Book Review “It’s Not Only Rock’n’Roll: Iconic Musicians Reveal the Source of Their Creativity” by Dr. Jenny Boyd with Holly George-Warren (John Blake Publishing) By Mike Greenblatt
Ringo Starr was a sick kid. Constantly bed-ridden and/or hospitalized with peritonitis, and then as a teenager with tuberculosis, he amused himself by banging on any available surface.
Keith Richards, while onstage, used to think, “what are you looking at me for? [I’m just a] damn old junkie hacking away at the guitar.”
Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham says, “if you’ve been working on something for a few hours and you smoke a joint, it’s like hearing it again for the first time.”
Joni Mitchell says, “cocaine can give you an intellectual linear delusion of grandeur—makes you feel real smart.”
Jackson Browne says, “I always thought [LSD] enhanced [creativity] at the time but you pay heavily.”
Heart’s Nancy Wilson says, “I used alcohol to shake off the outside world and get into the primal world...Cocaine puts you in a heightened state of self-gratification. We called it `blowatry.” Big difference between that and poetry.”
Randy Newman says, “I used to take amphetamines to write and was very frightened not to take them.”
Eagle Don Henley says, “I think those substances were used merely as a little `instant courage,’…to overcome…feelings of `who am I to be doing this? Why do I deserve to get my feelings and opinions on this blank piece of vinyl that a million people are going to hear?’ Some of the drug-taking was to cover that feeling of un-deservedness, to blunt that somehow, because when you do coke, it makes you feel that everything you’re saying is worthwhile and that everybody ought to listen. I didn’t use drugs actually to create but simply to buffer those feelings of inadequacy, those feelings of `I don’t deserve this.’”
This theme of inadequacy pops up again and again as the biggest rock stars in the world let their considerable hair down and talk about truly not knowing if what they’re doing is any good. Conversely, many in this fascinating and unique book—first published in 1992 and updated in 2013—talk about what psychologist Abraham Maslow calls the “peak experience,” the uniting of the unconscious with the conscious during performance or writing or simply playing their instrument. They talk about the wonder, awe, reverence, humility and surrender they feel when they achieve creative peaks. They discuss how they get there and most of the 75 musicians interviewed feel everyone has a certain amount of creativity within and it’s just a matter of tapping into it.
The legends who opened up to Dr. Boyd are the biggest of the big: Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, Warren Zevon, Eric Clapton, Crosby Stills & Nash, Steve Winwood, Stevie Nicks and Willie Dixon are just a few. She got to these kinds of names because they knew her. And when an artist knows and trusts someone, the sky's the limit for journalistic intent. The quotes up top are from the one chapter in the book about drugs and alcohol. They also talk about their childhoods, their sense of destiny and their fear of failure. They become human and you see them in ways you’ve never seen them before.
Jenny Boyd was 16 when drummer Mick Fleetwood fell in love with her. Her sister Patty Boyd was the muse of George Harrison and Eric Clapton and wound up marrying both of them while Jenny twice married Fleetwood. The sisters, both gorgeous models in the Swinging London of the 1960s, fell into an elite circle. Donovan wrote “Jennifer Juniper” about the author who ultimately wasn’t satisfied with the touring or the upscale highest-of-the-high rock’n’roll scene that she served as but a mere appendage. She went and got her Ph.D. in Human Behavior. Her dissertation became this book.
Eminently readable due to the fact that she and her co-writer weaved the quotes into the text in such a way that the legendary names pop up again and again in chapters dealing with nurture, obstacles, the “collective unconscious” and the “peak experience.” As a listener and fan, I could relate. These answers--that unravel in a great story, and not just a series of Q & A chapters--cut to the core of what makes them all tick…why they are who they are…and what their sense of self-awareness does to their art.
As Stevie Nicks says on the back cover, “all creative people should read this book.”