#BlackLivesMatter and the Untold Story of Altamont
September 2018


In that great ballooning myth of the ’60s, Altamont ranks right up there with the anti-war demonstrations at Chicago’s Democratic Convention (1968), the Manson family murders (1969), and the National Guard killings at Kent State (1970). But since the story has ripened into its own conundrum, both as history and cliché, prophecy and sinkhole.the Maysles brothers’ 1970 documentary, “Gimme Shelter,” the story of that concert has emerged as its own conundrum, both as history and cliche, prophecy and sinkhole…—from truthdig, September 2018




Dylanizing the Great American Songbook
Los Angeles Review of Books
June 2018


…Struggling to explain the travesty of Dylan wearing a sequined jacket on Street Legal’s back cover in his 1978 Rolling Stone review, Dave Marsh remarked how this abomination only made sense if you understood how badly “Dylan has always wanted to be Elvis Presley.” If tilting his Midwestern Jewish cowboy persona toward Vegas gave pause, Marsh implied, blame it on Elvis and shoot out your TV set. Presley himself always wanted to be Dean Martin (“As Long As I Have You”) at least as much as Marvin Gaye wanted to be Nat King Cole (“It’s Only A Paper Moon”), which proves how far out of touch rock heroes can be with their own strengths…—from the Los Angeles Review of Books, June 2018


Joe Hagan: Sticky Fingers: a life of Jann Wenner
Truthdig book review
December 2017

…Hagan’s text resembles those Albert Goldman doorstops on Elvis Presley and John Lennon, where facts rob attention from a larger truth. Magazine editors piss off a lot of people, and Wenner takes pride in how he aimed his lifestyle straight toward the Kennedy cocktail circuit (Hagan suggests Wenner actually put the moves on a teenage Caroline, who calls him “the Jimmy Buffett of winter.”) Those contradictions can provoke a writer deeper into their subject; instead Hagan churns a conveyor belt of petty duplicities. Even if most of it turns out to be true, it doesn’t shed any light on the culture or its values, any more than plastering David Cassidy bare-chested on a magazine cover improves his music…

Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman:
I Am Brian Wilson
Truthdig book review
March 2017

Peter Guralnick: Sam Phillips,
the man who invented rock’n’roll
Truthdig book review
March 2016

more book reviews at TRUTHDIG

Tune In by Mark Lewisohn
New York Times book review
December 2013

BeatlesApproaches to retelling the Beatles’ story slice in two distinct directions: narrow or wide. Some authors choose a single figure and bore down deep, which has brought the count of Paul McCartney life stories to at least 10, with more in the pipeline. Others frame the narrative from more expansive angles, weaving in the era’s social texture, politics and cultural context (see Devin McKinney’s shrewd “Magic Circles” from 2003 or Jonathan Gould’s peerless “Can’t Buy Me Love” of 2007)… via New York Times