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Book Review: Bleachers

by Lang Reid

Bleachers, written by John Grisham, was first published in Europe last year, but the review copy from Arrow Books (ISBN 0-09-946819-0) was released in the current paperback format only this year.

I have to admit that I know absolutely nothing about American Football. I have tried many times to watch it on TV and return to the remote control still baffled. However, it remains an enormously popular game on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Grisham, who is better known for his legal novels, leaves the wigs and courtrooms behind to spin the yarn that revolves around the death of a legendary school football coach (Eddie Rake) in a small town in the USA. While all the characters in the novel have a connection to Rake, the novel sets out to minutely examine the relationships, and what has happened to the ex-football players since they were at school.

Despite being ignorant in the bleachers, I found that inexorably I was being dragged into the small town of Messina where the book was set. Grisham has the ability to produce exact pen portraits, from the footballer who came out of the closet, to the ex-professional football player, the footballer turned town banker and the slightly dodgy footballer who later became the slightly dodgy car spare parts salesman.

During the beginning of the wake for the dying coach, a tape recording of a match played many years before is run, and probably for the aficionados it all makes sense, but for the grid-iron gringo such as me, it was a little too tedious, and just as inexplicable.

The value of the book is not in the football plays, but in Grisham’s descriptions of the relationships with the deceased coach. Having been the coach at the school for many years he had seen many a team member come and go, but for each the relationship was special in one way or another. Love or hate, respect or loathing, the ex-players reveal their souls in this book, and then a little of why they felt that way.

The main character, Neely Crenshaw, was a young football player who made it all the way to the professional ranks, with all the adulation that this evidently brings young football players in America. After being sidelined permanently through injury, he has to adjust to the fact that only in his home town is he remembered as what he was. As part of his personal catharsis he has to endure the commiserations of his old football buddies, but realizes that this does not rid him of his demons. Only by encountering a previous romantic relationship and facing the fury of one who was spurned, is the shallowness of his teenage life finally exposed, thereby releasing him from his personal nightmare. The debt he feels he owes to society is finally expunged.

The review copy came directly from Asia Books, but the RRP should be around B. 295. Well written, but for me lacking the depth Grishom demonstrated in The Client, or The Firm. But then, if I understood American Football, perhaps I would have better appreciated the book.

Mott's CD Reviews: The Beatles - Let It Be... Naked

Pawed by Mott the Dog Re-chewed by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

None of “The Beatles” were ever happy with Phil Spectre’s production of this collection of songs. However, finally Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr gave permission for the songs to be re-recorded, using the original tapes, but producing them without all the overdubs and orchestrations put on by Spectre. Obviously a lot of people thought this was sacrilege to mess with the Beatles history, but not this dog.

There were 18 months between the recording of these songs and their release, which was done to tie in with the release of the movie. In between times the Beatles had gone back into the studio and recorded and released Abbey Road. So it came as quite a nasty shock to the world’s most famous band when they heard the songs again, but by then it was too late to do anything about it. To the despair of a generation “The Beatles” were no more and were in a bitter feud, which was never going to be properly patched up. So the album stood as it was for thirty years.

Except now it has been remixed and produced lovingly by Paul Hicks, Guy Massey, and Allan Rouse, who have done a magnificent job and got double thumbs up from Paul and Ringo.

‘Let It Be... Naked’ is probably today the most gritty Rock ‘n’ Roll album that ever came out of the Beatles camp. The running order has been completely re-arranged which now gives it more of a live feel. Don’t get me wrong, McCartney’s soapy ballads are still there (‘Across the Universe’, ‘The Long and Winding Road’, and of course the title track ‘Let It Be’ - the not naked version), but stripped of their lush embellishments. They come off as giving the album some balance, rather than something off an easy listening album, and “The Beatles” sound like a proper band.

The songs are obviously all classics, but one other thing that comes through very clearly is how important a role Billy Preston played in the sessions. Billy Preston was called in to try and sooth the warring factions within the group, and inspire them into behaving themselves. He not only fulfilled that role, but his keyboard playing all through the album is nothing short of inspired. The keyboards have been pushed way up front in the mix while on the original release they had been suppressed way down.

It’s the rockers that come out of the best. ‘Get Back’ is the perfect opener and, stripped down to basics, it fairly hurtles out of the speakers, setting the tone for what is to follow. John Lennon’s ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ is unrecognizable from the original, which came out as very subdued. Here it is in its full ragged glory and shines like an uncut diamond. It is hard to believe that the band had now split forever as there is a great feeling of comradeship with Paul and John dueling vocally to bring the song to a frantic climax.

The ‘Naked’ version of ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ is a keyboard driven rocker, while it was a bit of a muddled guitar driven dirge originally. What a tragedy that the band never got to play any of the songs on this album to a live audience. (Mind you, the same can be said of any of the music that the Beatles made from Sergeant Peppers onwards.)

‘For You’ and ‘I Me Mine’ prove that there really was too much talent in the Beatles to be contained in one Rock ‘n’ Roll band. These two George Harrison compositions prove and show what was about to happen when he was released from the confines of the band. Left to his own devices, George came up with the treble album ‘All Things Must Pass’. George’s guitar playing throughout this collection is nothing short of stunning, blending beautifully with Preston’s keyboard playing, interplaying with John’s guitar, while Paul’s bass playing also got more room without all the unnecessary arrangements. Ringo, too, proves to be a very underrated timekeeper.

Even if you have the original, it is still worth bending your ear around ‘Naked’. You also get a bonus disc with this set which includes snippets of conversation and songs from the recording sessions. They give you a marvelous insight into what it was like in the studio with the Beatles, although it’s really only worth one listen. (John Lennon obviously had ‘Jealous Guy’ up his sleeve for a long time before releasing it on Imagine.) The CD booklet will keep you entertained while you listen to the music.
A job well done.

The Songs

Get Back
Dig A Pony
For You Blue
The Long And Winding Road
Two Of Us
I’ve Got A Feeling
One After 909
Don’t Let Me Down
I Me Mine
Across The Universe
Let It Be


John Lennon - Guitar and Vocals
Paul McCartney - Bass and Vocals
George Harrison - Lead Guitar and Vocals
Ringo Starr - Drums and Vocals
Billy Preston - Keyboards and Backing Vocals

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