Keith Richards' Life

Not a normal life, but a darn interesting read.

No one reading Keith Richards’ Life should expect the book to describe a normal one. Massive amounts of drugs, especially heroin, legal battles in the court and on the street, fights and accidents. Who knew that he carries a knife and knows how to use it?

All this makes for fascinating reading, if you are interested in drug stories. He began with pharmaceutical grade cocaine and heroin, tried everything else and is hardly apologetic. But if you want to learn about his relationships with his bandmates, for example, forget it.

Obviously he couldn’t get away with writing a book without describing his love/hate relationship with Mick Jaggar, but other brief mentions of his dislike for Brian Jones (whose girlfriend he stole) and his huge respect for Charlie Watts, the other Rolling Stones are largely absent from this story. Richards’ best friends were Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys and other musicians like Gram Parsons, fellow heroin users and wild men.

So don’t read Keith Richards’ Life for another history of the Rolling Stones. Read it to hear Richards’ story, as he tells it. His passion for music is especially compelling. Although they are known for rock and roll, in the beginning the Stones were a blues band, Chicago style, in the vein of Muddy Waters, who Richards both idolized and studied intensely.

I found his development as a guitarist especially interesting – his signature five-string tuning and method of writing the Stones’ biggest hits. Life is a good story, written in a conversational style, which will put off readers who aren’t interested in the ups and downs of a junkie or don’t want to hear women referred to as bitches.

Me, I liked it a lot – what do we expect from Keith Richards? A normal life?

Fun BNL Facts

Did you know that “Million Dollars” was a gag song?

Aside from the fact that they are named after something that they love (and let’s face it, lots of people love bare naked ladies; it’s one of the most common forms of art in the world) and pretty much just wanted to shock an audience with, and the fact that they’re on just about every children’s movie soundtrack of all time, how much do you really know about the Barenaked Ladies?

Here are just a few facts about this band that has such a huge following, along with a pretty large pool of haters…

The original duo bonded over being camp counselors. Remember that one time at band camp? Well, it was probably pretty different for Ed Robertson and Steven Page—but they still made music together, albeit a different kind.

The BNL are Canadians. So in addition to Bryan Adams and Alanis Morissette, we have these guys!

The band has sold over 15 million records.

My favorite BNL song, “If I Had a Million Dollars,” is apparently a song that inspires pasta pelting. Audiences are known to throw macaroni and cheese at the band while they play the song, which is kind of funny and gross at the same time. I must admit, the whole “Kraft dinner” part of the song is my favorite—and I like the live version better than the radio one.

If you’re looking for an official fan club to join, you might not want to search for Barenaked Ladies Fan Club; instead, search for The Ladies Room. Members get access to lots of different concert specials, and have been known to receive Christmas CDs from the band as well.

The band is known to make up lots of jokes, impromptu songs about their gig locations, raps containing lyrics from a multitude of other songs, and anecdotes of their travels as they perform, making them a pretty big hit when it comes to their live performances. They have also requested that all fans in attendance give them their socks and held question and answer sessions with fans during concert shows.

“Another Postcard,” one of my daughter’s favorite songs (and therefore one of the most annoying songs in the world, as I’ve had to hear it so often!), was written as a joke when one of the member’s children received a postcard featuring a chimpanzee.

For lots of other facts about the Barenaked Ladies, click here.

BNL private fan club!

I’m sorry to say, but it seems that fans of The Bare Naked Ladies are far and few between. Those of you who are still in love with the band, may find it difficult to find others who are willing to discuss the music and past ‘successes’ of the crew. Well, in my area there are actually a few band fan clubs that get together to discuss the music, the members and anything else their little hearts desire. I was thinking this would be such a great idea for those of you who are looking to find fellow fans of the old, but yet, still not forgotten band.

If you’re not familiar with the process of setting up your own fan club- it’s really quite simple. You can hold the club at your house, or the home of a friend. You can start out small and just offer coffee to the members of the club, but by accepting a weekly donation of $1.00 per member, the group will be able to offer more snacks and drinks to those attending the fan club. After you decide on the location, you can advertise your new fan club using online social networks or putting flyers around the town.

The club may start off small at first, but eventually through word of mouth and passing out flyers, you’re Bare Naked Ladies fan club may grow to be quite large and you’ll have lots of people to share your fan devotion feelings with. Even if the club remains tiny, only having a few members, you’ll be able to share with those members and possibly develop some friendships with others who have similar interests.  

The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band

Motley Crue

What comes to mind when you think of Motley Crue? Eighties hair metal anthems that were only slightly better than those by Poison or Warrant? Or their reputation as one of the wildest rock bands ever?

If the second answer is a better description of Motley Crue for you, then you have The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band to thank for it. This is the tell-all semi-autobiography of a band that somehow seems to live on in popularity, despite being generally mediocre and overshadowed by many other bands of their generation.

With the help of an editor/writer, the book is written by the band members themselves, switching perspectives between the four of them, although bassist and songwriter Nikki Sixx gets the most time.

You will hear all about Sixx’s heroin addiction, guitarist Mick Mars’ chronic back problems, how singer Vince Neil killed another hair metal musician in a car accident, and way too much about drummer Tommy Lee’s Baywatch/Playboy relationships. The band members don’t exactly come across as likeable, but they certainly are interesting.

I was in middle school when Dr. Feelgood came out. At the time I wouldn’t have been caught dead listening to it. They weren’t nearly heavy enough for me at 12 years old – I much preferred Metallica, Iron Maiden, the Misfits, or Black Sabbath.

But I read The Dirt when it came out long after Dr. Feelgood came and went. Anyone who wasn’t a fan had already forgotten about Motley Crue. I enjoyed the book a lot and, yes, it even made me appreciate the band a little more. They aren’t Mozart, but decent rockin’ strip club music.

If you have the slightest interest at all in Motley Crue or rock and roll debauchery, then don’t miss The Dirt.

The Phantom Of The Opera

Phantom Of The Opera is one of those unforgettable and timeless masterpieces that almost everyone has heard about or enjoyed at some point of their life. Although many people would not consider it to be a traditional opera, it is nonetheless still a beautiful work and has fascinated people internationally for decades. There have been countless performances of Phantom Of The Opera from touring groups, Broadway, movies, and even its own show in Las Vegas at the Venetian Hotel. With the amount of popularity that this one story has attracted, it's only expected that the story is remarkable.

The Phantom Of The Opera was originally a novel that was written by Gaston Leroux. Ironically, when it was first published, it was not very successful as a book and was often times not even available in print for this reason. Although there were film and performance adaptations of the story, it never really gained true popularity until Andrew Lloyd Webber transformed it into a musical performance. His musical adaptation of the story in 1986 was the true format that allowed Phantom Of The Opera to shine and develop into the popular existence that it has now.

Not forgetting the stunning vocal quality that most performers have shared during their time spent depicting roles in The Phantom of The Opera, perhaps one of the most endearing factors of this story can be found in the love triangle that is ultimately between Erik, Christine, and Raoul -- for although at times the Phantom could be considered to be purely obsessed with Christine, he ultimately loves her, even though her heart is still to remain with her childhood friend and love interest, Raoul.

The Real Frank Zappa Book

I have to admit that I read The Real Frank Zappa Book a long time ago. I still remember it as being one of the best books by a musician that I have ever read. Zappa was a wild guy who surrounded himself by wild people – musicians, artists, creeps and just plain weirdoes.

Zappa’s music is very hit-or-miss. Some of his albums, especially the jazz/rock of Hot Rats or the comedy rock of Apostrophe, appeal to the masses, while others are just plain peculiar, like the classical music he made in his last years, such as on the Yellow Shark, his last album before his death. Or, some of it is just plain terrible, like his do-wop excursion Cruisin’ With Ruben and the Jets or the very promisingly titled but ultimately disappointing Jazz From Hell. (I’m sure that many people love these albums, however.)

Unlike Zappa’s musical output, The Real Frank Zappa book is pure gold. He was a sharp, inquisitive man who embraced weirdness while sticking to a someone rigid value system. As odd as his sensibilities were, he tolerated no drug use whatsoever, much like he had no love for religion or conservative politics.

His musical journey and legacy is legendary. And, like his music, humor plays a major part in the book. You have characters like Bill the Mannequin F***er and the guy who was addicted to electricity.

You don’t have to be a Frank Zappa fan to like this book, just like how you don’t need to be a Frank Zappa fan to enjoy Hot Rats. You just have to give the man a chance.

The Phish Book

In these times of internet-readiness I’m not sure why anyone would spend money on a book of photographs. Especially of a band. It seems like you could download any photo you want for free. Photos are promotion, after all, much like how the music itself is evolving into promotion for concerts, an activity that was always more lucrative for the band than for oft-exploitative record companies.

