This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band Paperback – Sep 1 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Arkansas-born Helm, drummer for classic-rock outfit The Band, and Davis ( Fleetwood ) here present a down-home account of the quintet's development. Whereas Barney Hoskyns's recent Across the Great Divide: The Band and America (Nonfiction Forecasts, June 7) portrayed the group as aesthetes squirreled away in Woodstock, N.Y., this firsthand chronicle highlights earthier episodes: the musicians' lowbrow rockabilly antics in Canada and the South, their incarnation as Bob Dylan's much-maligned backup band in the '60s and guitarist Robbie Robertson's estrangement from them in the late '70s. While Hoskyns quotes Robertson almost exclusively, the guitarist is rarely heard from here. Helm denounces notions that he and his fellows were smug: "Calling it The Band seemed a little on the pretentious, even blowhard side--burdened by greatness--but we never intended it that way." Although Helm and Davis open on the predictable downbeat--band member Richard Manuel's suicide--they close positively, with kind words from Dylan and the hope of a comeback. Of the two books, this plainspoken effort proves less dry and doesn't put its subjects on too high a pedestal. Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
Enjoyable history of a seminal late-60's rock group, told by the group's drummer with the help of Davis (coauthor, Fleetwood, 1990, etc.). The Band were an anomaly among groups of the era: Neither psychedelic nor commercial, their music harked back to the folk and blues roots of rock 'n' roll--and band members even looked like they'd just stepped out of a tintype. Working in seclusion in Woodstock, New York, with their sometime employer Bob Dylan, the group crafted a music that eerily captured the spirit of America's past. Here, Helm draws on his own memories of this heady time, along with interviews with surviving Band-men (other than Robbie Robertson, with whom he's had a nasty falling out), to give a fairly honest appraisal of the music and the times. Unlike some other celebrity rock-star memoirists, Helm doesn't concentrate on the sex and drugs that seem to be an integral part of any legitimate rock memoir, but describes as well the making of each album and the genesis of the songs. He also gives a scathing portrait of the making of The Last Waltz, the film of the group's last megaconcert, given in 1976--a film in which, Helm says, director Martin Scorsese glorified Robertson to the detriment of the group's other members. Helm's folksy manner can grate (``Memory lane can be a pretty painful address at times''); overall, though, a readable and evenhanded account that will appeal to Band fans and 60's nostalgists (though Barney Hoskyns's Across the Great Divide, p. 643, covers much of the same ground). (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
As far as a previous reviewers comments about Helm's drug use admissions; I think he must have this book confused with Motley Crue's "The Dirt". The book doesn't really touch on drug use much at all.
Be aware that this book is definitely from the perspective of Levon Helm. Why wouldn't it be? It was not written by The Band. It was written by Levon. Some people might not like what they read in this book, but at least it's honest. Yes, there appears to have been some childish disagreements among the band members, but you have to remember these guys were rock stars! Most of them didn't have to "grow up" the same way most people have. Most of them have never even had a real job.
Bottom line, if you're interested in what happened behind the scenes with The Band, you'll probably enjoy this book.
Most recent customer reviews
The book is a look inside the inner workings of a legendary band,no punches are pulled here,Levon was one of a kind.Published on Nov. 13 2013 by A J
wicked read. would recomend this book to anyone. it is a wonderfully written stories straight from the horses mouth. cool pictures too!Published on April 27 2013 by Neila
2 weeks past end of expected delivery period, sorry not from these guys again.I am only reviewing the reliability of the delivery...still haven't seen the item!Published on Oct. 12 2011 by rob
Very informative and great insight about The Band. Is a little bias but he seems down to earth and was great!Published on Feb. 12 2009 by Jeffrey Rice
Let's get one thing straight: I don't have anything against drug-taking rock stars (are there any other kind? Read morePublished on Nov. 20 2003
Although Levon Helm's anger very apparent this is one of the funniest books I've read. His story telling is great.Published on Nov. 8 2003 by Amazon Customer
...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. Read more
Levon Helms story of the band is more american history than just a rock and roll war story . he spins a tale that takes you to the delta and all over our world . Read morePublished on Dec 12 2001 by Paul F. Schmitz
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