'No More Mr Nice Guy: The Inside Story ...'
By: Michael Bruce with Billy James - Gonzo Multimedia, $16.99
Description: Written by Alice Cooper's guitarist and keyboard player, Michael Bruce, this is an anthology of the band that encapsulated the decadent spirit of the 1970s.
Verdict: Following the group on their journey from Arizona garage band to eventual rise to stardom, 'No More Mr Nice Guy: The inside story of the Alice Cooper Group' reveals the truth behind the drinking and the rock 'n' roll.
Indeed, this "true life" story includes the hangings, the executions, the ghoulish makeup, the egos and of course, the rock 'n' roll. Now revised and updated, it includes previously unseen photographs and memorabilia that all fans have to see.
Having now read this book front to back, I can honestly say that original Alice Cooper Group guitarist/songwriter Michael Bruce (along with the wonderful Billy James, of course) has not only laid his dirty tour washing out for all to see, but has also put them under a microscope and then proceeded to turn one massive spotlight on them at the same time!
Basically a 115 page anthology of the band that encapsulated the decadent spirit of the 1970s, it follows the group on their journey from Arizona garage band to eventual rise to stardom. Revealing the truth behind the drinking and the rock ‘n’ roll as it goes, it kicks off when Bruce first saw Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show (and got the urge to be a performer right there and then), and ends with him seriously considering/putting out there a 27-year anniversary tour of their infamous Billion Dollar Babies show.
In between is a true, and vast wealth of knowledge about his time in the Alice Cooper Group, and as much as it is all heralded as being "true life" stories, well, pardon me if I feel like some of it has been sprinkled with glitter at times!
Come one now, you read it and come out the other side not shaking your head at some of the antics that were undertaken and dealt out by these guys, let alone Bruce himself! I mean, seriously ... can they really all be "true life" tales, for if so, well, wow ... what a feckin' life this man, these men lived (and, for the most part, survived unscathed through!)
Revised and updated, as aforementioned, it now includes previously unseen photographs and memorabilia. In fact, about a quarter of the book is photographs, which is actually refreshing, as a lot of time, books like these can be two-thirds photos, and severely lacking in written substance.
“Its not often we get a chance to redo, remake or in this case re-release a book ... my book," Michael Bruce has acknowledged. "It is with much thought, great enjoyment, many thanks and heartfelt appreciation for family, friends and fans that I present the re-release of ‘No More Mr Nice Guy.’ A compilation of hilarious rock ‘n’ roll stories and life events that made me the man I am today.”
And so with Michael Bruce's words now having been heard, and the book having now been read, I can honestly say it is one of the best (re)reads of any book I've snuggled up with in a while.
Reading all these 'other-side-of-the-coin' views from Bruce, who, as I'm sure you all know by now, was a huge part of the Alice Cooper Group as a singer/songwriter, showcases just how instrumental in the creation of the group's biggest hits he truly was.
There were obviously some bitter feelings among some of the other group members, as related to their lead singer's popularity in the media, sure, but hearing things from Bruce such as when during a flight over to England, an old lady in the next seat to Alice passed away in her sleep, and you get this spine tingling feeling that Alice's reputation as an evil incarnation was well deserved!
Another insightful recollection is the creation of both 'Under My Wheels' and 'Be My Lover,' which were fascinating to read. The former was written when Leo Fenn came to work for the Group. The band were in Michigan for a week on a layover and Dennis was playing with this riff: "Telephone is ringing" stop, "you got me on the run" stop, etc. Those two then worked on that, whilst the latter was a song Bruce wrote about his girl at the time, Chip; the sister of their PR guy at the time.
There are other glorious stories, such as when Keith Moon came down to the Record Plant in 1974 when Bruce was recording his solo album (he had been invited to play on it by Dino Dinelli from The Rascals). He'd been so shit-faced drunk on two bottles of Napoleon brandy and yet still managed to play the drums for Bruce; albeit them completely out of sync with the song!
Not wishing to spoil this read by delving too deeply into the main crux of the book, of Bruce's stories, his tales recounted, just let it be known that 'No More Mr Nice Guy: The inside story of the Alice Cooper Group' was a thoroughly enjoyable (re)read. An informational source and one where we get a fresh opinion/viewpoint of what transpired within the group's creation and demise, it's a must have for all fans of the band/artist (old or new).
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'Big City Cat: My Life in Folk-Rock'
By: Steve Forbert w/ Therese Boyd - PFP Publishing - $16.99
Description: More than four decades have passed since Steve Forbert made his way to New York City from his Meridian, Mississippi birthplace in quest of a career in music.
