Book Reviews: A Two Count of Wrestling Books

 

Front cover photo by Myles McNutt.

 

Aaron D. Horton’s edited collection of essays, called “Identity in Professional Wrestling,” (McFarland, 2018) contains several writers detailing the different aspects in wrestling, such as gender, race, and the nationalities that make up the unique sport.

The collection starts with a historical look at wrestling, starting when soldiers wrestled each other during the Civil War, the Frank Gotch era, and up to the modern times. The essays are put into four main categories: Race, Gender, Culture and Modernity, and Wrestling and Media.

Topics such as how male managers and female valets have differed throughout the years, how Latino stars like Tito Santana, Pedro Morales, Alberto Del Rio, and Rey Mysterio were portrayed on television, to the differences between Japanese and American good guys are embraced. The writings on race covers how Japanese and German characters were used, along with the stereotypical “Russsian” characters (how most of them were not from the countries they claimed to be from).

One of the best essays, entitled ” ‘They Ain’t Like Us'” by Edward Salo, is about how the Southern attitude of fans helped define Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling, along with the racial aspects that was used in the league, and it’s influence on the WWF’s Atttiude Era.”. The essay describes how the characters like Tony “Dirty White Boy” Anthony and “Wild Eyed Southern Boy” Tracy Smothers became a North verses South storyline fight, and how Tammy Sytch’s feminist character as a manager helped develop into the WWF’s years later, which made her a superstar. Salo writes that the tag team The Gangstas helped created racial tension that carried to the WWF as well, influencing groups like The Nation of Domination and the tag team called Cryme Time. The essay shows comparisons to Cornette’s territory and the ideas that were used years later in the WWF, when Cornette became a employee of the company.

Another essay that was a great read involved covering the music in wrestling by Christopher L. Stacey, called “I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Stacey takes the reader through the wrestling acts such as Jimmy Hart, Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Valiant, and Jackie Fargo, who each made records and used music to help get them more popular in the Memphis area. One story mentioned in the section covers how wrestler Sputnik Monroe was friends with the founder of Sun Records, Sam Phillips, and how Elvis Presley dated a female wrestler at one time.

The essays in “Identities in Professional Wrestling” are filled with knowledgeable information, along with entertaining stories. It is informative to read opinions by writers in an academic way covering the multi-layers of the world of wrestling, along with reading the multi-cultural aspects that evolved throughout the years.

 

“Identity in Professional Wrestling: Essays on Nationality, Race and Gender” Edited by Aaron D. Horton (McFarland, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-4766-6728-7 eISBN: 978-1-4766-3141-7)

 

Front cover photo of Jake Pappenheim, who wrestled under the name “Kurt von Poppenheim,” by Matt Merz

I have mentioned several times on this page (when discussing professional wrestling) that I grew up reading the wrestling magazines in the 1980s and 1990s, especially the famous Stanley Weston magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, Sports Review Wrestling, and others that dealt with the many territories where I could not view on local television. Steven Verrier’s “Professional Wrestling in the Pacific Northwest” (McFarland, 2017) details the territories in the Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia territories through 1883 to the present time.

The book is very detailed and researched, with citations from other sources like The Wrestling Observer, Slam Sports, and books by Dean Silverstone and Vance Nevada. It has a lot of history covered, especially early on, dealing with the promoters and early wrestling matches that lasted 2-3 hours long, until the sport started dealing with more entertainment aspects to attract audiences, and the impact wrestling had during the creation of television. There are several stories in the early pages, including one that states famous promoter Paul Boesch got his start in Seattle before creating his most famous promotion in Houston, Texas.

Verrier also covers the impact the NWA creation had on these territories, along with the Dumont Network’s influence on wrestling, which helped create its Golden Age. Wrestlers are mentioned briefly from the territory, such as Buddy Rogers, Killer Kowalski , and Luther Lindsay, who was considered the first African American star before Bobo Brazil.

One topic, over half way through the book, describes when the Department of Justice investigated the NWA in the 1950s, which originally had an impact on the way the league handled other promotions and the wrestlers. However the impact did not last long, as the promoters basically did what they wanted.

“Professional Wrestling” hits its stride when covering the 1970s and 1980s, when the author covers stars like Jesse Ventura, Adrian Adonis, Roddy Piper, Chris Colt, and other stars which fans my age would remember the most about the area. Promoter Don Owen was the most popular in the Oregon area, whom I read about in the magazines, with stars such as Buddy Rose, Rip Oliver, and Billy Jack Haynes. There is quite a bit on Piper, including a story where he showed his loyalty to Owen and Jim Crockett, even when he was the top heel for Vince McMahon Jr.’s WWF.

The 1970s-1980s section is my favorite part of the book, and wish there was more coverage on the wrestlers throughout the book, but then again, the book would have been almost 500 pages if everyone was covered intensely (the book is 230 pages) There is a humorous tale of how promoter Al Tomko created his own characters to compete with McMahon Jr. (by using the Jack Pfefer concept) using the names “Macho Man” “King Kong Bundy Jr.” and other nicknames that were being used by McMahon’s top stars.

Verrier covers the many promotions, not just in Oregon, but in surrounding areas, including the modern era that featured stars like Christopher Daniels, the future Daniel Bryan, and Davey Richards. It also has a brief sentence or two on Washington’s Suquamish Championship Wrestling (SCW), where my cousin has performed.

