Confidant's Janis Joplin Memoir Is One of the Best Yet

Photo by John Byrne Cooke
Janis Joplin, spreading her wings in 1968.
On the Road with Janis Joplin
By John Byrne Cooke
Berkley, 432 pp., $26.95.

Popular conception of Janis Joplin is that of the bluesy, boozy, hey-lawdy-mama who was a fireball onstage in a swirl of hair, sequins, fringe, and Southern Comfort. And with a raw, raspy voice that could take tunes by songwriters ranging from George Gershwin and Jerry Ragovoy ("Time Is On My Side") to Kris Kristofferson to church hymns and make them her indelible own.

That conception is true. But, as this exceedingly well-written and descriptive memoir by Cooke -- her former road manger, friend and confidant -- makes clear, that was hardly the only side to the girl from Port Arthur, Texas.

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Bob Suren: Confessions of a Former Hardcore Punk

Photos courtesy of Bob Suren
A recent photo of Bob Suren in Costa Rica
For many, Florida is the land of humidity-boiled punk, mostly epitomized by the fabled roster of No Idea Records (from Assholeparade, Less Than Jake and A Wilhelm Scream to Against Me! and Hot Water Music); earlier iconoclastic waves including the Eat, Gay Cowboys in Bondage, and Maggot Sandwich; or rare legendary venues like Tampa's 403 Chaos.

Bob Suren tends to embody an even more vitriol-lined side of the state. His label Burrito Records, much-cherished distro Sound Idea, and own tumultuous bands like Failure Face (named after a Charlie Brown strip) and Murder-Suicide Pact mapped out the American hardcore subgroup splinters that took hold even as punk often became little more than vapid Hot Topic fare in the post-Green Day void.

After years struggling to keep his work afloat and his music ever-meaningful, he closed up shop, dropped the scene like a dirty sock, headed to international lands, scoured for happiness, and now finds himself in Texas "redefining his comfort zone."

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Making of Purple Rain Makes a Great Read

Categories: Get Lit

Purple Rain poster
His Purpleness in his most recognizable form...though today's puffy afro and walking stick version has its own appeal.
Let's Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain
By Alan Light
Atria Books, 304 pp., $26.

If you were a Warner Brothers movie studio executive, you had damn good reason to be nervous in July 1984, awaiting the release, critical reception and box-office fortunes of a film called Purple Rain.

Here was a semi-autobiographical movie about an ambiguously sexual musician not many people had heard of, with a cobbled-together script, punctuated by lengthy concert sequences, and spoken by largely untrained actors. It was also filmed mostly in cold Minneapolis by a first-time director (Albert Magnoli), and the star refused to do much in the way of publicity when the film was complete.

Sounds like a recipe for success? Nope. But Purple Rain the film (and the soundtrack album and tour) helped chisel Prince's thin mustachioed visage on the Mount Rushmore of '80s music, joining Michael, Bruce and Madonna.

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Mike Rutherford's Living Years in Genesis Had Many Revelations

Photo by Andrew St.Denis/Wikimedia Commons
The Living Years: The First Genesis Memoir
By Mike Rutherford
Thomas Dunne Books, 256 pp., $25.99.

While best known as the guitarist (and sometimes bassist/guitarist) for prog rockers-turned-pop-sensations Genesis, Rutherford takes the title of his autobiography from the 1988 hit of his offshoot group, Mike + the Mechanics.

Guaranteed to make grown men weep, the song and its familiar chorus is about the often stiff emotional relationship between fathers and sons (which, it seems, transcends national borders), and the importance of actually expressing love "before it's too late."

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Ex-Grateful Dead Manager Has Quite a Tale

Grateful Dead guiding light Jerry Garcia (seated) and Mountain Girl at an Egyptian cafe, 1978.
Richard Loren was a button-down, straight-laced, business-minded recent college graduate in 1966 when, as manager of a company that staged musicals in large tents, he handled a string of shows by razzle-dazzle piano man Liberace.

Impressed with his skills, the piano man hired him, which led to another job as a booking agent. And that led to a wild ride through the '60s and '70s, which would find Loren rubbing shoulders, sharing airplane rides, and passing joints with the likes of the Jefferson Airplane, the Doors and the Chambers Brothers.

And, after a stint as the personal manager of Jerry Garcia's solo career, he would be the Grateful Dead's manager from 1974-81.

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The Grateful Dead's Journey Is Far From Over

Don LaVange via Flickr
The cover art of the Grateful Dead's Winterland 1973: The Complete Recordings three-LP set
No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead
By Peter Richardson
St. Martin's, 384 pp., $26.99

With 2015 marking the 50th anniversary of their formation, expect a lot of attention paid this year to the musical and cultural legacy of the Grateful Dead. The four surviving members of the classic lineup (Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart) have announced a "that's all, folks!" series of final shows under the banner of "Fare Thee Well" July 3-5 at Chicago's Soldier Field.