It was the most unlikely time and place for a folk singer to leap into the fray in a burgeoning scene where new wave and punk were emerging while he took the stage as a the archetypal folkie, armed with just an acoustic guitar and sheaf of very personal songs.
Now, those life-changing experiences have been chronicled by Forbert in 'Big City Cat: My Life In Folk-Rock', co-written with Therese Boyd, that will be released September 14th by PFP Publishing.
Verdict: Reading this highly informative, and wildly entertaining new book, we quickly discover that as a young man from Meridian, Mississippi, Steve Forbert still managed to carve out a niche in New York City’s vibrant club scene.
Playing now-iconic venues like Gerde’s Folk City and CBGB’s during a time when rootsy rock was fading out and the Ramones, Talking Heads, and other New Wave and punk acts were moving in, it was in Mill's Tavern in Greenwich Village where Forbert was first able to get paying work.
An old bar that had seen better days, they still wanted live music to entice customers in, so Forbert dutifully applied. The fun part about this story is that to play there you yourselves had to physically construct the stage that you were to then sing and perform on!
Throughout this colorful, and no holds barred autobiography, we also travel with Forbert as he took his whirlwind tour of Alive on Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim on the road. Continuing to write songs along the way, he could sense the sea change within the industry. Especially the actual production of the records being physically recorded and created.
A fun story is one where Forbert recounts a gig in Hannover, Germany with Bryan Adams where he needed a digital tape to record his set and Bryan himself went out of his way to get one for him. That was when he was playing with the Bolt Uprights and followed on stage the band simply known as Texas.
Trust me when I say that there are many, oh so many more delicious stories captured here on these pages from Forbert and each one is seamlessly linked from chapter to chapter. Whether they be recollections of pain, stress, joy, heartbreak, heartache, triumph or even surprise, 'Big City Cat: My Life in Folk-Rock' is one of the best autobiographical reads of 2018.
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'The Weirdest Movie Ever Made'
By: Phil Hall - BearManor Media - $19.99
Description: On October 20th, 1967, Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin emerged from a forest in Northern California with 59 seconds of grainy, shaky, silent 16mm film that supposedly offered documentary evidence of the Sasquatch, a creature of Native American folklore.
Although neither Patterson nor Gimlin had any previous experience in filmmaking or zoology, they presented their remarkable footage as the first motion picture confirmation of the existence of the elusive Sasquatch.
However, not everyone was convinced by the imagery on the Patterson-Gimlin Film.
Verdict: Reading this book is, and please know that I actually recall this "filmed fact" from back in the day rather all too vividly, without a shadow of a doubt, a guilty pleasure for us "believers."
The footage shot in 1967 in Northern California has since been subjected to many attempts to authenticate or debunk it, of this we all know, and yet, mysteriously, nobody has managed to disprove Bigfoot's existence in any way, (big) shape or form.
As we learn from reading Phil Hall's new book, 'The Weirdest Movie Ever Made: The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film,' the footage was filmed alongside Bluff Creek, a tributary of the Klamath River, about 25 logging-road miles northwest of Orleans, California, in Humboldt County.
Indeed, the film site is roughly 38 miles south of Oregon and 18 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, but for decades, the exact location of the site was lost; primarily because of re-growth of foliage in the stream bed (a segment of the creek informally known as "the bowling alley") after the flood of 1964. It was rediscovered in 2011.
So now we get Hall, the author of The History of Independent Cinema, The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time and In Search of Lost Films, giving his own thoughts on this still most wondrous of short films.
The book kicks in immediately re: 2012, when in Cornwall, Pennsylvania-based residents Jesse L. Wenrich and Robert E. Zimmerman II were minding their own business one night; until they collectively hear something strange coming from an adjacent forest.
For me, I think the best line of the entire book is right there on the opening page, for Zimmerman explained to all that would subsequently listen that the noise sounded like, and I can't even begin to make this up (although, sure, he might have done, of course), "Jennifer Love Hewitt being stabbed in a horror movie!"
Come on now, how brilliant is that of a verbal description of a supposedly animalistic sound! It's made even more profound when you learn that straight after Zimmerman made that statement, Wenrich added that the source of the noise HAD to be a Sasquatch! Of course it did. Stands to reason.
Filmed on location by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, we learn from Hall that neither had any professional training or experience in film production. Indeed, they were both simply military veterans who first chose to be rodeo riders, before getting tired of being tossed from their saddles each night.
But after filming this entity, lurking, then walking, nay striding past them, even turning to look them in the eyes, the final 59.5-second film, which the men would airmail back home to be developed, would soon become the world-famous film Hall discusses so adeptly in this book.
