Russell Baillie 's Opinion

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Russell Baillie: Pump up the volumes

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'If you ever thought the most interesting member of Led Zeppelin was in fact, John Paul Jones, or Robert Plant... well, you might be right.' Photo / AP
'If you ever thought the most interesting member of Led Zeppelin was in fact, John Paul Jones, or Robert Plant... well, you might be right.' Photo / AP

This week's TimeOut contains a Big Rock Read about the electric eclectic era of Toy Love on the occasion of them receiving the New Zealand Herald Legacy Award at tonight's Tuis.

But compared to the BRRs that have been stacking up on my desk - the books editor has been tossing them Valerie Adams-like over the office divide on a regular basis - our cover story is a mere tweet.

The avalanche of BRRs this year may be partly down to the success of Keith Richards' rollicking read Life from 2010, which nicely predated the endless silver jubilee celebrations for his deathless band.

I have taken it up on myself to work my way through this stack of rock bios and say something useful about each. Some I finished. Some I thumbed. Some I threw back. Here goes ...

The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Mick Jagger by Christopher Andersen (Robson); Mick Jagger by Philip Norman (Harper Collins): These aren't the first Jagger biographies - Andersen's is an update of an earlier effort.

It's Jagger for Dummies which has the faint whiff of old news clippings. The book from Norman, who wrote the Beatle-book Shout! among many others, has a higher and deeper regard for his subject and is far more engaging. Neither are as good a read as Keef's memoirs though. Or Bill Wyman's for that matter. Oh and Mick's agent just rang to ask how high his autobiography advance is now ...

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young (Penguin Viking): This one I finished. Maybe because I kept waiting for it to start. Young seems to have taken "autobiography" as an instruction to write about his cars. And train set. And his family. Sometimes his music. And how digital music sounds no good. And his cars. And repeat ...

Light and Shade Conversations with Jimmy Page by Brad Tolinksi (Virgin Books): If you ever thought the most interesting member of Led Zeppelin was in fact, John Paul Jones, or Robert Plant ... well, you might be right.

Prince by Matt Thorne (Faber and Faber): Thorne is apparently an accomplished novelist but it's obvious from this tome that his calling is being the world's greatest Prince-bore. His 500-word biography claims to do for his once-prolific purple funkiness what Ian MacDonald's wonderfully definitive Revolution in the Head did for the music of the Beatles. It might have, had the author not spent so many dull pages dumping on us every bit of minutiae from his years of research and yet another account what it's like lining up at yet another exclusive Prince after-party. Sometimes Prince doesn't show, but that doesn't stop the hype. The book's a bit like that too.

Who I Am by Pete Townshend (Harper Collins): A hefty slog of an autobiography from rock's original troubled genius. It might have looked like fun being Pete Townshend - apparently his boyhood dance lessons helped him with his windmill-guitar and amp-smashing technique in later life - but no, apparently it hasn't been. Maybe it gets better after Woodstock ...

Rod The Autobiography by Rod Stewart (Random House): A very Keef-like memoir. Touching and often hilarious. Found myself wanting to marry him. He must get that a lot.

I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons (Random House): I haven't finished this one yet but I will. The writing is lovely and biographer Simmons has worked out the trick of letting her subject have a say - but not too much - about his life in a series of interlaced interviews. He's the quietest in this bunch but he makes the greatest volume.

* nzherald.co.nz will have full coverage of tonight's awards, including a live blog, photo galleries, videos, interviews and all the winners as they come to hand. Join us here from 5pm.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

Russell Baillie

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Russell Baillie has been writing about entertainment since shortly after entertainment was invented. His first music review was of five whalers singing around a piano which got him run out of the town of his upbringing, Whangarei. Along the way he discovered writing about moving pictures with sound was just as rewarding as his coverage of gramophone products and musical ensembles. Eventually he found a home at the Herald, as the founding editor of the TImeOut section, where has won prizes for editing, reviewing and feature writing.

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