Heaps of firsthand source material and a genuine love for his subject distinguish U.K. music scribe Blake’s venture into oft-plowed rock territory.
Like virtually all the 1960s British invaders who ultimately became classic-rock radio staples, Pink Floyd has a story: personnel shifts, stylistic waffling, original leader bails in a haze of drugs, new lineup succeeds musically without compromising its sound, masterpiece album stays on Billboard chart for years, co-leaders engage in numerous hissy fits, more personnel shifts, less interesting music, original leader dies, renewed interest in band, etc. Floyd’s story isn’t as compelling as those of the Beatles, the Stones or the Kinks, but that doesn’t mean an up-to-date band biography isn’t welcome. Since Roger Waters, David Gilmour and the other members were never particularly shy with the press, there’s already plenty of decent band literature out there; ace music biographer Barry Miles released the well-executed, if scant, Pink Floyd: The Early Years less than six months ago. But Blake (Dylan: Visions, Portraits, & Back Pages, 2005, etc.) does a nice job of transforming his research into a compelling narrative. Another plus is that his attitude toward the band is respectful but not reverential, which makes for better reading than, say, Stephen Davis’s over-appreciated Stones bio/love letter Old Gods Almost Dead (2001).
Chances are you probably won’t see another Pink Floyd book on the shelves anytime soon because this one gets it right.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)