Indeed, and arguably, one of the most scrutinized pieces of video footage ever made.
Back to the story itself, and sure, additional doubt was generated by the strange story behind the film’s creation and over the years, odd rumors emerged about the film; including the story of an Academy Award-winning make-up artist’s alleged role in assembling the creature seen on camera!
As Hall winds his way through the facts and figures of the story, the meat and potatoes, if you will, he ultimately concludes that if these two men were indeed fabricating the whole thing, and faked the Bigfoot itself, why? What had they to gain from such a stupid, and easily-caught-out venture?
And therein lies the true undercurrent to this film, to this tale: What had either Patterson or Gimlin to gain from making this short film? Did Patterson go to his grave knowing he was a big, fat liar or did he go sad, knowing that he still hadn't managed to convince any one of what he truly believed he had really seen that day?
While the debate over the authenticity of the Patterson-Gimlin Film continues to percolate, few would question the effectiveness of how this piece of celluloid brought forth an unlikely sensation, lovingly dubbed the Bluff Creek Sasquatch.
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'World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story'
By: Gillian G. Gaar - BMG Books - $21.99
Description: Founded in the late 1980s by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, Seattle-based Sub Pop Records released early recordings by then-upstart regional bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Tad, Nirvana, Flaming Lips, Afghan Whigs, and Screaming Trees.
When the world went grunge crazy in the 1990s, Sub Pop was suddenly the epicenter of Seattle cool. 'World Domination' takes you deep inside the chaotic early days of the label’s founding, all the way to the present.
Verdict: Dedicated to Tom Kipp, "record collector extraordinaire," it opens with a Prologue (The Twentieth Anniversary) and based around the recollections of July 10th, 2008, Gaar begins her journey with a flashback to when the Sub Pop Records logo was to be found on a flag ... rippling in the breeze atop Seattle's Space Needle (in celebration of the aforementioned company-achieved twentieth anniversary).
As we quickly learn, founded in 1986 by Bruce Pavitt it was actually in 1977, on a lovely summer's day, when Pavitt had an experience that would alter the trajectory of his life.
He was attending a BBQ in Park Forest, Chicago when the DJ started playing the brand new single from the Sex Pistols, 'God Save the Queen.' Pavitt looked around and saw how everyone listening had been instantly hooked and realized, instantly, that it was a life-changing event for him.
Cut to 1988, when Sub Pop Records was actually formed by Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman in Seattle, Washington and the music world was about to experience an audio wave quite like they have never experienced before: Grunge.
In early 1988 Pavitt and Poneman quit their jobs to devote their full attention to Sub Pop. Raising $43,000, they incorporated that April. "Of course, that was spent in, like, thirty days", Pavitt recalls. "We almost went bankrupt after a month"!
But they didn't and as you read through this thoroughly entertaining new book from Gaar, you will learn things about the label that, perhaps, you had taken for granted down the years.
It turns out that both Pavitt and Poneman studied earlier independent labels ranging from Motown to SST Records and decided that virtually every successful movement in rock music had a regional basis.
Ergo, the pair sought to create a cohesive brand identity for Sub Pop with the label's ads promoting the label itself more than any particular band.
The label also sought to market a "Seattle sound", which was accomplished with the help of producer Jack Endino, who produced 75 singles, albums, and EPs for Sub Pop between 1987 and 1989.
Endino recorded cheaply and quickly; in order to operate this way, he utilized some consistent studio techniques, which gave the records a similar sound.
Achieving fame in the late '80s for signing Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney, all central players in the grunge movement, they are often credited with helping popularize grunge music.
Around those formative years the label's roster also included Fleet Foxes, Foals, Beach House, The Postal Service, Flight of the Conchords, Sleater-Kinney, Blitzen Trapper, Father John Misty, Shabazz Palaces, METZ, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, and The Shins.
The evolution of the record label is detailed by Gaar, but moreover, she allows the story to breathe and to organically be told through soundbites from most all the people involved at the time.
Trust me, by the time you reach the end (Going Silver) you will be headed out to your local record store, or searching online to buy Sub Pop Records vinyl albums (the only way to listen to good music).
As a foot note, in 1995, the owners of Sub Pop sold a 49% stake of the label to the Warner Music Group. Poneman and Pavitt had a disagreement about the direction the label should take, with Poneman wanting the label to become larger and make more money.
In 1996, unable to take the new corporate culture following the Warner partnership, Bruce Pavitt left the label and was able to spend more time with his family.
