BOOK REVIEW: “Another Little Piece Of My Heart” by Richard Goldstein

Richard Goldstein photo RichardGoldstein_cover_zpsfc2d3761.jpg Subtitled My Life OF Rock And Revolution In The ’60s, Another Little Piece Of My Heart (Bloomsbury) is not so much Richard Goldstein’s autobiography but a few chapters of the life he has lived five decades ago, when his career started and he started to develop the character in his writer and started to explore the person that is Richard Goldstein.

If you know the name, you’ll know him perhaps for his many years with the Village Voice, which is does get into throughout the book. You’ll know him as a music critic, or as the promo material and the back of the cover states, “the first rock critic”. While the book doesn’t get in-depth about his childhood, what Goldstein does get into in Another Little Piece Of My Heart is the tight link between his love of music, writing, and passion. Throughout the book he gets into the passion for music and writing, why he had the need to write about his favorite bands and albums but he also gets into his passion for passion itself. He gets into his sexuality, finding a deep love for women but also gracing an attraction to men. There were moments throughout this book where I felt he was getting a bit more detailed than I cared to know but again, it’s his life, and thus in order to get to know from a distance what made him become the writer he became, we must know. Thus, the freedom of being a young man in New York City encouraged him to go further.

As the subtitled indicates, the core of this book is about the 1960’s so he touches on The Beatles and how much he loved their music up until Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The book doesn’t get in-depth on anything Beatles-related but he didn’t become a fan of the album until years later, and explains why. He meets up with singers and musicians, but he isn’t a name dropper so don’t expect flashbacks of people you hear on radio everyday. He does talk about Janis Joplin, partly the reason his book is called Another Little Piece Of My Heart but in truth, the passion he has for many things is the pieces of heart he gets to and somehow leave behind, and reading this is a chance to find if he pieces things together or lives life with pieces left behind.

There were moments of this book that I really enjoyed, such as when he touched on some of the semi-secrets of the music industry but this is not that type of book. The hidden treasures are the stories about his life, which includes being involved with the counterculture, discovering LSD and enjoying its trips, and getting involved with local and social politics to where he finds himself having a deep passion for a bit of the ultra violence. The way I’m talking about it here sounds like it’s some kind of fictional story but it’s not. The way Goldstein writes shows how he develops his flashbacks in a way that is meant to build and build until you have to lie in its afterglow. Within those build-ups is someone who isn’t or wasn’t afraid to be who he is/was, or at least to see what happens when he takes himself as far as he can go.

At times, Another Little Piece Of My Heart is less about music and more about… let me put it this way. If there is truth to the phrase “sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll”, this book dips into each bag thoroughly, sometimes more than others. He does get out of the 1960’s but the last 45 years are minute compared to the bulk of the book but we learn how much his writing has changed, how writing more than just music and culture lead him to being known as a gay rights activist, and questions if his style of writing will be read during a time when journalism has drastically changed from when he started to see his name in print for the first time 50 years ago. Goldstein proves his heart, or its pieces, has always been where it needed to be, with occasional visits to where it shouldn’t just to see what it was like, and for the most part he has had no regrets.

(Another Little Piece Of My Heart will be released on April 14th.)

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BOOK REVIEW: “Woodstock: A New Look” by Greg Walter & Lisa Grant

Photobucket Since I was 9, I have been fascinated with the reality and myths of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. I’ve seen the movie on HBO, VHS, the 1994 director’s cut, the PBS and MTV edits, and the recent edition with footage previously unseen. I have yet to see it on the big screen at a proper movie theater, but that’s on my bucket list. I guess it’s the idea of 500,000+ people gathering to see and hear music, but I’ve learned that it was much more than that. Maybe the weekend was a bum trip due to the weather, but people wanted to find others like themselves, and themselves. Maybe the movie helped to create a myth, but the real side of what lead to it, what happened, and its influence is documented in a number of books. I’ve read a lot of them over the years and continue to place new ones I’ve never heard of on my want list. Woodstock: A New Look (The Writers’ Collective) by Greg Walter and Lisa Grant was released a year before the festival’s 40th anniversary, and at the time I wasn’t able to pick it up. A few weeks ago I saw that it was going for a mere penny (yes, one American cent) at Amazon, so I decided it was the perfect time to check it out.

The core of the book is Walter sharing his memories of the festival, from being a young kid in the summer of 1969 with not much to do, to finding himself at a musical festival in Bethel, New York. Along with his story is “never-before-seen photographs” taken by him, or so says the cover. This story is quite interesting, for it speaks about the Vietnam war and what the United States was like, spoken from the view of the young man he was. As I’m reading, one is supposed to look at the photos, beautifully shown in full page form. I’m someone who doesn’t mind the gritty photos, because these are views from someone whose “eye” of the festival has not been widely seen. I don’t mind the professional pics, but I want something that’ll show the muck of the mud, the wet blankets on the fences, all of that. It’s also great to see long distance shots of the stage and the crowd, as I found myself thinking “if I was there, this would be my view”. That might sound incredibly corny, but I think the movie has helped to show a moving perception, but many of the photos here are from the eye of someone either stationary or someone walking around and experiencing and smelling everything that was going on. The photos are very cool.

