Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Rolling Stones and Brian Wilson

Two short music-related book reviews by me.
Originally published in The Miami Herald in October 2006.

Exile On Main Street: A Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones. Robert Greenfield. Da Capo. 258 pages.

Some works of art and commerce are immediately appreciated but others grow into it. The Rolling Stones’ now-legendary two-record set, Exile On Main Street, yielded one hit, “Tumbling Dice,” when it came out in 1972. But the dense and diverse collection of boozy blues and hot-wired pop eventually attained mythical status. Robert Greenfield, author of “STP,” a chronicle of the Stones’ star-studded tour of America in support of that album, returns 35 years later with this dusky and gossipy eyewitness account of the kinky sex and toxic drugs behind the ferocious rock and roll.

The book evokes the noble rot, restlessness and audacious decadence of the British band, in particular Keith Richards and his partner, Mick Jagger, as they parried and partied while the album slowly came together, mostly in the basement of tax-exile Richards’ rented villa in the south of France. Greenfield’s world-weary voodoo prose resurrects those long-dead days in this sleazily addictive memoir, featuring a memorable cast of characters that you’d never admit to knowing.

Catch A Wave: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. Peter Ames Carlin. Rodale. 342 pages.

Carlin, the TV critic for the Portland Oregonian used his fan’s passion for the Beach Boys and its troubled creative source, Brian Wilson to fuel the relentless research and deft writing that resulted in this, the best musical biography since last year’s massive Beatles book by Bob Spitz. For all his adulation, the author casts a suitably skeptical eye on the legends that make up the Shakespearian tragedy that is Wilson’s life. While generously acknowledging earlier literary attempts to part the roiling seas that nearly drowned the former king of surf music, Carlin adds his own original journalism to complete the story, including a rare recent interview with Wilson’s erstwhile musical partner and frequent nemesis, cousin Mike Love.

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