“Professional Wrestling in the Pacific Northwest” has so much history, that fans who really enjoy studying the earlier days of wrestling will enjoy, and not just remember the territory for people like Rose, Art Barr, and Matt Borne. Causal fans may not enjoy the early parts of the book, which feels like a text book, but overall the book is enjoyable, especially the Don Owen section for fans of the 1980s wrestling period.

 

“Professional Wrestling in the Pacific Northwest” by Steven Verrier (2017, McFarland ISBN: 978-1-4766-7002-7 eISBN: 978-1-4766-2967-4)

For more about Steven Verrier, go to http://www.stevenverrier.com

 

For more information about these books, and other titles from McFarland Publishing, go to their website at: http://www.mcfarlandpub.com, or call their order line at : 800-253-2187

Thank you to McFarland Publishing for the copies of both books.

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Book Reviews: Double Dose of President Trump

Cover design by Jon Valk. Author photograph by Vincent Remini.

Let me preface this review by saying I know very little about the author Michael Savage, except he writes books and is a radio host that tends to be on the conservative side of politics. I have never listened to his show, nor have I read any of his other books. With that said, his book “Trumps War: His Battle for America” (Center Street, 2018) is an informative book that looks at his views on the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency and some of his obstacles that President Trump will be facing. I am focusing this review on the basis of the book as a literary piece, not having this a political writing (so those that do not agree with Savage’s views, this is not the point-I am looking at the book as a written work).

The book was originally released in 2017, but I am reviewing the trade paperback version, which includes a new Preface at the beginning, which Savage looks at President Trump’s first year in office. In this part of the book, Savage details how those in the Republican Party who are in name only (he calls RINOs), claim they want spending cuts , but yet feel free to add more spending bills that add to the deficit. He also states that he believes President Trump will have to cave in on his stance on the DACA Program in order to get the votes to build his proposed wall, which was a stable of candidate Trump’s campaign. Savage goes on to write that he was disappointed on President Trump’s stance on opening all offshore waters for drilling.

This book is different from a normal conservative personality writing a book , where they bash the opposite parties and praise everything the current president is doing. Savage does state his dislike for the policies of the Democrat party throughout the past several years, but he also criticizes the Republicans (especially Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan) and other moderates who just play the political game, which is one reason why President Trump got elected; the voters were tired of the typical Washington politicians.

Savage starts off each chapter with bullet points called “Savage Solutions,” where he details ideas that he believes needs to be handled, and how President Trump should handle the situations. Savage gives background on what he thinks the problems of each chapter started, why it is a problem, and how to solve it if he was advising President Trump.

Overall the book is an easy read, and Savage details his points. Again, he does not just let the conservative base off the hook when it comes to certain issues, which made this book an interesting read. I enjoy reading about politics at times, and this book overall was easy to read, without a ton of political jargon that tend to boggle many books in the genre. The overall bad thing about books like this (and having to review them) is that many readers have their minds set up on the political topics , or on certain authors who write these books, and therefore, no review could sway them either way to check out this book. I was pleasantly surprised by Savage’s take on views, and how he puts both major parties to blame for different problems facing the future of the United States. Yes, he was a loyal supporter of the Trump campaign, but he does point out mistakes made that he feels the administration has made. This was an enjoyable book to look at, and made me want to look at a few other books by this author.

“Trumps War: His Battle For America” (Center Street , 2018 trade paperback ISBN:978-1-4789-7670-7 ebook ISBN: 978-1-478-97668-4) is available at http://www.centerstreet.com or bookstores everywhere.

For more about the author, go to: http://www.michaelsavage.com or on twitter at @ASavageNation .

 

Cover copyright 2018 Hatchette Book Group, INC

“Understanding Trump” by Newt Gingrich (Center Street, 2017) looks at the rise of Donald Trump’s political career that led him to become President of the United States.

Gingrich knows how things are run in Washington, being a former Speaker of the House and a presidential nominee in 2012. His insight on how things are run in politics add a knowledgeable insight to Trump’s political policies.

This book starts out explaining some of the tactics that Trump used during the campaign and how it was effectively used in winning the election, from his business background in use of branding (where he used his logo of “Make America Great Again” on his merchandise like hats, where other opponents just used their names), to his use of getting free publicity by using social media, where others spend millions of dollars in ads and media outlets. His background in business was also key in Trump’s attitudes , according to Gingrich, in knowing how to interact with people , getting things done on time and under budget, and working hard towards his goals. Trump’s use of holding rallies during (and after he won the presidency) was also an unique strategy that is mentioned in the book.

Gingrich also compares the differences between the two major parties as a whole, and how topics like the media handles each party. The book has some interesting comparisons that history readers may enjoy, when the author compares Trump and Abraham Lincoln, who both had similarities with the media attention when they both were elected.

At first glance, someone may think that this book is all Pro-Trump in the stance, but there are parts where Gingrich and Trump disagree on certain issues, including NAFTA, where Trump opposed, but Gingrich supported. Gingrich also has a section of the book where he makes his suggestions on how President Trump should approach his future and policies. Gingrich compares Trump to both former President Bill Clinton, who he says both would engage in the people that they were talking to (making that person feel like the only person in the room , and that their views mattered), to President Ronald Reagan as well.

The author uses his personal interactions with President Trump and his family from before and after Trump’s political career started. Gingrich’s interaction with Mr. Trump and his family puts a nice background of who President Trump is as a person. The book isn’t just a opinion of Trump, but the author uses quotes from President Trump’s “Art of the Deal” book, other news polls and columns, and uses part of an essay entitled “Intellectual Yet Idiot,” which is included in the back of the book to get the whole concept that is used in the book.

The sad thing about books like these is that if a person is not a supporter of President Trump or the Political Right, they will not give this book any thought and question any part of this review. However, there are some great information from history, from Bill Clinton, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan, that history readers would enjoy. There is also some of Mr. Trump’s speeches in the back of the book, including his Inaugural Speech.

This review is on the paperback version, which was recently released. The book was an interesting read, especially how Gingrich uses his past experiences in politics to give an insight to Washington, where some books written are by people who are guessing what goes on. President Trump fans will like this book, but there is still parts that others would find enjoyable if given the chance.

 

 

“Understanding Trump” by Newt Gingrich ( Center Street, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-4789-2306-0 ebook: 978-1-4789-2307-7) is available at http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.

For more about Newt Gingrich, go to: https://www.facebook.com/newtgingrich or on twitter at: https://twitter.com/newtgingrich

A special thanks to Center Street and Hatchette Books for the review copies of both books.

 

Music Review: The Oaks Takes Listeners on a New Revival

Art Direction, Photograph and Design: Brandon Wood

 

A few definitions for the word revival on Dictionary.com are: 1. Restoration of life 2. A new production of an old play, and 3. An awakening. All of these word fit the latest release by the legendary Oak Ridge Boys, entitled “17th Avenue Revival” (Lightning Rod Records).

Coming off of their 2016 “Celebrate Christmas” CD (which a review can be found here in the archives), and their first Live CD in 2014 (“Boys Night Out”), the band here records a raw, non produced effort that is underrated with today’s music releases, which has massive overdubs and effects on the instruments and vocals. This recording, according to the press interviews some of the band members have put out in promoting this project, has a live feel to it, where the members just stand around the same microphone and sing just like they were in a church setting, not in separate rooms using different microphones.

The CD is produced by Dave Cobb, who worked with the group on 2009’s “The Boys Are Back.” Cobb takes a different approach on the normal Gospel feel to what the band is normally used to putting out in the genre, using songwriters such as Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, and the duo of Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark, who worked with the great Kacey Musgraves.

The opening song, the first single, called “Brand New Star,” has an R&B feel to the song, not a straight up Gospel tone, with William Lee Golden on the main vocals. The song then runs into a slow ballad with the soulful Duane Allen singing “There Will Be Light,” which is reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight” in its mood and structure.

The Oaks each take turns sharing the lead vocals on the songs , with Richard Sterban singing “Walk in Jerusalem,” and Joe Bonsall singing lead on the songs “God’s Got It” and “Pray to Jesus.” The group shows their vocal harmonies on the choruses on most of the songs that show that the band still has the range that they have been known for.

The song “Pray to Jesus” has a humorous tone, as Bonsall sings the main vocals, which talks about how the character in the song use to complain about how their parents would talk about life and politics and now the narrator does the same at his older age. The narrator says how he goes to church and then heads off to the local mini mart to play the Powerball lottery. The song has a rockabilly rhythm to it, and with the humorous lyrics, makes it a unique choice to put on a Gospel CD, but it is one of the highlights of the collection. This song shows how the group’s willingness to stretch outside of the normal Gospel comfort zone from their past recordings.

The song “If I Die” (co-written by Vince Gill), is a slow ballad with Golden singing again, but the drums make this song, even though it is softly heard in the background. Maybe being a former drummer, this reviewer can recognize this, but Chris Powell’s playing on this song is different from the standard beat of gospel songs, using the normal beat with some soft fills in between to make the song quite full in the background for the ballad.

Just like the “Celebrate Christmas” CD, the group leaves one of the best songs for the very end. This time it is the song “Let It Shine On Me,” which has Allen starting off the song slow with just him and a Wurlitzer (played by Mike Webb), and then builds. Allen has proven in his last several CDs, along with singing live (the same goes with all the members), that he still can hit the notes at his age, where most artists half his age have lost their sound either live or on recordings (in the Country genre maybe Dwight Yoakam is the only other artist that can still hit their notes over the age of 50, and on the Rock side, Sammy Hagar, Barry Manilow, Huey Lewis, and Alice Cooper. Not a bad group to be in for the Oaks). Once this song kicks in, the electric guitar playing by Dave Cobb has a Reggae feel starting off and then, like a train starting to slowly build momentum, changes to a full out Southern Gospel feel. When hearing this song, the scene in the movie “The Blues Brothers” comes to mind, when they are in the church by James Brown- the song kicks into that kind of full on Gospel church party.

Overall the length of the songs, are short, with the longest song just over 4 minutes, and the shortest is around 2 minutes. The overall run time of the CD is 28 minutes. This is refreshingly short for a CD, and there is no unneeded fillings (song- wise or solo-wise) on here. One of the great things about this recording is that once the listener is getting the feel of the music, it’s already starting back to Track 1. The Oaks leave the listener wanting more with its short length, which is always a good thing in their case.

