Those closed to the shareholders of this blog know that the editorial team got a bit more time recently to focus on the musical side of things, hence the reason of this post. I had these two books in my library for quite a long time but I did not dare starting them before. I knew these two books would be fascinating but because they are very long to read I was afraid in not succeeding in enjoying them as much as I should have. So here you go now for your pleasure a review of these two music bibles.
- Johnny Rogan – “Byrds – Requiem For The Timeless – Volume 1”
The author of this book is one of the best music writers and has worked on other bands such as Roxy Music or The Smiths for example. However, his main obsession by far has always been The Byrds, one of the best bands from the 60’s and the 70’s. On my side, they did not make the cut when I had to choose my top 100 of best artists of all times but they were just behind and they always have been one of my key bands.
To make it short, The Byrds were a Beatles-influenced US band, beknown for their sense of melody and use of the famous 12-string Rickenbacker sound. The classic line-up was made out of Gene Clark (voice and guitar), Roger McGuinn (voice and guitar), David Crosby (voice and guitar), Chris Hillman (voice and bass) and Michael Clarke (drums) but did not last long as such and the group were to change musicians throughout their careers. They did a few great records…but maybe not as great as other seminal bands (The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, etc…) and were as much influenced by psychedelic sounds as by country music. They are actually supposed to be the inventors of country-rock music, thanks to the influence of one-album member and Keith Richards’ buddy Gram Parsons.
Reading these comments, one may think that the book is an usual 350/400 page biography…but this is a mistake. This book has 1,200 pages…and this is only Volume 1! (Volume 2 should be released in the summer of 2017 and focused on the solo career of former Byrds members). So how to read such a big and heavy book as I read it in its physical format? Easy, I decided to read one chapter a day, come hell or high water, which was really great as I felt like meeting people I knew on a daily basis, reading their story from the 40’s to nowadays. This biography is for me very close to history books that one could read first in the sense of details but also on the fact that rock musicians are probably the last remaining ones to have such an incredible life. David Crosby’s life in particular is completely surreal as the guy should be dead for ages but keeps on surviving..and surprising everyone with new chapters in his life: conflict with fellow Byrds members, girlfriend dying from a road accident, new life with Crosby, Stills and Nash, heavy drug usage which led him to jail, heart attack, discovered paternity, help in making pregnant his lesbian best friends, etc… the list is endless!
If you like The Byrds or music biographies, read this book on holidays. If you do not have the time to read it, listen to a compilation or box set of The Byrds and you will feel you live in a better place than the day before.
- Geoff Emerick – “Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles”
How many books about The Beatles did I already read? Probably too many.. but this one gives a totally different perspective (..and is “only” 485 pages!). This is actually not a book about The Beatles but the memoirs of Geoff Emerick, the sound engineer in many of their recordings at Abbey Road studios.
This is a fascinating reading for all Beatles fans but also for those interested about what was London in the 60’s as it gives a fantastic historical perspective written and narrated through precise anecdotes and stories. Geoff Emerick looks quite straight to the point and objective on many topics although it would be great to have the point of view of other key people who were there at the same time.
I thought I knew everything about The Beatles but I must admit I discovered new things on almost every page. The most incredible thing is to realise how sounds and specific gimmicks were created on songs or albums I have listened to hundred of times. I thought everything was very much created with a clear plan…but that was very rarely the case, hence the important of a position such as that of the sound engineer. Many of the marvels that the Beatles created in the second phase of their careers were actually experimentations made by sound craftsmen and mastered/arranged with scissors and glue on tapes!
Very interesting to read as well for the subtle analysis on John, Paul, Ringo and George’s respective personalities, behaviours with others and actual music talents. Not a surprise as far as I am concerned but one of them was really above the others in terms of music skills…and gentleness with others. A must-read for all Beatles fans.