New York (August 1, 2007)–Mitch Myers is a regular on NPR and has the record collection to prove it; throughout his new book, The Boy Who Cried Freebird: Rock & Roll Fables and Sonic Storytelling, the author pays tribute to his favorite artists, letting them star in a variety of short stories and fact-filled profiles, all graced with the occasional arch observation.
There’s lots to read among the 47 chapters, but the best bits tend to be his biographies, ranging from Frank Zappa to saxophonist Albert Ayler, to electronic music pioneer Terry Riley. The profiles are often as interesting for the details (what the miking was on Leo Kottke’s classic 6- and 12-String Guitar, or how Aretha Franklin’s Aretha Live at Fillmore West was mixed) as for their narratives. Although low on analysis, Myers’ passion for the eclectic personalities and their music shines through the occasionally blunt prose.
Interspersed throughout the book is adventurous, often humorous fiction, such as the titular short story about Adam Coil, who invents the tired tradition of yelling “Freebird” at concerts, or “Back To The Fillmore,” which follows Adam Coil V as he time travels back 100 years to attend a Grateful Dead show (One can’t help but wonder which is more unlikely–time travel or that a teenager in 2069 would give a whit about The Dead). Many of the stories are utterly predictable; others, such as “Who Will Save The World?,” which posits that Earth’s only defense from marauding aliens is Black Sabbath’s “Paranoia,” easily capture the imagination, only to frustratingly cop out with inconclusive endings.
Regardless, the book provides an interesting rock ‘n’ roll read for those living on tour busses this summer, and with so many short chapters (most are under eight pages), if one doesn’t capture your interest, another will. If the fiction is sometimes less than inspiring, the enthusiastic biographies will probably make you download a few of the artists to your iPod–and one suspects that would suit Myers just fine.
The Boy Who Cried Freebird (Harper Collins; $25.95; 336 pages; ISBN: 978-0-06-113901-7)