Sunday, November 23, 2014

How Borderline Personality Disorder (and Janet Jackson) Put Me in Jail

[For those of you who are convinced this couldn't possible be true: thanks.]

Recalling events from August 2006 through March 2007:

If only I had woken up earlier that morning in the desperate throes of projectile diarrhea then everything would have ended up much cleaner. But I stayed in bed sleeping comfortably while Wife got up and began her day ahead of mine, and thus was my fate of six months of court-ordered anger management classes sealed.

I have no idea exactly what she went through in my absence that morning. I never asked and never shall. I'm sure it wouldn't make things clearer. But the facts reveal the following: she DID get the newspaper from the driveway; she DID open it up to at least the entertainment section; she DID take a pair of scissors and cut out a rectangle from the upper-left corner of page D-16; and she DID close the paper nicely and leave it on the table where I would be likely to take my turn perusing the bits within.

I soon stumbled along to find my way to the kitchen. In retrospect, it was odd that Wife made herself scarce upon my arrival. It was more common that we hung out together in the morning playing three games of Yahtzee (therefore always having a clear victor in our ongoing board-game wars). "Fair enough," I thought. It would allow me to read the paper at a casual pace--something not really possible if we both sat at the breakfast table together. Indeed, that act had been the source of marital angst earlier in our two years of marital cohabitation. I didn't think it rude to have the paper open during breakfast and use it as a catalyst for conversation and at first she tried to accommodate. But the level of tension it seemed to put on her was palpable, as if she were being ripped apart by vicious inner-dialogues making her willing to attack anyone within, say, the distance of a breakfast table. I soon stopped the practice and would save the paper for later in the day.

But not that morning. No, I sat down with my usual victuals of spoon-sized shredded wheat and placed the paper in front of me. Like many people do, I first glanced across the top-of-the-fold headlines but found nothing of great importance and so moved on. It wasn't until getting to page D-15 in the entertainment section that I found something interesting--a 3x5-inch piece of nothing where something more black and white should have been. I immediately assumed Wife must have found an article so intriguing that she clipped it out for future reference, but it didn't match up to the story boxes on the current page so I flipped it over to see what might have been removed.

A bold-print headline stated "Unfortunately, Sex Sells and Talent Sinks." The article bemoaned the current state of celebrity status in the world of R & B/hip-hop but the accompanying photo was missing. "Hon!" I called out, "What's the deal with the paper?" Coming in from the other room Wife planted herself near me in a standing position and pronounced what was clearly a rehearsed and anticipated statement: "There was a trashy picture there of Janet Jackson that I don't want you seeing so I got rid of it." That's when things got mighty interesting.

Only five and a half years later did I finally see this "trashy" photo.

This kind of controlling censorship had been a bizarre problem in our relationship and unlike anything I had ever encountered. The only hint of this issue to appear during our dating courtship was when we were watching an episode of "Friends." It was the one where someone made a pithy comment with sexual overtones while sitting at the coffee shop. Remember that one? I chuckled and she scowled. When I pressed her, she said, "I'm uncomfortable viewing adult content" which I found surprising considering two things: Wife was a sexual dynamo and "Friends" was some pretty mild stuff by my standards. Only after our wedding did I postulate what she really meant was, "I'M fine seeing adult content but I'm horribly uncomfortable when YOU see adult content." In the early months of our marriage, I was inundated with accusative questions like: "Why do you always have to look at the magazine covers in the supermarket lines?" "Why do you always take the path through the Walmart that goes through the ladies underwear?" "Why are most your CDs of women?" "Why did you tip the female waitress so much?" "Will you promise me you'll never think of ex-girlfriends again?" "Will you please always look away from the TV anytime nudity is shown?" "Will you promise me not to look at the Victoria's Secret storefront even when I'm not with you?"

Sometimes I agreed with little discussion. Sometimes I fought vehemently for the principal involved--specifically, why should I pay a price for some form of perceived deviant misbehavior I had not committed? Eventually, I simply refused to even acknowledge such baggage-loaded questions. I determined that she was the victim of a lifetime of indoctrination that had no relationship to my real-world actions and I would no longer be her enabler. If she accepted responsibility for her own feelings and sought help, I would be right there for her. But if she insisted that her happiness could only be acheived through me embracing censorship in order to mollify her--not a chance. She had launched so many baseless accusations at me that her credibility was ruined. Even if she might have actually had a point concerning a particular instance, I immediately put it all into the same category of "no frickin' way." That didn't help us by the time we got to our breakfast with the absent Ms. Jackson.

"Are you completely insane?" I asked with a raised and serious voice. She promptly responded with, "I won't allow that kind of pornography in our home." Knowing that a family-friendly newspaper is not going to publish a photo more than PG-rated, I came back with, "Right. I'm sure Janet's got her tits and ass just stickin' in the camera!" That triggered some sort of escalation of tensions for Wife. Apparently me referring in any way to another woman's sexuality was difficult for her. She started to tremble as the anxiety wormed through her body.

"Where are you going?" she nervously implored as I grabbed my wallet and keys. With intense calm right on the verge of eruption, I said, "I'm going to go buy a newspaper that hasn't been sanitized by you for my protection." She moved quickly ahead of me and blocked my access to the doorway. That kind of maneuver and been a major issue for us in previous arguments and we had often talked about it in post-trauma debriefings when we attempted to better understand each other. She so hated the idea of being abandoned that she would use her body as a desperate attempt to keep me from leaving mid-argument. I, on the other hand, considered blocking a doorway a major act of aggression that bordered on imprisonment. I had previously let her know, "I am a grown up and you don't get to force me to stay in a room to engage in an argument. If you block a door, I WILL MOVE YOU."

Using my chest, I pushed my way out the front door. She cried after me down the walkway, "Please, don't buy that paper. You can't do that to me." She raced by me to again use her body as a barrier to my opening the car door. With increased aggression, I once more moved her aside and quickly slid behind the steering wheel. She dove in after to keep me from inserting a key into the ignition and I stopped trying for a moment to consider my options. She stood within the open door and even if I could get the engine started, I would not have been able to back out the driveway without the car rolling her down. I knew how stubborn we could be. There would be no compromise. I would under no terms argue about whether or not I had the right to an uncensored newspaper, and she would under no terms allow me to leave in the middle of a fight. I decided to logically explain what I was going to do next as a final plea and warning. With a steady, clear voice, I said, "If you don't move and allow me to leave, I am going to have no choice but put my foot on your stomach and push you back out of the way." She looked me dead in the eye and made another stabbing reach for my keys so I carried out my threat.

Just as described, I set the bottom of my shoe against her gut and gave a push. Even in the midst of this horrible action I remembered how much I loved her and pulled back on how much force I used. I wimped out and only succeeded in causing her to lose her balance and fall down rather than sending her flying back several feet as I might have. She attempted to steady herself by grabbing the car door but caught her thumb on an edge and ended up tearing a cutical, resulting in a few drops of blood. Having not succeeded in completely dislodging her, I realized I would not be able to leave and gave up. The rest of the day was spent in cold silence. That was the only way I could process those kinds of moments. My marriage had become such an absurd situation that if I wasn't allowed to physically leave, I just mentally left the premises. I would lay on the bed and simply go away in my head. I would travel the world to beautiful, peaceful environs surrounded by butterflies that danced through rainbows to the sounds of exotic Latin-piano rhythms. Wife left for a couple hours and upon her return, no explanation was asked or offered.

As the evening progressed, I hesitantly turned on the TV to fill the living room with distraction. This was usually not tolerated in the aftermath of an argument with Wife's logic being that until I apologized, I was not allowed any activity that resembled fun. But much to my surprise, she let me be, just as she had the entire afternoon. I wondered if her willingness to allow me space was an unspoken admission that her morning actions had indeed been unwarranted. For a moment, I nearly forgot just what a fireball I married.

There was a firm knock on door that startled me up from the sofa. An unexpected visitor after 10 p.m. was entirely unusual so I approached the door with slight apprehension. I saw Wife down the hall with a look that displayed no surprise at all. Looking through the front-door glass I could make out badges and uniforms on a duo of Sheriff officers. I assumed something must have happened at one of the neighbors and they were coming around to ask if we'd seen anything. One of them asked for me by name. "That's me," I replied, still believing I was about to serve as a helpful citizen. "Sir, we have a warrant for your arrest for Felony Domestic Violence. You're going to have to come with us."

Wife had moved closer to see for herself the look on my face at the moment of my realization that she had been playing me all day long. I had disagreed with her and that simply wasn't allowed. I had inadvertently given her weapons to wield against me, and she couldn't stop herself. Soon, I was in the back of the cruiser and on my way to the county jail for a sleepless night of processing, oral-sex offers, courtroom judgements, and bail bondsmen, all resulting in the most absurb six months of my life learning the absolute falacy of anger management in America.

Well played Wife. Well played.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Review of "Glenn Hughes: The Autobiography"

Gregg Akkerman's Review of Glenn Hughes: The Autobiography: From Deep Purple to Black Country Communion by Glenn Hughes with Joel Mclver

I only came to be a Glenn Hughes fan in the last couple years. Somehow I totally missed him during the years covered in this excellent autobiography. I am still unsettled by his frank descriptions of drug addiction and how it crushed so many of his relationships. Unlike other self-penned bios that read like high school essays (Tony Iommi) or "My life is awesome and nothing bad ever happened" (Tony Bennett), Hughes, with co-author Joel Mclver, invites us into the heart of the matter, and sometimes it's a damn scary place.

Given that Hughes is still touring, recording, and apparently having a great time on social media with his new trio called California Breed, it all seems to have worked out for him. And we who love anthemic, power-rock singing are better for it.

Akkerman rates it 4.5 rock-stars out of 5!

Request a copy from you local library or purchase one through this link:

Book Review of "My Appetite for Destruction" by Steven Adler (Guns 'N' Roses)

Gregg Akkerman's Review of My Appetite for Destruction: Sex & Drugs & Guns 'n Roses by Steven Adler with Lawrence J. Spagnola (It! Books, 2010)

With competent Lawrence Spagnola operating as co-writer, Steven Adler, the original drummer for Guns 'N Roses, delivers the kind of rocker-autobiography we have come to expect from publisher It Books--and that's a good thing. Adler makes it obvious he has read other similar memoirs and is willing to mimic the better ones while only occasionally taking a misstep.

His is a tale that reads like the script to the now cliché format of a VH1 special that plays out as 1) Stary-eyed young rockers come together to fight the odds; 2) They achieve great success and taste the fruits both sweet and forbidden; 3) Turmoil sets in as drugs and poor money management move to the forefront; 4) Complete destruction of whatever empire was built; 5) Wiser and older comrades regain their original mojo and keep playing "for the fans."

The only part of Adler's story that we don't know for sure is whether there is any kind of happy ending. This is a book without a closing chapter. He reveals so many vivid accounts of life-draining, all-consuming, crack pipe addiction that it is hard to believe any sober redemption will ever be his. We feel only a little sad for the lead character as Adler consistently proves he's often nothing more than a spoiled asshole with no respect for himself, family, friends, or the trail of women sucked into his selfish wake. I want desperately to like the guy but he doesn't give a lot of reasons other than pity.

And that willingness for Adler to come off as a supremely damaged individual is the actual strength of the book. It reads as absolutely honest--no one would admit to that much self-indictment if it weren't true. The only times the tone becomes laughably unbelievable is when Adler attempts seriousness for topics that far exceed his immediate life such as world conflict or religious atrocities. On one page Adler gives us a play-by-play of shooting drugs into his arm while on the next he shares his thoughts about visiting Germany: "I shudder to think about all those innocent people packed into trains and shipped off to gas chambers." He then jarringly returns to his rock-star life on the road playing packed nightclubs. Sorry Adler, but this smacks of painful insincerity and your wingman Spagnola did no favors by fitting it into the narrative. Stick to your stories of Steven Tyler directing porn stars into group sex--at least they ring true to the man you were at the time.