Now a huge exception for this argument is that, if you love Phish the band and you have a coffee table that lacks a coffee table book, then you will probably love Phish the book.

Phish – love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t deny that they have made a huge impact on American music. And especially live music. The Phish Book documents their foray into massive popularity – 1996-1997, the years of their first major radio airplay - “Bouncing Round the Room” from A Live One - and their awe-inspiring 1997 summer tour which culminated in The Great Went, a three day music festival that included a giant nude photo and stellar musicianship.

The year The Phish Book came out was sometime around 2000. That summer I saw Phish’s three night run in Deer Creek, Indiana. The last night was a grand occasion in the history of this vastly experimental band. They reworked one of their signature songs, “Chalkdust Torture,” and frequently teased “Moby Dick” by Led Zeppelin. During the show singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio gave the band a tongue-in-cheek introduction, greatly pleasing those of us in the crowd who still felt a close connection to this now colossal, sensory-overload-inducing kick-ass rock band. “We are the Phish, buy the book, and see the movie.”

If you saw them during those years or wish you had, then you will delight in thumbing through the pages of The Phish Book.


Bare naked ladies items for sale


If you’re a die-hard fan, you’ll probably own and would like to own a bunch of different stuff that represents the band. It was surprising to me to find just how many different things you can get with the band’s name and/or picture on it. While looking around on the internet I found the typical items such as; t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats. But, I also found coffee mugs, pajama pants, buttons, posters, notebooks, pencils and more. There seems to be no end to the amount of items the band has to sell, and from what I’ve gathered, these items continue to sell quite often and companies continue to restock them.

I guess it’s a good thing for the band. I’m guessing their probably not making too much money from their CD’s because, let’s face it- the band is old news and everyone who is a big fan of the band already owns a copy of each CD, including the never released hits that someone surfaced on the web. So anyway, I bet these products are still bringing it quite a bit of money for the band long after their retirement from the music industry.

For those of you looking to add some new items to your bare naked ladies collection, I noticed that some of the prices on the web were absolutely ridiculous. I’m sorry, but I refuse to pay $60.00 for a sweat shirt for a band that wasn’t even legendary. If you’re looking to get some nice things without paying a fortune, you’d benefit from checking out Amazon and EBay. I actually found quite a bit of items for prices that were more than reasonable.  

The bands fan club

For those of you out there who are huge fans of ‘The Bare Naked Ladies’, did you know there is a fan club for the band that is still going strong?  Yes, that’s right. The last post on the fan site was in late January, and although the band is no longer together- their legend surely lives within their fans. At this time, the fan page is also offering an exclusive opportunity for those who join.

From my understanding, you are required to pay a fee if you want to join the fan club. I’m not sure how much, because I’m definitely not that much of a fan- However, upon joining you get a free BNL t-shirt and a member’s only keychain! From looking through the fan site, it certainly has everything that any fan could possibly want all in one place.

A forum is available so that fans can get together to discuss the band. There is a live music area, a picture area, a blog and show information. The fan club also links to a store where you can buy all the Bare Naked ladies items your little heart desires. The news archive also features easy to access links of everything that’s been put on the fan page since the creation in 2009. An extras area on the page offers an area where you can get free wallpapers from your computer and AIM icon downloads featuring the band.

Pass the word on for those you know who love the band. The club seems to be doing well and has enough members to keep the fan page up, active and full of new posts. 

The Math Behind the Music

If you aren’t a musician then this book will bore the hell out of you. Unless of course you love math. Then the book has a fighting chance to be interesting.

I’m a musician. I also can barely do basic math like long division. I read The Math Behind the Music, and it was interesting. Turns out math and music go hand in hand, like music and dancing. Well, maybe not the relationship isn’t quite that close, but the principals of mathematics form some of the fundamentals of the creation of music, if that makes any sense at all.

For example, have you ever wondered about the relative thicknesses and lengths of piano strings? Why some are longer than others? Well, they are divided mathematically. It’s the same with guitar strings. When you put your finger on the string and pluck it, you are dividing the string mathematically and changing the tone in a mathematical way. The layout of the fretboard is determined that way.

The Math Behind the Music also goes into some of the musical applications of math, such as the patterns used in change ringing, long passages of church tower bell ringing. It sounds like total chaos, but the old folks yanking those chords are actually following a set algorithm, if it can be called that. I told you I don’t really know what I'm talking about. But the cool thing about the book is that if you are a musician, you don’t really have to know much about math to understand the concepts of how math is used in music.