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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
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.
I was immediately drawn to this book based on its title, but wary of its content for fear it would be a shallow treatment of musical history. How wrong I was! As Bono's intro suggests, Hilburn uses an economy of words to tell a wonderful behind-the-scenes story of rock 'n' roll. The stories reflect on the influence and longevity of some of rock music's greatest, most influential, and foundational characters. What is most intriguing is Hilburn's ability to draw musicians like Dylan, Lennon, Michael Jackson, and U2 as real people, giving them due credit and fair critique. The book is not one man's lovefest and unabashed stargazing, but heartfelt renderings of rock music's most iconic figures. His son narrates it and does an ok job. Certainly he is not a professional book reader, but his voice quality and inflection are well produced. I don't normally write reviews, but this book was so intriguing, I couldn't resist. It is an accessible, concise, and responsible chronology of music. It is a must-read for any fan of music as it touches on why people and band have achieved the level of success they have. I highly recommend this book! I listen to dozens of audiobooks and this one by far one of the most engaging and accessible books I have listened to in a very long time!!! Enjoy!
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Cornflakes with John Lennon again? Why?
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.
Who was your favorite character and why?
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.
Did the narration match the pace of the story?
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.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I don???t know what it is about the way in which this story is told, but the author comes off rather self involved. The author talks about how he found this singer or was one of the first fans of this singer. How he gave advice to yada yada or blah blahed with so and so. I am sorry but i love the musicians and more precisely the music they create and I do not really care about the who some critic had breakfast with. I suppose that you have to have a really large ego to be in the music industry and this book is an example of 8 hours of an author stroking his ego by dropping big names but his stories are boring. I cant imagine this book being interesting to anyone outside of his immediate family.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
the title totally fooled me. if your intered in the author talking about other groups then its for you.
I have heard Beatles music my entire life but it wasn't until after I listened to this audio book that I first fell in love with the Beatles!
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed Robert's account of these famous rock stars interactions with him, although a bit superficial it was interesting.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
This book wasn't for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?
a rock groupie
What do you think your next listen will be?
don't know, every time I try to listen to a book, I get locked out.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
The stories about John Lennon lasted for about as long as it takes to eat a bowl of cornflakes. These were followed by excruciating, seemingly endless tales of the genius' of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Bono, and Kurt Cobain. Not what I bought the book for. There were some interesting stories about Elvis and Johnny Cash among others, and the narrator's impersonations of the subjects' when quoting them was kinda cute, but overall I hate it when I spend my monthly credit on books that I end up listening to with my finger on the fast forward button.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful
If you like rock history, this is a collection of tidbits. No big revelations, you probably know most of this, but it wasn't bad.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful