book reviews

Keith Richards’ book, Life… like dishing with the coolest guy, ever.

Back in 2018, when we were all still blissfully unaware of what was coming in 2020, Bill and I took in our very first Rolling Stones concert. It was an absolutely incredible show. I was blown away by Mick Jagger, and his bandmates, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood. I never understood why Jagger was considered so sexy until I saw him perform live. Even in his mid 70s, he had, and still has, phenomenal charisma.

But I also noticed Keith Richards, playing guitar and, much to my surprise, looking kind of humbled by the roaring crowd of 40,000 people. Everyone in the Stones has charm and poise on stage, and they are a mythical band. But Keith Richards kind of touched me because he genuinely looked like he appreciated the praise, even though he’s been playing shows for decades. I was charmed and disarmed by the sight of the legendary axman, who has been the butt of so many jokes about addiction over the years. I wanted to know more about him.

My friend, Joann, told me about Richards’ book, Life, which was published in 2010. I decided to download it, and I’ve been trying to finish it for weeks. I don’t know why, but lately when I try to read, I often end up falling asleep. I used to breeze through books in hours or days. Now it takes me a lot longer. I’m glad I stuck with Life, though. Keith Richards is a fascinating person who’s led a very unusual life. He had humble beginnings in Dartford, a community in Kent, England, where he met Mick Jagger and became a member of a boys’ choir. Seriously… I was surprised by that.

From there, he goes on to write about how he got in trouble with the law and spent time in prison. He got in trouble for tax evasion in France, had a relationship with Anita Pallenberg and had children, then had another relationship with Patti Hanson, with whom he has two daughters. It turns out that Keith Richards is extraordinary, but he’s also ordinary in the most relatable ways. He loves dogs. He loves Bangers and Mash and Shepherd’s Pie, and even includes his recipe for bangers and mash in the book. He’s unexpectedly funny and witty, as he describes how he and the other Stones went through a period during which they called Mick Jagger “Brenda” and complained about him when he was actually in the room. He describes a pesky bird that he once had that was like a “fractious aunt” who complained constantly. He said it was the only animal he ever gave away, and that it reminded him of Mick in a cage, pursing his lips. Those kinds of quips kept me reading when my eyelids were heavy.

Notice Waddy Wachtel is playing, too… I love his work!

I was kind of surprised by the ending, not because there was an actual surprise, but because it seemed rather abrupt. I was not expecting the book to end when it did. But when it did end, I considered what I’d learned about Keith Richards. I even looked up his band, X-pensive Winos, which he formed during a Rolling Stones’ dry spell. He explains, with some bitterness, that Mick Jagger would go through periods during which he wanted to promote his solo career. He’d hire other musicians to play songs by the Stones. Keith didn’t seem too impressed by that, and his disdain is palpable. And yet, he forgave Mick and still put on a wonderful show in Stuttgart, back in 2018.

Cool story, bro! Seriously, worth a listen.

Keith Richards writes about how he tunes and plays his guitar to get that distinctive Stones sound that so many people try and fail to emulate. He writes about the people who inspired and moved him… like Muddy Waters and Etta James. He seems like a genuinely nice person, despite his reputation for being an alcoholic and drug addict. And yes, there are plenty of stories about drugs in this book, too, some of which are written by guest authors. And more funny quips… like when he wrote about how Charlie Watts punched Mick in the face. Seriously, it sounds like Mick Jagger is a total asswipe at times. I’m glad they reconciled, though.

Life is full of hilarious stories… and some poignant ones, like the one Richards writes about how he once hired a couple of prostitutes in Jamaica at a brothel near his house. It wasn’t because he wanted to have sex with him. He was writing a song and wanted their insights about prostitution. They said they’d tell men they loved them, but “you don’t have to mean it.” Keith used that to write lyrics. Meanwhile, he’d let the hookers sleep, which they really needed to do. It was an easy gig for them, and a creatively fruitful one for Keith Richards.

Anyway… I definitely think Life is a good read, and well worth the effort if you like the Rolling Stones. I think I would love knowing Keith Richards. He doesn’t seem shallow at all. I love a life story that leaves me with the impression that I would like to know the person who wrote it. Keith Richards and his contributor, James Fox, have done just that.