Considering the copious revelations, one area oddly underplayed is exactly how or why Adler was removed from the band. If we take Adler at his word, he was no more unreliable than any of the other junkies in the band and was unfairly singled out, despite his willingness to give Axel Rose an extra 5% royalty. It may indeed be accurate that he was a victim of drug-fueled egomaniacs, but perhaps more detail will be gleaned in versions of the story as told by other band members.

Akkerman gives it 4 Rock-Stars out of 5!

Check it out from your local library or purchase a copy through the link below.

Book Review of "Hot Wired Guitar: The Life of Jeff Beck" by Martin Powers

Gregg Akkerman's Review of Hot Wired Guitar: The Life of Jeff Beck by Martin Power (Omnibus Press, 2012)

A brilliant moment in mock-rock history is when Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel describes for an interviewer how the volume knob on his amplifier is customized to go all the way to 11 for those times 10 just isn't enough. When the Spinal Tap film debuted in 1984, guitarists the world over saw the immediate homage to Jeff Beck. Even Beck himself picked up on the Beck-ish references to ego-driven guitarists with their dismissive humor and hot-rod past-times. When making the movie, actor/writer Christopher Guest had any number of archetype guitarists to imitate but he knew that to really do it in a way that guitarists would "get," only the droll personality and long-but-not-too-long straight hair of Beck would suffice. He doesn't have the household cache of his contemporaries Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, but guitarists all know the truth--and have for decades--Beck is the man!

While other guitarists of the era aligned themselves with various bands or singers to stake their claim on pop history, Beck soldiered through the 1970s making primarily instrumental albums that were assigned the dreaded label of "fusion." Others perhaps became better rock stars, but Beck simply became a better guitarist and outgrew the competition. But his no-vocalist approach kept him off the top of the charts which contibuted to the fact that there have been very few book-length attempts to tell Beck's story.

Correcting this grievous omission is author Martin Powers who has delivered previous rock-related books on Queen and Metallica. So let me get right to the problem with Power's effort: he is seemingly the owner of the largest collection of Beck quotes, magazine articles, CDs, 45s, LPs, EPs, DVDs, bootlegs, and Youtube links on the planet, and he was absolutely committed to referring to each and every one of them in this 487-page tome. It's both exhaustive and exhausting.

Powers does not write badly. All the sentences make sense and the paragraphs flow into the next. But he seems more comfortable being a play-by-play delivery boy rather than a craftsman of context and subtlety. Each chapter is essentially a narrative of every appearance and session Beck made during the time in question--with several descriptions of which guitars were played through what amplifiers. I'm sure somebody out there prefers this kind of writing over all others--I am not that person. I would prefer my author to inject some artful expertise into the life details of a man who surely must be a more interesting figure than is revealed here. Powers eventually proved he is capable of this task, but he waited 485 pages before taking his shot and by then I just didn't give a damn.

Now Powers may think, "I'm simply delivering the details and it's up to the reader to assign their own feelings without my manipulation," but I'm not going to excuse him for offering up nearly 500 pages of data-driven bullet points. Creating the kind of biography I'm expecting for my favorite guitarist of all time is hard--damn hard--and Powers came up short by writing a book far too long. Sometimes 11 is just too much.

Akkerman gives it 3 Rock-Stars out of 5! (Based mostly on quantity of information)

Check it out from your local library or purchase a copy through the link below.