The title 17th Avenue Revival refers to the studio where the group recorded the release, which has a strong history of musicians. However, looking at the definitions of revival again, it’s clear that the Oaks show a new life in these Gospel songs that proves a new production of the something old, and definitively brings an awakening and respect for the musicianship, artistic approach, and just plain old listening fun to a CD that should not be mislabeled as just another Gospel Record.

 

17th Avenue Revival is available from Lightning Rod Records and is out now.

Track Listing: 1. Brand New Star 2. There Will Be Light 3. God’s Got It 4. I’d Rather Have Jesus 5. Walk In Jerusalem 6. Where He Leads Me I Will Follow 7. Pray To Jesus 8. If I Die 9. Let It Shine On Me

The Oak Ridge Boys are: Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.

For information about the Oak Ridge Boys, go to : http://www.oakridgeboys.com

Book Review: A Hot History of Paperback Horrors

Cover art by Tom Hallman.

With the successes of the remade film “It” by Stephen King and the Netflix show “Stranger Things,” it seems like the horror/suspense genre may be making a comeback. King’s books are being carried around high schools and libraries just as much as they did when they had popularity in the 1980s. Grady Henrdix’s “Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction” ( Quirk Books, 2017) is an interesting journey through the history of the horror books that were found on the paperback racks.

The book starts off with a brief history of how books in the 1960s were called “Eerie Adventures” or “Stories of the Weird,” and then went on to be called Horror, thanks to the demand of the books after titles like “The Exorcist” and “Rosemanry’s Baby” in the 1970s, which made the genre “fit for adults.”

The book is put into sections based on topics such as the books dealing with Satan, murderous and strange children, haunted houses, and what is called “Inhumanoids” (werewolves, mummies and skeletons). The book also dives into the science horror themes, where ESP and aliens were the subjects of the books, to the return of Gothic and Romantic horror books.

The book covers rarer horror books that some may not be aware of, like when the blaxploitation craze created books like “The Black Exorcist,” by the company Holloway House, after films like “Shaft” became popular. One of the more humorous sections is when Hendrix takes the reader through books that had animals as the murderous evils. Many know about King’s “Cujo,” but there were evil cats, panthers, rabbits, bees,stoned Mexican bulls, along with killer crabs, whales, and plants that were being published.

Hendrix also covers the science horror genre that involved ESP, evil computers, skeleton doctors, the horoscope series, and other odd plot lines, like when scientists would take out small parts of people’s brains and see if the patients would notice that parts of the brain were missing.

“Paperbacks” covers the popular authors, such as Anne Rice, V.C. Andrews, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and R.L. Stine. A horror history of books would not be without Hannibal Lecter either. Hendrix also goes deeper into rarer themes and authors, including several books dealing with heavy metal music from the 1980s (in response to the PMRC Hearings), early teen horror, and role playing games (which the music and RPG books seem appealing that will be sought out).

The best part of this book is the glossy, full color photographs that details the covers of the books, along with pages designated to the history of some of the artists. Since there are so many books to cover, most of the books only get a small summary of the plot lines, which is great because then the readers can go out and try and find some of these so called “gems” to discover themselves. As mentioned before, the book is placed by genres, so there is quite a bit of jumping back and forth through the years throughout the chapters. The author adds humor to the book by stating a few of his opinions of some of the story lines, which is needed because it would be a strange trying to keep a straight, serious tone for historical purposes when discussing story lines such as Nazi Leprechauns, killer Smokey the Bears, or evil marionettes.

Overall the book has great information, although sometimes there are brief text that just name the titles of the books and moves on (once again, with so many books to cover, it’s allowed), the photographs and artwork is what makes this book the most appealing. The reader can spend several minutes on each page admiring the artwork and covers of the books and not even cover the text. Hendrix has a nice reference collection here in the book, which horror readers would love as a tool to help them add to their paperback book collection, all while not taking itself too seriously with the summaries.

 

 

Thank you to Quirk Books for the review copy of this title.

 

 

“Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction” by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-59474-981-0 e-ISBN: 978-1-59474-982-7) can be found, along with other Quirk Book titles at : http://www.quirkbooks.com

 

For more information about Grady Hendrix and his books, go to:

http://www.gradyhendrix.com

 

Book Review: Universal Horrors a Great Text for Horror 101

Cover image: Gloria Stuart and Boris Karloff in “The Old Dark House,” 1932

Just like seeing Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster on screen for the first time, Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas’s “Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931-1946 Second Edition” (McFarland, 2007) is a breath-taking moment just looking at the cover before the reader even opens to the first page.

This 616 page text looks like a college textbook that one would read in film class at a college university, but the writing and stories in the book is more than filled with basic facts about the cast and directors, and engages the reader to where they can’t put the book down.

The book covers the great history of the Universal Film’s horror history, where the run times were a little over an hour, no CG on the monsters (just great costumes and elaborate makeup), and all the little problems that occurred during the filming of the shoots. This was the Golden Age of the horror films, where production shooting lasted a few months and were double -billed at the theaters, where stars like Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. , and more were the marketable heroes of the day. The book covers the Carl Laemmle early days to the “New Universal” history of the company.

 

The book starts in chronological order throughout the book (after a brief historical introduction), starting with Lugosi’s “Dracula,” and continues through 1946’s “The Brute Man” with Rondo Hatton. There is a section at the end of the book covering the serials that were made (such as the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon), along with a small section of “Odds and Ends” which covers some of the films that did not constitute (or was wrongly billed as) “Horror Films.”

The book details some of the build ups to how the films were written, produced , and brought to the audiences, with stories of last minute changes in cast or props, management shake-ups at the company, and includes interviews via magazines, and by the authors themselves, with some actors and staff that were there during the filming. There is not just the well known Universal Monster films, such as “Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Wolf Man,” and “The Creature From The Black Lagoon,” but also rarer films that are not as well known, such as “The Invisible Ray” and ” The Strange Case of Dr. RX.”

The films covered are not just monster films, but covers the company’s journey into the mystery, thriller, and science fiction genres. The authors write detailed information, along with putting their own opinions of the films , to make the book a great movie companion that can be used as a reference for a lover of this topic. At the end of each movie, the authors provide reviews of the films by the Hollywood reviewers that were put out at the time, which shows even more of the astonishing research that the book must have taken to create.

The personal opinions of the authors may not be agreed upon here (Some of the favorites discovered here in the past few years such as Karloff’s “The Climax,” “The Tower of London,” and even Lugosi’s “Dracula” are not shared as positive by the writers), the views still provide background information and proof why they did not like certain films so it does not come off as offensive to the reader.

Each page of the book is double columned to provide an easier read , along with being allowed to combine all the information for each movie. The chapters are based on the years the films were released, and are separated nicely for a quick look up to find information of just a certain film. There are wonderful photographs throughout the page (usually several on each page) filled with cast photos, behind the scene shots, and promotional footage that were released

Being a fan more of the Universal era films when it comes to horror, as opposed to the Hammer Films, this book was a wonderful journey to read every page, from page 1 to 616. Not only was the book informative and entertaining, but this reviewer made a list of films to try and seek out to watch from the book. Every movie lover of this classic era should have this book, as a reference guide, along with studying more about the history of a bygone era of Hollywood. This is one book that will stay in this reviewer’s book collection and will be used over and over again.

 

Thank You to McFarland for the Review Copy of the book!!

 

“Universal Horrors :The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931-1946 Second Edition” (McFarland, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-4766-7295-3 eISBN: 978-0-7864-9150-6) is available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com or can be ordered at (800) 253-2187.

 

Spread The News: Some of My Favorite Songs by Huey Lewis and The News

One of the most successful (and one of my all time favorite) bands from the 1980 and 1990s was Huey Lewis and The News. This act had 18 U.S. Top 40 hits, 12 Top 10 hits, and 3 Number Ones. They also had two #1 albums. The band fused Pop Rock, Blues, Soul, and R&B into their music and are still putting out some great music and touring every year. I have seen them twice live and they were awesome. Their albums “Fore” and “Sports” were a major part of my childhood; in fact, we wore out several copies of “Sports” on cassette one summer alone during high school band camp and other events. Even though most people know the major hits like “The Power Of Love,” “If This Is It,” and “Stuck With You,” there are so many other songs by the band that many people forget or have yet to dive into. Here are some of my favorite Huey Lewis and The News songs (in no particular order).

“Is It Me” (1982). This ballad is one of my favorite songs off of the “Picture This” album. I have mentioned in past blogs how “Picture This” is one album that people need to know because there is not a bad song on the whole album. When people mention this album, they think of the songs “Workin’ For A Livin’,” “Do You Believe In Love,” or “I Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do,” but “Is It Me” is just as good as any of the ballads the band has made period. The song is similar in lyrics to “If This Is It” where the singer is telling the other person if he is the problem, let him know and he’ll leave. This song may have been on the AC or Pop Charts if it was released later when the band was on a streak, and was overlooked in my opinion on the album.

“He Don’t Know” (1991). Another album that is overlooked in the band’s work is “Hard At Play” (which I mentioned in the Underrated Albums blog). I listened to this album almost every day for a whole summer when it came out. I remember videotaping the band’s performance on “The Tonight Show” promoting the song as well and watching it over and over. The album produced two Top 40 singles, but this song did not chart when it was released. I like the Bluesy guitar work throughout the song, along with the opening where Huey is just talking before he starts singing. I also really love the ending guitar work, which shows the musicianship of Chris Hayes. One of the songwriters on the song, Jon Tiven, has had songs recorded by Rick Derringer, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy among others.

 

“Walking On A Thin Line” (1983). This song was off of the #1 album “Sports” and hit the charts in the U.S. at #18. It was the final single released off of the album, but yet for some reason is not remembered by many critics or causal fans, despite the chart position. The song discusses Vietnam Veterans, but some may not know that just by listening to the song. I like how the song has an edge to it, as opposed to the previous released Pop songs by the band. I remember the song was the start of Side Two on the album, and I used to love the opening even when it was played at band parties during my junior high years. This is one song that needs another listening to if you have forgotten about this song.

“When I Write The Book” (2001). This song was a Nick Lowe cover for the band’s “Plan B” Album. Not that Lowe’s version is bad, I just love the take Huey and The News take on the song made it more soulful with the organ and horns being more in front of the song. The song shows how Huey could have been a great singer in the 1960s right beside acts like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. “Plan B” has a few great spots on the album, and to me, some songs I have to skip over. However, this cover is one of the best parts on the album.