Oh, and in 2006, Sub Pop Records became the first Green-e certified record label. Through work with the Green-e program and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Sub Pop "greened" their label by purchasing enough renewable energy certificates to offset 100 percent of the electricity they use in their office; showing their commitment to putting renewable energy in the mainstream as a way consumers can take action to do something about global warming.
About the Author: Gillian G. Gaar is the author of over fifteen books, including 'She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll', 'Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback', and 'Entertain Us: The Rise of Nirvana'.
She was a senior editor at the Seattle music paper The Rocket and has also written for Mojo, Rolling Stone, Goldmine, and Seattle’s Museum of Popular Culture, among many other publications and organizations.
Gaar, who lives in Seattle, also served as a project consultant on Nirvana’s With the Lights Out box set.
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High in the Mid-'60s: How to Have a Fabulous Life
By: Rick Levy - Crossroad Press, $9.99
Description: Written by Rick Levy, High in the Mid-'60s: How to Have A Fabulous Life in Music Without being famous! is all of the following - a memoir, a life journey, a rock n roll “everyman” story, a spiritual discovery, a fathering experience, an absolute music business survival manual, and an anecdotal treasure chest of life on the road.
Verdict: For those not in the know, Rick Levy has created a unique position in the entertainment business.
A performer for more than 4 decades, Levy was bandleader for Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone from 2000-2002.
Currently, Rick is guitarist and tour manager for two legendary '60s artists, The Box Tops and Tommy Roe. He also spearheaded the reunion of his first Lehigh Valley, PA. band, The Limits and licensed their recordings worldwide.
As a nationally and internationally known manager and musician, Rick Levy understands the needs of both clients and artists.
In 2014 Rick Levy was awarded the Pennsylvania Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award in the Music Industry, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Lehigh Valley Music Awards (affiliate of the Philadelphia Grammy Chapter).
In late 2018, Crossroad Press released Rick's memoir, the brilliantly entitled 'High in the Mid-'60s: How to Have A Fabulous Life in Music Without being famous!' and as someone who admittedly knew not all that much about Levy, I have to say that this book is so very hard to put down once you start reading it.
Divided into chronological sections, starting with childhood, and culminating in an ongoing epilogue, High in the Mid-'60s details Levy's life; including his time involved with various aforementioned groups such as, but not limited to, Herman's Hermits, Jay & the Techniques, and The Box Tops.
After a brief intro page that runs from 1965 ("I was 15.") to 1971 ("I'm 21"), to the Mid-'90s in Atlanta, to 2014 (Pennsylvania Governor's Lifetime Achievement Award in Music), to 2018 (The Box Tops are inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame), a Heartfelt Dedication page to Levy's mother, Myra, his father Mort, his son Jonah, et al, an Acknowledgment page to his attorneys, An Invitation To Enjoy page by Lloyd Zane Remick Esq. (an entertainment lawyer and manager), and finally a Foreword, we are off and running.
From the very off, November 1949, we learn so much about Levy that you'll wish you had cottoned on to who he was much earlier in life. The book showcases a man that although he may not recall all his childhood memories, he side steps what could have been an issue for an autobiography, by making us aware it was because he was raised in a loving, tender, supportive family atmosphere.
He calls it his Before Music (BM) spell of unknown time and as he tells it, even his friend, the late Alex Chilton (lead singer of The Box Tops) suffered from the very same childhood BM loss.
Moving on though the book though and we quickly discover that BM memories are not necessary for Levy to spin his musical yarn for there's a rich, royal wealth of wisdom, honesty, fun, sharp observations, great stories, and good advice in these pages.
Levy explains, and with true low brow honesty, that his life didn't exactly change overnight, but that life simply got in his way (perfectly, so it seems now looking back).
Sure he knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a musician, but it was actually a phone call he received during his RockRoots years that changed things the most for him.
Kenny Rogers and other entertainers had put together a huge national charity campaign called Hands Across America and Jay & the Techniques were on the Allentown bill of the local touring entity.
That said, if his time in Jay & the Techniques marked the aforementioned turning point in his career, it was in 1987 when they first backed Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits (in Baton Rouge) that firmly set him on his new path.
The book grows in depth and storytelling as it progresses, his memories of his musical rise solid and very colorful. Seemingly enjoying all he went through as a struggling musician on through to his life now, reading between the lines you just know he not only wrote this memoir with a smile, but also lived it in much the same vein.
In closing and simply put, if you grew up in the '60s and love the music of that era - let alone the fact that it's also a story of perseverance and the willingness to chop and change, alter musical stylings and adapt accordingly with the times - then this is the book is most definitely for you.
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