Book Review: Fire And Rain

I just finished David Browne’s book Fire And Rain “interweaving epochal points in the professional and personal lives of the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, CSNY and James Taylor.” It was a fun choice. Perfect for kicking off the 2015 summer season in the Pineapple Hill hot tub. Perfect for any private library book collection.

I was in junior high and high school in the 1970s –old enough to be there when the Beatles broke up (and when Simon and Garfunkel songs were being playing in elevators). I liked James Taylor some. Liked CSNY a lot more. But I wasn’t really caught up in their goings on behind the scenes. Didn’t really fathom their place and meaning as the 1960s rocked and rolled to its chaotic conclusion. For instance, I hadn’t known that, according to the book:

  • James Taylor was such a junkie, had been institutionalized and once broke his hands and feet wrecking a stolen motorcycle on Martha’s Vineyard. (He seems so mellow.)
  • David Crosby was such a ladies man (though I should made the connection via his singing Love The One You’re With). Nor did I know Love The One You’re With was derived from a comment Billy Preston when Stephen Stills was hanging out with him (via Ringo Starr) in London.
  • Phil Spector was deemed a little creepy even back then –his “wall of sound” clients of that era thought it weird he carried a gun (and he was known even then to have a temper).
  • Jimi Hendrix ignited his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival.
  • Stephen Stills had tricked Rita Coolidge into dating him instead of Graham Nash (told a lie to steal her right out of Nash’s arms) and that Nash then won her back from Stills. (Man, Rita Coolidge was such a hottie!) And that Stills had been in military school in St. Petersburg, Florida (but before my time there).
  • Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters was, for a time, the best selling album in America (by-passing The Beatles’ Abby Road to get there), and that S&G were anxious over the similarities between their hit song and Let It Be.

There was a lot of drama in the background. Globally, of course. But also between the bands and band mates. Much more paranoia and bitterness than I’d have thought. Much less harmony backstage away from the spotlight. [Where was I when all that was going on? Sailing. Listening to wind and water more than anything else.]

Brown develops the history behind these acts develop progressively in step with the world around them, making sense of the influences that built them up then brought them down.

Find a copy. Grab a beach towel. Head outside this summer.

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill