Simon Warner Reviews ‘The Flowers Lied’: ‘Beat spontaneity meets punk insolence’

tfl-fb copy

Great review by author Simon Warner, who wrote the excellent “Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture.”

Beat Spontaneity Meets Punk Insolence

By Simon Warner

4 stars

Delivered in a sparky, yet splintered, patois, falling somewhere between Beat spontaneity and punk insolence, Michael Goldberg’s The Flowers Lied picks up where 2014’s True Love Scars left off, as the second part of the ‘Freak Scene Dream’ trilogy carries his narrator protagonist Michael Stein into further labyrinths of neurotic insecurity, a campus caper where boy might meet girl but where the roses of romance are snared with the jagged thorns of rejection and betrayal.

Not that this is any mere love story: it’s the tale of the would-be rock ‘n’ roll writer who still believes that his new journalistic prose, and his passion for Dylan and Beefheart, can lead him towards some kind of elevated self-fulfilment. But will an enthusiasm for the Stones or the New York Dolls, a blind belief in the existential promises of the electric guitar, be enough to compensate for wretched affairs and failing friendships?

Achingly self-conscious, riddled with agonising self-doubt, Stein has the flavour of a re-cast Holden Caulfield, as this raw-nerved rite of passage travels some way from Salinger’s immediate post-war world and places itself in the early 1970s at a moment when the hippie dream seems to have lost its enticing glow.

The very title of the novel is a comment on the fact the hopes and dreams of the Sixties have largely evaporated and Stein feels caught on the lip between the fading utopian buzz and a decade hurtling towards a state of nihilistic disillusion. Writerman, as he styles himself, is keen to reject the cynicism of the age but the pallor of personal crisis tends to cloud his day-to-day judgement.

Goldberg’s skill in this dark comi-tragedy is to energetically convey his feelings – the gauge on the emotional candour button is set to 9 – and he does this through a variety of techniques: a version of the gonzo syntax, occasional stream of consciousness ramblings and a secondary internalised narrative providing commentary on his own inner curdlings.

For readers who recognise the names – the rock stars, of course, but also the great rock writers of the day, like Christgau and Willis, who also pepper the pages from time to time – this is an engaging affair, as hot music, the powerful influence of music criticism and the spice of emotional turbulence become entangled in a tornado of twisting moods: the brief elation of a Fender lick is quickly balanced by a carousel of catastrophe; the ups are fleeting, the downs last longer.

The Flowers Lied, like its predecessor, has an edgy, fractious manner, but once you get used to the frenetic style, the prose moves forward with impressive vigour and the story, quite self-indulgent in many ways, has a definite resonance for a certain generation. The fact that this second instalment ends somewhat in mid-air might be a criticism, but it certainly leaves you hungry for the concluding episode, due in 2016.

Simon Warner, author of “Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture”

Writer Michael Goldberg Interviewed: Dylan, Rolling Stone & More

ATN MG int cover 2

Andrew Hamlin interviews me for Addicted To Noise.

Among other things I talk about how Bob Dylan, Captain Beefheart and Diane Arbus changed my life, some of the most difficult artist interviews of my rock journalism career, and how I wrote my latest novel. The Flowers Lied.

Here’s how the interview begins:

From his early rock writing, to a spot as a Rolling Stone mainstay, to a pioneering Web editor/publisher, to rock as literature, Michael Goldberg, founded of the original Addicted To Noise in 1994, keeps moving and keeps his thumb pushed down deep on the blurt.

Goldberg was immersed in the punk scene in the mid-1970’s, interviewing Patti Smith and The Ramones and the Talking Heads for stories that ran in the Berkeley Barb and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The Clash nearly threw him out of a San Francisco recording studio, the Sex Pistols tried to break his tape recorder, and Frank Zappa said if Michael Goldberg was one of his fans he was in big trouble.

Prior to starting ATN, Goldberg was an associate editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications.

Goldberg has recently published The Flowers Lied, the second of three books detailing the life, work, frustrations, and passions of his protagonist, Writerman.

Who were your earliest powerful influences, literary, musical, and otherwise?