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music

When rock stars are locked down…

Because we’re stuck at home, I’ve been spending even more time on YouTube than usual. In recent weeks, rock stars and musicians have been reaching out via YouTube and Facebook. I’ve been following star bassist Leland Sklar on Facebook for a long while now. I think he’s funny, and I admire his work as a bass player for such stars as James Taylor, Carole King, Phil Collins, and Jackson Browne, among many others. Facebook recently put Lee in “jail” because of his inflammatory comments about the orange turd, so he’s been doing daily YouTube videos that I have really been enjoying. Here are a few of them.

He has so many videos… and a lot of them have great stories with them, as well as samples of his mad bass skills.
I actually have a picture of myself flipping off the camera. Maybe I should send it to him.
This is a great video about how Lee met an Irish family with a little boy who thought he was Santa. The little boy grew up and he and his family are still friends with Lee.
This is FIERCE! Watch this to hear Leland play along with a psychedelic 70s song.

Other musicians are also entertaining the masses on video. Most of us have probably seen Neil Diamond’s adorable coronavirus version of his hit song, “Sweet Caroline”. I had no idea he was so quirky and funny!

So cute!!! And I love seeing all of these folks’ dogs, too!

Yesterday, I caught Dennis DeYoung’s video. I was listening to it, and Bill said, “Which Gibb is that?” I said, “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” Bwahahahaha! And a friend got a kick out of Dennis’s hairpiece. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed it, but apparently that toupee is the stuff of many jokes. I guess Bill forgot that there’s only one Gibb left– oldest brother, Barry, who, to my knowledge, doesn’t wear a hairpiece.

He still sounds pretty good! Maybe we can find a way to make this the “best of times”.

And not to be outdone, Dennis DeYoung’s former Styx bandmate, Tommy Shaw, also sang to his dog! I love that he did it dressed comfortably. That’s how I’d do it, too.

Oh my God… he is still so cute, even in his jammies! And he sounds great! The dog doesn’t seem too impressed, though.

Paul Simon and Edie Brickell sang a duet and looked totally adorable doing it…

This is so sweet!

And here’s The Immediate Family sharing their gifts with us… Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, Waddy Wachtel, Russ Kunkel, and Steve Postell, some of the best session musicians in the business! I can’t believe that as of this writing, they only have 120 subscribers! If you check out only one video in this post, I highly recommend The Immediate Family. These guys helped make people like James Taylor, Phil Collins, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and Bonnie Raitt as great as they are, especially back in the 70s.

Bwahahahaaha! This makes me gleeful! They’ve all worked with some of my favorite 70s artists! And apparently, they’ve all been fired by James Taylor… Really?
Love this, too! Lee Sklar is particularly good on this one! Sigh… now I miss the 80s again. I think I might like this more than the 80s version.

Keb’ Mo’ plays beautifully at home. I wanted to see him in January, but we had a house guest and then Bill had a bunch of business trips. Keb’ comes to Europe a lot and will supposedly be in Mainz on our wedding anniversary this year. If we’re still in Germany and allowed to go to concerts, maybe we’ll attend. I would LOVE to see Keb’ Mo’ play live. I love his music and love these videos from home.

God, he’s soulful.
Fantastic!

Ron Block, who besides being a great musician and songwriter solo, plays with Alison Krauss and Union Station, has also done some online quarantine jamming. I love Ron Block’s solo stuff and own a lot of his albums. I’ve found him very normal and approachable online, too. Like, at one time (before he had a fan page) we were “friends” and he actually commented on something I posted.

This reminds me… time to cut Bill’s hair again.

And Carole King has also joined in…

Her piano playing is so distinctive. I could pick it out anywhere.
And she sounds as plaintive as ever on the elegant classic, “So Far Away”… I think we’re all feeling it.

I find all of this stuff inspiring and a real morale booster. I may have to do some more music myself today. So what if it’s Sunday and we’re supposed to be quiet? Fuck it… I’ve been good. I wore a mask yesterday and everything. On the other hand, I could just lie around like a sloth and hunt down more videos of rock stars doing what they do best. I’m sure for some of them, this is a way to keep people thinking about them so they won’t be forgotten when they can play live again. For others, I’m sure it’s a way of staying sane and having fun doing what comes naturally.

