Sunday, January 30, 2011

Perry Como: a biography and complete career record

One of the music icons from the 1940s and 1950s until the 1970s and 1980s was Perry Como. Born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania in May 1912, the son of Italian immigrants, Perry worked as a barber until the opportunity arose in 1933 for him to join a band as a singer. In the 1930s he worked with the Freddy Carlone Band and later with the Ted Weems orchestra.During the 1930s and 1940s performances of the bands were often broadcast on radio and also made recordings. In 1943 Perry began broadcasting his own radio show from New York, began recording records as a solo vocalist and signed a film contract. His career as an entertainer was established.

Malcolm Macfarlane and Ken Crossland provide an account of the career of Perry Como in the first part of the book followed by appendices listing the many recordings made between 1936 and 1994, a listing of his television appearances and shows plus a time-line of his life from his birth in 1912 until his death in 2001.

Perry Como had a successful radio career but he was one of the few radio performers who successfully transferred to television. Perry had a series of television shows from 1948 until 1967 and then until 1986 recorded occasional programs, often shown around Christmas. His last two programs were recorded in 1993 and 1994.When his recording and television career began to slow down Perry began to do concerts in the United States plus tours to the UK and Japan.

Between 1936 and 1987 Perry recorded more than 700 songs and from 1945 to1970 sold more than 100 million records.His success was largely due to his ability to be able to keep his own style yet also adapt to the changing trends in music.His popular television programs also helped his record sales. Many of the records were hits not only in the United States but also in the UK, Australia and Japan. In the 1970s and 1980s many of his songs continued to be successful in the UK and Australia though not particularly successful in his home country.

This book provides not just a record of the public life of Perry Como but also provides details about the music industry, particularly recording, radio and television, from the 1930s until the 1980s.

Having been an avid watcher of the Perry Como Show in the early days of Australian television and my first LPs being albums by Perry Como, I enjoyed this account of the life of the barber who became a singer.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Peter Pan's First XI

The subtitle is the extraordinary story of J. M. Barrie's Cricket Team and the story of the Allahakbarries is a major theme of the book with authors, playwrights and journalists meeting at irregular intervals under the captaincy of Barrie to play cricket for the enjoyment of the game. The names of fellow cricketers reads as a literary who's who from the latter part of the Victorian era to the 1920s - Arthur Conan Doyle, P G Wodehouse, E W Hornung, E V Lucas and in the final game, A A Milne to name a few. Kevin Telfer intertwines the story of the Allahakbarries with the accounts of the professional lives of the participants and also attitudes to cricket during this period. The main protagonist is, of course, Barrie and the author shows how Barrie's love of games, particularly cricket, influenced his writing. The book provides a study of more relaxed attitudes to life in the Edwardian era contrasted to changes in attitudes caused by the devastation of the First World War. The novel, The Children's Book, by A S Byatt covers a similar theme.

On many levels, Peter Pan's First XI is an interesting book for its insight into cricket, literature and social history at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however the style of writing is often ponderous and I found the constant repetition of some pieces of information throughout the book distracting.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The ghost at the wedding

Shirley Walker has based this book on the true story of the experiences of her husband's family in Australia. The family originally came from the Isle of Skye. After the clearances in the mid nineteenth century the family emigrated to Australia when they had been forced out of their homes.

The book recounts the story of Jessie whose family had settled near the Clarence River. She was born at the end of the nineteenth century so her story largely deals with the impact of two world wars upon the family. Jessie's brothers and the man she was to marry served during World War I. The experience of the soldiers overseas is interwoven with the struggles of the family at home waiting to hear if their loved ones would return. Eddie, later called Ted, did return to marry Jessie but he was a damaged man and never recovered from his war time experiences. His two brothers and Jessie's brother, Joe, died overseas. Jessie's first two sons and a brother born around the same time were named after their fallen uncles. Twenty years later these boys were also off to war. A moving story about the effects of war on three generations of one family.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Kimberley: Australia's last great wilderness

In 2007 I was lucky enough to spend two weeks exploring Broome and Cape Leveque as well as Kununurra, Lake Argyle and Purnululu National Park (the Bungle Bungles) - a magnificent part of Australia. 

This large pictorial book by Victoria Laurie examines the flora and fauna and landscape of this special part of Australia. Those who have been lucky enough to spend time in the Kimberley, by reading this book, will enjoy recalling the incredible colours, dramatic scenery and diverse wildlife previously experienced and have a better understanding of the environment they were able to visit  while those not fortunate enough to have visited the region will want to do so.

Judi Dench and furthermore

Actor, Judi Dench, was born in England in December 1934. This book provides her chronological account of her career recalling the many productions in which she has been involved and the people with whom she has worked.

In more recent years Judi Dench has won fame as an actor in films including Her Majesty, Mrs Brown, Shakespeare in Love and and as M in the more recent James Bond films. She has also appeared in many television plays and series including A Fine Romance, As Time Goes By and Cranford. But most of her professional life has been spent performing on the stage with theatre companies such as The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Old Vic Company and The National Theatre Company.

The book provides a who's who in British theatre as well as insights into the challenges of staging productions. Photographs from productions in which Dame Judi Dench has performed illustrate the book. There is also a chronology of the parts that she has played in the theatre, television and film plus a list of awards she has won. An interesting account of an incredible career from 1957 until 2010 when the book was written.