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U2U2 FAQ
John D Luerssen
(Backbeat)

I hesitate to trot out that tired old staple ‘does what it says on the tin/box/etc.’ [too bloody late for that now – Ed] but if you can’t fathom what this book is likely to contain might I suggest you stick to the old X-Box. Given the plethora of reading matter that already exists about the Irish quartet it’s hard to imagine there can be much more worth digging up on Bono and pals, but in fact this ‘dip in and come again’ effort is perfectly suited to those of us not fully acquainted with the band (I kept it handily close to the toilet, perfect for those ten/fifteen minute reading bouts), and I would imagine the sheer weight of info on offer must include several new nuggets for even the most jaded fan (did you know Kirsty MacColl chose the running order of The Joshua Tree?). Of course by its very nature this type of outing does lend itself to some repetition and a fair bit of ho-hum-ness, for example every single U2 track can’t (and doesn’t) have a worthy anecdote to support it and several of the facts are just plain dull (one of Bono's favourite religeous songs is 'Amazing Grace'!!). But, these nits picked, this is a very readable effort for both U2 followers and newbies alike.
The Oracle

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December 8, 1980December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died
Keith Elliot Greenberg (Backbeat)

Given that there are at least a dozen books on John Lennon already in existence (and that’s not including the forest bothering mountain of Beatles tomes), what, if anything, makes December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died worthy of your attention? Well in truth if you are a long term Beatle fan probably very little as there are no startling new revelations, no new twists or turns and no real involvement from the major players. What there is however is a very readable account of Lennon’s life up to that fateful day - for those of you born this side of the year in question on December 8th 1980 Mark Chapman shot John Lennon five times in the back and then remained at the scene of the crime until he was subsequently arrested by police. Pleading guilty he was then sentenced to twenty years to life, and has since been denied parole on six separate occasions (the last being September 7th 2010). The real tragedy to all this is of course that Sean never really got to know his father properly and Julian, having finally begun to get to know him again, had him so cruelly snatched away.
The Oracle

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Forever ChangesForever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love
John Einarson (Jawbone)

I’ll likely get a fair stack of hate mail for saying this but Arthur Lee really was a bit of a tosser. A bully from an early age who remained one right up until his demise - at the admittedly early age of just 61 - he made idiotic decisions (turning down both Woodstock and Monterey and refusing to tour in support of his early, successful albums), and his obsession with money became a bone of contention with just about everyone he ever worked with, indeed he alienated pretty much every musician he ever met. He also made an awful lot of pretty duff albums. So why is he held in such high regard? In two words Forever Changes, one of the most ground-breaking and influential albums ever recorded, and naturally enough, as it was so well loved and he was such an ornery bugger, for the vast majority of his career Lee would have nothing to do with it. That said Lee’s life story makes for fascinating reading (Einarson does a tremendous job narrating the tale, interspersing his own work with plenty of Lee’s own purple prose), and it’s likely that once picked up you won’t be putting this down very quickly. Just don’t expect to like the man.
The Oracle

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Little RichardLittle Richard: The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll
David Kirby (Continuum)

Not a biography of Richard Wayne Penniman (for that you would need The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography by Charles White), more a biography of the track that launched his career. Indeed Kirby only actually talks to Richard at any length once on the phone – whilst visiting one of Richard’s relatives - and rather than gleaning any useful information from the notoriously awkward singer/preacher (delete as applicable depending on how Richard feels when he wakes up in the morning), he only manages to have his wallet emptied into the waiting purse of the closely hovering relative. The lack of Richard’s input is however no impediment to the narrative as Kirby makes his argument – and a cogently argued, perfectly reasonable, argument it is too – for ‘Tutti Frutti’ being the wellspring of rock ‘n’ roll, and if on occasion things get slightly academic in tone that would almost certainly be due to Kirby’s day job as Professor of English at Florida State University. Of course the same argument could reasonably be made for, amongst others, Fats Domino’s ‘The Fat Man’, Chuck Berry’s ‘Maybellene’ or Big Mama Thornton’s version of Leiber and Stollers ‘Hound Dog’ but that doesn’t make this any less of an entertaining read.
The Oracle

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John Lydon: Stories Of Johnny
(Chrome Dreams)

A collection of essays about John Lydon, much like the recent collection of interviews with Tom Waits, was always going to be entertaining, and such proves to be the case. So we have Greil Marcus being all bookish and wordy contemplating lofty themes and confusing the hell out of this reader. Kris Needs writing like an enthusiastic journeyman hack/
musician, and being all the more entertaining because of it (he also had plenty of interview time with the notoriously spiky interviewee who obviously finds him less tiresome than most journos he encounters). Legs McNeil brings a punky yank slant to the proceedings, which lends a whole new angle to some things and misses the point entirely on others (proving the Sex Pistols meant something totally different culturally to our American cousins) whilst yet another US interloper, Judy Nylon, gives us all the ‘I was there’ goss, and in consequence provides probably the most entertaining read here. Of the remainder Clinton Heylin thoroughly deconstructs the ramshackle and bad tempered Public Image story and there's also an extensive recent Pat Gilbert interview. Barb Jungr is a bit dull, Alan Clayson is workmanlike and Nigel Williamson takes the opportunity to write about himself, which is nice...
Ruby Palmer

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