Well… I could probably post a bunch more videos if I wanted to… but I have laundry to fold. I hope some of you will take a few minutes to check out some of these videos… especially Leland Sklar’s! I think he should write a book. He’s got so many great stories and he’s made me want to learn how to play bass. If this coronavirus crap goes on much longer, I may have to order a guitar and learn some chords.

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book reviews

Sometimes daddy issues can lead to rock stardom…

Bill is away this week, so I’ve busied myself by watching movies, reading, and, as of yesterday, listening to my very first audiobook courtesy of Audible. Two of the works have really stuck with me, because they involve rock stars with “daddy issues”. The stars in question? Elton John and James Taylor– both claim they had fathers who were absent in some way. Both are major rock stars dating from the 1970s.

On Sunday night, I finally watched Rocketman, a movie musical loosely based on Elton John’s life. Yesterday, I listened to James Taylor’s brand new audiobook, Break Shot, which is his version of the story of the first 21 years of his life. “Break shot” refers to the first shot in a game of billiards, the one that breaks the balls and scatters them in different directions.

I was already somewhat familiar with both stories because I had read lengthy books about both James Taylor and Elton John. In Elton’s case, I read his recent book, Me, which was his autobiography about his life. In James’s case, it was an extremely long winded book by the late Timothy White called James Taylor: Long Ago and Far Away, published in 2003. I remember not enjoying White’s book very much because it was so long and exhaustive, and included a lot about Taylor’s genealogy, which wasn’t something I was interested in at the time. However, years later, I’m kind of glad I read it, because it gave me insight into one of my favorite performers that has stuck with me all these years.

One thing that struck me about both of these men’s stories is that they have a lot in common. Both are extraordinarily talented musicians whose talent became obvious during childhood. Both are recovering addicts; James to alcohol and heroin, and Elton to alcohol, cocaine, sex, and food. Both are now living sober lives. Both have suffered from depression, perhaps even to the point of being suicidal. And both had very difficult relationships with their fathers. While I would never say that one has to have a difficult childhood with an absentee father to become a famous musician, it was an aspect of both of their stories that really stuck out to me. Actually, it seems like they both had difficult relationships with both parents, although in both of their stories, it was their fathers who were painted more as “bad” and unsupportive. James Taylor goes as far as to say that fathers can be “replaced”, but mothers have to be “there”. I can’t say I agree with his comment on that, but maybe it’s a relic from the generation he grew up in.

Rocketman wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I hadn’t read much about it before I sat down to watch it. I guess I thought it would be more like Bohemian Rhapsody, as in, more of a biographical tale about Elton’s life. It was kind of biographical, but it really appeared to be more of a set up for an eventual Broadway show. I enjoyed it, for the most part, although parts of the movie made me groan a bit.

I wouldn’t go to Rocketman to learn about Elton John’s life, although I did think parts of the film were very entertaining. Taron Egerton is very talented and he captured Elton’s essence in his performance on screen. Elton’s book was revelatory enough. He wrote about growing up in working class Pinner. His father was strict and cold to him. Later, when his parents divorced, Elton’s dad apparently left his life. Although they shared a love of music, according to Elton, his dad wasn’t particularly supportive of his son’s talent. Elton’s mother was apparently exploitative and short tempered, even though they mostly stayed in contact until she died. I have already reviewed Elton’s book, so you can read my thoughts on it here. Today, I’m going to focus on Break Shot.

James Taylor’s story is a bit different, in that unlike Elton John, he grew up in an upper class family. James’s father was Dr. Isaac Taylor– otherwise known as Ike– and there was plenty of money. His mother’s name was Gertrude– Trudy– and she was from Massachusetts. Ike moved the family to Chapel Hill, North Carolina when James was about four or five years old. James grew up in North Carolina, because his father was the dean of the medical school at Chapel Hill. Trudy didn’t like living in the South, and James sort of implied that she resented Ike for forcing her to live there, particularly since Ike was often gone. He spent two years in Antarctica with Navy Seabees when James was a young man, and by the time Ike came home, he had become a stranger to his family. Ike also came home with a terrible drinking problem.

