Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith
by Joe Perry with David Ritz
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Aerosmith is one of the greatest American rock bands, led by singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry. The group has seen many ups and downs over the years, playing through drug addictions and inner turmoil, but today are still regarded as one of the most legendary acts to come from the United States and has a feverish fan base. In Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith, Perry relives his early years and influences that led him to a relationship with Steven Tallarico, on through the gigging and recording and eventual touring. Financial problems, leaving Aerosmith and creating the Joe Perry Project, and his return to the group in the mid-1980s, renewed success, and renewed band infighting are all focuses of the book.
Perry doesn’t pull any punches, especially when it comes to his tumultuous relationship with Tyler. The guitarist paints the picture of a front man with severe lead singer disease, who seems to be out for himself instead of the best interests of the group. From his constant addiction struggles to his secret audition with Led Zeppelin to his role on American Idol, Tyler kept information from his bandmates that would affect their future. It seems those problems will never go away, but Perry and the rest of Aerosmith continues to put up with the erratic behavior.
Perry’s autobiography may be a tell-all book, but there is not really a whole lot to tell. Aside from the drug abuse, he did not live the stereotypical rock star lifestyle. He stuck with one woman at a time, had major financial troubles because of mismanaged money, and focused on his work more than might be expected of someone who has fame thrust upon him. The most interesting parts of the book, for me, are Perry’s recollections of the 80s comeback albums Permanent Vacation and Pump albums, as well as the 70s classics including Toys In The Attic and Rocks.
Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith currently sits at #8 on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list for Hardcover Nonfiction. It is a well-written autobiography from one of rock’s greatest guitarists, and will be enjoyed by fans of Aerosmith and Joe Perry.
Cosby: His Life and Times
by Mark Whitaker
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Bill Cosby is one of the most iconic comedians in American history, but his life behind the scenes has not been as rosy as the characters he portrays on television. Incidents from his early impoverished life in Philadelphia, his affair with Shawn Berkes, the murder of his son Ennis and attempted extortion by Berkes’ daughter Autumn Jackson, author Mark Whitaker shows how Cosby dealt with personal tragedies and came out stronger for it.
Cosby’s success can be attributed partly to luck, being in the right place at the right time, and partly to having people who were loyal and confident in his future. But there is another part of Cosby’s success that is overlooked by many: hard work. The legend did not expect anything to be given to him for free, and has rebuked those today who expect such. “I heard a prize fight manager say to his fellow who was losing badly, ‘David, listen to me, it’s not what he’s doing to you. It’s what you’re not doing.’”
The book also details Cosby’s relationships—and more importantly, friendships—with his co-stars, such as Robert Culp from I Spy and Phylicia Rashad from The Cosby Show, and showed how he helped other programs, from the spin-off A Different World to Everybody Loves Raymond, a show he fell in love with long before the rest of America noticed.
Cosby: His Life and Times is a quick read despite the large page count. Fans of Cosby and his various projects will love Whitaker’s examination of the comedian’s life.
by Mike Piazza with Lonnie Wheeler
Simon & Schuster, 2013
Spring training is underway, and new baseball books are starting to hit the store shelves. Mike Piazza released his highly anticipated memoir Long Shot a couple of weeks ago, and in it he tells of his upbringing, relationship with Tommy Lasorda, and love for the city of New York. He deals with some of the big stories of his career, including the steroid suspicions, homosexuality rumors, the Roger Clemens incident, and breaking Carlton Fisk’s record for most home runs by a catcher. The first eight chapters, which focus on Piazza’s early life through the minor leagues, capture the catcher’s personality best as he tells of meeting Ted Williams and convincing his college coaches to let him catch instead of play first base. Once he makes the big leagues in chapter nine, however, the story becomes a bit dry. We do see the evolution of the innocent, sheltered Pennsylvania boy into a hardened, cynical Californian and later New Yorker (granted, that evolution began in the minor leagues, but became much more pronounced as he was ushered out of Los Angeles). But Piazza’s recollection of specific games, at-bats, and even pitches can be a bit tedious.
Many players make a big splash by publishing “tell-all” biographies, exposing the shortcomings of former teammates and coaches. While he does take a few jabs at Pedro Martinez and Clemens, for the most part Piazza shies away from such an approach. Unfortunately, that makes the major league portion of the book more difficult to get through. There are interesting stories here and there, but the best part of Long Shot is definitely found in the first eight chapters.
Does Mike Piazza belong in the Hall of Fame? Only 57.8% of the voters showed support in his first year on the ballot, despite his staggering offensive numbers. That number is expected to rise in the coming years, and Piazza himself believes he belongs. “Election to the Hall of Fame would, for me, validate everything.” One look at his statistics, coupled with the fact that he has never been accused of steroid usage by any reputable source, answers the question quite clearly. The man worked hard for what he achieved, accomplishing great things despite the odds. If you are not familiar with his career, Long Shot is a good recollection. For those who remember his career well, read the first eight chapters and skim the rest.