"I don't know who these people are writing about, but it certainly isn't me." - Van Morrison
Nobody's said much anything of this book to my knowledge so it's natural to be a little curious. I fairly recently read No Quarter: Three Three Lives of Jimmy Page and a dozen people here said they suspected it was no good and then the 13th called it boring. I disagree, unless it is boring I think the author tried as hard as he could to present Jimmy Page thoroughly (600+ "pages" not "three" Lol! - sorry.) ... I can't say I felt intimately (truly) acquainted with anybody after reading it, I didn't really expect to, but it's the most complete and rational swipe at the life of Page - I'd bet - unless Yorke is more comprehensive. I also read the Mick Wall book but No Quarter was probably "far deeper" w/r/t various/numerous things like Page as Producer at Impulse records and also his studio days generally, not to mention how/why Beck and Page diverged paths the way they did. IOW it maybe helped me understand how/why Beck and Page RELATED to one another as they did and told me point blank (for instance) that Beck believed Page had a superior roster of personnel all along in "Led Zeppelin as a unit," and that's true, and I enjoyed seeing it it in B&W "in a biographical context." I've a feeling No Quarter is much like the Zeppelin '68-80 book just twice as thorough. About every Zep tune is "reviewed" and I can't say I vehemently disagree much with any of these that I recall. The time signatures on several tunes are (finally and correctly?) revealed in book form I'm aware of - though I've never looked at any lead sheets. The author probably got them from the lead sheets still no biggie to somebody like me whom is largely oblivious. I don't really NEED to know Jimmy Page's neuroses any better than my own but I did feel I'd come away appreciating (more thoroughly than after the Wall book) the "bigger picture" in a little bigger way.
I'm also aware of the Zep life story in the words of themselves and those near them pub. circa 2013 but I'm a little skeptical based upon reviews and the factual matter of how it's presented. The mechanics of its construction I mean. Martin Power probably read it I'd guess and likely incorporated the highlights (pertinent quotes). All I'm saying is I'm neutral (ye hah) about Power's book except it's easier, better presented, more thorough, or almost as thorough ... and less tedious [maybe not as much "fun" or "funny" or whatnot as thankfully I have laughed hard a time or two] than this website. Myself included hopefully. Or not - er uh shucks. 3 sentences back and no yuks just shucks. Point taken.
I read the Yorke book RE: Van Morrison when it came out first (a few years after 1st published) and it seemed OK, but I'd have devoted more time to the "Caledonia Soul Music" outtake (for instance) beings it's the best outtake (I've ever heard in popular music) having listened closely to for example all the important outtakes of Bob Dylan up to/inc. "Idiot Wind" ... Maybe Neil Young or somebody has a better one but beings I listened to his important early boots I really doubt it especially since he tells the truth in claiming himself that he's a "B- version of Dylan"; remarkably both candid and true though I DO really like the early (live) boot of his song that's eerily reminiscent of Dylan's own outtake "Mamma You Been On my mind." Can't find the darn disc and sincerely regret it so can't name the song - rats. I just say Yorke book RE: Van Morrison may have come up short in terms of "reviewing" Van's music which is - IMHO and I could be wrong - a crying fucking shame beings the musical material was there to REALLY SHINE (the way Alicia Keys finally really "shines" at Live Aid with her head-cold-inflected take on "The Thing about Love" - can't understand it, but she sounds best gravelly-voiced and maybe somebody that talented needn't be so slick. Just too fuckin' cute and gooey for her own highly skilled sake. Too bad. It's a shame. I don't know since I can't follow much music after about 1975 with only a few exceptions. I just claim ignorance, though I'd be lying if I didn't sometimes want to say "who's foolin' who?" and "what is this shit, or at least why are they being paid for it?") All I'm saying is I'm not thoroughly 100% convinced Yorke gave everything could be given to fully appreciating Van and his "Caledonia Soul Orchestra" and/or "Soul Express" in terms of widely available concert boots and outtakes and studio LP's. "Virgo Clowns" is the centerpiece of Band And Street Choir (album provisionally titled "Virgo's Fool") though Yorke hardly recognized it explicitly.
Last, I'm not sure I profited from his [RE??] "de-mystifying" Van's iconic self-image of "I'm the man [or THE Man] not the myth," (despite the fact "copycats and Bruce Springsteen ripped off my soul" type talk/songs conflating things) and "I'm sick of being a Legend; I'm ready to be a Star" being a superb quote that Richie has attributed (actually adduced to Morrison's business manager and likely true or consistent with what else is known). Ironically, Van tends to have good reason for saying what he does even if it's only obliquely accurate. Jesus Christ if one can't see why Morrison resents Springsteen (a hack by comparison if you ask me - you don't believe it don't waste your breath I'm not even mildly intrigued Lol!) and somewhat respects Bob Seeger - is crystal clear why he felt that way. But Yorke doesn't seem to clarify/explain this facet so well. In the end it's not mine to critique or criticize too much something I'm glad got written and maybe seems Underappreciated - so hat's off to Mr. Yorke for taking the time and probably not making the dividends deserved for his considerable efforts. May seem silly to say this but he sure did a better job with his Morrison book anybody else did (present company included Lol!) before it went out of print for at least a time. So I guess I'm proud to own a copy and ask who else has a first issue (paperback) besides me? Damn glad to know ya!