It’s rare that something you read or hear has a direct, clear-cut influence…

Read the entire interview at Addicted To Noise.

– An Addicted To Noise blog post –

Rock’s Back Pages ‘Rock Critic Excerpt’ From “The Flowers Lied”

RBP - final 2

Those awesome editors at Rock’s Back Pages have featured me and an excerpt from my new rock novel, The Flowers Lied, on the home page of their site.

In the excerpt. which is the third chapter of the book. the narrator, Michael Stein AKA Writerman, meets two of his rock critic heroes for the first time when he visits them at The Pad, the rather decrepit apartment where both critics live and work.

The introduction to the excerpt begins:

Michael Goldberg’s rock ‘n’ roll coming-of-age novel, The Flowers Lied, has just been published. Richard Meltzer wrote that Goldberg’s first novel, True Love Scars, was “Radioactive as Godzilla.” Goldberg has been called a “21st Century Kerouac” by Kerouac biographer Dennis McNally and compared to Lester Bangs by Rolling Stone. The new novel focuses on Writerman (Michael Stein) a sophomore at The University, which is located in Northern California on hill above a beach town not unlike Santa Cruz. He’s a music freak and wannabe writer – he struggles with a Captain Beefheart album review, and tries and fails to type a single word of the Great American Novel he is so desperate to write. He pursues a hip but traumatized 18-year-old artist named Elise, who introduces him to tequila and Almaden Red. And he becomes best friends with Jim AKA Thee Freakster Bro, the over-the-top, gregarious writer/poet/music obsessive stoner he first meets in True Love Scars.

Read the entire excerpt at Rock’s Back Pages. Enjoy!

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

Win A Copy of My Rock Novel, ‘The Flowers Lied’

Thrashers Wheat

Today my friends over at the awesome Neil Young site, Thrasher’s Wheat, are helping celebrate the release of my new rock ‘n’ roll coming-of-age novel, The Flowers Lied.

They’ve got a review of the book. Here’s an excerpt:

“Goldberg’s rock ‘n’ roll trilogy is an innovative coming-of-age experience tracing love and music-of-an-era. While nostalgic, it’s a beautiful evocation of a distant soundtrack still reverberating across the moonbeams like a lost Jack Kerouac in a 21st century Twitterverse with a kind of staccato amphetamine grammar that is fractured, deranged, unsettling yet compelling. A Catcher in the Rye 50+ years on, Holden Caulfield is now a hipster-hippie on a trip of misadventures in a counterculture world that’s more counter than culture where the Summer of Love turns into a Winter of War. Our hero “Writerman” careens through the haze and confusion to the true high of finding redemption and transformation.”

Also, an excerpt from a chapter in which the 19-year-old narrator and his college friend Jim attend a Neil Young concert in 1973. The narrator gets caught trying to film the concert with his Super8 camera (no cell phones back then), and they are both thrown out. While trying to find a way back in at the rear of the auditorium, they run into Neil Young as he’s about to board his tour bus. Read the excerpt to find out what happens and to get sense of what the book is like.

And finally, there’s a contest in which five winners will get print copies of the book, and five will get digital copies. The contest ends March 31, 2016 at 5 PM ET.

It’s all happening at Thrasher’s Wheat right now.

More Hype About My New Novel, The Flowers Lied

tfl-fb copy

Remember back when you first wanted to become a rock critic? Or perhaps first started reading rock reviews. Those are the days of The Flowers Lied, my new rock ‘n’ roll coming-of-age novel.

Writerman, the narrator, is a rock critic wannabe obsessed with music – favorites include Captain Beefheart, the Blue Oyster Cult, the 13th Floor Elevators, John Coltrane, Pearls Before Swine, Slim Harpo, Neil Young, Sam Rivers the New York Dolls and, of course, Bob Dylan.

If you grew up in the ‘60s or ‘70s, or ever wondered what it was really like to be a teenager back then, I think you’ll dig this novel.

Witness Writerman fighting his record buying addition at Odyssey Records as store owner Lucky Larry guzzles Green Death and applies the “upsell”, attending a Neil Young concert in 1973 and confronting Neil backstage, pursuing the Visions of Johanna chick of this dreams and ending up naked at the top of a Ferris wheel, alone with his best friend’s girl.

What the critics say about my novels:

“If Lester Bangs had ever published a novel it might have read like this frothing debut…” – Rolling Stone

“Radioactive as Godzilla!” – Richard Meltzer

“Kerouac in the 21st Century.” – Dennis McNally

“Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar…” – Simon Warner

“Holden Caulfield meets Lord Buckley?” – Paul Krassner

More info here:

The Flowers Lied – Reviews

Michael Goldberg’s New Novel, The Flowers Lied, Reviewed

Great review of my novel, The Flowers Lied, went live at the online magazine, Ragazine, March 13, 2016. Here’s an image of it but please link to the site to read it. (By the way, the book is available here.)

Reviewer M. Sedlof writes:

It’s not easy to go through life driven by an intense desire to be part of a scene that really doesn’t think it needs you. Such is the quandary of Michael Stein in The Flowers Lied, Part Two of the Freak Scene Trilogy by Michael Goldberg that began with True Love Scars. After suffering ritualistic tribulations of young love in Scars, Stein (aka, Writerman), returns to the college scene older, wiser, increasingly hell-bent on becoming the rock ‘n’ roll writer of his dreams…

Read more of the review at Ragazine.

The Flowers Lied is the second book of my rock ‘n’ roll, coming-of-age Freak Scene Dream Trilogy.

Sedlof ends his review: “So looking forward to part three.”

rag review

Get the book here.

More reviews here.

And if you are in the Bay Area on May 7, 2016, come hear me read from it at the Octopus Literary Salon while Grammy-winning experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser improvises.

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

The Failure of Prop 2 Animal Protection Law in California

 

By Michael Goldberg

When California’s unprecedented animal welfare legislation, Proposition 2, passed in 2008, animal activists cheered. Many residents who voted for the law believed the result would be “cage-free” hens thanks to how the proposition was marketed.

Sure, the law wouldn’t take effect until January 2015, but when it did we all assumed that the millions of California laying hens would finally be freed from the horrible confinement of the small battery cages – which provide each bird with as little as 67 square inches, substantially less than an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper – in which most birds who lay eggs live out their short two-year lives.

Among those celebrating the victory was Princeton’s Peter Singer, author of the landmark book “Animal Liberation.” Newsweek magazine published an essay by Singer who wrote in 2008 that the new law might signal the beginning of a major societal shift in the public’s attitudes toward animals.

Yet slightly more than a year after Prop 2 took effect in January 2015, the law is a failure, and its promise “has turned out to be more fiction than reality,” according to the international animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), who during 2015 found “crowded, filthy conditions” and “hundreds of diseased animals, some dying or already dead” at one of the states largest and most well-known egg suppliers, JS West of Modesto, CA – a company that has received an AA rating from the USDA.

Additionally, DxE found that the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (Prop 2) requires no inspection of farms where laying hens live, and that there was no enforcement of the law during 2015 despite evidence that the law was violated by at least three farms in the state including the one with the AA rating, JS West, which houses 1.5 million hens. According to a 2015 California Shell Egg Food Safety (SEFS ) inspection report, JS West was “not compliant” in providing the SEFS minimal space requirement of 116 square inches per bird, even less than what is required by Prop 2.

A high-ranking California animal services officer who viewed the DxE video of conditions at JS West said during a recent interview that she believes Prop 2 is “virtually unenforceable.”

“The crowding is so severe that most of the birds will never have a moment where they have sufficient free space,” veterinarian Dr. Sherstin Rosenberg wrote in a statement provided to DxE after viewing the DxE footage.

“Putting hens in 116 square inches of space – that is beyond hell,” the animal services officer said. “You get these birds that are just psychotic out of their minds. They resort to cannibalism, they’re stressed, they’re mad, they’re diseased.” 

In a statement to the Modesto Bee, JS West denied that they are in violation of Prop 2, without explaining the “not compliant” Shell Egg Food Safety inspection rating one of its barns got last year.

DxE investigative report.

Video.

Read the rest of this story at The Daily Pitchfork.

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

Novelist Michael Goldberg & Grammy Winner Henry Kaiser to Perform Together

tfl-fb copy

I’ll be reading from my new novel, The Flowers Lied, and the Grammy-winning experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser will be improvising when we do “a post-beat happening – words + music” on May 6, 2016 at The Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland, CA.

If you’re interested, check out the events Facebook page, “a post-beat happening.”

And please let your Bay Area friends know about this.

Here’s more info:

Celebrating ex-Rolling Stone Senior Writer Michael Goldberg’s new rock ‘n’ roll novel, The Flowers Lied, Goldberg and Grammy winning experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser will collaborate on “a post-beat happening” at The Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland, CA on Saturday, May 7, 2016. Goldberg will read from his new novel while Kaiser improvises on electric guitar. Plus a solo set by Kaiser. Note that no meat will be served during this event! Free.

What the critics say about Goldberg’s novels:

“Radioactive as Godzilla!” – Richard Meltzer

“Kerouac in the 21st Century.” – Dennis McNally

“Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar…” – Simon Warner

“Holden Caulfield meets Lord Buckley?” – Paul Krassner

“Our hero drinks and drugs and dances to the nightingale tune while birds fly high by the light of the moon.” – Larry Ratso Sloman

“Reads like a fever dream from the dying days of the Summer of Love.” – Alina Simone

“If Lester Bangs had ever published a novel it might read something like this frothing debut by longtime music journalist Michael Goldberg.” – Colin Fleming, Rolling Stone

Michael Goldberg was a senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for a decade. He has interviewed Jerry Garcia, Patti Smith, George Harrison, Captain Beefheart, Stevie Wonder, Sleater-Kinney, James Brown, Frank Zappa, Berry Gordy Jr., John Fogerty, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Black Flag, The Replacements, Flipper, Robbie Robertson, Sonic Youth and many more. In 1994 Goldberg launched the first Web music magazine, Addicted To Noise, and “invented music journalism on the web,” as journalist Denise Sullivan put it. Goldberg currently writes a column, The Drama You’ve Been Craving,” for Addicted To Noise and feature stories for the online animal rights magazine, The Daily Pitchfork.

“The Flowers Lied,” the second of the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy, is a story of love, friendship and the search for identity, set in the early ‘70s. Although it takes place in the past, themes running through the book — trying to live an authentic life, struggling against the powers that be, navigating the terrain between love and lust, loyalty and betrayal — are as relevant today as ever. Goldberg’s first novel, True Love Scars, was published in 2014.

Henry Kaiser in action - not to be missed.
Henry Kaiser in action – not to be missed.

Grammy winner Henry Kaiser is widely recognized as one of the most creative and innovative guitarists, improvisers, and producers in the fields of rock, jazz, world, and contemporary experimental musics. The California-based musician is one of the most extensively recorded as well, having appeared on more than 250 different albums and contributed to countless television and film soundtracks.

A restless collaborator who constantly seeks the most diverse and personally challenging contexts for his music, Mr. Kaiser not only produces and contributes to a staggering number of recorded projects, he performs frequently throughout the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan, with several regular groupings as well as solo guitar concerts and concerts of freely improvised music with a host of diverse instrumentalists. Among the numerous artists Kaiser has recorded or performed with are Herbie Hancock, Richard Thompson, David Lindley, Jerry Garcia, Steve Lacy, Fred Frith, Terry Riley, Negativland, Michael Stipe, Jim O’Rourke, Victoria Williams, Diamanda Galas and Cecil Taylor. Kaiser’s latest album, The Celestial Squid, was released last year.

The Octopus Literary Salon is located at 2101 Webster St #170, Oakland, CA 94612

Phone: (510) 844-4120

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

Essential Books: Robert Christgau on the Past, Carola Dibbell on the Future

only ones

Dean Of Rock Criticism Robert Christgau Looks Back While Novelist Carola Dibbell Imagines The Future

By Michael Goldberg.

