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This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band Paperback – Sep 1 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 1 edition (Sept. 1 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556524056
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556524059
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 22.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #77,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David A. Bede on Feb. 4 2001
Format: Paperback
The trouble with autobiographies - especially rock star autobiographies - is that it's entirely too easy for the author to leave out information s/he is uncomfortable with. There is also a risk of turning your memoirs into a case of dirty laundry. Both of these problems surface at some points in this otherwise excellent memoir of one of the best and most fascinating bands of the rock era.
There is no doubt that Helm is the genuine article when it comes to rock and roll music. Born in rural Arkansas just before World War II, he grew up in the epicenter of the land and time that spawned the genre. The early chapters, with his accounts of rock's emergence and his early involvement with the new music as a teenager, are among the book's strongest moments. It is, after all, a story that needs to be told, given the fact that the radio and the rock press alike have been ignoring for decades the ongoing influence of the 1950s on post-Beatles rock. You'll never ignore it again after reading Helm's priceless accounts of toiling across the South and Midwest, backing up rockabilly great Ronnie Hawkins. Few others could offer the glimpses of that era that Helm does.
The evolution of Hawkins' band from a collection of Arkansas country boys to an all-Canadian (except for Helm) outfit was an unlikely one, but his account humanizes it all remarkably well. There could be more information on the Band's "lean years" - roughly 1963-65 - after their involvement with Hawkins and before Bob Dylan stepped in, and Dylan himself is as enigmatic as ever even in the memory of one who knew him; but then again, this was the least productive stretch of their long career.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stix on Dec 31 2011
Format: Paperback
Levon Helm was the American member of the great 1960s band, The Band. In this autobiography he shares his perspective on the formation, development and great success, and then break up of the group.

He has some harsh words for band mate Robbie Robertson - mostly due to the fact that Robertson received sole songwriting credit for a lot of material that was created as a result of the active collaboration of all the members. He also hates The Band's famous film, The Last Waltz, and he reveals that most of the tracks had to be redone after the event because the original sound quality was so poor.

There are some great stories about being on the road as a travelling musician. Helm still tours doing what he loves, and he's a great drummer. You'll want to spend some time listening to The Band's music after reading this very engaging and well crafted book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "ljwwest" on June 8 2001
Format: Paperback
Levon Helm tells the story of The Band beautifully and sincerely. This is a book about friends more than it is a book about a band. I had always heard that Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson have grown to hate each other. After reading this book I really don't think this is the case. Although Levon sounds a bit angry at times when referring to Robbie (often calling him "Robertson"), his words carry the tone of hurt feelings (of someone who misses one of his best friends) more than they do of anything even remotely close to hatred. This book has all of the great road and recording stories but the best part is the story that is told in between. Imagine a band that lives and creates together for the greater part of thirty some years. It is something that (unfortunately) you don't see anymore (imagine N'sync living in a small house together and writing songs in the basement!!!). Levon Helm had four best friends, three of which he lost to either death or lawyers and Hollywood. This is the story you will hear him tell. If everyone bought a copy of this book and gave it to the youngest musician they know, there might be some hope for the future of popular music.
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By anthony lewis on Nov. 13 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is a look inside the inner workings of a legendary band,no punches are pulled here,Levon was one of a kind.
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By Neila on April 27 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
wicked read. would recomend this book to anyone. it is a wonderfully written stories straight from the horses mouth. cool pictures too!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 19 2002
Format: Paperback
...you must read this book.
Levon's down-home personality floods every page, and makes you wish you'd known him and his family growing up. Honestly, I probably enjoyed the chapters about his childhood as much or more than the chapters about being in one of my favorite groups--The Band.
There are some self-serving moments, but hey, they're illuminating too! Check out how casually Levon dismisses his own drug addiction in the early 70s, and completely ignores the fact that THAT might have contributed to the rift between the rest of them and Robbie (Rick and Richard were addicts too). He blames the rift primarily on Robbie's receiving most of the writing credits, but if everybody else was strung-out, SOMEBODY needed to write the songs!!! Oh yeah, and Levon devotes a few paragraphs too many to an incident in which Ronnie Hawkins claimed that Levon had a large genital appendage...not really the sort of information I was looking for... Apparently these guys were knee-deep in the hedonistic lifestyle too, but Levon doesn't much go into that...which is probably for the best.

And oh boy, there are shades to the relationship between Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm that go far beyond what I previously realized...after reading this, you'll NEVER watch "The Last Waltz" the same way again. Man, oh man! Robbie comes off as less than likable, to put it kindly. And I gotta say, this isn't just a one-sided account, because Rick is quoted extensively too. Seems like money and fame can really wreck the best of friendships. Here's how.
If you'd prefer to think of the Band as a bunch of kindly guys who simply had fun recording good albums, you might want to stay away from this book! But if you'd like to see what sort of stuff was going on behind the scenes, and what fuels the continuing bitterness between the surviving members, or if you want to know more about Richard Manuel's untimely death, this book is your best source.
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