A mixed bag of magazine pieces by a seemingly reluctant pop-culture scribe.
Even as he laments the difficulties of the job and hints at moving on to some other line of work, freelancer Samuels admits to knowing no other kind of life than being a magazine writer—“Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, but sooner or later, you may experience a few moments of perfection in the middle of the scrum.” This collection contains a few such moments of grace. One is when a grumpy old bandleader confesses to having whispered to TV host Paul Anka, “a real bastard” in his heydey, regarding the Ed Sullivan–era Beatles: “They’ll never make it.” Plagued by arthritis but not ashamed of his mistaken prognosis, the bandleader continues to play 40-odd years later. Another is a profile of hippie entrepreneur Michael Lang, the author of several editions of the Woodstock festival, “even-tempered in his K-Swiss sneakers and Banana Republic bush jacket.” Still another is an interview with a Motown session player whose contributions to the careers of the Rolling Stones, Smokey Robinson and other greats have, said player insists, not been properly appreciated. But Samuels’s collection also contains too many pieces that are one yellowing page too ephemeral or relentlessly shallow, in the way of so much magazine journalism. A passing argument over whether Nick Drake appears, much posthumously, in a Volvo or a Volkswagen ad might work in a sitcom; on the page, or at least in these pages, it doesn’t. It goes far beyond cliché to assert, clumsily, that “Lennon and McCartney were two different but equal types of man,” and it was old news even at the time that both John Hinckley Jr. and Mark David Chapman, would-be and actual assassin respectively, carried copies of The Catcher in the Rye.
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)