Joe Perry, with David Ritz - ROCKS - My Life In and Out of Aerosmith
Author: Joe Perry with David Ritz
Review By Michael Sherer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Posted: Oct 2014
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With Aerosmith being such a successful, long lasting, and interesting band of modern times, I was quite curious as to what guitarist and songwriter Joe Perry’s life story would be like. Perry, 64, is refreshingly honest, introspective and thorough in this 371 page book. Many interesting and life spanning photos are included.
Perry takes us back to his childhood in Hopedale, Massachusetts, a small town in the Eastern region of the state. There’s ample information about his family, which played a big role in his life. Perry father’s side was Portuguese and his mother’s was Italian. Neither was at all musical, with Joe’s father being an accountant and his mother being a high school gym teacher. They were supportive, both morally and financially, during Perry’s formative years as he ambitiously pursued his musical goals. This essentially began through Perry having neighbors with teenage boys that played guitar. Hearing and seeing them lured him in to a lifelong love affair with guitars and rock and roll. The same occurred for Perry with the Beatles when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in ‘64, which served as a major catalyst for his longing to be in a band. Blues based rock was what became Perry’s muse, with Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac being a prime influence.
Perry goes into detail of how he had an attention deficit disorder growing up, which seriously inhibited his ability to succeed in school. Another major issue was that Perry refused to cut what was considered his long hair to conform to the school’s code, which led to much strife. Perry found solace and great intrigue in the waters and mountains of Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, where the Perry family retreated to. 133 miles from Hopedale, it was, and still is, Perry’s favorite place. He fell so in love with the waters there that he wanted to become a marine biologist for several years.
Rather than going to college, Perry worked in a factory, which he hated. It was at this time that he had a group called The Jam Band, which featured bassist Tom Hamilton. Perry was very hungry and determined to make it, and asked Hamilton to move with him to Boston, forty miles away, to try their hand at starting a new band in the city. It was at this time that the most pivotal occurrence happened for Perry, which was meeting singer and drummer Steven Tyler in Sunapee, New Hampshire, where the Jam Band frequently played. Tyler, 66, real name Tallarico, who hailed from Yonkers, New York, didn’t initially get along all that well with Perry. However, they became increasingly drawn to each other and realized that something positive was underfoot between them. With Tyler being very extroverted and Perry quite introverted, they were opposites in this way and others. But musically, they seriously clicked, and Perry invited Tyler to join him and Hamilton in Boston for their new band, yet to be assembled. Tyler did so after a short while, with drummer Joey Kramer and co guitarist Ray Tabano, a childhood friend of Tyler’s that Tyler insisted on bringing into the band, completing the lineup. After several months, Tabano proved to be less reliable and dedicated to the band than needed, and was replaced by Brad Whitford.
The book goes on to tell the gradual rise of the band, much due to the guidance and help of the late Frank Connelly, a major concert promoter in Boston and a father figure to everyone in the group, especially Perry. As the band’s star rose, so did drug and alcohol consumption by the band, and particularly of Perry and Tyler, its main songwriters. Their relationship could be very volatile, and Perry’s wife Elyssa Jerret, who was a friend of Tyler’s since they were young, exacerbated things, as she was viewed as a troublemaker by the rest of the band. In ‘79, after a major argument backstage in Cleveland between Tyler and Perry following Elyssa throwing a glass of milk at Terry Hamilton, Tom’s wife, Perry left the band. The book details the struggles of Perry starting over with his own band, The Joe Perry Project. While he was full of energy and free of the turmoil of Aerosmith, he was going back to being a club band and financially struggling, as was Aerosmith with Joe’s replacement, Jimmy Crespo, and a strung out Tyler.
A hugely positive turning point came in ‘83, when Perry met his future wife Billie Montgomery on the set of his music video ‘Black Velvet Pants.’ They began a romance soon after, and married in ‘85. They’re still a very happy couple with two children together, named Roman and Tony. (Perry and Jerret also have a son, named Adrian.) Perry explains how much of a grounding force Billie is, and how key she’s been to his true recovery from drug and alcohol dependency. In ‘84, Perry reconciled with Tyler and rejoined the band.
Another subject addressed in some length is the manager that Perry had as a solo artist and then brought with him to Aerosmith, Tim Collins. Collins was a major factor in resurrecting their career and in insisting the whole band get sober, which may have saved their lives. On a very negative side though, he also played head games with them and was a control freak. Ultimately the bad outweighed the good, and In ‘96 the band voted to let him go.
The ups, downs, and drama never cease with the band, according to Perry, and his tales of it all certainly make for compelling reading. The band has remained popular through the present, and continue to tour with vigor. It’s been 44 years since they began, and Perry looks objectively back with a hard, cold eye, which is how it should be. I highly recommend this book.
Author Joe Perry with David Ritz Online
Chris Stein/Negative - Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk
Author: Chris Stein
Review By Michael Sherer
Posted: Oct 2014
(3476) Page Views
While Chris Stein is best known as a co-guitarist and songwriter in Blondie, the band he co-founded with Deborah Harry in ‘74, he was taking a copious amount of still photos before he started playing guitar seriously, and never stopped. Some background history is in order here to provide the context for Stein’s new photography based book.
Stein, 64, who grew up in Brooklyn, NYC, began photographing at the age of eight. Stein attended the School Of Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan in ‘66 and ‘67 as he was finding himself. He then left “to be a hippie,” as he says. The environs and ethos of the the Village, Washington Square Park, The Bowery, and downtown Manhattan in general shaped Stein’s own identity. Returning to SVA at the dawn of the ‘70’s as he was newly into his 20’s, Stein decidedly was a photography major. Seeing flyers for a relatively new band called New York Dolls in the lobby bulletin boards of SVA, Stein was curious about their over the top drag/androgynous looks. He went to see them at the long-defunct Mercer Arts Center in downtown Manhattan. Opening for them was a another new band called Magic Tramps. Stein quickly fell in with them, especially their late lead singer Eric Emerson. It was Emerson that led Stein to the first performance of a girl group that the mother of Eric’s child, Elda Gentile, had founded. They were called the Stillettoes, and featured Deborah Harry, then unknown. Chris was smitten with her, and in short time was able to join the group as guitarist, mainly to be near Harry. Friendship turned to romance between them, and they would go on to form Blondie together shortly after. 40 years on, and long after their romance ended in the late ‘80’s, they’re still best friends and business partners in the revived Blondie of ‘97, after having broken up in ‘82.
Naturally, Stein’s relationship with Harry fostered a comfortable and less guarded rapport for Stein to photograph her, which he did from their start as unknowns. As Blondie’s star was rising to great heights a few years later, many other photographers and publications were clamoring to photograph Harry. She says in the book that she finds Stein’s images to be the most revealing of all, and has said that they’re her favorite.
This fine, 200-plus paged, 9” X 12” publication from high end Rizzoli features lots of these images, some of which have never been published. While Harry is the most present, there are many other subjects, including, in random order, Eric Emerson, downtown Manhattan, London, England, the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell, the Ramones, Brooklyn’s Coney Island, Jayne County, Divine, the Stillettoes, Blondie band members, Legs McNeil, Iggy Pop, Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Kim Fowley, Devo, B52s, Rodney Bingenheimer, David Bowie, Chrissie Hynde, Sting, Talking Heads, Chic, John Waters, Stiv Bators, William Burroughs, and Any Warhol.
Stein certainly has his own voice and the mandatory “good eye” that a serious photographer must have. Harry noted recently that she would attempt to recreate with Stein’s camera what he had just done with it, but was never able to capture the same elusive sensibility in her frames. Some of Stein’s images are of well known people in their formative years, before they became at all famous. Their candor and relative innocence is ever present in the work. With Blondie touring throughout the world in their peak period of the latter ‘70’s, Stein was able take photos in places as far flung as Bangkok, Thailand. Few things inspire and invigorate a photographer as brand new, exotic, quixotic, or at least unique territories so far from home.
With forwards by Stein, Harry, and Glenn O’Brien, and an afterward by Shepard Fairey, there is much in the way of thoughtful, insightful, and descriptive text to accompany Stein’s predominately black and white photographs, mostly taken with the classic and sturdy Nikon F series 35 millimeter camera.
Although Stein’s once-beloved downtown Manhattan is hardly recognizable from what it was during its dangerous and crumbling state of the ‘70’s, salient story telling and the freezing of time via the powerful medium of photography will never change. This is positively the case in Stein’s new book, Negative. Go snap it up.
Author Chris Stein Online
Lynn Goldsmith’s first and clear choice for subject matter to photograph is musicians. She’s been capturing them in a compelling and candid fashion for fifty years. (Goldsmith has a photo of hers published of the legs and feet of the Beatles in their Cuban-heeled boots in ‘64, at the height of Bealtlemania.)
Goldsmith’s newly issued 399 page, large-sized hardcover book is the most complete retrospective of her work yet. The cover dons a striking image of her then live-in boyfriend Bruce Springsteen. It was snapped in ‘78, by which time Springteen had become a major star since breaking through three years prior with his Born To Run record. The leather jacket he’s wearing is Goldsmith’s, and after she had sold off some of her clothing in ’96, which included the jacket, it wound up in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland. This was unbeknownst to Goldsmith until later. (Springsteen, by the way, felt it had too many studs and was too ostentatious for his taste.)