According to a published report, the band has already received requests for 350,000 tickets even though the capacity for all shows is just under 200,000 -- and that's just from their in-house mail order service. Phish's Trey Anastasio will fill in on guitar and vocals for the late Jerry Garcia, and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards) and previous Dead compatriot Bruce Hornsby (piano) will augment the lineup.

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Marky Ramone Gabba Gabbas Away in New Memoir

Ventura Mendoza via Flickr
Marky Ramone in 2008
In his Band of Bruddahs, Marky Ramone's primary role was that of drummer, the pounding heartbeat and engine of so many of the legendary punk-rock group's numbers. But over many years in meetings, rehearsals, recording studios, concert stages and countless miles on the road in their trustworthy van, he also had another occupation: constant mediator between his lead singer and guitarist.

Acrimony had always been thick between Joey and Johnny Ramone, a pair that was on opposite of ends of the spectrum in politics, temperament, hygiene and punctuality. Not to mention musical direction. Oh, and Joey's girlfriend also left him for Johnny; the couple later married.

So Joey and Johnny Ramone had not spoken a word directly to each other in nearly 15 years. And when they needed to communicate with each other, they did it through Marky.

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Groundbreaking Stones Book Delivers Hard Truths of 1969 Tour

This album, Beggar's Banquet, was relatively new when author Stanley Booth began following the Rolling Stones on the band's 1969 tour.
The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones
By Stanley Booth
Chicago Review Press, 416 pp., $18.95

Reissued for its 30th anniversary -- though it chronicled events that took place 15 years before that -- The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones is, simply put, one of those essential texts of music journalism.

Groundbreaking, insightful, funny and tragic, it's a piece of reporting that could never take place today. And from a journalist whose level of access to the band seems shocking in a time when the norm today to interview rock stars is a 15-minute phoner, scrunched in among a dozen other journo talks and with a publicist listening in on the other end of the line.

Georgia-bred music scribe Booth first met and talked to the Stones in 1968 while on assignment, some months before the death of founding member Brian Jones.

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#GamerGate Journalist Milo Yiannopoulos's Self-Published Poetry Book Contains Unattributed Tori Amos Lyrics

Categories: Get Lit

A screencap from the official music video for Tori Amos's "Crucify"
Brietbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos has been one of the more prominent names in the #GamerGate movement, writing numerous articles regarding "SJW types ruining every platform they touch". He also self-published a book of poetry in 2007 called Eskimo Papoose under the name Milo Andreas Wagner, but it turns out that it may not be so much a work of poetry as a bizarre mix tape of Tori Amos lyrics.

The contents of the book were shared by former football punter Chris Kluwe, a noted opponent of #GamerGate, via Storify with supplemental commentary. Reading through the pages a dedicated Tori fan will notice some of her more famous lines appearing in the poems.

In the second chapter of "Nympholepsy, Part 1" appears the line "I was looking for a Saviour / Beneath these dirty sheets", which is a misquoted part of the chorus from Tori's "Crucify" from Little Earthquakes. In "Sword of Vengeance" he uses the line "Muhammad my friend / I'm getting very scared" from Boys for Pele. Other poems pull lyrics from "Sparks" and "Blood Roses", all without attribution.

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Gil Scott-Heron's Legacy May Not Be Televised...But It's Written Down

Categories: Get Lit

Courtesy of Gary Price/St. Martin's Press
Musical visionary Gil Scott-Heron (right) and friend/collaborator Brian Jackson hanging out in the early '70s.

Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man
By Marcus Baram
320 pp.
St. Martin's Press

Like pretty much every other musical genre, rap and hip-hop have many musical "fathers," with various groups and individuals claiming full (or partial) paternity. DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Melle Mel, Afrika Bambaataa, and the Sugar Hill Gang are often listed on the birth certificate.

But others point to Gil Scott-Heron as the Baby Daddy, as the R&B/soul/jazz vocalist, spoken-word poet, journalist and novelist's albums of the '70s featured a lot of sonic themes and rhythms that would find their way into rap and hip-hop. Along with decidedly familiar themes and lyrics of black empowerment, disenfranchisement and culture.

Pieces of a Man tells the roller-coaster life and music journey of a fresh-voiced musical pioneer and cultural soldier who made a huge impact with his early work. Only then to fritter away much of the last few decades of his life in the grip of cocaine and crack addiction, erratic behavior and concert no-shows before dying in 2011 at the age of 62.

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