Rhino Reading Room: Rick Wakeman, Joe Cocker, and Morrissey
It’s time to return to the Rhino Reading Room to remind you of three artists from the Rhino catalog who are celebrating birthdays this month and have either written memoirs or have had biographies written about them. You don’t necessarily have to be a big fan of all three artists to keep reading, but if you enjoy getting immersed in the life stories of musicians, then you might just want to read about all of them!
• Rick Wakeman, Grumpy Old Rock Star and Other Wondrous Stories:
“Around about August 1948, Mr and Mrs Cyril Wakeman had an early night and some time later, at Perivale in Middlesex, Mrs Wakeman produced a bonny baby son. They named him Richard, but he quickly became known as Rick.
“Rick was a likeable little fellow who had a talent for the piano and for making trouble. Music became Rick's life - he joined a popular music group called Yes and became a legend. Much later he became a Grumpy Old Man who appears on Countdown, hosts a hugely popular radio show on Planet Rock and performs a one-man show telling stories about his rather extraordinary life.
“Which is where this book you are holding comes in. Mr Wakeman is simply one of the great storytellers of our age - let's face it, he has some fabulous material. It seemed a shame that some of the funniest yarns should not be more widely known. So he accepted some cash and here we are.
“Curl up by the fire with a Grumpy Old Rock Star and your nearest and dearest. We defy you not to want to read it aloud and laugh.”
• Rick Wakeman, Further Adventures of a Grumpy Old Rock Star:
“What do Postman Pat, Tommy Cooper, Norman Wisdom and George Best have in common with being abandoned in a Costa Rican jungle after a severe bout of flatulence? Indeed, how are they also connected to trying to buy an Australian brewery just to get a beer, owning twenty-two cars, an American soccer team and a Swiss mail-order pornography company?
“The common feature is of course a certain Richard Wakeman.
“The Further Adventures of a Grumpy Old Rock Star takes you, the privileged reader, on a trip of absurd excess, a cultural car crash of side-splitting hilarity and an unforgettable glimpse (again) into the life of one of Britain's most legendary showmen, rock stars and all-time great raconteurs.”
• Joe Cocker: The Authorised Biography, by J.P. Bean
“Joe Cocker is a rock music legend. A gas fitter who went from playing Sheffield pubs to the stadiums of the world, he was the man who no one — not even himself — expected to survive to the age of thirty. Having recovered his life and career, he cooperated with this full and frank biography to tell of all the highs and lows of his remarkable journey.
“Even by the crazy standards of rock'n'roll it is an amazing story. Since his mind-blowing interpretation of the Beatles' 'With A Little Help From My Friends' topped the British charts in 1968, Joe Cocker has had hits in every decade — and in more countries that he can remember. His appearance in the movie of Woodstock in 1969 catapulted him to worldwide fame and his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour of America almost killed him.
“Joe Cocker talked to biographer J.P. Bean with an honesty rare in rock stars — about his heroin addiction, alcoholism, the arrests that got him thrown in jail, the demons that haunted him for years. But most of all this is an uplifting story of an ordinary man who lit up America like a beacon in the night, was written off as a shambolic wreck and then — against all the odds — climbed back to become an even bigger star than he was first time around, with his wife playing a pivotal role in his recovery.
“Joe Cocker’s world tours took in as many as thirty countries and his hits like 'With A Little Help', 'Delta Lady' and 'Up Where We Belong' remain firm favourites on the airwaves. His hometown university awarded him the title Doctor Cocker and in 2002 he was widely acclaimed for his powerful performance at the Queen's Golden Jubilee concert. He evolved from being a wild man to a statesman of rock'n'roll. In researching this book, J.P. Bean conducted interviews with Joe and many of his friends, family, musicians, managers and fans — to tell Joe's story in dramatic, humorous and captivating detail.”
• Morrissey, Autobiography
So this is where we’d normally put the words “From Amazon” and then do a copy-and-paste of the brief synopsis of the book from its Amazon listing, but Morrissey being Morrissey, the synopsis of his memoir reads in full, “Autobiography covers Morrissey's life from his birth until the present day.”
So to give you at least a little bit of insight into what to expect, here are a handful of quotes from reviews about the book:
“One of the autobiographies of this or any year ... A wonderfully entertaining read. He's as witty, acerbic and opinionated as you'd expect, but there's a welcome self-awareness throughout that makes the dramatic flourishes and hyperbolic dismay all the more hilarious. He may have more flaws than Manchester's Arndale Centre but he's just brilliantly, uniquely Morrissey.” – Daily Mirror
“Five stars. With typical pretension, Morrissey's first book has been published as a Penguin Classic. It justifies such presentation with a beautifully measured prose style that combines a lilting, poetic turn of phrase and acute quality of observation, revelling in a kind of morbid glee at life's injustice with arch, understated humour ... It is recognisably the voice of the most distinctive British pop lyricist of his era.” – Neil McCormick, Daily Telegraph
“A brilliant and timely book ... What is so refreshing about Morrissey's Autobiography is its very messiness, its deliriously florid, overblown prose style, its unwillingness to kowtow to a culture of literary formula and commercial pigeon-holing ... Autobiography is a true baggy monster, a book in which a distinctive prose style is allowed to develop ... A rococo triumph ... Overwhelmingly this is a book to be thankful for ... In the ways that matter, Autobiography reads like a work of genuine literary class.” – Alex Niven, Independent
“Rancorous, rhapsodic, schizophrenic: Autobiography delivers a man in full.” – Andrew Male, Mojo
“Sharply written, rich, clever, rancorous, puffed-up, tender, catty, windy, poetic, and frequently very, very funny. Welcome back, Morrissey.” – Michael Bonner, Uncut Magazine