While it was likely coincidental that New York-based editor/rock critic Robert Christgau, who has been working on his memoir since 2007, and Carola Dibbell, a journalist who has been writing mostly unpublished fiction for decades and who is married to Christgau, had their books – his memoir, Going Into The City (Dey St./William Morrow); her debut novel, The Only Ones (Two Dollar Radio) – published almost simultaneously early last year, it was an interesting concurrence and I had to read both to see what this couple who have been part of New York’s counterculture since the ’60s had to say.

I have been reading Robert Christgau’s music writing since I was in high school. First I came across his Consumer Guide – capsule reviews of a dozen or so albums, each of which would get a letter grade, you know, like a school paper – in Creem. I devoured his collection of music articles, “Any Old Way You Choose It,” when it was published in 1973. A few years later, in the mid-‘70s, I subscribed to the Village Voice specifically to read the music section – Riffs – which Christgau edited.

Rock criticism began in the mid-‘60s, and while Ralph J. Gleason, the jazz critic for the San Francisco Chronicle who began writing criticism about Bob Dylan and The Beatles and others, was there first, Christgau was one of the early rock critics, and once he became music editor at the Voice in 1974, he had a profound influence, not only on the dozens of music writers he discovered, but also on writers like myself who learned how to write about music mostly from what we read in Creem, the Voice and Rolling Stone.

At one point when I was editing a San Francisco magazine called Boulevards, I wrote a monthly roundup of albums I called “Goldberg’s Consumer Guide” in tribute to Christgau’s column.

RC

Although Greil Marcus has likely influenced my approach to writing music criticism more profoundly than anyone else, I learned plenty from Christgau and his crew of Village Voice writers, as well as the gang at Creem. One of the many things I learned from the many writers in the pages of those publications, were ways of digging beneath the surface and finding the depth of emotion and ideas that were in so much of the music I loved. I felt it, and I heard it, but when I was younger I couldn’t articulate what I was hearing. Those rock critics brought an intellectual approach to music criticism. Albums as weighty as Exile On Main Street and Blonde On Blonde were windows into the mysteries of life, as much so as the novels, films and paintings that meant (and mean) so much to me…

Read the rest of this column at Addicted To Noise!

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

Getting Personal With Bruce Springsteen

The Boss1

by Michael Goldberg

Bruce Springsteen has always written about the past, and as I’ve spent time with The Ties That Bind: The River Sessions, a multi-CD/multi-DVD set that focuses on music Springsteen made during sessions for The River (and includes a fantastic live show from November 1980, three weeks after The River was released), I’ve been reminded of how a yearning for the past (the high drama of youth) was so much a part of Springsteen’s Seventies recordings.

At age 23, on his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, Springsteen was already looking back on songs such as “Growing Up’ and “It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City.” Even on their release, Born to Run, Darkness at the Edge of Town and The River came across as romantic exaggerations of a time long gone. This wasn’t just due to the lyrics, which sometimes referred to events in the past tense.

Watch Springsteen and band do “Out In The Street” in Tempe, Arizona, 1980:

The sound of Springsteen’s music leaped back past the innovations of mid-to-late ’60s rock, a period that prominently included long-haired psychedelia complete with feedback, distortion and wah-wah pedal effects, to draw on Phil Spector’s Wall-of-Sound, the rhythm and blues of The Coasters, Sam & Dave and others, and party-rock hit-makers like Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and Gary U.S. Bonds.

Watch Springsteen and band do “The River” in Tempe, Arizona, 1980:

Consider that in 1975, when Born to Run was released, including a saxophone in the lineup was akin to using a horse and buggy for transportation. Springsteen’s E Street Band, of course, proudly featured the great Clarence “Big Man” Clemons on sax, and the Big Man took a solo in practically every song.

Even when Springsteen wrote in the present, as he did for “Thunder Road,” his line about “Roy Orbison singing to the lonely” placed the time period of the action in the early/mid-‘60s …

Read the rest of this column at Addicted To Noise.

Watch Springsteen and band do “Thunder Road” in 1975:

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –