The book was completed just before Graham was killed in a helicopter wreck about a year ago.
Without ever directly addressing the point, the book reminds us that the San Francisco-based promoter laid the foundation for many landmark moments in rock music. Graham tells us about opening the Fillmore auditoriums on both coasts and believing in bands like the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane when they were only local acts. We're shown the role Graham had in organizing both Woodstock and the doomed concert at Altamont Speedway. The promoter gives us the inside scoop on organizing rock for charity and how it nearly fell apart with the Live Aid and Amnesty International shows.
As one might expect, the dressing-room tales are wonderfully colorful, and Graham is ready to tell even the most self-incriminating ones. Included are detailed accounts of physical brawls with Led Zeppelin's security force, as well as the fistfuls of money given to the Rolling Stones and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to encourage encores. Graham is never hesitant to mention names or allow criticism of himself. At one point, he unabashedly states that a monetary scuffle with the Band led to his closing of the Fillmore auditoriums. But to its credit, the book gives Band guitarist Robbie Robertson equal time in offering his viewpoint.
Bill Graham Presents is a history of the excesses and ludicrous moments in the developing rock scene, with the incredulous Graham forever shaking his head at the figures he showcased. We're given a thousand anecdotes about our rock n' roll heroes, while also getting an uncomplaining glimpse of the headaches and overwhelming mechanics of bringing music to the masses. It's as though Graham offers the reader a stageside seat to watch the best and craziest acts from Haight-Ashbury days onward. The book may prove to be the greatest show Graham ever produced.--Dave McElfresh
Jazz Spoken Here: Conversations With Twenty-Two Musicians
Wayne Enstice and Paul Rubin
(Louisiana State University Press)
It should be officially named "The Interview magazine" syndrome. It's a proven fact that question-and-answer interviews are boring to read. The key to luring people to read a Q&A is the intrinsic value of its subject. An interview with Kenny G, for example, would not be worth reading. One with John Coltrane, on the other hand, would be printed ambrosia. Using that formula, Enstice and New Times staff writer Rubin have stacked the deck in their favor by including such fascinating (and now-deceased) subjects as Art Blakey, Bill Evans and Charles Mingus. The interviews were conducted from 1978 to 1985.
Overall, Jazz Spoken Here is too deep to appeal much to the casual fan. Jazzers, however, will find it a rich mine filled with details, like Sonny Stitt introducing himself to a startled Charlie Parker on a Kansas City street or Clark Terry discussing Buddy Bolden's trumpet technique. Besides the subjects, this collection works because both Enstice and Rubin are skilled interviewers who did their homework before each interview. The one gaping omission is the book's lack of any female jazz figures.--Robert Baird
She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll
Gillian G. Gaar
When you watch a band like Hole perform, the words to that old cigarette ad drift back into your mind: "You've come a long way, baby." After 30 years of being only singers, women rockers are now adding new creativity and perspective to every genre of music, including high-testosterone sanctum sanctorums like death-metal and grind-core. Women are now routinely outgrossing (financially and otherwise), outwriting and outplaying a lot of guys. Megastardom is defined by Madonna and Bonnie Raitt. Female players are founding members of important alternative bands like Sonic Youth and the Pixies. In short, women ain't stuck looking up to just Suzi Quatro and Billie Holiday anymore.
Because women have finally begun to break down the sexist barriers that have made them second-class citizens of rock n' roll, it's high time for a comprehensive "herstory" of rock n' roll. A senior editor at Seattle's thriving music tabloid The Rocket, Gaar has written a readable, well-researched and, for the most part, well-conceived history of women in rock n' roll. She's interviewed most of the major female figures in rock--from Ruth Brown to manager Linda Clark. And as well as writing about the obvious choices--Janis Joplin, the Supremes, Carole King, Madonna--Gaar has also unearthed material on pioneering unknowns such as the Gingerbreads and Deadly Nightshade. The writing throughout is concise. Gaar's discussion of the early women rockabilly pioneers, for example, is peppered with nuggets like the story of Cordell Jackson, the real-life rockabilly legend who blew Stray Cat Brian Setzer off the stage in the recent beer commercial. Perhaps this book's strongest feature is the way Gaar treats the "girl group" novelty acts of the 50s and 60s. Instead of berating them as fluffy or wailing over the wrongs done them by the music business, Gaar paints a balanced portrait of what they accomplished despite the fact that they were hemmed in by the sexist attitudes of that time.