Evidently, addiction is a scourge in the Taylor family. James says that drinking and drugs helped him take a break from himself. I was interested in hearing his thoughts on addiction, especially since alcoholism is a scourge in my own family. He made a comment that really surprised me– that addicts see their drug of choice as a “key” of sorts. Eventually the “key” changes and the substance becomes harmful. Ike’s alcoholism was bad enough that he experienced delirium tremens, which meant that his body had become physically hooked on alcohol to the point at which he needed it to be normal. Nevertheless, Ike Taylor was reportedly a very “functional” alcoholic, much like my father was.

James is one of five very musical siblings, although he also has three half-siblings from his father’s second marriage. He doesn’t speak about his other siblings, probably because he’s old enough to be their father and likely has little contact with them. As someone who grew up in a family with no divorce and no “steps” of “halfs”, it’s hard for me to fathom not having any relationship with my siblings. On the other hand, now that I’m a “stepmother” to adult children my husband hasn’t seen since 2004, I guess I understand it more now than I would have twenty years ago.

Trudy Taylor was very “left leaning” in her politics, which is another reason why North Carolina was probably a difficult place for her to live in the 1950s and 60s. Nevertheless, James says that she was a very involved mother, and she busied herself with raising the children and making a beautiful home on Morgan Creek for them. At the beginning of his audiobook, James mentions his siblings and says he won’t talk much about the ones who are still living: Livingston, Kate, and Hugh.

James’s brother, Alex, died on James’s 45th birthday in 1993. Since Alex is no longer living, James feels free to talk about him. According to James, Alex and their mother, Trudy, fought a lot. Alex had embraced being southern, even adopting a southern accent. James says Alex had a southern accent until he died. Alex was, like James, an addict. He was particularly hooked on alcohol, much as their father was. The night before he died, he’d polished off almost an entire of vodka by himself, which his brother, Livingston, said wasn’t a particularly large amount of booze for him. However, although Alex was never as famous as James or even Livingston was, he was regarded as every bit as talented.

Wow… what a blend… We have lots of musical people in my family, too.
The Taylor siblings perform together… some serious genetic talent here.

Meanwhile, Trudy did all she did to keep the children connected to the North. She’d take them to New York every couple of months and they’d spend summers at Martha’s Vineyard, where James met dear friends who would play major roles in his life. That’s where he met Carly Simon, his first wife and mother of his two oldest children, Ben and Sally, although she only gets a passing mention in Break Shot. James has more to say about his current wife, Kim, whom is apparently the great love of his life who got him back on the path he was destined to be on… back in Boston.

James went to high school at a boarding school in Massachusetts, where he was forced to go to church three times a week. He chose the Episcopalian service, since it was closest to his dorm. It was there that he was first exposed to hymns, since he grew up agnostic. Really, he describes it as agnosticism, but it sounds more like his family was atheist, which was no doubt even weirder for the Taylors in Chapel Hill. Ike was a man of science and had little use for God. The hymns resonated with James and influenced his songwriting, which was a great thing for us. But being in boarding school was depressing for James and he was soon legitimately mentally ill with major depression. He wound up going back to Chapel Hill for his junior year, but he hated being there, too. So in 1965, he started high school at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility where the likes of Sylvia Plath and Ray Charles and two of James’s siblings also sought inpatient treatment and finished their high school years. He said that was then he finally stopped feeling so much like he had to live up to expectations of others. Everyone else in his family had wound up being doctors or lawyers, but James and his siblings obviously took after their very creative mother, who had studied voice at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Depression continued to be a problem for James. At one point in the audiobook, James writes about times when Ike was “there” for him. He called home once, out of money and prospects and feeling desperate, and Ike could hear it in his son’s voice that he was feeling desperate. So he drove all the way from North Carolina to Massachusetts to get James and bring him home. That was where the song, “Jump Up Behind Me” came from, on James’s wonderful Hourglass album, which also has a beautiful eulogy to his brother, Alex, “Enough to Be On Your Way”.

