HIGH NOTES: A ROCK MEMOIR

By Richard Loren, with Stephen Abney

East Pond Publishing, 2014

256 pages, $14.99

ISBN 978-0-9709407-1-1

Rock guitarist Bruce Dickinson once tried to explain rock music, saying “Rock music should be gross; that’s the fun of it. It gets up and drops its trousers.” That may seem extreme, but if anyone remembers the rock ‘n’ roll upheaval of the 1960s and ’70s, especially the Summer of Love, then Dickinson got it right.

Damariscotta author Richard Loren remembers those years well as a music agent who booked acts like Jefferson Airplane, the Chambers Brothers and The Doors, and was the manager of the Grateful Dead for many years.

“High Notes” is Loren’s colorful, profane and funny musical memoir of his years in the music business from 1966 to 1981, a frenetic period of outrageous rock band behavior fueled by drugs (pot, hash, LSD, cocaine), booze and counter-culture politics.

With unvarnished candor, Loren offers an eye-popping view of the rock music business beginning with his first job as an agent in 1966, booking venues for the over-the-top, flamboyant showman, Liberace. Loren’s stories of working (and learning) with Liberace are filled with praise and appreciation for the pianist’s musical talent, as well as his keen understanding of show business: “It was more important to put on a show than a concert.”

Loren then moved into rock ‘n’ roll as an agent and manager, with vivid anecdotes of Grace Slick’s sexual provocations and Jim Morrison’s early genius and, later, self-destruction. Loren was a rock insider then, with all the perks and perils — fame, fan adoration, money, drugs, groupies, cheating promoters, meltdowns, pressures of self-promotion, and his own excessive drug use during those years.

Best, however, are his stories about working with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, relating fascinating insight into Garcia’s musical talent, show business smarts, energy and downward spiral of drug abuse.

VANISHING ACT

By Brooke Pacy

Maine Authors Publishing, 2014

223 pages, $15.95

ISBN 978-1-63381-013-6

In commenting on one’s identity, Irish novelist Brian Moore wrote: “There comes a point in many people’s lives when they can no longer play the role they have chosen for themselves. When that happens, we are like actors finding that someone has changed the play.” Maybe that’s what happened to Elsa Galen.

“Vanishing Act” is Waldoboro author Brooke Pacy’s debut novel about a woman who disappears without a trace, the two men who search for her and the painful journey of self-identity each seeks. This is a complex story with elements of mystery and suspense, but buoyed more with powerful images of men and women dealing with uncertain ancestry, questions, self-doubt and relationships that are both tragic and tender. And, of course, there is love.

In 1973, famed photographer Galen vanishes from her home on Nantucket. The police think accident or suicide, but two men don’t believe that. Her brother, Spence, is cold and pragmatic, and his concern is less than familial. The other man, David, is a childhood friend whose search is driven by more personal motivations.

The colorful and vivid narrative involves flashbacks to Elsa’s work on a film she created, inspired by letters written in Danish in the 1930s and ’40s, and hidden by her father. The letters reveal a secret that she must explore, but the result is too overwhelming.

As years pass, Elsa’s memory is kept alive by old letters, a curious journal written by a woman named Rose and a series of unique encounters that ultimately explain Elsa’s disappearance and the contents of the film she left behind. Her own words define her crisis of conscience: “We don’t leave any traces, do we? The tide takes it all.”

As Moore suggests, Elsa’s role has changed — and so has the play.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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