Sunday, August 31, 2014

Is it worth it?

Kevin Avery's EVERYTHING IS AN AFTERTHOUGHT: THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF PAUL NELSON (2011) is a sad, beautiful, heartbreaking book. If you're a fan of rock criticism or just plain great writing, you ought to check it out. But you might end up crying like a baby by the end of it.
Paul Nelson was among the first rock critics. He started writing about folk music in THE LITTLE SANDY REVIEW, a magazine he published back in 1963, during the early-'60s "folk boom." He started writing about pop music when Bob Dylan "went electric" at the Newport Folk Festival.
After that, Nelson wrote for CIRCUS, ROLLING STONE, THE VILLAGE VOICE, MUSICIAN and others, and was the record-review editor for ROLLING STONE in the early '80s -- a job he walked away from when RS Publisher Jann Wenner tried to impose more control on the magazine's music critics.
Nelson also worked in publicity and A&R for Mercury Records in the early '70s, where -- among other things -- he signed and helped handle the New York Dolls.
Avery follows Nelson through his rock-critic and record-company life, and into the confused period that followed. Nelson's bio -- which takes half the book -- is a case study in the fact that you can have a sharp mind, a creative outlook, and all the writing talent in the world ... and it still won't help you deal with Real Life.
Nelson had trouble dealing with The Real World, and it pretty-much ate him up.
The book is saddest in the confusing period after Nelson leaves RS and begins drifting. He writes a little, gets published in MUSICIAN, pulls together three books with help -- his bio on Rod Stewart was completed by fellow critic Lester Bangs, who wrote 88 pages in a weekend while Nelson managed five -- and withdraws farther and farther from people. He tries to write books on Clint Eastwood, Neil Young, Jackson Browne -- and he can't do it.
His last few years, he ends up working in a video store -- the great obsessions of his life were movies, music and books -- and is practically homeless. At the very end of his 70 years, Nelson starts drawing Social Security payments -- but even when he has money in the bank, he can't handle it. He's so used to being broke that after he dies, his friends find sticky-notes all around his apartment that read "I've got $2. I'm hungry. Thirsty. I need some meals."
At the end, Nelson's own reclusiveness, OCD, and something like Alzheimer's gang up to finish him. His body isn't found for a week. In New York City. In July.
This is tough to read. Though short, Avery's bio is solid and beautifully written. And there's much more in it -- about the marriage that went bad, the girlfriends who barely knew Paul, the son he barely knew. And there are quotes from dozens of Nelson's friends -- fellow rock critics as well as "normal people," folks who helped Nelson, and dozens who say they WOULD have helped, if only they'd known, if only Nelson had SAID SOMETHING. Instead, he withdrew.
The other half of the book is some of Nelson's best writing -- on Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and more. And there's a HILARIOUS 30-page look back at those five years Nelson spent at Mercury. It must have been hell to live through, but it's great to read. I remembered several of the interviews and reviews from when they first appeared in RS, MUSICIAN and elsewhere.
Here's what scares me: I see Nelson's tendencies clearly in myself and others I've known. The creativity, the obsessiveness, and the withdrawal when things get tough. I don't want to end up like this, and I wouldn't want my friends to, either.
This is the fourth book I've read recently by or about rock writers that clearly shows the job is anything but a dream. Bob Palmer's BLUES AND CHAOS gathered his best work -- and it was informative and well-written, but kind of dull except for the occasional obvious joke. Palmer was a heroin addict from what he called "the William Burroughs school of junkies," and he died of liver failure.
Richard Meltzer's A WHORE LIKE ALL THE REST and Nick Tosches' READER gather their best work -- in Tosches' case his writing covers a wide range. Meltzer's WHORE collects just his music writing. I think both of these "noise boys" kind of trashed their talent, though I'm sure they'd disagree, and both have cranked-out lots of books. They don't seem very happy, though. Meltzer is pretty bitter about his rock-crit days.
As someone says in the Nelson book, there's no 401k plan for rock writers. But there's got to be a better retirement plan than being sick and broke and alone.

Monday, August 18, 2014


My newspaper-memoir e-book THE CONFESSOR is available FREE up through Aug. 22 at's Kindle Store. Just punch in the book's title and it should come right up.
Hopefully you'll find it's worth more than 3 stars -- I think there's some good laughs and some wild stories in it. See what YOU think.
And you can thank me later.

