Category Archives: Books I recommend

Books about Music I recommend

Let’s give it to ’em right now!! The Inside Story of Louie, Louie…

Cover of Louie, Louie by Dave Marsh

Cover of "Louie, Louie" by Dave Marsh

This is a truly great book about rock and roll. The sub-title of the book is as follows: “The History and Mythology of the World’s Most Famous Rock’n’Roll Song; Including the Full Details of Its Torture and Persecution at the Hands of the Kingsmen, J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I., and a Cast of Millions; and Introducing, for the First Time Anywhere, the Actual Dirty Lyrics” Isn’t that intriguing?  You bet it is!

I was totally surprised by this book.  I thought it was going to be some kind of light, funny take on the history of “Louie, Louie”.  This is a serious and scholarly look at the song and it’s significance.  That’s not to say that the book isn’t entertaining as well, because IT IS!  This book will make you laugh and make you think. 

First of all, The Kingsmen did not write Louie, Louie.   A great soul singer from L.A.  named Richard Berry wrote the song.  He had a reasonable amount of success with it at first.  His story is a subject all by itself.  Paul Revere and the Raiders released a version of the song within days of The Kingsmen.  Their versions fought it out on the radio for weeks, but The Kingsmen ultimately won.  Why?, well that’s why you should read the book.  Well, that reason and because you want to know what the dirty lyrics are, right?  Dave Marsh makes a great case for Louie, Louie being the greatest Rock’n’Roll song of all time.  There are now over 3,000 version of Louie, Louie.  There is an annual Louie, Louie radio marathon called “Maximum Louie, Louie”.  Maximum Louie, Louie is held every April 11th and they play every known version of Louie, Louie.    There is a web site where you can report any new versions that you know of.  He also makes amazing connections between the primal scream of “Let’s give it to ’em right now!” and Kurt Cobain and the   birth of Grunge or The Seattle Sound.  After all, the Kingsmen were from Portland Oregon.  The F.B.I. spent more time and money investigating the song  than they did investigating John Lennon.       J. Edgar Hoover finally decided that the lyrics were indecipherable.  Ain’t Rock’n’Roll Grand!  There are so many fascinating stories in this book that I can’t share them.  Suffice to say the book is worth the time you will invest in reading it.  I strongly recommend it.  As for me?  “…we gotta go now!”

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“Listen To This” is a great read!

What a great book about music! Even the preface of this book was worth reading. Alex Ross seems to listen to music the same way I do. Great music is not confined to one type. Great music can be found in every genre. This book spans the most amazing variety of subjects. The first chapter “Crossing the boarder from Classical to Pop” is one of the most interesting discussions about what music is, that I have ever read. He talks about how he hates the term “Classical” music because it locks this music in the past “and cancels out the possibility that music in the spirit of Beethoven could still be created today.” Alex takes us on a journey through the past to show us that “the walking blues” is a direct descendent of the chacona and lamento of medieval times. Then he takes on the challenge of explaining the genius of Mozart. You go on tour with Radiohead and discover that they are heavily influenced by the music of Olivier Messiaen and the first synthesizer the ondes Martenot. He explains how invention of the ability to record music changed music forever. He tells us about the “anti Maestro” Esa-Pekka Salonen and then searches the soul of Franz Schubert. Alex Ross goes to Iceland and interviews the massively individualistic Bjork. You get to learn about the “classical music” Renascence taking place in China today. He interviews the great American composer John Luther Adams and we also get a chapter on Opera as a Popular art. Then he takes us on a fascinating tour with the burgeoning St. Lawrence Quartet. ( A very different experience from being on tour with Radiohead.) Then you go to the “Edges of Pop” where Mr. Ross discusses such diverse elements as a local New York City performer, Sonic Youth, and Kurt Cobain. The crisis is music education in this country is studied and explained. A viable solution is offered as well. Other topics include Marian Anderson, The Marlboro Festival, going on tour with Bob Dylan, and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Finally, the book closes with a magnificent discussion of the life and music of Brahms.

Another great aspect of this book is that Alex Ross coordinated it with his blog www.therestisnoise.com. You can go to his blog and listen to all the music he discusses in the book. This book is worth the journey. It will give you insight and enjoyment. It is a rare thing to be educated and entertained at the same time. Buy his book or get it at the library, but don’t miss this great book about the massive variety of music in all it’s glory.

You can find a link to his sight on my blogroll.

