'Lost Rockers, Broken Dreams and Crashed Careers’ by Steven Blush with Paul Rachman and Tony Mann, pays tribute to twenty talented artists that worked at their crafts diligently, but for a variety of reasons never successfully rose to the top. This sublimely attractive hardcover book is intriguing, as it offers an acute analysis of why these careers were cut short. In some cases, it was because of ill-advised or unscrupulous management. In other cases, it was because the artist had poor political instincts and could not finesse the corporate games or strategies. Some of the artists rubbed elbows with the rich and the famous but lost sight of their own goals, developed addictive behaviors and self-destructed.

The format is clear and packed with valuable biographical information that allows the reader special access to each artist. There’s glamorous Evie Sands, who continues to love making music despite having had her recordings overlooked time and again. The recounting of how she was sabotaged is heartbreaking.

Bassist Kenny Young suffered deeply from an unstable childhood, but overcame such challenges to become an exceptional bassist, drawing comparisons to the late Chris Squire. Top execs were impressed after hearing his band, King of Kings, and arranged meetings with Queen producer, Roy Thomas Baker. But his good fortune would drift away... “By 2012, his veins turned to scar tissue and his asthmatic lungs were destroyed by crack—he had reached the end of the line.”

There’s Jake Holmes, “who wrote and recorded one of the most famous songs in rock history, but was never given credit…” His original tune, ‘Dazed and Confused’, wowed Led Zeppelin fans, but left Holmes licking his wounds. “I didn’t know it was a fresh and original idea. I just did it,” he recalls about his one-off, original arrangement, that when played live caused the audience to go wild. A stunned Jimmy Page (then in the Yardbirds) was also in that audience.

Holmes would go on to become Harry Belafonte’s musical director and a strong civil rights advocate, and eventually made his peace with what transpired.

Then there were the artists who coloured outside the lines and suffered the consequences. “Gass Wild and Johnny Hodge were too rock for punk, yet too punk for rock,” the authors conclude.

It’s also a trip through pop culture history. Says Cherry Vanilla about her father, “He’d take me down to the Copa, and I’d see Jimmy Durante, Martin and Lewis, Eartha Kitt, and all the Copa girls and the band and the booths and palm trees and the cigarette smoke and cocktails—I was in love with it all.” She eventually became the star of Andy Warhol’s only play, 'Pork', perhaps not the best public relations move because of its lewd theme.

There are a variety of expert photos that grace the pages and add to the thematic intensity. Unfortunately, the captions are tiny and difficult to read, but don’t let that dissuade you from purchasing this important book — it is one that every ambitious artist should read and take super seriously.

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