on December 31, 2009
This book was given to me as a Christmas present, and I was excited at the prospect of reading it as I am a fan of rock music and I have read other anecdotal books of this type and found them enjoyable. Unfortunately, I was immediately put off by the writing style, which relies on a heavy overuse of footnotes, many of which are obviously only there as feeble attempts at humor. I mean, how many times can you make a statement only to recant it in a footnote? Many times says the author. Still willing to soldier through the ungainly prose in search of some good rock and roll dish I soon was even further put off by the obvious anti-American tone that began to emerge, particularly in the footnotes. All of that paled in comparison, however, when I reached page 118, and read the line "On August 25 2001, just 17 days before Osama bin Laden played Giant Jenga with the Twin Towers..", I decided that life was too short to continue with this drivel and threw the book aside in disgust. I did feel strongly enough to write this review so that potential readers can have a better idea what they are in for. I also took time to search the internet, which was a heavily footnoted source for the "author" and according to the 2 minutes research I did found that the country suffering the 2nd highest loss in the 9/11 attacks with 67 was the United Kingdom, which makes it even more appalling. Finally, let me say that I am a big fan of British humor, I just wish that I had found some in the parts of this book that I was able to stomach.
on June 3, 2009
What the author said about Buddy Holly is offensive and disrespectful. Buddy Holly did not die mysteriously, but in a horrific plane crash that also took the lives of Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. It was "the day the music died," as Don McLean famously sang in his song "American Pie". Holly also sadly left behind a pregnant widow who subsequently had a miscarriage and never got over his passing.
James Brown did not have a hit in the mid-90s with "Living In America". It was the mid-80s and was featured in Sylvester Stallone's Rocky IV.
Axl Rose did play the piano at the VMAs with Elton John on the GNR song, "November Rain". They both played piano; there were two pianos.
There was no mystery person that Elvis was cracking up at during his 70s concert performance of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?". The only mystery person was the man himself because he had completely lost himself in prescription drugs and couldn't remember the words.
Americans don't say 'potarto'.
Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad" is an excellent album.
It's a given fact (much like Jane Austen's line about a single man et cetera) that rock stars not only behave badly, but that they always have done so.
And over a half century or so, rock'n'rollers have acquired a large number of crazy rumors, stories, and anecdotes. But despite its name, "Rock Star Babylon: Outrageous Rumors, Legends, and Raucous True Tales of Rock and Roll Icons" is not raucous or outrageous -- while a few stories are worthy of rock'n'roll outrageousness, Jon Holmes mostly dredges up the old or unoutrageous stories in insistently unfunny prose.
It opens with a tale of a kangaroo hit by a band bus, which these sensitive musicians then dressed in a jacket and sunglasses, and took pictures with it. Too bad the kangaroo wasn't QUITE dead (it's getting better!), and went hopping off into the outback with the ignition keys in its pocket. Ah, karma, how sweet thou art.
And then we've got lots of other stories (some untrue) -- the stomach-full-of-semen one, a pop star's racist attack, a testicle testimony, over-the-top parties, seminude bonfire dances, airborne musical effects, the legendary"Mars Bar" story, a church filled with pigs, a German interviewer's "seizure," little people with headtrays of cocaine, a HIV message carved into a torso, and many other bizarre and sometimes grotesque little stories. And they range in focus from the Rolling Stones to Damon Albarn to some pop stars I've never heard of.
In theory, any book called "Rock Star Babylon" should have some really outrageous, juicy stories in it, or at least produce some that haven't been heard many times before. And there are some horrendously funny stories from time to time, such as a story about Ozzy Osbourne's attempt to film a music video in a pig-filled church, only to have the music, erm, startle the pigs, causing them to befoul said church. Call it a divine message.
Unfortunately despite a wealth of grotesque and shocking rock'n'roll material, Jon Holmes only produces a few of those throughout the entire book -- most of the truly shocking and/or outrageous stuff he covers in this book is stuff that is already pretty well-known, such as Led Zeppelin's "red snapper" story or the "Stevie Nicks has cocaine blown up her butt" legend.
Well, those are the shocking ones -- the ones heard before. Most of them are frankly very UN-shocking. Yes, it's obnoxious that Keith Richards wouldn't go onstage without a shepherd's pie beforehand, but it's not exactly "outrageous."How is it a rock star story that a bunch of guys were watching Damon Albarn's girlfriend changing her clothes? HE didn't do anything. And why are disastrous concept albums, experiments and concerts considered "outrageous?" Ridiculous, yes, but not outrageous.
It doesn't help that Jon Holmes appears to be acutely aware of the flimsiness of his material, because he stretches it thin with lots of not-very-interesting personal anecdotes and heavy footnoting. And though he's apparently a comedian, his shrill humor wears thin after about twenty-five pages -- oh look, jokes about dumb Americans and pervert priests, as well as half-forgotten British celebs like Charlotte Church. How droll and witty.
"Rock Star Babylon: Outrageous Rumors, Legends, and Raucous True Tales of Rock and Roll Icons" had more than enough material to live up to its name, but Jon Holmes' poor selections and yawnworthy writing make this more of a "Rock Star Retirement Home."
on May 21, 2010
Reading this book is like suffering through a bad set of "take my wife... please" jokes told by an annoying amateur comedian. You've heard 90% of these stories before, and they're all delivered with an obnoxious elbow-in-the-ribs, nudge-nudge-wink-wink style that gets tired very quickly. There are a couple of chuckles in there, but they are all due to the humor of the original events being described and are funny rather despite the author than due to any effort of his in relating them. A good collection of such rock & roll anecdotes is long overdue, but this isn't it.