Compilation of Book Reviews for "The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story"

Reviews of The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story (Scarecrow Press, 2012) by Gregg Akkerman

Nominated as "Jazz Book of the Year" in 2013 by the Jazz Journalists Association. Here is a compilation of various reviews:

In pop-music parlance, a ballad is a moderate- to slow-tempo number about love. The bass-baritone Johnny Hartman (1923–83) may be the all-time best ballad singer. During his life, he was nowhere near as renowned as Billy Eckstine, whose range he shared, or Frank Sinatra, whose intimacy and clarity of diction he equaled. Probably, as other musicians told Akkerman, he was constitutionally too shy, gentle, and quiet for stardom. But with saxophonist John Coltrane’s quintet, at its acme in 1963, he made one of the few universally appealing jazz albums. It made him an auditorium-packing headliner in Japan and, with a boost from Clint Eastwood via the Bridges of Madison County soundtrack, put him in the American jazz-singing pantheon. Although “Lush Life” was one of his signature pieces, Hartman lived neither lushly nor fast, so that Akkerman’s first-ever biography has no scandals, crimes, or even misdemeanors to report. Instead, it’s about the days and the achievements of a working musician and, despite some odd word choices, should thoroughly engross lovers of the Great American Songbook.~Booklist

Gregg Akkerman, director of jazz studies at University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, has made a crucial contribution to keeping Hartman’s memory alive with this biography. Akkerman draws on extensive interviews, archives and his own sharp musical analysis to trace Hartman’s Chicago origins, his time serving in both Earl Hines’ and Dizzy Gillespie’s big bands and the creation of the classic 1963 album John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman. The author also looks at the longstanding comparisons between Hartman and Billy Eckstine and shows why their supposed rivalry was a canard. ...Now students and fans of jazz vocals can hope that this book will lead to a proper reissue of Hartman’s triumphant 1980 Bee Hive album, Once In Every Life, which contained all four of the Hartman songs that were included on the 1995 CD soundtrack to Madison County.~Downbeat Magazine

Akkerman is a professional musician and educator, and his book offers superb verbal descriptions of Hartman’s recordings and concert performances. These word-paintings are a valuable part of any musical biography, for they encourage the reader to explore the music.~Jazz History Online

The Last Balladeer not only reveals the gentle nature of the man, we learn of his steadfast devotion to his music and fierce determination to maintain his integrity in spite of misguided record producers and errors in judgment along the way. Johnny enjoyed moderate recognition in America, but his most loyal fans dwelt in the shadow of Mount Fuji. When we toured Japan together in 1977, he was greeted by crowds who displayed obvious devotion to his style of singing, and all concerts were at or near SRO in each city we visited. I think you will find Professor Akkerman's book entertaining and most enlightening.~Jazz vocalist Carol Sloan

I've read The Last Balladeer and can verify that anyone who loves the singer's work will consider this a "must-have."~The San Diego Reader

While Akkerman makes no effort to plumb the singer’s psychological depths (or to provide Balliettian descriptions of his vocal magic), with this lucid and meticulously researched new book Hartman - whose life and career were models of self-effacing professionalism – finally has the biography he deserves.~Jazz Journalist Association News

In The Last Balladeer the author displays great empathy and affection for his subject, and if Johnny Hartman is in some way an underappreciated artist, Mr. Akkerman has done his part to set things right with a moving.~Jersey Jazz

A 2012 Holiday Gift Guide Choice!
This book illuminates the life and career of the singer best known for his 1960 album with John Coltrane and the presence of his recordings in the Clint Eastwood 1995 movie Bridges of Madison County. Not surprisingly, Hartman's life encompassed a lot more, artistically, than those highlights.~Jazz Hot House

Johnny Hartman is perhaps the most undeservedly neglected vocalist in the history of twentieth-century popular music. With this meticulously researched and beautifully written volume, Gregg Akkerman has corrected that omission once and for all. Rich in biographical detail about Hartman's life and four-decade career and complemented by the most comprehensive discography ever published, The Last Balladeer is a must-have for anyone interested in American popular music.~Leonard Mustazza, author of Ol' Blues Eyes: A Frank Sinatra Encyclopedia

How can the most serene and pitch-perfect African-American baritone have had such an enigmatic career? In this eloquent, insightful account of Johnny Hartman’s life and music, Gregg Akkerman situates the definitive ballad singer within the context of conflicting demands and longstanding tensions between jazz and popular music.~Barry Kernfeld, editor of The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz