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The Symphony that changed the world…

So one day I’m talking to my wife about music and I tell her I have this great idea for a book.  She listened with half an ear.  My idea was to write a book about the Beethoven 9th and it’s impact on music and world history.  “Oh great honey.  You should do that…”   Well, I was already too late.  The following Sunday I pick up the Arts section of the Dallas Morning News and what do I see?  A review of Harvey Sachs book “The 9th Beethoven and the World in 1824.”  I have to admit I was furious!  It’s funny how suddenly I felt like I had been wronged.  Like I would have actually written the book myself? 
In any case I’m glad the book has been written and I’m glad it was written by Harvey Sachs.  Harvey wrote a great book I read some time ago about Artur Rubinstein. “Rubinstein: A Life”
The book is divided into four parts.  The first section is the history of the writing and the debut of the Ninth Symphony.  There is fascinating detail here.  Where Beethoven lived at the time, the arrangements for the performance, the debut itself, some debunking of myth surrounding the first performance, and it’s aftermath.
Part Two is called “1824 or how Artist internalize Revolution.”  Sachs discusses how the defeat and disappoint of Napoleon led to the birth of the “Romantic” period in music, art, and literature.  Havey credits Marie-Henri Beyle, a.k.a Stedhal with being the first person to perceive the relationship between “death of the Revoluion and the birth of Romanticism.”  He decusses the impact of Romanticism on the philosphy of G.W.F. Hegel who said “Philosphoy my expect attention and love again; when this science, stricken dumb, can lift up its voice again and hope that a world which had become deaf to it may lend an ear to it once more.”  Sach states that if you change “philosophy” and “science” to “music’ and “art”, Beethoven himself could have said this.
As monarchy’s re-solidified there hold on power after the defeat of Napolean, poets, artists, and musicians looked to bold statements like the ninth to inspire them to rage against empirial rule.  “All Men Are Brothers” the finale of the 9th proclaims.  Lord Byron even stated that he was “fighting freedoms battle.”  Sachs concludes that “the hidden thread” that connects the other important works of 1824 is the quest for freedom proclaimed in the choral finale of Beethoven’s Ninth.  This is one of the most interesting parts of the book as Mr. Sachs tries to connect Beethoven’s Ninth to the works of Heinrich Henine, Byron, Eugene Delacroix, Nietzsche, and Goethe.
Part three of the book is entittled “Imaging the Ninth.”  I recommend reading along with a score of the ninth and a recording.  If you don’t have a score then at least listen to the ninth as Harvey Sachs gives you a verbal discription in painstaking and engrossing detail.  This is a fantastic section.  I am reminded of the movie about Beethoven “Imortal Beloved” In the movie there is a performance of the finale of the 9th and it turns into a fantasy sequiece of what Beethoven may have been imagining when he wrote it.  I love Mr. Sachs verbal discription of  this amazing work!
Part 4 of the book is about how music and musicians moved forward after the debut of the 9th.  Every great composer after Beethoven talked about how intemidating it was to compose a Symphony after the 9th.  Beethoven had an enormous impact on Hector Berlioz.  By the end of Berlioz life he had become know as “The French Beethoven”.  His shadow towered over Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Malher just to name a few.  His impact on Wagner is also discussed.
This is just a highly readable, very informative book by a highly skilled writer.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves music.  You do not have to be a trained musician to enjoy this book.  It will benefit the novice as well as the highly informed musician.

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Keith Richards Tells All…

I just completed reading “Life”, the auto biography of Keith Richards.  This was not the book I expected.  I thought it would be a sensational tale of sex, drugs and rock and roll.  And it is all of that, but there is so much more to this book than S,D, and R&R.

From the very first chapter this book will grab you.  The book opens with Keith getting arrested in Arkansas during the 1975 U.S. tour.  I almost died laughing when I read this!  The number of times that Keith has cheated death or life in prison is unbelievable.  He tells tales of groupies, and drug dealers, and musicians.  He shares his version of the birth of the Rolling Stones and how Mick Jagger picked there name off a Muddy Waters record on the spur of the moment while he was talking to a booking agent on the telephone.  He writes “Satisfaction” in his sleep.  He steals Anita Pallenberg from Brian JonesBrian drowns in his swimming pool.   He shares his story of heroin addiction and cleaning up.  Keith is always very open and honest.  He never pulls and punches, even when it comes to his relationship with Mick Jagger.  If you are interested in all the sorted details of Keith’s life the book will not disappoint.  But, if you are interested in the music, that is really the reward of reading the book.

I came away with a much deeper respect for Keith Richards, the Musician.  He spends a lot of time talking about writing songs, recording music, arranging music, producing music, etc…  He tells the amazing story of learning about “open tuning” the guitar from Don Everly of The Everly Brothers.  His insights into how to record music is very interesting.  He talks about recording the sound of a group in a room.  Not overdubbing everything and using 30 different microphones to create a very sterile homogenized sound.  He wants it to sound real, to be pure, to have a live edge to the sound.  He talked about 3 microphones in a room and the entire band in there together.  Capture the sound of the band in a specific place.  A place like the basement of the house he rented in the south of France when The Rolling Stones recorded “Exlie on Main Street”; one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever recorded. 

So read this book.  Read it especially if you want to know more about how great rock music is created, recorded, and performed.  Read this book because it is a rare opportunity to look into the mind of a true musical genius who is still around to explain why and how they get things done.  Then listen to the music of the Stones and hear Keith paint his masterpieces on to the canvas of silence.  Hear him create drama with the silence between the notes.  The rest of the book is just a nice bonus.

What do you think?  Let me hear from you.

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