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Blue Collar's Books I Have Known
By Mick Polich - 12/14/2009 - 09:46 AM EST

Well, we’re doing practically everything else here – why not book reviews?

I usually have about 5 books going at once – reckless, yes, but a fairly cheap pleasure ( then again, ask my wife, and Barnes and Noble). Thing is, there’s so much out there to read, dang it! Anyway, here we go……..

(Besides, it’s winter, and it seems the ol’ hometown of Des Moines is getting plummeted with a major snowstorm. So, that in and of itself, makes me want to curl up with a good beer and a fine book….)

FIRST, a retraction: o.k., Brother Dave, o.k, you did not say the ‘best music ever’ was made during the 1970’s, but I swear to all that’s true and crazy that I heard that comment from your ol’ piehole on more than one occasion. I am sorry – truly, oh truly. Musta been the imbibing……yikes…..

“Goodbye 20th Century – A Biography Of Sonic Youth” by David Browne (Da Capo Press) – fairly exhaustive bio on the penultimate ‘noise/art’ rock band of the past 25 years.I started following these guys back in the early 1990’s, so this was a good catch-‘em-up piece of work to get me there. The band’s history, plus all the gig stories that matter in the band’s rise as godfathers, and godmother, of feedback and sound manipulation are included. Now out in paperback. Hugely cool.

“Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story Of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” by David Bianculli (Touchstone/Simon and Schuster) – I have been WAITING for someone to write about Tom, Dick, and their groundbreaking show for years. I used to laugh my hiney off at the Brothers routines on an LP that my cousins had back in the mid – 1960’s. I was about my sons ‘age now when their show was in the heat of it’s run on CBS. That’s back when comedy was just starting to turn weird and subversive on t.v. – good thing, too, because even at 10 years old, I realized that there was enough sugar – lopped pap on prime time to gag even my young sensibilities. Then there’s the music, of course – Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, and the infamous Who segment, all mentioned and expounded upon. Tommy Smothers was a lot of the brains and driving force behind that show that sprung forth such luminaries such as future director Rob Reiner, Steve Martin, and country music star Glen Campbell. A great read, and fascinating!

“Always Been There: Rosanne Cash, The List, And The Spirit Of Southern Music” by Michael Streissguth ( Da Capo Press) – Next to my wife, I love Rosanne Cash because of her beauty, brains, voice, and songwriting skills. When I saw this read, I jumped at buying it because I just bought Rosanne’s latest CD, “The List”. The book jumps back and forth between the recording of the CD, new tours overseas,thoughts on songwriting, and some remembrances from Rosanne’s high – lineage, country music royalty past (famous pa Johnny, stepmom June, and in-law connections to the Carter Family). Talks regarding her family, her producer/husband John Leventhal, her risky brain surgery from a few years back, and the songwriting/recording process are all abundant in this read. Well worth the time and money!

“Led Zeppelin: When Giants Walked The Earth” by Mick Wall (St. Martin’s Press) –

A very unique, and definite, bio of Led Zeppelin by veteran rock writer Mick Wall, with passages from a ‘voice-inside-the-head’ perspective on each member. This book follows the Zep dudes from pre-Zep ( Yardbirds, session work, various British two-for bands that each had a role in) right up to 2009 ( including the reunion gigs a few years ago). Heck, getting slight insight on how John Bonham’s drums were recorded for several songs on the Zep 4 album was worth the price of admission for me. There’s also interesting insights on why there WON’T be another Zeppelin reunion ( let’s just say that I think this gig with Alison Krauss is working out pretty well with Robert….)  I think this is the one – you won’t need to read another comprehensive Led Zeppelin bio after this one, for sure. 

“Paul McCartney – A Life” by Peter Ames Carlin (Simon And Schuster) –

Knight, legend, superstar, family man and mystery source (come on, is he the ‘real ‘Paul, or the replacement after the other’s demise back in 1960’s?? I ain’t sayin’ – I’m just sayin’(chortle, chortle)….). A nice little read, except I think the author turns into frustrated fan after awhile. Let’s say this is a good bookend – book to more exhaustive Beatle bios. You get a hard - scrabble, and sometimes tragic childhood, the Mop Tops, Wings, and the solo career in a fairly short read, plus insights on the tragic loss of Linda McCartney, the Beatles on-going squabbles, and Mac’s collaborations with Elvis Costello, Michael Jackson, and soul – symbiotic/music mate John Lennon. Not great, but very good reading…..

Family Style” (a No Depression bookazine) edited by Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock (University Of Texas Press) - since No Depression’s demise as a bi-monthly magazine, the ND folks have produced some excellent ‘bookazines’, and this latest is no exception. You get the skinny all the famous country music/Americana families – the Carters, the Cashes, Jimmy Webb’s kids, the Guthries, and a whole lot more. The writing is always top drawer, as was the case when No Depression was a bi – monthly music magazine. It’s a steal at $19.95, in softcover!

There you have it – some extra items for your celebration list, and holiday reading pleasure. Do yourself, and others a favor, by taking the extra time to read books. Because, like any other muscle, the ‘readin’ ‘ muscle will leave you if not properly used on a daily basis. And land sakes, kids, you want to stay edjamacated, right??

Peace, lay down your arms, and say ‘ howdy’ to your fellow man!  

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