Einstein, Michael Jackson & Me

Einstein, Michael Jackson & Me

Einstein, Michael Jackson & Me

by Howard Bloom

Backbeat Books

It’s a fantastic tale, this publicist’s-eye look at rock and roll. Howard Bloom started in rock journalism and wrote most of the text for Circus magazine back in the 1970s. He worked out of a closet but had a knack for discovering the right artists at the right place and right time. Bloom hobnobbed with and managed bands from REO Speedwagon, to Prince, to ZZ Top. He understood the power of touring, the power of a good backstory, and that his audience consisted of mostly 16 ½-year-old boys. But his real genius allowed him to create that tribal feeling all great music infects us with. There’s the usual stuff about growing up in Buffalo and failing at violin, failing at jazz, and failing at piano. But as some say, “those who cannot do, teach,” and he taught many a musician the inner ropes of the trade and how to claw to the top. Staying up there is much more difficult, but if you’re not close to the top, you fail anyway.

The stories flit along in a breezy, snarky style. Endless meetings with the famous and infamous, horror stories of road managing bands, piles of drugs, and rivers of booze, and the wrong sort of sex, it’s all here. Sometimes all these stories sound too good to be true: how many coincidences can one man handle? But you want them to be true because they are what we all want to believe: if you’ve got talent, you’ll make it. But to make it, you need skilled handlers, and Mr. Bloom is “Da Man.”

And as to Michael Jackson? Jackson’s career took a path so familiar to those who soar too high and melt their wings. Jackson grew up in show business, possessed real talent, and through luck, creativity, and good management, he made it to the top and went one step higher. But after the rave success of the Thriller album, he hypertrophied. Now the bad advice and high living caught up to Michael and the rest of the Jackson family. Their act collapsed, and in a flash the world turned from adoration to abomination.

This might be the darnedest book about the entertainment industry ever written, and I highly recommend it for fans and talent alike. But as Neil Young advised us, “it’s better to burn out than it is to fade away.” It’s just that that decision is rarely your own.


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