Category Archives: books

The 58-Year Mission: “Nobody Does It Better,” reviewed for The Washington Post

DR NO briefing

I was a big fan of Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’s two-volume Star Trek oral history The Fifty-Year Mission, so I fairly leapt at the chance to review Nobody Does It Better, their new oral history of the James Bond movies, for the Paper of Record. It’s not as illuminating or contradictory as their Trek books, though I was delighted to find some comments from my pal Matt Gourley within its (seven! hundred!) pages.

Dad Rock of Ages: Twilight of the Gods, reviewed in The Washington Post

rolling-stones-bild-04-2009-CMS-SourceMy first Washington Post byline in two years in a review of Steven Hyden’s new book Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock. I had it with me on my own journey to the end of classic rock, when I caught an Amtrak up to New York two months ago to see Springsteen on Broadway. (I wrote up my impressions for Slate.) Strangely enough, my prior Post item was a review of Hyden’s previous book, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me. That book was good. This one is better. Maybe your mom would enjoy receiving a copy on Sunday. I don’t know. I don’t know your mom.

Rock Island Party Line: Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World by Billy Bragg

Lonnie Donegan collectionFor the Dallas Morning News, I reviewed folk singer Billy Bragg’s new history of skiffle, a largely forgotten British musical form that linked blues and “trad jazz” with rock and roll in the mid-to-late 1950s. Enjoy.

Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me, reviewed for Washington Post Book World

Favorite Band

I’ve admired music critic Steven Hyden’s writing in Grantland since I first took notice of it a couple of years ago, so I was grateful for the opportunity to review his new book, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life, for the Washington Post. If you’d like to read an excerpt from one of my favorite chapters, about the mid-80s clash of egos between Michael Jackson and PrinceSlate ran a piece of that chapter the day that Prince died.

I haven’t written about Prince (save for a few hundred Tweets) because I’ve been busy and I’ve found the prospect of it too overwhelming. His sudden death hit me much harder than Bowie’s did. I’m not sure why. I had enormous admiration for both of them, but I listen to Prince a lot more.

George Jones Talks About His Greatest Lines

My review of Rich Kienzle’s new biography The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones, is in Sunday’s Washington Post. There’s probably some other stuff in there that would be good to read, too, I bet.

Here’s a paragraph I had to cut for space.

Amid his dutiful, carefully sourced recounting of booze-lubricated recording sessions and singles, Kienzle highlights some amusingly unexpected sides of Jones, like when he told his ex-wife Tammy Wynette in a 1980 interview in Country Music (a magazine Kienzle contributed to for 24 of its 31 years) that if he had to find a second career he would enjoy being an interior decorator. He might fare better than he did as the proprietor of three outdoor country music parks, which he opened at three different points in his life and quickly abandoned. He was also wanton enough with his brand to lend it to random products: George Jones Country Sausage and, also, troublingly, George Jones Country Gold Dog Food and Cat Food. Kienzle notes that a TV spot for the latter was called “George Jones Talks About His Greatest Lines.” If a TV commercial has to have a title, that’s either an unfortunate one or a brilliant one for a pitch from a man whose life and career were so damaged by an eight-year dalliance with cocaine.

I wouldn’t ordinarily be so flip discussing something as serious as an addiction problem, but that ad beggars belief.

Audrey and Bill, reviewed for Washington Post Book World

Audrey Hepburn and William Holden in a promotional image for Billy Wilder's "Sabrina," 1954.I reviewed Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, a crummy book about the two stars’ affair during the making of Sabrina in the early 50s, for The Washington Post. If decades-old Hollywood gossip is your bag, I recommend Karina Longworth’s podcast You Must Remember This. The author of Audrey and Bill, Edward Z. Epstein, is a former publicist; Longworth is film critic and historian. It’s a crucial difference.

UPDATE: Whoops, You Must Remember This already covered Hepburn and Sabrina. 

WaPo Book Review: Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams, & Rumours

Stevie Nicks - Dreams, Visions, RumoursMy review of Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams, & Rumours, a new biography by British rock journalist Zoë Howe, is in today’s Washington Post.

Almost all of the music that shaped my taste at an impressionable age is contemporaneous with Fleetwood Mac‘s heyday – 1975 to 1989 or so – but I never got into that band though they’ve obviously written some sublime songs. I won’t pretend to have more than a passing familiarity with their catalog, but the ones I’ve always liked are Nicks’, especially “Landslide” and “Dreams,” their only No. 1 hit. Continue reading