Betty Carter & John Field Biographies
What makes Betty Carter's biography so great is that all the funny anecdotes, witty quotes and stories about the circumstances in which the music was made tell you so much about the music itself.
I always thought that those ten years were spent on an extended maternity leave, raising a family instead of performing, and I'm not the only one who thought so. I had always wondered how the experience of having a family changed her whole approach to her sound so much. Turns out I'd gotten it all wrong, she had her first child in the early sixties and went tour with Ray Charles ten days after giving birth! Ten Days! The real reason she wasn't recording during this time was because she decided that she wanted to produce and arrange her own material with her own sound. It just took her ten years of stubborn determination and banging on doors before she managed to find a way to do that. Ten years of driving, sometimes with her kids in tow, all over America trying to get gigs. Staying in, and getting kicked out of, her siblings homes. No wonder her 1975 album was called Finally, and no wonder it sounds so completely fresh and different from anything she'd done before!
I'll save you some reading time here and go ahead and give you the highlights: It turns out Field loved inventing stories about himself to the point where some of them made it into previous biographies. Piggot spends some time debunking the myths which is fun. My favourite line (explaining why his contemporaries would so readily believe, and retell, his dramatic origins stories):
"That Field was in fact not English but Irish would be insufficient in their eyes to account for his striking 'un-english' manner"
Then he goes to Russia and does his bit to spread the drunken, clever irishman stereotype. Watch a Dylan Moran skit and replace witty observations with Nocturnes and you'll get the gist.
Oh also he had a terrible sense of humour! Apparently it consisted entirely of making bad puns, bad enough that some made it into his biography some two hundred years later.
I have one last complaint about this book, and it happens all the time in books with lofty subjects: Piggot includes quotes and letters from Field and his contemporaries in French, and sometimes German, with no translation! Because of course anyone with an interest in John Field should also read French and German fluently! How snobbish and irritating.
...some music related, some not so much...
I was torn between wanting this book because of the author's last name and being put off because it's got an Adele look alike on the cover. Turns out it's got dragons, a kick ass heroin and a love triangle...a perfect storm of a page turner.
This one's straight up fantasy, not YA. The first book's a brilliantly clever heist story. Unfortunately the trilogy drags a bit towards the end of the second book. It's a case of the Moonlight curse* for politically charged books:
Either the book is dishonest and shows a new, perfect regime come into power to govern the happily liberated people as they ride off into the sunset
or it tells the truth, which is messy, drawn out, involves a lot of war and gruesomeness and is generally unpleasant to read about.
Two words: Zombie Nuns!
*The Moonlight curse is a when two characters in a TV show finally get together after a long "will they/won't they" story line. Their happy love affair marks the demise of the show because all the drama and tension is gone from their relationship, and therefor, the plot.