 

“Til The Day After” (1996). There are very few Greatest Hits and Live albums I will actually purchase. I am not sure why I ended up getting Huey’s “Time Flies..The Best Of” album at first, but I love this song off of the compilation. The Greatest Hits CD has four new tracks, and they are good, but this song should have been given a second chance (one song “So Little Kindness” was added to the “Plan B” album because Lewis wanted it to have a second chance). The acappella intro shows the vocal skills of the band, much like “Bad is Bad” from “Sports” but kicks into a mid tempo song with horns blaring. I always could picture this song being an opener (or encore) at their concerts, where the band starts off in the dark and then the house lights turn on when the music kicks in. The chorus of “I‘m gonna stay to the day after/After the sun turns off its light/The stars don’t shine at night/When God comes for my soul/I’ll politely say no/I’m gonna stay til the day after the world stops turning around” is just pure poetry. This song could be played at weddings it’s so great.

“Old Antone’s” (1988). The “Small World” album was a mix of good songs and some odd choices in my opinion. I loved the singles “Perfect World” and owned the 45 of “Give Me The Keys (And I’ll Drive You Crazy).” I was not a fan of the title song from the album, and it is the least listened to album I have of the band. The album did reach the Top 20 Albums Chart, but was not a major seller compared to the band’s other albums previously released. I do love “Old Antones,” which was written by Lewis and member Johnny Colla. The song has a Cajun/Zydeco feel to the song, and the lyrics are so well written that the listener can actually picture themselves sitting in the club watching the characters in the song. This is a great up tempo dance-able song, and shows the band’s growth from just their basic Pop Songs. The band experimented with the sound during this song, and I think it is one of the few bright spots of the album.

“I Know What I Like” (1987). When the “Fore” album came out, I listened to it so much that I got tired of it that I put it away for several years. A few years ago I took it back out and the CD never left my car player for a few months. I was amazed at how great the album held up years later. One of my favorites on this album was “I Know What I Like,” written by Lewis and Hayes. The backing vocals, along with a few others on the album, were done by members of the San Francisco 49ers football team. The song was a Top 10 hit for the band, but is overlooked by the hits “Stuck With You” and “Hip To Be Square” from the album. The song described me when I was younger (and parts are still true), like “I like staying up all night/watching old movies ‘til the morning light.” This song was almost like the band wrote this about me (I know they didn’t though!!) This song was missed by some when the “Fore” Album is looked at.

Huey Lewis and The News were such a major influence on my life, from my drum playing, to just admiring their different blends of music as a fan. There are many other great songs by the band, including their covers album of early Rock N Roll “Four Chords and Several Years Ago” from 1994, where I wore out the VHS copies I had (both bought from the store and taped from the PBS Special). When I started playing drums for local bands in Ohio, I always said that even though my favorite bands were The Beach Boys and Kiss, if I could ever model my dream band to play in, I’d model it like Huey Lewis and The News, where I could play Pop, Blues, Soul, and R&B. It surprises me that the band gets some bad press among the so-called critics, because they are without a doubt one of the greatest American Rock Bands of all time (Is anyone from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reading this????)

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Book Review: A Dog’s Tale: “Mad Dog” Looks at a Legend’s Life

Book cover design by Tania Craan and cover image by Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

Fans of classic professional wrestling will enjoy “Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story (ECW Press, 2017) by Bertrand Hebert, Pat Laprade, and translated by George Tombs. The book journeys through the life of one of the toughest, yet unmentioned wrestlers from Canada.

The book was originally released in 2015 in French, but is now translated and available in English. Vachon was an interesting character, which this book covers. Vachon started wrestling at the local YMCA, and made it to the Olympics in 1948 before starting a career in professional wrestling. Vachon started out as a babyface (good guy), but got his big break when he became a heel (bad guy) years later.

The book follows Vachon’s territory days of wrestling, working for several different promoters for little pay, until moving on to other territories in Canada and the United States. His career later took him to Japan as well, making stops in the NWA, AWA, WWWF and the WWF territories throughout the book. He stopped along the way in Oregon, Calgary, and Quebec.

The book takes the reader through some great events in Vachon’s life, from teaming with his brother, Paul, to being in tag teams with Verne Gagne, Hulk Hogan, Baron Von Raschke , and his solo career, where he won the AWA World and Tag Team Titles.

Even though Vachon was called “The Mad Dog” in the ring, the book describes how Vachon was willing to help out many of the wrestlers get a break in the business (such as a young Roddy Piper), along with helping other wrestlers create gimmicks to help the wrestlers get over to the public. While many wrestling fans recall the viciousness in the ring that the “Mad Dog” portrayed in front of the crowds, the book shows a man that helped many along with way, along with guiding many more people.

The book covers his famous years in the AWA in the 1960s and 1970s, along with his stays in the WWF in the 1980s. There is the story about the famous incident on a plane that AWA owner Verne Gagne would take several wrestlers to events. Vachon , while the plane was in the air, decided to open the side door of the plane, which became one of the most told stories about wrestling on the road in history.

