Essential for deep-dyed rock fans, collectors, and fans of literate music writing.




A sprawling yet strangely compact history of the years of rock’s golden age.

Austin-based music journalist Ward, co-host of the Let It Roll podcast, sets a daunting task: to say something new about the likes of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, each of which fills libraries of criticism and biography. He answers by going deep here and there while painting a big picture view of the effect those groups had on the world, especially the United States. The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. By 1965, writes the author, “guitar bands were erupting everywhere,” a pack headed by the Byrds but made up of groups as various as the Lovin’ Spoonful, the McCoys, the Bobby Fuller Four, and the bizarre Nightcrawlers, of “Little Black Egg” fame. The Brits captured the most attention during that time, but things were happening on plenty of peripheries: Memphis, for instance, where Otis Redding was working hard to develop an audience and write a hit, and American towns everywhere, where one-hit wonders were doing their thing. “Who were Pidgeon? Rhinoceros? Kak? The Serpent Power? The Wildflower? Zakary Thaks? The Harbinger Complex? Crow?” Ward asks, answering, no one and everyone, sometimes capable of producing songs and artists that would go on to make history, such as guitar wizard David Lindley and Captain Beefheart. Of course, the Stones and the Beatles figure prominently in the narrative, but so do whirlwinds of bands who sometimes turn up a dozen to the page in Ward’s overstuffed narrative. As for the age-old question, Beatles or Stones? Ward delivers a nicely oblique answer: It depends on whether you like live or studio music. By the end of the book, which is full of interesting surprises—e.g., it was Frank Sinatra’s label that took a chance on Jimi Hendrix—readers will have encountered scores of bands they’ve never heard of and plenty of grist for the playlist.

Essential for deep-dyed rock fans, collectors, and fans of literate music writing.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-16519-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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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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