So I'm still a little intrigued at this Zep Ritchie Yorke book since I think he gave a good effort at dicing and slicing Van Morrison, although Morrison's statement about "who these people are writing about" above is inevitably a poetic (and funny) way of stating the truth about "how these things are." Nobody has described it better (as usual?) than Van The Man. There's a reality, about biography, that if one READS the Van interviews (and they're all collected at the Hayward website) you get a REMARKABLE insight to what's up. Or at least I did, when all was said and done, but that don't mean I didn't appreciate the Yorke book and I think Clinton Heylin attempted something similar to "in his words and those close to him" RE Van. In the final analysis, Van Morrison was a very blunt and candid interviewee, one of the VERY BEST for SURE in popular music, but mostly, generally, everybody likes to tell of only the gruff, taciturn Van Morrison; listen (only) to a number of the shows, and it's OBVIOUS (as those who knew him best will and have maintained) he had a great sense of humor both as a person and entertainer - just doesn't suffer fools WELL AT ALL and maybe drank too much now & again. Who didn't?
I WAS impressed to learn in the last few years how (his then wife) Janet Planet would drive by Dylan's residence in Woodstock only so Morrison could gaze wistfully from the car and DREAM of meeting Bob. Morrison now essentially says he owns "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" after the fact - he did GOOD, in his way, very good actually, better than anybody with that cover: but who's HE writing about? Lol! - Funny how we're all a little starstruck ... and I'm not real sure most folks here REALIZE how taken - smitten - Robert Plant was with Astral Weeks and for good reason. Anyhow, somebody will throw a bone hopefully.
It's REMARKABLE to listen to the best (later) Van boots and hear fans yelling, "We love you, Mr. Morrison!" And for even BETTER reasons. "Tell me what it is, tell me what it is, tell me what it is, Caledonia, S-O-U-L music."
PS: Apologies I've strayed so far from topic but this irks me. WHAT IF, what Van really said to his manager was, "I'm tired of earning like a Legend; I'd rather make out like a Star"; what then? I don't read that many interviews - not enough to have come across one involving an iconic [though surely they exist] totally upper echelon performer who just flat out says, as Van did recently, "I'm doing gigs because I need the money." And it's by no means his first statement to that effect - he's rarely held back from bluntly asserting that making records and performing is primarily a JOB, albeit a passionate one, a labor of love. 'Why Must I Always Explain" is his song (and eventual duet with Dylan) addresses all that. Despite that, per capita, there's no more rabid, devoted, dedicated cult-like following than his own fan base. It's equal the enthusiasm of any other act, if not (always) in visible hysteria (or raw intensity), then certainly in terms of duration. Remember that passionate devotion needn't always be openly obvious. First year, his debut record Astral Weeks sold barely 15,000 (all vinyl back then) and 10,000 of those were in and around San Francisco. It would be FIVE YEARS before selling 100,000 units. He scrapped and clawed for income for nearly a decade in the recording industry, and apparently released about 5 "solo" LPs (or at least 3) before rising above an upper middle class income. The point is, it's so easy to see how language, hence history, hence reality gets twisted. But here's an instance of a certain "reality" coming (for me) from the obscure text Van Morrison: the Mystic's Music:
"John Tobler, an English journalist for Zig Zag magazine informed Van that he found Astral Weeks 'messianic.' Van responded, "I think it's all in your head."
... So look at two things, first the title of the book, implying Morrison was some sort of "mystic," and the implicate "messiah" stature some are so quick to infer. Now turn it around, and imagine the "mystique" surrounding, or, applied to Jimmy Page, literally, and imagine how Page might have responded (partly beings he's "Scorpio Rising" are we to believe?) in the interview. I mean, all I'm saying is how easily one can get wrapped up in something relatively ephemeral, something imaginary, and what Percy called "the illusion," about which he'd said after Bonzo's passing "was over." It bears repeating, beings I think it's the most succinct, and candid, and useful counterbalance to anybody's wishful thinking about any legitimate Zeppelin "enterprise" after Bonham: according to Plant, "The illusion was over." Performance art in popular music especially in late 60's and early 70's seemed to rely pretty heavily to something all in your head so to speak - to varying degrees for various people at various places in time. Led Zeppelin seems to have insinuated itself as popular culture - somewhere between high culture and folk art - on a SCALE perhaps never seen before or since. Yet that relied upon industry, and technology, and mass movement(s), to a very heavy degree. Page, whom I've the utmost respect for as a musician, an artist, seems to have exploited that to a degree that depended on the "times and spaces" available to him, and fair to say Peter Grant was fairly instrumental in that as well? This isn't the place to elaborate, but there are indications Van Morrison and Jimmy Page COULD be taken to embody two opposite sides (and dissimilar tacts) of the same (exploitative or merely practical) Janus coin: the utility of infusing high (or at least higher) artistry into folk culture. The ground between, "popularity" and/or "illusion(s)" is something both men had to come to grips with as perhaps no two other performers would be compelled. Legitimate personalities, I mean, not FLAKES. I tend to admire both in their tremendous accommodation of that reality, even if Van was a bit (Lol!) more frank about the "terms and conditions" if only in public. Nevertheless, it's certainly true Page played well enough on Van & Them's "Baby Please Don't Go" for Morrison to be heard singing and Page playing every night Ready Steady Go came on British TV - as the show adopted it as their theme song. What a tangle history is. Cripes. Cripes sakes.