There are some fans that remember Vachon from his time in Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (WWF) during the early days of the Rock and Wrestling Connection, or his time in the AWA, but the book informs the readers about when Vachon was featured on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” getting mainstream press before Hulk Hogan or Andre The Giant received that kind of attention in the 1980s.

The book also shows the heart-filled downsides that Vachon suffered during his lifetime, from failed marriages to several car accidents, including the shocking story of when he was injured by a car while walking near his home, which resulted in having his leg being amputated. This ordeal is covered with detail, including the aftermath that included lawsuits being brought out.

There are great quotes in the book by wrestlers like Roddy Piper, Rick Martel, Nick Bockwinkel, and family members. The book not only is a biography of a wrestler and wrestling stories, but a behind the scenes glimpse of the man not seen by the general public when the camera was off.

ECW Press is known for putting out some great wrestling books, and “Mad Dog” is one of the enjoyable ones. This book is a biography of a wrestler, yet is also filled with some great history of Canadian professional wrestling as well. The authors have not only shown great research in the book, but present it in a way that flows nicely throughout the book without bogging down the reader with a bunch of dates. The 272 page text has the right amount of information without having slow parts in the reading.

Fans of the classic eras of wrestling (1960s-1980s) will enjoy this work, along with those that want to study more about Canadian Wrestling. The book was entertaining, knowledgeable, and heart-filled all combined in one setting. ECW has another winnner on its hands with “Mad Dog.”

 

“Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story” by Bertrand Hebert, Pat Laprade, and translated by George Tombs (2017 ISBN: 9781770413320) can be ordered at http://www.ecwpress.com along with their other titles.

 

A special thanks to ECW Press for the review copy of the book.

Book Review: Fields Tells a Blessed Story

In her book “Blessed Life” (FaithWords, 2017), actress Kim Fields ,with Todd Gold, discusses her career and life in Hollywood, having come to fame through television commercials that led her to the part of Tootie on the show “The Facts of Life.”

Fields takes the reader through a few stories on the set of the “Facts” show, where there were casting changes and mid season breaks during the first season, which eventually led to the show’s breakthrough. She tells about how in during Season Four of the show, a comment by Joan Rivers led to the show’s producers to start monitoring the weight of the cast members. The book walks through Kim’s career after the “Facts,” to getting a role on the show “Living Single,” to her work behind the camera and on reality shows and her love for spoken word poetry.

The book, at times, covers how Fields became a Christian at age 14, and how her faith helped her through some tough parts of her life, including bad relationships, and a time that she refers to as “The Dark Ages,” which a Liza Minnelli interview helped her get through this period of her life.

The book is a easy read and a quick read , which is good and bad. If the reader is looking for a bunch of behind the scenes stories about the “Facts of Life” times, they will not find a lot here. There are stories, but this period seems to be rushed through (either that or there was not much to tell on the set). Fields spends more time on her failed relationships (one interesting story involves having to choose between her church and her then boyfriend), along with her praises for African-American leaders like Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama, and other social causes (which is not bad, it’s her book, but those wanting to hear more about the television career of hers may be let down a little).

There are some great stories in the book about her growing up with a young Janet Jackson and her family, and her career behind the camera with helping out other famous people with their acting, along with her thoughts on the TV Show “Friends,” which was being pushed by the same company that owned “Living Single,” which is very interesting.

This book is a different kind of Christian Living book, where although there are a few Bible verses put in the book, there are not many. The best part of the book is her discussing her “Dark Ages” period, which shows that even the people society builds up, have their doubts, fears, and disappointments.

Die-hard fans of Kim Fields will definitely enjoy this book. This is not a typical Christian book, nor is it a typical Hollywood tell-all biography, which each in their own right, has its unique qualities.

 

 

Thank you to FaithWords and Hatchette Books for the Review Copy.

 

 

“Blessed Life” by Kim Fields with Todd Gold (FaithWords, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-4789-4754-7 eISBN: 978-1-4789-4755-4) is a division of Hatchette Book Group , Inc.

For more information, go to http://www.Faithwords.com or http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com .       For more on Kim Fields, go to twitter @KimVFields.

Review: Get Behind Stan Lee Book

Bob Batchelor’s ” Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017) takes the reader through the life and struggles of the most well known comic book creator in Pop Culture in a wonderful read.

The book starts off walking the reader through the early childhood of the comic legend, from his parents struggling with ways to make money to support the family, especially his father, who was many times unemployed. This family background leads to Lee’s incredible work ethic throughout his life. Lee’s love for reading early on, especially the classic works like Shakespeare, helped form his writing skills that inspired many of his comic creations. The book mentions that Lee’s love for “Frankenstein” and “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” helped created The Hulk, and his love for Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, and Alexandre Dumas influenced creating the character Thor, along with Howard Hughes and the Cuban Missile Crisis inspiring the Iron Man/Tony Stark character.