Some time later, James was in marriage counseling and the therapist noticed that he seemed to have a lot of “daddy issues”. The therapist recommended that James have his father join one of their sessions. Much to my surprise, James says his dad cooperated, and during their session, Ike apparently talked a lot about how much he disliked his ex wife, Trudy. The therapist asked Ike why, if he hadn’t liked Trudy much, he’d had five children with her. Ike’s response, which James said was supposed to be kind of a sarcastic “fuck you” to the therapist, was something along the lines of “My mother died after giving birth to me, so I figured that was the best way to get rid of my wife.”

I won’t go into the whole story about Ike Taylor’s upbringing because I really think it’s better to listen to the audiobook for that. Suffice to say, I can kind of see where the issues stemmed from in Ike, and how they passed down to the Taylor children. In any case, as I listened to the audiobook, I was a bit shocked by a couple of revelations, at least at first. James clearly had a very complicated relationship with his parents, but especially his father. However, unlike Elton John, James does seem to have a basic level of respect and empathy for the man. It sounds, though, like that empathy was a long time coming, especially since James spent so many years dulling his pain with alcohol and opiates. He says that he’s a different person now, with his wife, Kim, and their twin sons, Rufus and Henry, although it sounded to me like he still aches over his relationship with his dad. He muses that here his father was this high level doctor, much renowned and admired by so many people. And yet, several of his children graduated high school while locked up in a mental hospital.

Having read Carly Simon’s book, Boys in the Trees, in which she wrote of the hurtful way he treated her during their marriage, I can see that there was a time when James was legitimately an asshole. However… I think he came by being an asshole honestly, because as much as he has to say about his father, he also says that he felt pressured and tried very hard to be a “good son” to his mother, especially when she was in a bad mood. It was as if he felt required to be the balance between Trudy and Alex. And he says that he now realizes that children should not be expected to take care of their parents, nor are they responsible for their parents’ problems. He’s definitely right about that.

While I was surprised by some of Taylor’s blunt comments, I also think they kind of made him seem more like a regular person, with foibles like everyone else’s. Throughout my life, I have been comforted by both Elton John and James Taylor as they sang their original, exquisitely crafted songs. I was similarly comforted by Pat Conroy, another famous artist whose work has always spoken to me on many levels… and another person who had some serious “daddy issues” that he parlayed into art. Taylor said that he feels like he’s written the same six or seven songs over and over again throughout his life, meaning that the same themes keep coming up. I can relate, although my work will never reach as many people as his has…

I think Pat Conroy basically wrote the same story repeatedly, too. I still relate on many levels, as do so many other people. So many of us have parental issues that follow us throughout life. It’s just that some people are lucky enough to turn those issues into something that soothes the souls of the masses. Being able to articulate and translate that pain into music, art, dance, drama, or the written and spoken word is a tremendous gift… although, as is the case for so many brilliant artists, that gift comes with a price. It seems that depression, anxiety, and addiction are the scourges that most often plague creative people. Those who are lucky enough find ways to work through the pain. The unlucky ones tend to die young.

Maybe the most surprising comment James had was that for much of his life, he was known as Ike Taylor’s son, James. Eventually, there came a time when Ike Taylor was known as James Taylor’s father. I’m sure that was quite the mindblowing experience for James Taylor, particularly the first time he realized it while sober. I definitely recommend listening to Break Shot, especially if you’re a James Taylor fan. And I liked Rocketman alright, too, although I learned a lot more from Elton John’s autobiography.

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book reviews

Just finished Elton John’s sensational tell all book, Me…

Last May, Bill and I went to see Elton John in concert. It was our first and probably last chance to see him, since he’s currently on his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road farewell tour. Of course, as my rock star friend Meryl pointed out when I bought the tickets, Elton has announced his retirement from live performances before. In fact, he recently added a few more shows to the tour that will bring him back to Germany. We saw him play in Stuttgart, even though he did a show in Wiesbaden in June, because when I purchased the tickets in February 2018, we were still living in the Stuttgart area and had no plans to move. But, as we all know, life can throw curveballs, and it turned out we did have to move. Fortunately, Wiesbaden is just a few hours’ drive from Stuttgart, and going there for the show meant we could see our dentist and hit the spring fest, which happened to be going on at the same time.