Born in Detroit in ’48, Goldsmith started photographing as a child after her father, who was photographing and had a darkroom himself, gave her a Baby Brownie camera and later a superior Isola one. Goldsmith used them earnestly to photograph her first subjects: Dolls and her family. Some of these images appear in the first pages of her new book.
Goldsmith relocated to NYC in ’69, where her older sister Ellen was living. Although Goldsmith was seriously into photography, the passion for the medium and art would escalate further in the imminent years to follow. First to come were short stints at Elektra Records in their promotional department and then as co-manager of Grand Funk Railroad, with the late Andy Cavaliere. When Goldsmith walked away from that role in the early ‘70s, she carried with her some disillusionment with being involved with the business side of things. This helped Goldsmith to crystallize the realization that it was photography that served as her guiding light and muse, and she pursued it full tilt from then on. Goldsmith loved and fed off the vibes and interactions it brought, and made her photo studio, as she worded it, “A crucible of positive energy.”
While musicians have been the subjects that resonate most with her, she’s also photographed many actors, politicians, athletes, scientists, and businessmen. However, Goldsmith truly loves music above all, and is a singer herself. This handsome book is chock-full of very recognizable musicians that reflect both Goldsmith’s and the subjects’ personalities and love for what they do. There are far too many artists to list, so get the book for yourself and find out. You’ll certainly do what fellow Michiganian Bob Seeger brilliantly sang about: Turn The Page.
Author Lynn Goldsmith Online
I Slept With Joey Ramone
Although the title of this book suggests a sexual connotation, it is offered in humor. It is written by Joey Ramone’s brother, Mickey Leigh Hyman, and the title refers to the protection his brother offered him growing up. Born Jeffrey Hyman in Queens, New York, Joey Ramone was the tall, quirky lead singer of The Ramones. Often, when young Mickey was scared, his older brother (the future Joey Ramone) would let him sleep in his bed with him. When the Ramones released their debut album in 1976, it ushered in punk rock as a complete artistic entity. The Ramones, fast, ugly, and draped in leather, spoke to the angry youth of the seventies and inspired future bands for decades to come.
This is actually a very sensitive loving book, but includes a frank look at the ugly side of rock ‘n’ roll. With humor and grace, the author shares a troubled story of growing up with an emotionally disturbed brother who becomes a rock star. Joey used rock music to cope with mental illness and in the process launched a punk movement alongside bands like The Talking Heads and Blondie. It was these bands that brought punk to England, influencing the Sex Pistols and changing music history. But regardless of the larger picture, this book’s primary focus is the portrayal of two men who are not unlike Vincent and Theo Van Gogh: an artist who struggled to find his voice while keeping his sanity, and a brother who loved and cared for that artist.
Author Mickey Leigh with Legs McNeil Online
London's Burning: True Adventures on the Front Lines of Punk 1976-1977 by Dave Thompson
London’s Burning: True Adventures on the Front Lines of Punk 1976-1977
Author: Dave Thompson
Review By Jeff Muendel
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Posted: Jan 2010
(18402) Page Views
Dave Thompson is a fun and energetic writer, and this is the tale of his experience in the London punk scene of ‘76 and ‘77. It is essentially the story of British punk rock as it happened, stripped of hindsight and future legend, and laid bare. Bands bubbling into existence include The Damned during their early gigs and The Sex Pistols swearing through their prime-time television debut. Lesser known groups like The Adverts and Tom Robinson Band are covered, the latter of which are represented by a story wherein the group leads a club full of skinheads through a sing-along anthem called “Glad to Be Gay.” Yes, there are some seriously wild and funny antics. At the same time, though, the book serves up a personal coming-of-age story of a bewildered sixteen-year-old (that would be Thompson) looking not just for fun and music, but for a cultural revolution. The amazing thing is that the author finds a legitimate one right in his back yard, and thanks to Thompson’s natural wit and sharp writing style, we are now all privy to it.
Author Dave Thompson Online
The Velvet Underground: New York Art
Documenting the formative years of the band, Kugelberg includes newly published photographs starting with the group’s first live show in New York. Andy Warhol is referenced, especially with regard to his Velvet Underground cover and poster designs. Lou Reed’s handwritten music and lyrics are included, and underground press clippings, flyers, handbills, and posters, are added as well to complete a uniquely comprehensive survey of the first rock group ever to transcend genre and embrace subterranean American culture. Also included is a conversation recorded especially for the book between founding members Lou Reed and Maureen Tucker. Kugelberg does a great job archiving a definitive picture of the band’s genesis and development in the extraordinary New York art scene of the mid-sixties.
Author Johan Kugelberg Online
Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves
Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves
Author: Jason Bitner
Review By Jeff Muendel
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Posted: Dec 2009
(5365) Page Views
Mix tapes have been described as “an art form that combines the skills of a DJ with the intimacy of a letter.” Today, the cassette tape has been rendered obsolete, and the art of crafting these sonic calling cards has been relegated to back of the closet, thirty-something nostalgia. Now, thanks to Jason Bitner, the middle-aged can relive lost youth and lost loves. In this book, sixty writers and musicians wax poetic about their own experiences with these charming artifacts and the relationships that inspired them. The stories range from the irreverently sweet, such as the doomed love affair between a Deadhead and a Goth, to the touching, such as the heartbreaking discovery of a former love passing away. Everyone (well, everyone over thirty) will find a story or a song to which they can relate. Just hit play.
Author Jason Bitner Online
Led Zeppelin: The Neal Preston Collection
Another coffee table book, this photo collection focuses on one of the greatest (and also thoroughly overplayed) bands ever, the mighty Led Zeppelin, While many of the photographs have been widely published, the collection is nonetheless a great record of Zep at their peak. Neal Preston captured many fantastic images of the band showing Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham in full flight, both on stage and off. The result is this oversized book of color and black-and-white images that stands as an impressive visual reference.
Author Neal Preston Online
From Zero to Rock Hero
The cover of this book looks more like a manual for the Rock Band video game, and that may be precisely the point. For the love of Pong, kids, if you’re going to invest all that time into playing a game about playing rock music, why don’t you invest it in really playing rock music? This book is nicely illustrated and with an accompanying CD that comes together as a six-week crash course that will turn beginner musicians into hot rock guitarists and teach them to play in the styles of the world’s most famous bands. Guitar teacher and musician Owen Edwards shares the styles of legendary rockers such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Metallica, allowing readers to build a repertoire of both classic and modern-day rock songs.
The accompanying CD includes more than twenty riffs inspired by world-famous rock and metal classics, and dozens of hot licks covering essential techniques: bending, sliding, vibrato, and phrasing; two-handed tapping, harmonics, arpeggios, and speed picking are all broken down step-by-step fashion that helps to guide the beginner to fruition quickly. Put down that dumb fake guitar and pick up a real six string!
Author Owen Edwards Online
Trust: Photographs of Jim Marshall
If you love rock’n'roll, you probably have an affinity for rock photography as well. So many iconic rockers earned their stardom not only because they were musical, but because they were also photogenic. That’s the way it should be because live rock’n'roll—at least the good stuff—isn’t about music alone. It is a craft that incorporates and embraces many elements of theater, dance, cinema, and of course photography. For the first time, images from rock photographer Jim Marshall’s extensive color archive are published together in book form and include many rare images. Marshall’s unique style and seemingly unlimited access to giants like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and The Who make this a fantastic coffee table book.
Author Jim Marshall Online
Michael - the Book
It almost goes without saying that this book attempts to tell the story of Michael Jackson’s epic life. It is, essentially, an amalgamation of several rolling Stones stories (usually cover stories) along with more recent text and over 100 photos to bring it all together. There are multiple writers represented in the book under the editorial eye of Jason fine, but Ben Fong-Torres is one of the best writers at Rolling Stone Magazine. He gives us our first glimpse of a young star on the rise in an article that would be the first of many Rolling Stone cover stories on Jackson. A decade later, on the verge of releasing his megahit Thriller album, Jackson starts showing his unusual side, telling journalist Gerri Hirshey about the loneliness of stardom, confessing he had only two friends in the world and that he identified with Peter Pan. This isn’t a book that focuses on the dark corners of Jackson’s life, however, and included are some very positive tributes and memoirs of Jackson written by the likes of Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Will.i.am, Quincy Jones, and Sheryl Crow.
Author Jason Fine Online
We'll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin' Show-biz Saga by Paul Shaffer
We’ll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin’ Show-biz Saga
Author: Paul Shaffer
Review By Jeff Muendel
Publisher: Flying Dolphin Press
Posted: Nov 2009
(4626) Page Views
Paul Shaffer, a lifelong hipster and Hammond organist, not to mention the longtime leader of David Letterman’s band, explains how a kid goes from a remote Canadian town at the tip of Lake Superior to a gig in New York City leading one of the most famous television bands ever. From playing seedy strip joints in Toronto to being the first musical director of Saturday Night Live to helping to form the Blues Brothers to being onstage every night with David Letterman—Shaffer shares it all. This is a funny, candid memoir that isn’t afraid to explore risky and risqué encounters with the likes of John Belushi, Jerry Lewis, Mel Gibson and Britney Spears. In essence, it is Schafer offering a behind-the-scenes story of his life.
Author Paul Shaffer Online
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