After graduating high school, Lee began his writing career, starting off as an office boy for Timely Comics, which was geared to be a men’s magazine. The book covers the years Lee worked his way up from a gofer to ending up being the head of Marvel Comics, and his relationships throughout the years with the staff, freelancers, and artists in the company, including other comic pioneers Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Batchelor’s book is not just a date to date biography, but has plenty of interesting storied added to in that keeps the reader engaged. One interesting story from 1977 (when comic sales were down) is when Lee had to be convinced to take a chance on doing a comic tie in with a science fiction movie, called “Star Wars,” which not only became a cultural phenomenon itself, but also saved Marvel from bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is a common theme throughout this book as well, which was educational for this reader who was not familiar with all of the different bosses, mergers, and bad deals that occurred throughout Lee’s and Marvel’s history. The business undertone in the book makes the text more than just about a man who wrote comic books. Many people may have thought that every creation Lee made was a success, but the book takes the reader through characters like Savage She Hulk, The X-Men, and other titles that did not sell well at first, or was only in limited runs due to an early business deal which Marvel was only allowed to produce a certain number of titles per year. Bad business deals also put the company in trouble several times, including the famous attack on comic books in 1954, which involved Frederick Wertham attacking comic books for its contents. This Senate hearing ended up with the creation of the Comic Code Authority, which put limits on what could and could not be placed in the books, which affected the industry and caused many writers and artists to be fired.

Even throughout the bad business deals and attacks on the industry, Batchelor paints Lee as a person who perseveres throughout his life, including the fact that Lee wanted to be seen as a “credible” writer by his peers, besides comic books, and worked on the men’s magazines and had dreams of being a novelist, but was seen as a comic book writer. The reader gets a nice heart-filled touch to what may be seen as just a fact based book.

“Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” is not just a basic biography where the author presents a lot of research material (although it is very well researched), but it presents themes of The American Dream of a man who wanted one goal, but embraced another that turned him into a legendary figure in publishing, even through down turns, such as sales plummeting, canceled series, and numerous bad business deals and multiple bosses. The easy to read chapters makes this 204-page book an educational read for many who love comics, or just want to know more about the man behind many of the great comic book creations.

 

(A Special Thanks to Rowman and Littlefield for the Reading Copy of this book).

 

“Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” (Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4422-7781-6 and ebook ISBN: 978-1-4422-7782-3) is available at http://www.rowman.com. Or order at 800-462-6420

For information about the author, go to http://www.bobbatchelor.com

 

If you are looking for comics, culture, and collectables, and live in the Columbiana, Ohio area, visit WatchTower Heroes, LLC, located at 6 Main Street Columbiana, Ohio 44408. Check them out at http://www.watchtowerheroes.com and on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/WatchtowerHeroesComics/

Book Review: Victoria and Albert: You’ll Love this Book of Royalty

The book “Victoria and Albert A Royal Love Affair” (St. Martin’s Press, 2017) by Daisy Goodman and Sara Sheridan is not just filled with not wonderful photographs detailing Season 2 of the PBS series, but is also an outstanding biography of the royal couple.

This book is the official companion to the television series starring Jenna Coleman (known from her stint on Doctor Who) and Tom Hughes. The book has many pleasant photographs on the set of the show, including behind the scenes photos and stories that describe how the writer, set designers, and other cast members approach the show and their characters. The book also tells the story of the couple based on historical research and the use of Victoria’s journals.

The biography part of the book is well researched , and the authors add many pleasing information, giving a back story and extra information on topics during the reign of the couple, especially during the second series of the show. The book includes several timelines of historical events that were a part of the Victorian society, such as the working conditions of children, the popularity of satire in the newspapers, and the technological advances during this period. The writers also detail the events of the Irish Potato Famine, The “Corn Laws”, and how they affected those around Victoria (the famine and “Corn Laws” especially affected Sir Robert Peel that caused a rift within his own political party). The companion also covers topics like the several assassination attempts on Victoria’s life and the working conditions inside of the palace, along with the advances and historical precedents that Albert helped bring to society.

Since this is also a book about the television series, there are wonderful cast quotes about their characters, how the costume designers and set designers created the settings, and humorous tales about extras and the animals used on the show (for instance one extra was sent home for having blue hair, and the dog that plays Victoria’s Dash was actually deaf).

The book even covers descriptions of the symbolism in the culture at the time, such as what the hidden messages meant for use of different kinds of flowers, to a description of medicine uses during the period (such as leeches), and what the criteria was for a person to inherit the crown.

The great thing about this book is that someone who has not seen the television show would not be lost in the book. The reader can come into this book with no idea of the show and enjoy the book, because it is part biography. The layout of glossy pages, filled with quotes from the series is beautifully done, along with the pages of the extra information, such as the coverage of one would be assassin who was referred to as “The Boy Jones,” how Royal Christenings were done, and covering the etiquette and food of the time.

Goodwin and Sheridan’s companion book is not just for fans of the show, but for history readers. There is so much information, timelines, and drawings that the reader will take several minutes on each page gazing at the glossy layout filled with color and black and white photographs.

The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here, because if one just sees the cover, they will think it’s just about the television series, which is a shame because there is so much to this book to please history and pop culture readers, along with those that like to see how a series is created (including the work that goes into a show), on top of those that want to read about one of the most famous Royals. This is one book that must be read, and then read again.

 

 

A very special thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the advanced reading copy.

 

“Victoria and Albert A Royal Love Affair” by Daisy Goodwin and Sara Sheridan (St. Martin’s Press, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-250-17530-4) is available where books are sold. For more information on books by St. Martin’s Press, go to : http://www.stmartins.com.

For more about Daisy Goodwin to go: http://www.daisygoodwin.co.uk

For information about Sara Sheridan, go to : http://www.sarasheridan.com