Podcast 315 – in which the Backlisted boys talk Great Musical Biographies

John Mitchinson and Andy Miller do the award-winning Backlisted podcast which, as they like to say on the tin, “brings new life to old books”. They’re also big music fans so we thought they would be the ideal people to come along and talk in their own inimitable style about what they feel are some of the best and sometimes overlooked examples of the genre.

That’s how come, in a wide-ranging discussion we came to touch on “Dino: Living High In The Dirty Business Of Dreams” by Nick Tosches, “Black Vinyl, White Powder” by Simon Napier Bell and Levon Helm’s “This Wheel’s On Fire”, “Nico: Songs They Never Play On The Radio” by James Young, Julian Cope’s “Krautrock Sampler”, Stephen Sondheim’s “Look: I Made A Hat” and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon” by Crystal Zevon, all of which are in their different ways recommended.

Conversation covers: how much a rock star gets for their memoirs, how to tell if an anecdote is made up or not, why Julian Cope doesn’t mind you downloading his book for free and how you, yes you, can easily increase the amount of reading you do.

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One thought on “Podcast 315 – in which the Backlisted boys talk Great Musical Biographies”

  1. I spent the first 50 years of my life living in London and moved to Sydney 11 years ago. Having all these wonderful books so informatively previewed and discussed is a fantastic guide. I read many of the books you feature and gift them to friends regularly. So firstly, thank you for a podcast I always look forward to and never miss.

    I recently saw Elton John in Sydney on his farewell tour and it was a terrific, generous celebration. He was as fabulous as ever and his band were outstanding. His final farewell, waving and standing on what can only be described as a Stena Stairlift, up and through the backdrop was hilarious, as was the moment the stage filled with dry ice and his piano podium started to glide around the stage, Phantom Of The Opera-style. He never cracked a smile at the campness of it all and carried the whole thing off with aplomb.

    As his autobiography has been covered, the film has been out and his farewell jaunt around the globe is almost at the halfway point, I wondered if you’d noticed that the 33 1/3 series of short books about particular albums is about to release “Elton John’s Blue Moves” by
    Matthew Restall. I think Captain Fantastic was the pinnacle of Elton’s studio albums and Blue Moves was a very accomplished follow-up but it was poorly received and that first flourish of Elton John’s career came to an end.

    The blurb,

    “By 1976, Elton John was the best-selling recording artist and the highest-grossing touring act in the world. With seven #1 albums in a row and a reputation as a riveting piano-pounding performer, the former Reggie Dwight had gone with dazzling speed from the London suburbs to the pinnacles of rock stardom, his songs never leaving the charts, his sold-out shows packed with adoring fans. Then he released Blue Moves, and it all came crashing down.

    Was the commercially disappointing and poorly reviewed double album to blame? Can one album shoot down a star? No, argues Matthew Restall; Blue Moves is a four-sided masterpiece, as fantastic as Captain Fantastic, as colorful as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, a showcase for the three elements–piano-playing troubadour, full orchestra, rock band–with which Elton John and his collaborators redirected the evolution of popular music. Instead, both album and career were derailed by a perfect storm of circumstances: Elton’s decisions to stop touring and start his own label; the turbulent shiftings of popular culture in the punk era; the minefield of attitudes toward celebrity and sexuality. The closer we get to Blue Moves, the better we understand the world into which it was born–and vice versa. Might that be true of all albums?”

    Thanks again for the podcast. Long may you run.

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