However, parts of the story seem like they were taken from other sources, or as if someone had listened to the soundtrack or watched the movie and just transcribed things. That’s not to take away from anything else in the book, but at least try to write it differently. Also, I’m not sure if Lisa Grant served as the editor or co-writer in some fashion of the book, but how do you put Janis Joplin on the cover and spell her name as “Janice Joplin” in the book? Or the fact that Walter says he did not get a chance to see “Jimi Hendricks” because he left the night before. Hendricks? There were also a few grammatical errors in the book, and maybe that’s me being a nitpicky editor but I’d like for the flow to be smooth and correct and not have to bump into errors that should have been corrected before publication.

Before I wrote this review, I went to Amazon to see if anyone else felt iffy about Woodstock: A New Look, and there I noticed a 1-star review from Jean E. Pouliot:
When an author releases a full-color coffee table book promising that it “contains never-before-seen photographs” of a cultural touchpoint, I expect something new and amazing. This “Woodstock” was anything but. Worse, its promise is deceptive, quite at odds with the peace and love ethic of the time, but just in time to cash in on the event’s 40 anniversary.

Aged 17 in 1969, author Greg Walter helped build the stage at the Woodstock music festival. Between menial jobs, he shot some slides. Then after the concert, he stuffed them into a box under his bed where they remained for 40 years. Now, Walter and co-author Lisa Grant have assembled these long-lost treasures into a book, along with his stories from the era.

Problem is, half the pictures in the book (the good ones) are not Walter’s. Many are from the AP Images collection and are credited only in the front papers. These include shots from the Chicago riots and from inside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Even the cover shot of Janis Joplin is cribbed from another photographer. The pix that are Walter’s are not very good — they are badly lit, incompetently composed, grainy and uninteresting. The accompanying text is banal, with only a few interesting descriptions of events that went on around him — Abbie Hoffman pushing past him to rush the stage during the Who’s set; a rigid LSD tripper; a shocked young man who had accidentally run over a concert-goer. Given the level of honesty in the pictures, I wonder whether these stories are real.

Avoid this book — on principle if for no other reason.

The fact that Walter had taken pictures at Woodstock, developed the roll, put them in a shoebox and had forgotten them is an interesting story. His memories are just as valid as anyone else. I would have loved to have seen more photos. I’ll also see photos of various artists and those aren’t his, they look too professional compared to Walter’s own. The book definitely has its faults, but was it worth my penny? It’s worth a bit more than that, but I’m glad I did buy it now instead of the $34.95 list price, because I probably would have felt duped if I bought it from an online merchant. It’s more of a photo book with a brief story than anything that is deeply researched, and at times the memories from others who were also at the festival were more interesting. If you go to the library and see Woodstock: A New Look, it’s worth borrowing and you could probably read it in less than an hour.

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COVERED: Big Brother & The Holding Company vs. House Boat

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Normally, I’d get one every few weeks, but in less than a day I have posted four new installments of Covered. Big Brother & The Holding Company was the band that featured Janis Joplin as their vocalist, and when they released their second album (the last to feature Joplin), the album cover captured as much attention as the music itself. Cheap Trills featured cover art from Robert Crumb, whose love of 78rpm records made him create this “antique” looking design for a record that was originally going to be called Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills. Columbia Records had said no, although today it probably would not be an issue.

House Boat are a pop/punk band from New York who are about to release an EP called 21st Century Breakdown, and their cover is definitely homage to Cheap Thrills. It may not be the first time a band has honored the now-famous Crumb illustration, but it’s great to see it honored 45 years later.

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REVIEW: Kat Walker’s “Jazz Scat Gumbo”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Kat Walker is a jazz singer, and I would see she’s decent but she’s not someone I would be listening to on a regular basis. Jazz Scat Gumbo (self-released) is very by-the-numbers, although I can also hear why she might be used for concerts or festivals.

It’s just decent, but it doesn’t move me and I her songs are just typical: “Over The Rainbow”, “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, “The Lady Is A Tramp”, “Cry Me A River”, and “Fever”. The one song that did move me was her cover of “”Me And Bobby McGee” (credited here as simply “Bobbie McGee”). Written by singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson, Walker takes the song into jazz mode and actually makes it her own, which is difficult not only for a song like this, but for one that is identified with Janis Joplin. You get to hear the band strut their stuff too, with pianist Bart Ramsey and saxophonist Dominick Grillo getting a bit of stroll time in the spotlight. I would have liked it if the entire album was as lively as “Me And Bobby McGee”, but it’s a dim light in need of some high voltage. I like the raspiness of Walker’s voice that she does when she sings the blues, and perhaps she should do more blues.

It’s not a bad album, it’s just not for me. But it may be good enough for me and Bobby McGee. Preferred: the artwork Walker did for the CD cover.