My newspaper-novel e-book THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE is almost finished -- I just have to proofread the whole thing. I'm hoping to have it out by Aug. 21, but I can't guarantee it. It looks like this monster is at least 220 pages long....
I'm also shocked to announce -- to those of you who've read THE CONFESSOR -- that 90-percent of this new book is brand NEW stuff about the newspaper business that I didn't know I still had in me -- the wildest, funniest stories about 10 years of living as a newspaper guy in small towns. I PROMISE it won't be recycled crap you've (maybe) already read.

More soon. Hopefully next time I'll have a brand-new e-book to announce....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book update, etc.

Work proceeds on my "good-parts version" newspaper novel/e-book THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Wrote 3,000 words of NEW stuff today before coming to work -- wrote 8,000 words of NEW stuff on Tuesday. The thing has its own momentum now, it's over 64,000 words long, and I MIGHT have it done by my birthday on the 21st, though I think that's pushing it. I think it's good -- and it's way happier than the newspaper memoir was. Even the stuff I was not thrilled about writing has come out OK, and I'm surprised I had this much NEW material left.
Would like to get the thing done by the 21st so I can have bragging rights -- 4 books written in a year! But we'll see how it goes.
I'm still not rich from doing this yet, but I'm hoping....

Oh, started my "side job" on Monday, the hottest day of the year here, so far. Dusted-off a ceiling fan, cleaned paint off a heating vent, sanded down a hunk of wood, talked some, got a tour of the guy's house that he's remodeling room-by-room. ... After 3 hours he tossed me $50 and told me to get lost 'til next week! Hey, I'll take $50 for doing Nothing Much anytime!
I officially cashed-out my vacation week today so I can stay ahead of the bills -- so no trip home to Idaho 'til next year! Am also piling up stuff for my next trip to Half-Price Books in Tacoma ... but don't send money yet, I'm actually in pretty good shape right now....

Hey, it sucks about Robin Williams. He was really great. Depression is the worst. This country has got to wake up about mental health issues. This stuff really messes people up.
Too bad about Lauren Bacall, too. She was one classy dame....
More soon....

Friday, August 8, 2014

Notes from the bookstore, etc.

Thank Ghod for the folks at Half-Price Books in Tacoma. I took five huge boxes of music and books to them on Tuesday, figuring I might get $50 from them, maybe $75 if they were generous.
They gave me $160 -- enough for me to pay my roommate the rent money he expected, grab a couple cheap books to bring home (two travel books by Paul Theroux), and crawl through the rest of this week until payday arrives again.
I told the Half Price folks they were wonderful -- they probably wondered what kind of meds I was on.
It's possible I might miss some of what I took in -- but most of it was music I couldn't get into, vinyl I had duplicated on CD, books I couldn't get into, or that I'd read once and liked but probably would never have time to re-read -- life's too short now and I've got my own stuff to do.
I might miss some of the music -- Gong, Soft Machine, Hatfield and the North, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Strawbs, Dixie Dregs, Return to Forever, etc. But hey -- if it don't work for you, there's no point forcing it, right? So.
I'm already thinking there's more stuff in the house I might be able to sell.
And my painting/cleanup job starts on Monday. If I survive, it should be good for an extra $60 a week for four hours of work.
I might not starve yet.

93 crazy people grabbed copies of my record-store-memoir e-book GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! while it was available free last week. Ghod bless you all. I didn't get rich doing this, but I hope y'all might take a chance on the NEXT one....
Work continues on my newspaper novel, THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Am still writing a couple of new scenes each day. Am now to the point where I am streamlining the plot and reading through my "framework" for novelization purposes. Anybody Out There who survived reading my newspaper memoir THE CONFESSOR will probably recognize some of the situations -- but this version is funnier. And a lot of it's brand new.
I'll keep you posted -- I'd like to have the new book done by Aug. 21 so I can say I wrote four e-books in a year, but that might be rushing it. Should at least have something fun to read by the fall.
More soon....

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Sales" update 2

Good Lord -- So far, 73 crazy people have picked up FREE copies of my record-store memoir/e-book GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! from's Kindle Store. If you haven't already read this shocking expose that blows the lid off of what REALLY happened at record stores across the country back in the early 1980's ... well, you've got a couple more days to grab it for free. Just visit Amazon's Kindle Store and punch in the title. And while you're there, you can download the first 20 pages of any of my e-books for FREE to try them out.
Of course, I don't get rich when you do this. But maybe you should just send your troublesome spare cash to me at this blog. Ghod knows I could use it. Maybe I'll put out a tip jar....
Oh, and my newspaper memoir THE CONFESSOR will be available free the week of Aug. 21....

Meanwhile, work continues on my small-town newspaper novel, THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. I'm still writing a couple of new scenes each day -- as happened with the record-store book, the more I remember, the more I CAN remember. For those of you who survived reading THE CONFESSOR, this novel will be "the good parts version," with more NEW lighter and funnier stories. I'm surprised by how much material I still have. Still hoping to have something completed by the fall.

Meanwhile, due to the cutbacks at work, I'm looking toward working through my planned vacation to try and pile up a little extra cash and stay ahead of the bills. I'm also looking at taking a part-time job helping a guy re-paint his house. He says he'll pay cash! My problem is I have too much overhead from old bills, and being cut back 10 hours each month is fairly serious money ... which is starting to have its impact felt by yours truly. I'm thinking I may not have another day off for awhile....

If you're wondering, there's a reason why I'm writing here more often. The girlfriend and I haven't broken up, but we're seeing a LOT less of each other, due to a clash I had with her 31-year-old son a month or so ago. We'd Had Words a few times before, but this last clash was IT. I'm tired of being messed with by drunks, and I'm tired of his attitude. So I'm staying away. Life's too short -- who needs the headaches?

By the way, this blog passed 40,000 page-views awhile back. Thank you all.

Hoping you and yours are well....
More eventually....

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oh, by the way....

...My record-store-memoir e-book GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! is supposed to be available FREE through the first five days of August at Whenever Aug. 1 "starts" -- I just checked at Amazon and they hadn't reduced the price yet. But assuming they DO, all you gotta do is go to Amazon's Kindle Store and punch in the title, and it should pop right up for you. And of course you can download the first 20 pages for free anytime, as you can with any of my e-books.
So, if you haven't yet read this massive international best-seller that blows the lid off of early-'80s record-store culture ... well, now's your chance. For free.
You can thank me later.

Aretha and Al Green best-of CD's have arrived and are playing to rave reviews with customers. And they seem to relax ME pretty good, too.
I knew Aretha was great, but I didn't know she was GREAT. Some of this great stuff I've never heard before. Some of it I haven't heard in 40 years -- "Spanish Harlem" sounds WAY better now. And how come nobody ever told me about "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" or "Dr. Feelgood"?
As for the Reverend Al, I hadn't heard most of the hits off of his best-of in 40 years. "Let's Stay Together" still sounds great, and the rest sound real fine. I remember pretty-much hating "Tired of Being Alone" back in '71. I remember hating a lot of R&B/Soul when I was growing up -- it kept getting in the way of the good stuff that I wanted to hear more of. You know, like Three Dog Night and the Carpenters and the Partridge Family.
Yeezus, I was an idiot. Just a stupid white kid from Idaho. So it's taken me 40 years to be able to HEAR this stuff.
The thing that gets me about the Reverend Al is that even the FILLER sounds pretty good -- "Love Ritual" and "Belle" and some other non-hits sound just fine. Not sure what he's up to with the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" though.
And Al's "Take Me to the River" sure is different from the Talking Heads'. Neither version ever quite EXPLODES, though both sound like they're GOING to....
Anyway, have gotten more reactions to these than anything else I've played in the store in a long time. Had several women dancing, one who got QUITE into "I've Never Loved a Man" ... and other folks bouncing musical suggestions off of me like The Brothers Johnson and Wah-Wah Watson and Herbie Hancock. I'll have to see what else I can dig up. Brothers Johnson could really move sometimes. Bet THEY'VE got a best-of out there somewhere....
Need to get some James Brown into this joint, too....

(PS -- Just checked again at Amazon, they DID get that freebie deal goin'....)