Akkerman expertly captures the life and music of this vital, memorable jazz singer.~Tad Hersorn, author of Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice

Hundreds of thousands of people have enjoyed Johnny Hartman's voice over the years. Whether through his epic collaboration with John Coltrane or his music being featured in major Hollywood films, his incredible voice is one of the most identifiable, gorgeous sounds of the previous century. But how many people know about the man behind the music? Gregg Akkerman has filled a huge hole in jazz and popular music literature with 'The Last Balladeer,' a truly definitive work. Akkerman's tremendous research makes Hartman the singer— and more importantly, Hartman the man— come alive like never before.~Ricky Riccardi, author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years

Through excellent research into Johnny Hartman's life and career, Akkerman's The Last Balladeer accomplishes that rare feat in biography of conveying to the reader the day-to-day rhythm of his subject's life.~Jeffrey S. McMillan, author of Delightfulee: The Life and Music of Lee Morgan

 Pick up a copy at your local library or purchase one at the link below:

Book Review of "Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock" by Sammy Hagar

Gregg Akkerman's Review of Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock (It Books, 2012) by Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin.
Although I was a moderate fan of Sammy Hagar over the years, reading his autobiography transformed me into a full-fledged red head. I write this while drinking his latest brand of rum and humming along to his excellent Chickenfoot recordings. I have drunk the red Kool-Aid folks, and it is sweet.
This is the rocker autobiography to set the bar for all the others being rushed to print these days, many by Hagar's publisher, It Books. He was smart enough to know that as good a singer and songwriter as he is, an outside writer was required to keep things organized and readable (a tip it seems Tony Iommi could have taken) and the quality work of Joel Selvin shines over Hagar's words. Hagar speaks to the reader in the personal way that almost feels as if we are tolerated voyers and we feel privileged, if not awkward, by the often embarrassing truth of his life. Visits from aliens, visions from the great unknown in red, sex-tents under the Van Halen stage--if it happened, he talks about it.
Van Halen fans are well served by the quantity of behind-the-scenes accounts Hagar offers regarding the difficult times making the music and navigating around the emotional and drunken tantrums of the "brothers Van Halen." Hagar's admission that all the tracks to their live album were re-recorded after the fact is a harsh reminder that even a classic "rock" band is not above using technology to make a pretty lady out of what was a sassy street walker. This is just one of the dozens of music industry tales Hagar shares, but they usually come from a place of wise acceptance rather than bitterness. This is a man who has rocked his way through Montrose, solo-album monster hits, world-conquering years with Van Halen, super-group exploits in Chickenfoot, and multi-million dollar deals in businesses involving booze, clothes, mountain bikes, restaurants, and the travel industry--and his book does it all justice. Get it. Read it. Drink the (red) rum!
Akkerman gives it 5 Rock-Stars out of 5!

Check it out from your local library or purchase a copy through the link below.

Book Review of "Kicking and Dreaming" by the Wilson Sisters of Heart

Gregg Akkerman's Review of Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll (It Books, 2012) by Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson, and Charles R. Cross.

I will admit up front that I did not read the hard copy or the e-book, but rather listened to the audio book and was thoroughly surprised to hear the narrators were none other than the sisters-Wilson. Rather than hire voice actors, Ann and Nancy recite their own story (as crafted and cross checked by Charles R. Cross) and do a very respectable job of delivering the content with news-anchor objectivism while still allowing the occasional hyperbole that only someone who was actually IN the story could get away with. I can only hope that the text version conveys the same sincerity and open-hearted (last one, I promise) exposure as is heard in their spoken voices.

If you want to know about their amazing childhood as daughters of a WWII Marine, or their earliest ventures as singers enchanted by the Beatles, or first forays in love and sex, or the baby steps of Heart before the giant steps of HEART, or broken marriages, or raising children on the road, and growing older and wiser, then this is a book that delivers. It's all here, and it will win you over just as surely as the riff to Barracuda makes you kick up the volume in any car you are in.

Akkerman rates it 4 Rock-Stars out of 5.

Pick up a copy from the local library or purchase your own though this link: