy image, previously believed to have been the wicked work of manager/publicist Andrew Loog Oldham, was actually a Jones' creation. He says that Mick and Keith were basically nice, hard-working boys with barely a rebellious bone in their bodies until they started modelling themselves on Brian. It seems surprising, if Jones was such a powerful influence, that he didn't leave behind a bunch of innovative songs that he'd privately recorded but which were rejected by the band. As it happens, he left no creative legacy other than his recording of the Pan Pipes of Jajouka. Trynka found some fascinating people from Jones's early years to interview. I found it most interesting to discover that his background was the most conventional of all the Stones, just as Lennon's was the most conventional of all the Beatles. His fascination with the devil most likely came from his fundamentalist Christian upbringing. However, I would have liked to have known more about his religious background. Did he attend Sunday school? Did he ever profess belief in Christian teaching? We're only really told that his parents were staunch members of a Welsh Methodist Church but aren't told anything about Welsh Methodism, which chapel they attended and how these beliefs may have differed from mainstream churches of the time. All in all a great read but I suspect Mr. Trynka could equally well have written a book proving that Stuart Sutcliffe WAS the Beatles.


Goldeneye: Where Bond was Born: Ian Fleming's Jamaica
Goldeneye: Where Bond was Born: Ian Fleming's Jamaica
Price: £4.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Golden Prose, 9 Sept. 2014
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This book brilliantly weaves geography, politics. history, sociology and the life of Ian Fleming into a book that remains faithful to its subtitle while never feeling too narrow in its scope. Matthew Parker's research is impeccable and right from the start of the book you feel you're in capable hands. The detail is amazing and the photographs are usefully spread throughout the book and enhance the text. If you love Bond I don't think you can fail to love Goldeneye.


Opening King David: Poems in Conversation with the Psalms (Emerald City Books)
Opening King David: Poems in Conversation with the Psalms (Emerald City Books)
by Brad Davis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Failure of Promise, 17 Mar. 2013
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I like the idea behind this book (writing poetic responses to each of the Biblical psalms) but Brad Davis proves to be ill-equipped to rise to his own challenge. Too many of the poems have no poetic fireworks. They're damp squibs. Some of them appear only to qualify as poetry because they consist of short lines of unequal length.


3 Theories of Everything
3 Theories of Everything
by Ellis Potter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Potter Magic, 28 Feb. 2012
This is a thoughtful, generous, thought-provoking book that takes on the biggest subject possible and makes it comprehensible. Miraculously it doesn't feel like an abridged version of a longer work. There's space to breathe, and think. The simple illustrations are indicative of of the atmosphere of a book that is a gentle meditation on truth and reality guided by a man with convictions he's unafraid to share. Reading through the book once has given me the appetite to read through it again and to meditate on its wisdom. It's the sort of book I could buy for friends because it's both brief and gentle, with precise but uncomplicated language. Like this review, I hope.


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