Photo of the book cover by G.
It’s funny to be writing a review of an anthology of musings on now legendary albums on the same day I read a review of a Nine Inch Nails concert where the writer (from the Associated Press, no less) said the highlight of the evening was the show stopping encore – “a cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt.'” The review didn’t bother to research that the song was in fact a Nine Inch Nails song! For now, let’s forgive that horrible oversight and jump in the time machine. Let’s go back, way back, to the late 1960s when new music sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before and each week saw the release of a mind-blowing album. Enter Patricia Kennealy-Morrison. Her book “Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music – The Jazz & Pop Writings 1968 – 1971” is a collection of her reviews from the golden age of rock and roll. For those of us that weren’t around in this heyday, Patricia sets the stage by describing the times. From free records and free love to gaining back stage access and overcoming rampant sexism in the industry, Patricia was lucky enough to have some incredible stories and even better – she got paid to write about them!
In music today, when talking about artists, the first words that come to mind are “sounds like [insert classic band name here].” In the late 1960s, you had to be a lot smarter because the music that was being released often sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before (or since!). Keeping these thoughts in mind, reading her reviews of records such as “Cheap Thrills” by Big Brother and the Holding Company are even more essential as she dissects the nuances of how the songs sound on the album versus how they were performed in concert, an experience many of us would kill to have had. In the end, she recommends the album by telling the reader, “it’s wild, it’s exciting, it’s exuberant as hell, and it loves you.”
As if it weren’t enough to try and explain Janis Joplin to people that may not have been familiar with her music at the time, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison also had the formidable task of reviewing “The White Album,” “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be” by The Beatles. Having lived in a world where those albums always existed, I found myself setting “Rock Chick” down many times to just close my eyes and imagine a time where these legendary recordings were being heard for the first time. By today’s standards, you could not say that every cut on each album is anything but essential (except “Octopus’ Garden,” which has not gotten better with age), but at the time, she explains her honest feelings on “The White Album” – “the first time I heard it, I thought it was spectacular, then I thought it was dismal. Now I think I won’t think about it, but just dig it, because more than anything it is a happy album.” She rightly compares the tensions of the songs on “Let It Be,” to the sound of creaky floor boards about to cave in from the pressure and further goes on to state that the album might as well be called “Rest In Peace.”
“Rock Chick” isn’t all about album reviews, however. Patricia wrote about her experiences at Woodstock, going to music events with the art elite (read: art snobs) at the Whitney Museum (some things never change!), critical analysis of the changing times (foreshadowing the dismal state of music today) both for women and the music industry, rants about the rising cost of ticket prices (to $10 at the time – oh, to be so lucky now!) and interviewing future legends such as Jeff Beck. Her reviews are peppered with after thoughts, written specifically for the book, that put into context what was happening at the time, both in her personal life as well as the politics of the magazine, which brings us to perhaps the most important reviews she wrote – those of The Doors. If you are unfamiliar with Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, you are about to find out where the Morrison in her name originates.
Getting to interview The Doors on a trip to New York as they were recording their most left of center record (and perhaps my favorite), “The Soft Parade,” Jim Morrison and Patricia Kennealy really hit it off, to put it mildly. This is where “Rock Chick” and Kennealy-Morrison’s autobiography “Strange Days – My Life With and Without Jim Morrison” fits in perfectly as a companion book. “Strange Days” elaborates on the romance and ultimate wedding of Jim and Patricia and we get to be flies on the wall for some of the most epic stories in rock and roll. Despite their relationship, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison had no problem calling The Doors out on a weak track and refused to write a glossy review of Jim Morrison’s first poetry books “The Lords and The New Creatures,” to placate her lover. She goes on to explain that Jim appreciated her honesty and in fact felt that her review was constructive criticism and as Patricia points out, a marriage proposal followed several days after the publication of the article, so clearly the artist valued her journalistic integrity. “Rock Chick” also features her reviews of “Morrison Hotel,” “The Soft Parade,” “13” and “Absolutely Live.” Kennealy-Morrison had left Jazz & Pop prior to the release of “LA Woman,” so no review is included, but again some of the behind the scenes stories of “LA Woman” are featured in “Strange Days.”
The times changed and Patricia Kennealy-Morrison moved on from Jazz & Pop to become a copywriter for RCA Records, getting to work with and write ad campaigns for David Bowie, The Kinks and Lou Reed, just to name a few artists. Ultimately, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison would go on to write 14 other books (with more on the way): the science-fantasy series “The Keltiad” as well as “The Rock and Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries,” of which she drew inspiration from her real life experiences in ‘the biz,’ as well as her autobiography “Strange Days – My Life With and Without Jim Morrison.”
Flash forward to present day. We live in a world where music is instantly forgettable and reviews are often more tedious and pretentious than the music itself. Books like “Rock Chick: A Girl and Her Music – The Jazz & Pop Writings 1968 – 1971” by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison are living proof that it was not always that way – far from it, actually.
“Rock Chick” is available on Amazon.com. GET IT!