Tag Archive | Biography

Don Cheadle Becomes Miles Davis in Miles Ahead

Miles Ahead Poster
Don Cheadle is Miles Davis in Miles Ahead (All Images Courtesy of Sony Classics)

Movies about Trumpet Playing Jazz Legends are a thing right now. Just last week, IFC released Born to Be Blue, a surreal art film based loosely on the life and career of Chet Baker. This week, Miles Ahead — actor, and first-time director Don Cheadle’s much-anticipated love letter to another groundbreaking jazz innovator, Miles Davis  — comes to the big screen after garnering all kinds of awards on last year’s festival circuit. It was worth the wait, because Miles Ahead is a fantastic film.

The thing to keep in mind about Miles Ahead going in is that, like Born to be Blue, it takes bit of artistic license with the facts in order to capture the essence of Davis‘ life and art. It is not disputed that Miles Davis changed music a bunch of times during his career. With Bitches Brew (an album that both fans and critics totally lose their minds over) he basically turned Jazz on its head as he added rock and funk to a style of music that previously never had any of those elements. And that was all inspired by his admiration for Jimi Hendrix! Davis was actually supposed to record with Hendrix, but the guitarist died that weekend! You can read these stories in the book Miles: The Autobiography, which is one of the craziest, most-engaging music biographies, ever.

Miles Davis Early

Miles Ahead basically takes place during a five-year period  in the late 1970s where Davis felt he had nothing left to say, so he became reclusive and descended into taking tons of drugs and sleeping with everything that moved. The way he describes it in the book is amazing; scary, but hilarious. One time, he was in an elevator and he was so high, he thought he was in his car, so he punched a lady who was in the elevator with him and he told her to get the fuck out of his car! There are a couple of similar moments in Miles Ahead, and they are just insane. But I digress.

Don Cheadle as Miles

As far as how wide a scope of the story of Miles Davis colorful life and considerable accomplishments are covered in this 100 minute film, let’s say that if Miles Ahead were a weekly TV series, then this would be one episode. Ewan McGregor co-stars as Dave Braden, a ballsy journalist who claims to be on assignment from Rolling Stone. Braden shows up on Davis’ doorstep (while the latter is most definitely wasted out of his mind) and tricks his way into the musician’s home under the guise of conducting an interview for a comeback story. Over the next couple of days, Braden alternately serves as either Davis’ perceived adversary or accidental sidekick, as the two men embark on a wild and sometimes harrowing adventure to recover a stolen tape of the musician’s latest compositions.

The story gains depth from many flashbacks, including those of Davis’ marriage to his first wife, Frances Taylor (played by Emayatzy Corinealdi), a dancer who gave up her career to marry him. Taylor was Davis’ muse during the period that he released several of his signature recordings, including the groundbreaking Sketches of Spain and Someday My Prince Will Come. To put it mildly, he was kind of a dick to her. Miles Davis also ruminates on other past triumphs and regrets, and the film’s jagged flashback style is an effective way to showcase his many inner demons.

Most importantly, Don Cheadle delivers an Oscar-caliber performance as Miles Davis, but he’s amazing in everything. From Boogie Nights to Hotel Rwanda to Showtime’s House of Lies; the man completely loses himself in every role. He’s a genius. Corinealdi is also excellent as Francis, and it’s always fun to see Ewan McGregor, though I believe his unique talents are mostly wasted in this role.

Maybe Miles Ahead isn’t the definitive Miles Davis life story, but when you’re feeling it, who gives a shit? You could make ten movies about Miles Davis and there would still be room for more. If you want a cradle-to-grave primer, read his book.

The Worley Gig Gives Miles Ahead Five out of Five Stars!

Miles Ahead Opens for a Limited Theatrical Release on April 1st, 2016. Consult Fandango Dot Com to find a theater where it is playing in your area.

Graham Nash Signing New Book at Morrison Hotel Gallery in NYC – Saturday 9/28

Graham Nash Book

On Saturday, September 28th, rock music and photography icon, Graham Nash (The Hollies, Crosby Stills & Nash) will be signing copies of his book, WILD TALES: A ROCK AND ROLL LIFE (Crown Archetype) at Morrison Hotel Gallery in Soho. The gallery will open at 11:00 AM for people to purchase copies of the book. Graham will be signing from 12:00 Noon to 2:00 PM.

Please Note that only copies of Graham’s new book — no other merchandise — will be signed!

The Morrison Hotel Gallery is located at 124 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012. Visit Morrison Hotel Gallery Dot Com for more Information.

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Recommended Reading: Queen Unseen By Peter Hince

Queen Unseen Cover

Earlier this past summer, British music journalist Mark Blake published his book Is This The Real Life?, an engaging biography of the band Queen. Blake’s book is crammed with amazing personal information on the band’s members – Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Brian May – in addition to chronicling their success as a group. Blake had a good deal of assistance in gathering his researched material from a guy named Peter Hince, who was a member of Queen’s road crew for over a decade, in addition to also being the personal roadie to both Freddie Mercury and John Deacon.

In October, Hince published Queen Unseen: My Life with the Greatest Rock Band of the 20th Century, his own memoir of his career working for Queen, and though it is a true “insider report,” it couldn’t be more different from the book Blake put together. In a way, the two books are perfect companion pieces; one being a book where you can read about obscure biographical details such as Freddie Mercury’s childhood in Zanzibar and his attendance at private schools in India, and the other in which you will read in fascinating detail about all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into taking a Queen tour on the road, how the band behaved backstage and what it was “really like” from behind the scenes to truly witness Queen’s rise to phenomenal commercial success.

While Hince’s book lacks a tabloid feel that you might expect from someone who seemingly lived, breathed, ate and slept the world of Queen from A Night At The Opera to the band’s final live concert at Knebworth, it is nevertheless a deeply personal page-turner, being one man’s intimate diary of a lost time in the music industry, spent working for one of the greatest and most renowned bands in Rock history. Certainly, no one else but Peter Hince could’ve written a book like this one.

Queen Live By Peter Hince
Queen Photographed By Peter Hince

Peter Hince – who was affectionately known by the nickname “Ratty” – met the members of Queen when he was still a teenager, working as a roadie for Mott The Hoople, a band that Queen famously toured with prior to breaking commercially with the album Sheer Heart Attack. He switched camps in 1975 and immediately went out on the road with the band, learning from the ground up what it took to put a Queen show together.

Through Ratty’s wide eyes, we get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of touring the world with a rock band back in the days when music was all about the magic and before it became merely a product to be sold. What you get with Queen Unseen then is a kind of Almost Famous-style journey of going out on the road on a global scale back in the 70s and early 80s; a time when things like cell phones, Fed Ex and the Internet did not even exist. From a logistics standpoint alone, the stories revealed here are often hilarious and just as frequently horrifying, as Queen and their entourage dealt with differences in culture, politics, quirky personal demands, local laws and Murphy’s Law, which states that whatever can go wrong will.

Although Queen Unseen is being promoted as a book about Queen, it is really Hince’s own autobiography, which is deeply colored by his experiences living and working with the members of Queen – both as individual people and as a phenomenally successful rock band. There’s certainly no shortage of sex (trust me, Hince got laid as much as any members of the band), drugs and Rock & Roll misadventure in the book, but that all has to do with Peter’s own experiences and those of his fellow road crew rather than any juicy gossip about his employers. Although there are similar stories in rock books such as Hammer Of The Gods and Bob Green’s Billion Dollar Baby (a story of the journalist touring with the band called Alice Cooper), I haven’t really read another rock book that goes into such detail about a group’s stage show and everything that went into making it happen.

In a lot of ways, it’s not so much about what you don’t know about Queen, as it is about what you don’t know that you don’t know about the band. And that’s what makes Queen Unseen so much fun! It’s such a different take on the Rock & Roll story and Hince’s approach is amazingly refreshing. For example, one of my favorite parts of the book comes in one of the final chapters, when Queen are touring South America – a dangerous and potentially very violent territory for a Western rock band to stage a tour at that time. Remembering a few dates played in Caracas, Venezuela Hince offhandedly remarks that this was “the first place I had seen a dead body lying in the street.” Rock & Roll!

 Roger Taylor's Drumkit
Roger Taylor’s Drumkit Photographed By Peter Hince

These days, Peter Hince works as a photographer, a career for which he left the employ of Queen to pursue, but his camera was with him the entire time he worked for the group, and many of his never-before-seen photographs are included in the book.

If you are one of the innumerable Queen completist collectors out there, the photographs alone are reason to purchase this book, but even if there were no pictures it would be a must-own read. Ultimately, what stands out about Queen Unseen is Hince’s complete lack of any exploitative intention with regard to the members of Queen and any off-the-record details of their personal lives.

While he certainly witnessed every aspect of their Rock & Roll debauchery first-hand, his intention is to relate his own experience, rather than to reveal the titillating, off-camera circumstances, embarrassing or otherwise, of those he worked for. There really is virtually no real “dirt” on the members of Queen to be found in its pages. For example, while Ratty openly states early on that Freddie Mercury’s sexuality was never any secret to anyone, he never reveals the names of Mercury’s lovers (save for Mary Austin, who was Mercury’s girlfriend for years) nor does he reveal anything that could be seen as personally harmful, despite the fact that he surely observed these guys in some of their most vulnerable moments.

While there were times I wished that Hince would reveal something more personal with regard to whichever band member he’s speaking about at any given time, the fact that he respects their privacy 25 years after ending his employment with the group reveals a certain state of grace that ultimately serves to give his story even more credibility. In fact, Hince is so careful to respect and guard the privacy of Mercury, May, Taylor and Deacon that he doesn’t even reveal the names of their wives or children.

Despite his refusal to dish the dirt, his book is full of love and honesty that reveals an essence about the unarguably enigmatic Freddie Mercury – who Hince clearly deeply admired and cared about as a personal friend as well as a famous rock star – that made me feel like I learned something new about Freddie to take away with me that I hadn’t gotten from another Queen book.

For not making me cry until I got to the last page, The Worley Gig Gives Queen Unseen Five out of Five Stars!

Queen Unseen: My Life with the Greatest Rock Band of the 20th Century can be purchased from Amazon Dot Com or wherever fine books are sold.

 

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Remembering Dee Dee Ramone

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Image Source

On This Day, June 5th, in 2002: Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone (born Douglas Colvin) was found dead by his wife Barbara in his Hollywood, CA home. An autopsy would reveal the cause of death to be a heroin overdose. It’s sort of interesting timing that Poisoned Heart, a very gritty but also very loving biography written by DeeDee’s first wife, Vera, will be in stores next week. I’m actually attending the book release party this coming Sunday. I’m sure that there will be more than few damp eyes in the room at that event. RIP Dee Dee.

Book Review: Alice Cooper, Golf Monster Online Now!

Alice Cooper Original Band
Alice Cooper is Dennis, Neal, Alice, Michael and Glen

My highly controversial review of the recent Alice Cooper biography, Golf Monster is up now at This Link! Check it out now!

Some Kind of Golf Monster

Golf Monster Book Cover
Smart, Beautiful, Maybelline

Last night my friend Katherine (please see Ian Hunter blog a few entries down for the back-story on Katherine) took me out to dinner as a belated Birthday gift. Because she rocks so hard, she also gave me a copy of Alice Cooper’s new biography, Golf Monster. I’ve only had time to casually page through the book since it fell into my possession last night, but it looks like a pretty easy read; something you can tackle in one or two afternoons at most. From what I understand, Golf Monster tells the story of how Alice got sober for good by getting up every day at the crack of dawn to play golf. But of course, it’s also a biography where he waxes nostalgic on his career, including the gory glory days of the original band called Alice Cooper – the group that started the whole shock rock thing that Alice basically gets exclusive credit for even though it was invented by five guys. Don’t even get me started on that.

I’m most interested in reading Golf Monster to find out what stories Alice retells in this book that I’ve already written about in the book I’m working on with Neal Smith. That way, Neal and I can compare the two versions and make sure our version is a million billion times better. I’ve already been told that Alice talks about the time he shot Neal during a hunting trip out in the Arizona desert, but since Neal is the one who actually got shot, and Neal never spent any time in rehab, I’m pretty sure we can one-up him!

I’ll check back in with my verdict on Golf Monster once I’ve finished reading Alice’s latest collection of tall tales. I’m sure it’s no Billion Dollar Baby – because, seriously, what the hell is? – but it’ll be good for a few laughs, no doubt.