Monday, 14 January 2013
News, Views and Music Issue 178 (Intro)
Dear all, there’s not much to add to last week’s lengthy introduction except to say a big thankyou to Dave Emlen and his excellent site ‘Kinda Kinks’ which has brought us a record amount of traffic in the past seven days. In fact last Tuesday is the record for our site(s) - 600 visitors in a single day! – and January is already by far our most successful month in the four and a half years this site has been running, even though we’re not halfway through it yet! A big ‘hello’ to all of you who have joined our site in the past week and for all of you who have kindly taken the time to post comments on our site. I look forward to chatting with you all again soon! We are due to past 42,000 hits before our next post by the way – an astonishing figure considering our small budget and the fact that 3/4s of those hits came in 2012 alone!
Meantime, if you like our work then please nominate us for a ‘social media’ Shorty Award! We posted a longer article about this last week if you want to read more (including our interviews from last year) – but if you want to vote for us then please click here: http://shortyawards.com/alansarchives?category=blogger
I also have two book reviews to add, both of them entirely different (and both of which will also be copied onto our ‘AAA Book special’ for future reference): Pete Townshend’s autobiography ‘Who I Am’ and Neil Young’s book ‘Raging Heavy Peace’.
Pete’s book should have been titled ‘Who Am I?’ rather than ‘Who I Am’ because even after reading the whole of it and knowing his Who and solo work backwards I still don’t know. All of Pete Townshend’s songs have been about identity, each of them extensions of the very first Who single ‘I Can’t Explain’ and it speaks volumes that this book was several decades in the making (Pete starting the work during his years as an editor at book publishers Faber in the early 80s) because you get the sense that there’s still more Pete wanted to tell us. Contemporary reviews have slammed the book for being too self-absorbed and empty, but I actually dispute that: Pete is always honest, at least in his dealings with himself if not always other people and if you’re a fan you’ll want to know all the details about everything in Pete’s life – chances are there’s more extra-curricular projects going on (from bookshops, recording studios and music that never saw the light of the day) than you’d think. Pete is also a very good companion, writing from the heart and admitting his mistakes while also trying to put his side of events in Who life across – the book really skips along from chapter to chapter as you’d expect such an erudite lyricist to do. The problems for me are that Pete doesn’t spend enough time talking about his songs; taking its cue from Keith Richards this book is more a list of the drug abuse and rehab visits than it is a detailed take on when, how and why Pete wrote what he did. Despite being quite a large book there also isn’t as much detail as I’d like – and a curse on the editors for asking Pete to trim the manuscript down to size (as if a generation brought up on double disc Who rock operas want to see their hero cut down to size!) Sadly, too, there’s not as many untold stories in this book as in some others – The Who wore their hearts on their sleeves so often that there’s less to find in this book than in, say, Dave Davies’ or Brian Wilson’s (as much as the latter book can be believed anyway). However, I enjoyed Pete’s book a lot more than all the nagging reviewers seemed to and there are some excellent passages on the band’s early years (when an anxious Pete reveals that he was far more immature than his school friends, John Entwistle included) and on the deaths of Keith and John. Pete is open too about the ‘paedophile’ story that broke a few years back; true fans like me have always said that Pete was only doing ‘research’ for his art and to help come to terms with his own confused childhood, but it’s nice to hear Pete break his silence on the matter when he could so easily just have skipped what must have been a hard chapter to write. If you’re a fan you won’t learn much you didn’t already know, but this is still one of the better Who books around and I for one would love to see a second volume one day with a more detailed look at Pete’s music and early career. Overall rating – 7/10
Neil’s book is as curious and mercurial as the artist himself. The singer admits early on that he’s writing this book not in some big outpouring of emotion but in-scattered half hours between other events in his life and admits too that this book was only written because for the first time in about 50 years there was no great wealth of music trying to push through his sub-conscious (something thankfully healed by the double CD set ‘Psychedelic Pill’ last year, although to be honest that album – like this book – needs a good editor). The chapters come in scattershot form depending on whatever is on Neil’s mind that day, switching quickly from his early years to career highlights to the present day in the same way that his music veers from electric to acoustic seemingly overnight. This actually isn’t as irritating as that might sound (as long as you’re not actually trying to look anything up!) and Neil is a likeable reading companion, much warmer and open than you’d probably expect from the years of no-media and being ‘cushioned’ by his close business pals. In fact there’s more about Neil’s family, friends and colleagues than there this about himself, which is a lovely touch but slightly grating as all Neil can add about his friends are potted biographies or interviews fans will already know inside-out. If nothing else it’s nice to hear Neil being open about his son Ben, born with cerebral palsy and proudly referred to as ‘Ben Young’ throughout, as if Neil can’t believe he’s related to such a strong and courageous fighter. Neil, infamously, didn’t even let his record company or band know how poorly his son was when he was born or how many hours of therapy Neil and wife Peggy spent with him, so its nice to hear Neil talking properly about his very special bond with his son. Elsewhere like so many AAA stars Neil also spends comparatively little time talking about his music: the only song that’s discussed in any detail is the legendary curio ‘Will To Love’ and the story of how that song was born seemingly in one go (when, typically, Neil should have been doing something else) is the highlight of the entire book. Had the other chapters been as good as this one then the curiously titled ‘Waging Heavy Peace’ (‘Broken Arrow’ might perhaps have been a better name as it all means the same thing) then it would have been the book of the decade – as it is Neil’s autobiography feels a little lightweight, exactly something done to fill in the time (and while Neil, sacred of inheriting dementia from his father, can still remember everything) but not definitive. My advice is to read this book alongside the ‘Shakey’ biography if you want a full-blooded and detailed account of Neil’s life and frankly the OTT ‘best music book ever’ reviews of the day are wrong, but for all its rambling nature and non-linear order this book is still of much interest to fans. Overall rating 6/10.
Right that’s enough from Jackanory – now its back to music! Meanwhile, please press the link below for our AAA news stories of the week via official AAA news feeds: