Lucid and lavishly illustrated—a fine gift for pop and music history buffs.

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ABBEY ROAD

THE BEST STUDIO IN THE WORLD

Appropriately ambitious biography of the recording studio that gave the world the Beatles’ eponymous swan song—but also, lest it be forgotten, the works of Helen Shapiro and Vanessa-Mae.

Helen and Vanessa who? It helps to be a music geek, if not of a certain age, to appreciate the depths of BBC music critic Lawrence’s history of Abbey Road studios, which has been online for nearly nine decades now. For those who are not such geeks, then the basic bits of essential knowledge, all to be found in his pages, are these: The studio was built in the heart of St. John’s Wood, “London’s first garden suburb,” in a refitted Georgian mansion, and in those august surroundings, was inaugurated under the baton of none other than Edward Elgar, he of “Pomp and Circumstance” fame. It was also a sonic laboratory, a place to test not only gear to help King George VI work through his stutter (the stuff of the hit movie The King’s Speech), but also the stereophonic, aurally deceptive goodies that would be put to use in the psychedelic era under the tutelage of good Sir George Martin. Before all that, though, Abbey Road had to make the transition from stuffy classical facility to pop wonderland. If you knew that the first pop hit to emerge from Abbey Road was “Cowpuncher’s Cantata” in 1952, then you will not need or profit from Lawrence’s considerable labors, but if you did not—or did not know that Pink Floyd, Radiohead and even Mel Gibson recorded here—then this book is certainly worthy of time and exploration. One might quibble with some of his assessments (Was Jeff Beck’s Truth really a forerunner of metal? Were the Hollies really just another cover band?), but Lawrence makes up for it with plenty of fine factual writing, especially on the technological side.

Lucid and lavishly illustrated—a fine gift for pop and music history buffs.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1608199990

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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