Thursday, November 8, 2012

In The Pleasure Groove by John Taylor

In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran. John Taylor. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated. October 2012. 304 pages, hardback. ISBN #: 978052598000.

John Taylor covers a large span of music evolution in this autobiography of his life and that of Duran Duran, the rock group in which he still performs.  It is that diverse, evolving story that speaks volumes for the success he has achieved.  Yes, the audience may change, but the "real" audience has evolved with his talent and musical styles over the years.

Taylor knows how to grab an audience. Right from the beginning, the reader is charged from the opening account of a concert performance in which the song "Tel Aviv" was played and Taylor confesses to being scared out of his mind at the almost animal atmosphere of the screaming, violent crowd.  How does one play and what is it about the music that creates such a wild response to the group's music?

We are then led back even further to the very start of his life, through his education, interest in music at first without any thought about actually becoming a rock star, and more.  The terrific part of this next section is that he chronicles how the music evolved from simple chord music on acoustic guitar through the time of the Beatles through to rock punk rock...., etc. For those who are older, it will bring back some great memories; for those who are younger, it might make them curious to check out the "older" music.

Then comes the beginning Duran, Duran, playing as introductory music for other more famous singers and bands....then comes evolving success.  Plenty of unknown and fascinating details follow about different and better instruments that were used, as well as how the other band members adapted, left, and joined, leading up to the present band members.  There's a very riveting section on how drugs and booze almost blew the whole success chance out the window and a very painful part of how it broke him down. Fortunately, it didn't end there...

Absolutely great biography about a singer, composer, producer and band leader who clearly is "passionate" beyond belief about his art.  Read it and enjoy the music you will hear and the interesting guy you will come to know so much better as you read!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sweet Tooth: A Novel by Ian McEwan

Sweet Tooth: A Novel. Ian McEwan. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. November 2012. 320 pp. hardback. ISBN #: 9780385536820.

In 1972 the Cold War was still making British government and citizens very nervous. Communists were the enemy and subversion of their message was the job of the British Secret Service.  This part of the war, however, would not be carried out with killing machines of guns and bombs but through the fiction and non-fiction messages that famous and not so famous authors would pen and circulate widely in professional and non-professional places. No limitation would be placed on their literary efforts and published works.  Propaganda need not be overt!

Serena Frome is a former Cambridge student who briefly carries on an affair with a professor who once worked for the British intelligence agency - M5.  That agency was often at odds with its sister group M6.  In a stunning series of planned events, Serena's lover drops her but guarantees her a job in M5.  While there, she is slowly eased into a job of getting a "new" author to write a novel. The story could be about anything and will be funded by the government.  As he becomes more well-known, more will happen.  Little does Serena realizes her reaction to this writer will be so passionate and little does she realize how jealous her immediate boss will be by her vehement connection. What her new friend pens is far more harrowing and upsetting to Serena.

Sweet Tooth is quite simply an amazing novel about the multiple ways in which smart people maintain an innocent, blind attitude toward what so obviously lacks credibility.  Every single character in this story shares that naive mental and emotional stance.  Patriotism and passion are stunningly manifest in flagrant stupidity.  Upon finishing this novel, should the reader say, "Oh, I wouldn't think like that; I wouldn't miss those clues. I don't hold beliefs like these characters?"  Probably not because we are so inundated with our own contemporary propaganda that few truly analyze, critique, and speak out against what is really quite harmful distortion.

Sweet Tooth is a well-written novel that should be read by as many people as possible.  Its satiric message is so necessary.  This tendency to become star-struck by intelligence and "shared secrets" should be a warning bell if we would see government shaped by the people and not the reverse.  Congratulations, Ian McEwan, for a vital novel, a must read for people of all nations!