Peter Ames Carlin wrote one of my favorite rock bios of all time. His 2012 New York Times bestseller "Bruce," told the story of Bruce Springsteen the way I like reading a rock and roll story. It spared the 60 pages on the history of Colts Neck, New Jersey and another 40 pages on his great-grandparents' parents and got to the heart of what makes a great rock book--the subject and his music, with just the right amount of historical pepper. Peter Ames Carlin knew what a Bruce fan wanted to read.
This is why I was looking forward to "Sonic Boom: The Impossible Rise Of Warner Brothers Records." Carlin, who has contributed a number of times to Burning Wood, loves music the way we love music and I was confident this story would not be bogged down with numbers, charts and statistics. It would be something I'd want to read. Stories worth telling.
I was not wrong.
"Sonic Boom" reads like a series of shorts, each covering a pivotal moment from WB's beginning and its failure to release a hit, right on through its rise in the early 70's. But this isn't filled with the stories you've heard time and again. These are inside stories from the very top of the heap, Mo Ostin, and his staff of music-loving crazies and visionaries, who share anecdotes about Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, Frank Sinatra, The Kinks, Alice Cooper, Lowell George and The Grateful Dead.
Long before Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" and "Purple Rain" there was Ira Ironstrings and that 1958 classic "Music For People With $3.98 (Plus tax, if any)." It took a number of these mistakes before WB had a hit record..and it wasn't with music. Even when Frank Sinatra, a man who famously hated rock and roll, was given Reprise Records, he signed his pals Frank and Dean of course, but also Ethel Merman and Dennis Day. 1962's "hit" list included, among other misses, "The X-15 And Other Sounds Of Missiles, Rockets and Jets." The rise took some time and some truly forward thinking and you'll read about how it all unfolded, with The Kinks, Trini Lopez, chimps on tricycles and one of the GTOs jumping out of a cake.
"Sonic Boom" is fast and funny, and it does what the best music books should do--it makes you want to listen along. My soundtrack to "Sonic Boom" included revisiting Van Dyke Parks' "Song Cycle," which is now something I love after dismissing it for years, Little Feat's "Feats Don't Fail Me Now," Alice Cooper's "Love It To Death,"and The Dead's "Anthem Of The Sun." I'm sure each of you will have your own personal picks as you read along.
I rarely write about books I've read, but I had so much fun with "Sonic Boom," I thought you might want some of that fun, as well.
"Sonic Boom" is out tomorrow and you can get it here.