2018 and 2019 have been my years for concerts. I was never much of a concertgoer before recently, mainly because I didn’t have the money to go to concerts, nor have I ever been one with a pack of friends or boyfriends with whom I could attend shows. Bill and I spent the first years of our marriage rather financially strapped, so the few shows we did see before moving back to Europe, were mostly in nosebleed seats. Don’t get me wrong– it can be perfectly feasible to enjoy a show way up in the rafters. We discovered Robert Randolph and the Family Band in 2004, when they opened for Eric Clapton in Washington, DC. We had a great time, even though Clapton looked like an ant on the stage. But I’m a short person, and I don’t like crowds or being around inconsiderate people, all of which would preclude my attending many big shows.

As for Elton John– well… he put on a pretty good show. It wasn’t the best concert I have ever been to, mainly because he used a lot of videos which I found distracting. Instead of watching him play the piano so masterfully, I was watching videos as if it were 1985. Still, I did enjoy the concert, and ended up downloading a bunch of his albums that I didn’t already own. I didn’t get Leather Jackets, which was an album he made in the 1980s while extremely strung out on cocaine and alcohol. Elton John repeatedly brings that up in his new autobiography, Me, which I just finished reading this morning. I’ve also downloaded the movie about his life, Rocket Man, which came out just after we saw him in concert. I haven’t watched it yet, because our TV room lacks proper seating and I’d rather watch that film on our big, new TV than the one in our bedroom.

All of this is sort of my meandering way of saying that Elton John has been on my mind a lot this year. I was born in 1972, when Elton was becoming a huge star. His music has always been a big part of my life. He was one of the few artists my late father could agree upon when we were riding in the car together. I have always been in awe of Elton John’s musical gifts, even if there are other singer-songwriters who enchant me more. But honestly, having seen Elton play live and read his book, I think I just find him a very entertaining person to whom I can relate. I admire him, not just because he’s a brilliant performer, but because he seems very human to me. He seems even more human to me, especially since I read his sensational, yet often poignant life story.

Elton John, originally named Reginald Dwight, was born to two parents who didn’t love each other. They were of modest means, and lived in a small town. Elton, who in those days was called Reg, did not have a strong kinship with his father, who was often away for work purposes. When Elton’s father was around, they didn’t seem to mesh. Elton describes his dad as emotionally absent and more of a “man’s man”, while Elton was sensitive, awkward, and lonely. His parents split when he was still very young and married other people. Elton got along better with his stepfather, Fred, whom he called “Derf”. He was less involved with his father, who’d had children with his next wife.

Early on, it became clear that Elton John was gifted musically. As a boy, he attended the Royal Academy of Music, where he was forced to play classical pieces. Although Elton didn’t enjoy the classical scene so much, he did write that he’s grateful for the experience of attending such a prestigious school and that the training he received played a big part in his songwriting. It was obvious that Elton was destined for a career in music and, based on his book, he’s never done anything else, even though there were times when he thought he’d never get his break. One time, his mother even suggested that he take a job at a launderette.

Elton John’s story of how he and Bernie Taupin came together is another sign that he was destined to be a musician. He’d just played and failed an audition at a record label when a receptionist decided to pass him some lyrics that had been sent by a man who had also failed the audition. That man turned out to be seventeen year old Taupin, who has written so many of Elton John’s most beloved songs. I enjoyed how Elton explained their unique partnership. Bernie would write poignant lyrics and Elton would compose music. They never worked together in the same room. I have written some lyrics myself, mainly for fun. I think if I were a songwriter, I’d probably want to work the same way. I do better when I’m working alone.

Beyond the obvious components of a life story, Elton John adds some hilarious and sometimes horrifying anecdotes about life as a world renowned entertainer. For instance, he wrote a story about how he’d auditioned a guitar player whom he’d declined to hire, not just because he didn’t mesh with him musically, but because the guitar player had confessed to enjoying fucking chickens up the ass and then decapitating them for a sexual charge. Elton adds wryly that he didn’t know if the guitar player had a very strange sense of humor or if the guy’s sex life was extremely disturbing. Either way, he couldn’t picture himself or his bandmates feeling comfortable sharing a hotel room with a guy who got his jollies in that way.

I had already read some excerpts of Elton John’s book through the Daily Mail, which has been sharing bits and pieces of the book for weeks now. A lot of the snippets from the Daily Mail were pretty salacious, but I was still surprised by a few of the stories Elton includes. What really struck me about Me, though, is how entertaining and personal the writing is. It was as if I were sitting in a room, listening to Elton tell his stories in the most hilarious way. I like the fact that he owns up to his shortcomings and is brutally candid about some things. I can be pretty candid myself, and I’m a pretty straight shooter. So is Elton. We have both found that being too straightforward can be detrimental in many ways, particularly if you’re dealing with people who are shady. But, I think in the long run, it’s best to be authentic. I feel like Elton’s book is very authentic and candid. I liked that he owned up to being an asshole at times– er, arsehole– Britishisms are another prominent feature in his book. Elton is a drug addict. Cocaine was his drug of choice. He is an alcoholic. He also suffers from an addiction to food and was bulimic for awhile. He sought treatment for all three conditions about thirty years ago. I appreciated his honesty about his experiences with addiction, especially how alcohol and drugs turned him into an asshole. I also respect that he’s tried so hard to help others overcome their addictions, including many people who didn’t want to be helped.

I was curious about what people had to say about Elton’s book. I usually start with the negative reviews on Amazon, some of which were pretty laughable. One person complained that the book had a ripped cover. Another complained about Elton’s comments about Michael Jackson, which I will admit, might have seemed kind of tacky (although frankly, I think he was being straight up about his experiences). Some people wrote that Elton included too much about songwriting and not enough about his personal life. Other people complained about the opposite; Elton was too open about his sex life and drug use, and not forthcoming enough about his musical skills. From what I gathered, Elton doesn’t have to think much about creating. It all just comes out. He even wrote that he doesn’t even think about songwriting when he’s not actually doing it. If that’s really his experience, I respect it, although it’s kind of mind boggling.

I found Elton’s comments about trying to work with Tina Turner kind of surprising. Apparently, she was a huge diva and behaved like a bitch to Elton and his band, even though she used to sing his song, “The Bitch Is Back” all the time back in the day. It turned out that their work styles were simply incompatible. Elton likes to improvise and not necessarily do everything perfectly rehearsed, while Tina likes to have the band playing exactly the same way every time. I respected that after Elton basically called Tina a bitch, he acknowledged that she might be that way due to the way she’d been treated by Ike Turner and others in the music industry who ripped her off and abused her. I can give him credit for realizing that about Tina Turner, even as he also kind of throws her under the bus.

One person wrote that Elton John had a book written about him by a ghostwriter that was mostly the same stuff. If I had read that book, I might have agreed with the reviewer that Me is superfluous. But since I hadn’t read the other book, this one was interesting, and often laugh out loud funny. I especially laughed when Elton wrote about writing music for a play in which there was a song called “Only Poofs Do Ballet”. I had never heard of the British slang term for a homosexual “Poof” until I married Bill, who uses it a lot. And there were a few stories that mad me feel a little sad… or even a bit in solidarity with Elton. I can relate to feeling ugly, misunderstood, and anxious. I can relate to having a short temper and difficult family relationships. I can even relate to some of his stories about addiction, depression, and eating disorders, as these are things have touched my life, too. I don’t know if Elton and I would get along if we were to meet, since he seems to be eccentric and temperamental, and I’m kind of like that, too. But deep down, he seems like a kind, introspective man who isn’t afraid to be a bit tacky and over the top. I’m glad he’s finally found love, gotten his life on track, and has the family he’s always dreamt of having. He’s a very lucky man, and he seems to know it. I respect him for that.

Anyway, I liked Me, and would recommend it. Some people might be offended by some of the stories, and some have accused Elton of name dropping and bragging, although I can’t imagine how someone as famous as Elton John is could be guilty of “name dropping”, when he literally keeps company with the likes of Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Freddie Mercury, and members of The Rolling Stones. Those folks are his peers, although I was kind of charmed when Elton described what an honor it was to sing with Ray Charles. I also enjoyed his comments about Ryan White and his family, and how much they did to help people with AIDS at a time when people were so frightened and ignorant.

So… if you are inclined to read about Elton John’s life and haven’t read the previous book, I think you should check out Me. But be prepared for some sensational stories that might blow your mind.

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