Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fire and Rain: A book review

Welcome to tonight's installment of Wednesday Reviews!   Tonight's book is titled Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970 and was written by David Browne, who is a writer for Rolling Stone.

I spotted this book in a little book shop I stumbled upon when my mom and I were going to the Denny Laine concert.  I had never heard of this book, but it was listed as recommended by the bookstore staff.    After picking it up and flipping through it, I thought it sounded like a different book than what I typically read and review, and I was right.

Fire and Rain isn't a "Beatles book" per say, although there is plenty of Beatles content.   It is a book about the pivotal year, 1970,  from the outlook of four major recording artist from that year:  The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and Crosby Stills Nash and Young.    What was fascinating in reading this book, is that while all four of these performers were different, their lives were intertwined in one way or another during the year.

George Harrison and Steven Still work on Ringo's song "You got to pay your dues" (later called It don't come easy)

As for the Beatles--it goes into the details of the break up in April of 1970, Paul's announcement through his McCartney album, Ringo recording his country album in Nashville,  Let it Be, Allen Klein, Phil Spector, George recording All Things Must Pass and there is even a mention of the Apple Scruffs!   But the part that I liked the most was about John and Yoko and the primal scream therapy that was an important part of 1970 for them.    It said how John and Yoko had gotten off heroin, which John had been using to mask the pain that he had over the many losses in his life, especially of his mother's death and his father's abandonment.   To held come to terms with his issues, he and Yoko hired Janov to come to England and work with them for several weeks.    Then he and Yoko went to California to continue to study under him.    They were permitted special visas to come to the United States for health reasons.    Janov said that they participated in group therapy as well as individual therapy.    Janov went on to say that John did not really get into the screaming as much as just needed to talk about his parents, Brian's death, and the break up of the Beatles.    I found that totally fascinating, because I always thought John went to California and screamed his heart out---but no---it sounded more like just your basic counseling sessions.    Yoko met with Janov's wife and she talked mostly about marital issues.     They almost completed the entire session, but left early because they believed that Janov was recording everything that was said.   He said that a camera may have been set up during the group sessions, but it never had film in it.      Makes me wonder if something WAS recorded.  

As for the other groups---well I had no idea that Simon and Garfunkel weren't really good friends.  Those two made great music together, but they really didn't see eye to eye.    Paul Simon did not like that their big hit of the year, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was not getting recognized as him as the writer of the song.   Garfunkel was getting praise for his singing on the tune.   Paul Simon was also frustrated that his partner was focused on his new found acting career and making movies over singing.

 While S&G got along fairly well, Crosby Stills Nash and Young were a big mess of a group!  Wow---those guys were something else.   They would take their disagreements with them on stage and make little snide comments and at one point Neil Young got so mad that he walked off in the middle of a concert.    Stills went off to England for awhile and eventually bought Ringo's house from him.  He was hanging out with the "Beatles crowd" and really didn't want to return to the U.S. because he felt like the guys in the States were becoming rock stars while the guys in the U.K were becoming icons.   While he was in London, hanging out with Billy Preston, Preston said something about "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one your with."   And Stills asked him if he could use that line for a song.  

Meanwhile James Taylor had left Apple with his manager, Peter Asher and was recording and playing small venues while battling his inner demons and drug problems.    By the year's end, Taylor had became the top performer, which showed a huge change in the dynamic of pop music-- a switch from groups to solo artists.

I thought this was an interesting book.  The year of 1970 isn't one that I often hear discussed and there is a lot that went on in the world and in music during those 12 months.    Browne did his research and many of what he said in the book were the results of private interviews that he conducted.     However, I did find the book to be slow at times and it was a bit dry.    Browne was delivering the facts but his style did not transform me into the year of 1970.   I felt like an outsider just reading the news.  

I enjoyed the book and learned a lot---I just don't forsee "Fire and Rain" to be a book that I pick up and read again in the near future.

You can buy this book from Amazon for a reasonable price.   Or better yet---find it for sale at your local bookshop and support them.


  1. Oddly enough I had a 'funny feeling' that John never really let it all 'hang out' while doing Primal Therapy....As much as do admire him as a very talented songwriter, he does what a lot of songwriters do, use any experience for lyrics. Pete Townsend once said that he couldn't write a decent song when he wasn't drinking...the 'tortured artist effect' I suppose. Anyway, thanks for all the hard work you put into this blog...keep up the great work!

  2. Janov had no right to speak of the Lennon's therapy sessions because of the confidentiality clause - maybe he forgot that after his personal primal scream therapy

  3. you had no idea Simon&Garfunkel were fighting??...their animosity towards each other is legendary..on their last reunion tour the roadies were laying bets as to how long it would last before one of them quit the tour. I saw them in 1982, and onstage Garfunkel's boredom/anger towards Simon was there on the big screen for all to see (PS this tour was originally supposed to be end with them releasing an album together, but by the end of the tour Simon had erased all of Garfunkel's vocals and released it as a solo album)