"Almost Famous," the solid rock-writer movie, seems Hollywooden when compared with another insider's scoop on the music scene.
"Nobody Told Me" relates backroom business deals in the rock and roll world of the 1970's and '80's. It is a fast read that begins in Rockland County (New York) where author Ken Geringer, 46, grew up. While the book traces the author's experiences as musician, manager, record company president and night club owner, it really is Geringer's personal story as a 14-year old runaway, and later husband and father through trying times that is absorbing. How he almost incidentally becomes entangled with the big time while trying to make the rent and raise a family forms a compelling story.
While Geringer's plentiful tales of high times on the music scene are best left unsaid here, other behind-the-scenes stories are the grabber. Geringer's accounts of John Lennon by way of the ex-Beatle's record producer and Geringer's asscoiate, are revealing and add to the Lennon iconography. Geringer's Lennon counters the popular image of the legend as a supremely confident and outspoken artist. As he returned to music after five years' retirement, the late '70's Lennon is uncertain of his talents and abilities. He's bossed about by an autocratic Yoko Ono, a certified control freak if Lennon producer Jack Douglas, the author's friend and source of the stories, is to be believed. (Besides, this is hardly the first time Ono has been cast as a Machiavellian manipulator.)
Most disturbing is Geringer's suggestion that Lennon's eventual return to his old self while recording his comeback album, "Double Fantasy" with Douglas, may have set the stage for his murder. Some, he hints, may have been angered by Lennon's revitalized independent streak, renewed drug use and infidelity as he talks openly of wanting to end his marriage to Ono. His death, according to this line of thought, may have been designed to end all of that independence.
Lennon fans may be shocked, may want to dismiss the book as revisionist and sensationalistic; but Geringer "was there"--not during the Lennon sessions, but later as friend, confidante and managaer of record producer extraordinaire Jack Douglas. In that context, "revealing" seems closer than revisionist.
Lennon spoke freely with Douglas in the studio after the night's sessions ended, Geringer reports, and there are tapes of the talks to prove it. Douglas, who Geringer says intended to give the tapes to Lennon himself, wound up presenting them to Yoko following her husband's death.
Geringer is privy to more than just Lennon lore, given that the Douglas resume includes production or engineering work on records by Bob Dylan, the Band, the Who, Mick Jagger, Aerosmith and Cheap Trick. Other luminaries Geringer encounters along the rock road include an unknown musician who later takes Hollywood by storm. Johnny Depp was a member of The Kidds, a Florida rock band that Geringer jammed with. Depp was a good musician, Geringer observes, and his move from musical stage to movie screen is precipitated when actor Nicholas Cage catches The Kidds performing at an L.A. club.
"Nobody Told Me" borrows its title from a Lennon song of the same name; the Lennon lyric--"Nobody told me there'd be days like this"--reflects Geringer's story perfectly. No one told the author how to get into the music business; he learns the ropes through happenstance, trial and error--direct experience.
Nobody told him how to get out of trouble with thugs or the law, either, those are other stories in this book that, as Lennon sings, point to "strange days indeed..."
About Ken GeringerSee more books from this Author
Geringer attempts to inject vigor into his tales with frequent exclamation points, but this doesn't quite make up for the workman-like style or for the memoir's disingenuous central conceit: Geringer depicts himself as a showbiz insider, but his connections to the famous names he tosses around ar...| Read Full Review of Nobody Told Me: From Basement...