Monday, June 21, 2010

It's just bizness II

Here's the 2nd consecutive book I've read in which the Message is that your Dream Job or Dream Career may ultimately not B worth the effort U put in2 it. I hava hard time arguing w/ this.
Philip Norman's EVERYONE'S GONE TO THE MOON (1995) follows the misadventures of young newspaper reporter Louis Brennan as he moves from a nothing job on an undistinguished daily paper somewhere in the North of England in the mid-1960s 2 his Dream Job on the LONDON SUNDAY DISPATCH MAGAZINE (apparently modeled on the real-life LONDON SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE).
Getting his Dream Job is unbelievably EZ 4 Louis. The real challenge comes when he hasta adapt 2 the Reality that Xists at his Dream Job. Bcos even tho Louis gets a chance 2 interview J.R.R. Tolkien, Yoko Ono, Jagger & Richards, Marianne Faithfull, Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton & more, that doesn't necessarily mean all his work gets published. Or that Louis gets even happier when it does.
Turns out his fellow staffers at the SUNDAY DISPATCH MAG are almost all lazy, stuck-up, backstabbing prima donnas, who do suprisingly little work 4 a mag that hasta come out each wk.
Louis latches-on 2 an editor/mentor who at 1st Cms like a really great guy -- supporting & inspiring Louis 2 do more than is required, 2 really shoot 4 the moon. Not that Louis needs much Ncouraging -- the writing is always blissfully EZ 4 him. It never lets him down.
It's PEOPLE who let him down, every time.
Turns out his editor/mentor is 2-faced & lies about almost EVERYTHING. & Louis hasa sorta-girlfriend who it turns out is even WORSE.
It helps that the book takes place during the era of "Swinging London," so it doesn't Cm like a stretch that Louis should Nd up attending a recording session 4 the Beatles' "A Day in the Life," or at a party where Jagger & Richards get arrested 4 drug possession. & Norman was a reporter 4 the LONDON SUNDAY TIMES at the Nd of the '60s, so I'm sure he knows whereof he speaks. The "superstar" guests all Cm like real down-2-Earth people, totally normal & Blievable.
The book is funny & suprising & will definitely carry U along -- & if U've ever quit a really bad, stressful job & remember how great U felt while walking away, the Happy Nding 4 Louis will ring true 4 U.
There R a couple minor problems. There is a LOT of writing about fashion in this book -- understandable, Bcos hip London fashion was a big deal back in the mid-'60s. Norman often Dscribes in great Dtail what a character is wearing -- 2 the point where U may not know what a character looks like, but U have no doubt about what they're dressed in.
Also: Louis has no real inner life. He doesn't Cm 2 think much about the various Btrayals that R inflicted on him. Up til the point at the Nd of the book when he quits his dream job, he just continues 2 B stabbed in the heart repeatedly by his so-called friends. Tho we can C that things upset him, he seldom XPRESSES it 2 NE1. & most of us woulda blown-up or told somebody off LONG B4 Louis does.
We also never get 2 READ NE of Louis's interviews/articles w/ famous folks.
Nevertheless, MOON is such a vivid picture of mid-'60s Swinging London that it's well worth reading -- especially if yr an Anglophile, music fan, frustrated writer... If U've ever worked on NE kind of publication, U'll probly getta kick out of it.
It was good enuf that I went ahead & skimmed thru Norman's Beatles biography, SHOUT! (1981) -- a pretty solid & Dtailed recounting of the Beatles' story, tho if U already know mosta the story (& who doesn't?) I don't think it has much that's new, tho mayB it did at the time....
Also, I learned something from MOON: Amy Johnson, who's referred-2 in Al Stewart's song "Flying Sorcery" (on his YEAR OF THE CAT album), was a real person -- a pioneering English flier who held records 4 solo flights from Britain 2 Australia, & who died in a plane crash in the Thames Estuary in 1941. I thot mayB Amy was just Amelia Earhart under another name, but not so. Guess I don't know my British history as well as I thot....

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's not personal, it's just bizness....

This is disappointing. 4 its 1st 2/3rd's, John Eskow's SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING (1980) is a solid, involving, very-well-written rock&roll novel, as good in its Dtail & Dscription of life in an up&coming R&B/bar band as the 1st 5 chapters of Jesse Sublett's ROCK CRITIC MURDERS.
But w/ the unXpected, un4shadowed murder of Ollie the Roadie -- who's bn protecting the band since pg. 1 of the book -- Eskow loses control of the story & never regains it. The last 3rd spirals down in2 cliches & plotlessness, & tho there's a bittersweet 1-nite reunion scene at the Nd, it's not enuf. Nothing has NE payoff.
Which is 2 bad, Bcos Eskow was on2 a very good thing.
Singer/lyricist Jimmy Caine & brilliant but ever-more-shaky lead guitarist Alan Landreaux head-up NYC bar band Cakewalk, who score a break & start attracting record-co attn just when they thot their ride was over. An oddball Col. Tom Parker-wannabe named Harry Seely offers 2 manage them & guarantees them a record contract within a yr. It happens even faster.
The early chapters, showing Cakewalk in their element, playing in smoky bars & dives around the NYC area, R by far the best part of the book. Eskow has a good eye 4 Dtail, moves his story along w/o straining, & has a way of closing off a good scene w/ a telling line of Dscription or dialogue.
Caine, Landreaux & wisecracking drummer Mikey Martelli R real, believable characters w/ their own odd quirks, bigger than the story they Nd up trapped in. Bassist Paul Baker is a quiet cipher, basically the same at the Nd of the book as he was at the Bginning. The women the band members get close 2 R fully-realized people w/ their own drives & goals, 2.
It's only at the mgmt & record-co Nd that things get a little unreal. Seely is clear as a "type," but he doesn't come across as a real person -- 2 many odd, stagey hangups that don't Cm real. & record-co Bad Guy Wayne Harmon is just a big shadowy-evil presence, clearly in the book Bcos the story needed a Bad Guy.
The story follows Cakewalk thru their last few NYC shows, thru their sessions 2 record their 1st album, & thru their 1st nationwide tour -- during which things go weird & Landreaux is eventually 4ced out of the band 4 what Cms like stupid reasons.
Landreaux goes steadily more nuts. Meanwhile, Caine holds Cakewalk 2gether, & the band records a 2nd, more-commercial album. But the band's growing success doesn't make Caine happy.
Landreaux Nds up heading another band, playing 1-nite gigs until sometime in the future when he won't B able 2 do it NEmore. Caine loses his soul reaching 4 fame & $$$. The only happy people at the Nd of the book R Martelli & his wife Carla, who have made enuf $$$ 2 live comfortably, settle down & raise a family.
& the murder-conspiracy plot that develops in the last 1/2 of the book doesn't help. Seely Nds up w/ a trashed career when 2 people R killed thru the conspiracy, & Harmon -- the Bad Guy -- Gets Away With It. But 4 WHAT? 2 protect a stash of world-class bootleg recordings -- that nothing's ever done with? Nothing has NE payoff.
MayB Eskow didn't have a big, dramatic, fireworks-filled way 2 Nd his novel. But the disappointment Xpressed by mosta the characters & the brief reunion at the very Nd Rn't enuf, either. MayB Real Life turns out this way when U discover yr career wasn't worth the effort U put in2 it, but a successful novel requires something more, something bigger. Thru the final 3rd of the book it's obvious Eskow didn't have it. & I can't figure out what he was aiming 4.
If U liked the portrait of bar-band life shown in Sublett's ROCK CRITIC MURDERS, there's a lot more of it here. The 1st 2/3rd's of the book is well worth tracking down.