Robert Hilburn’s storied career as a rock critic has allowed him a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of some of the most iconic figures of our time.
He was the only music critic to visit Folsom Prison with Johnny Cash. He met John Lennon during his "lost weekend" period in Los Angeles, and they became friends. Bob Dylan granted him his only interviews during his "born again" period and the occasion of his 50th birthday. Michael Jackson invited Hilburn to watch cartoons with him in his bedroom. When Springsteen took to playing only old hits, Hilburn scolded him for turning his legendary concerts into oldies revues, and Springsteen changed his set list.
In this unique account of the symbiotic relationship between critic and musical artist, Hilburn reflects on the ways in which he has changed and been changed by the subjects he’s covered. And Bono weighs in with an introduction about how Hilburn’s criticism influenced and altered his own development as a musician.
Corn Flakes with John Lennon is more than one man’s adventures in rock and roll; it’s the gripping and untold story of how popular music reshapes the way we think about the world and helps to define the modern American character.
Robert Hilburn, one of rock music’s most respected critics, is a very lucky guy. Not only was he music editor at The Los Angeles Times for three and a half decades when most of the very best rock ‘n’ roll was being made, but he has been privy to iconic occasions in music history that no other journalist and sometimes no other living soul at all has witnessed. His memoir is a catalogue of legendary figures and moments that will amaze and delight anyone with even a mild interest in popular culture.
As a weird bonus to the solidly entertaining and practiced reportage of the book itself, the audiobook is narrated by Hilburn’s son. The author, now in his early 70s, is letting his kid carry the torch and it burns brightly. Hilburn Jr. turns in an appropriately reverent and personal portrait of his father’s voice, telling these stories by radiating the same wit and enthusiasm with which they were no doubt told to him in his youth.
The memoir is organized chronologically, so the Hilburns begin with Elvis and Lennon. There is some interesting insight into Colonel Tom Parker, as well as a very humanizing take on Yoko Ono. He also manages to crack the notoriously tough nut of Bob Dylan, and the formidable childishness of Michael Jackson. As the only reporter at Johnny Cash’s famous Folsom Prison show, and also at one of his last unpublicized small performances, the author has a lot of charming details to share. His ruminations on Bono and The Boss offer some of the most refreshingly humorous and optimistic moments in the book.
Hilburn Jr. does justice to the obsessions of his father, but also manages to take the rock stars seriously adding just a touch of Dylan’s scuzzy drawl, Springsteen’s Jersey swagger, or Bono’s Irish lilt. He doesn’t dare try to imitate these classic voices or parrot the tones of his father. What we have here is a true gem, where the writing speaks for itself in charting the development of Hilburn as an amazing contributor in the field of music criticism, subtly and lovingly accented by the narration of his son. Megan Volpert
"So many great memories came flooding back to me when I read Corn Flakes With John Lennon. A must read for genuine music lovers." (Elton John)
"Hilburn's amazing resilience and commitment for music shines through his decades of reportage and reviews of music. On behalf of the musicians of the '60s on, I thank you for having been the communicator of our music with love." (Yoko Ono)
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Great Behind-the-scenes stories of rock 'n' roll!
Well done! Fascinating anecdotes.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this title. WOW. I was blown away. Robert Hilburn is a fascinating character in the world of music. What a life.
Robert Hilburn is a legend of his own. The access he had to musicians from Johnny Cash to Kurt Cobain is unprecidented. The tales are incredible. He had a conversation with Yoko Ono right after John Lennon's assasination and spoke with Courtney Love the day she was looking for a missing Kurt Cobain. (he was found dead shortly after their interview) He had intimate relationships with John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Johnny Cash....the list of hall of famers goes on and on and on. He describes conversations with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stevie Wonder and contemporaries such as Jack White and U2. Another thing I found fascinating was his description of (and advocacy for) the budding rap industry and genre. This book comes close to sharing what it might have been like to walk a mile in his bad ass shoes.
The only negative thing about this audiobook I can muster up is the narrator (who happens to be the author's son) acts out some of the dialogue with painfully poor English and Irish accents. It detracts from the content. It pains me to listen to a John Lennon quote while Mr. Hillburn choked his way through a Liverpudlian accent. But don't let that dissuade you from picking up this glorious audiobook.