Monday, September 25, 2017

Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars: Conversations 1975 – 1995 (2017) Book Review

How much are we shaped by the music we hear in our youth? How much is our perspective affected by certain songs? And what do we learn from that music and those musicians? I remember reading interviews with certain artists even in my pre-teens, and perhaps weighing their words a bit more heavily than they deserved. But what about those folks who were doing the interviewing? Were their lives and perspectives changed as a result of the words and thoughts of the musicians they interviewed?

Bill Paige, in his new book, Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars: Conversations 1975 – 1995, seems to answer Yes. He has worked as a music journalist, as well as in public relations and promotion, and has interviewed many famous musicians over the years. The book contains a collection of published pieces, but also functions as personal memoir, always with the focus on music. At the beginning, he gives a bit of background on his childhood and early adulthood as it relates to music. (He, like I, was a radio DJ in college.) The pieces are arranged chronologically, with the name of the artist in question used as the chapter title, so that’s it easy to find pieces on whichever artists you’re most interested in.

There are snippets of interviews, including Burton Cummings of The Guess Who, and both Peter Wolf and Magic Dick of The J. Geils Band. It’s great that Peter Wolf and Magic Dick are interviewed together, because they riff off each other, and that’s part of what makes it such an enjoyable interview. There is also an interview with the members of Shoes, a band I knew basically nothing about. I like that the server’s lines are included. I also really like the Grace Slick piece, and the ones on Steve Goodman and Lindsey Buckingham. The book contains some interesting information about Genesis, and details of Electric Light Orchestra’s stage design. Some of the information is surprising. Roy Orbison didn’t perform in New York until 1972? That’s insane! And Boy George wanted to be in Bow Wow Wow? There are some humorous anecdotes, like that about a missing contact lens which was found by Joe Jackson, and about Roy Orbison’s “Claudette.”

Bill Paige provides introductions to each section, in which he shares some of the things he’s learned. For example, he writes: “Conversations with industry veterans Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane and Starship, ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch, and Jay Ferguson, a founding member of the band Spirit who sang on the 1968 hit ‘I Got A Line On You,’ revealed that musicians are subject to a variety of mid-life crises” (p. 68). There are lots of interesting anecdotes and tidbits, though not really any big life lessons. As you might guess, as a result of reading this book, the list of albums I want to purchase has grown. I’m particularly interested in Mick Fleetwood’s The Visitor. It sounds like a fascinating and fantastic album, and I’m wondering how no one has turned me onto it before. I’m also wondering if that backing track Mick Fleetwood recorded for “Street Fighting Man” has been released yet.

This book is an enjoyable and fairly quick read, and it’s set up such that you can, if you so choose, pick certain sections to read and bounce around as your interests dictate. There are several pages of photos in the middle of the book, including one of a letter written by Kurt Vonnegut, one of my two favorite writers (the other being Shakespeare). The information on who is in each photo is contained at the back of the book rather than on the pages with the photos.

Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars: Conversations 1975 – 1995 was released on July 1, 2017 through Eckhartz Press. It is 443 pages.

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