Warren Zevon was the very definition of the enigmatic artist. In Accidentally Like a Martyr: The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon (Backbeat Books), author James Campion attempts to separate the man from the myth by first analyzing the lyrics in several of his songs, then by talking with the family, friends and colleagues who knew him best. Campion secured interviews with Zevon’s ex-wife, and kids, plus J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne, and many others.
We chat with the life-long, self-proclaimed “Zevon-head” about doing a book on his favorite artist, plus how he tracked down all the great interviews for the book. We also discuss how Zevon felt about his one, smash hit “Werewolves of London.”
First time on CD for a pair of underrated solo albums from the ex-Byrd
Chris Hillman was a late-bloomer. He began as the bassist, and occasional vocalist for the seminal 60’s band, the Byrds. Yet, his early songs sounded tentative, and video footage of him from that time period revealed an uncomfortable rockstar. Who could’ve guessed that much bigger success for him lurked right around the corner?
Eventually, Hillman would help found the groundbreaking country-rock outfit the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons, team with Stephen Stills in the genre-bending Manassas, and hit well-deserved success in the early Eighties with the country combo the Desert Rose Band. The Asylum Years, a new disc from Omnivore Recordings, fills a gap in that story, making available for the first time on CD and digital formats, two forgotten solo albums Hillman recorded in the late Seventies, Slippin’ Away and Clear Sailin’. Continue reading Chris Hillman – The Asylum Years (review)→
The Eagles – An American Band – by Andrew Vaughan (Sterling) book review
The Eagles are the biggest rock band ever to come from America, yet most of the books written about them tend to be tabloid in nature, concentrating on the infighting and debauchery that eventually led to the band’s breakup in 1980. The Eagles – An American Band is the first book to truly do the group justice; a BIG book for a BIG band.
It’s chock full of archival photos, tracking every step of the band’s progress. Vaughan gives background on all seven Eagles’ members, shedding light on pre-Eagles groups like Shiloh (Don Henley) and Longbranch Pennywhistle (Glenn Frey). We also see how important fellow Californians Jackson Browne and J.D. Souther were to the band’s original sound. Although the author does touch on the problems the guys had through the years, he focuses more on what is most important – the music. He also keeps his editorializing to a minimum, preferring to let each Eagle tell the story wherever possible. Vaughan gives each Eagles album a separate chapter, including large front and back cover photos (indispensable in the mp3 era).
He also devotes several sections to events and artists that helped shape the California music scene. Especially interesting here are his details of the riot on Sunset Strip (immortalized by Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”). The author does a good job of showing how artists like the Byrds, Rick Nelson and Mike Nesmith helped pioneer the mixing of country and rock that paved the way for the Eagles success. And, then how the Eagles, in turn, helped influence a whole new generation of country rock artists like Garth Brooks.
I did find several factual errors in the book: most notably, he credits Joni Mitchell with writing the CSN&Y song “Our House,” when in fact it was penned by Graham Nash. One major complaint is how little space is given to the Hell Freezes Over era — there’s no photo of the album, and very little mention of the MTV show, how it went, the new songs on it, etc. It’s also not listed on the back cover with all the other albums. Very odd, since this was a pivotal moment in the Eagles history. If you’re looking for juicy tidbits and infighting stories, you’re not going to get them here. But, if you want a great book containing the band’s history that will look nice sitting on your coffee table, this is the one for you. – Tony Peters