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Publisher's Summary

Jonathan Taplin’s extraordinary journey has put him at the crest of every major cultural wave in the past half century: He was tour manager for Bob Dylan and The Band in the '60s, producer of major films in the '70s, an executive at Merrill Lynch in the '80s, creator of the internet’s first video-on-demand service in the '90s, and a cultural critic and author writing about technology in the new millennium. His is a lifetime marked not only by good timing but by impeccable instincts - from the folk scene of Woodstock, to Hollywood’s rebellious film movement and beyond, Taplin is not just a witness but a lifelong producer, the right-hand man to some of the greatest talents of both pop culture and the underground.

With cameos by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Martin Scorsese, and countless other icons, The Magic Years is both a rock memoir and a work of cultural criticism from a key player who watched a nation turn from idealism to nihilism. Taplin offers a clear-eyed road map of how we got here and makes a convincing case for art’s power to deliver us from “passionless detachment” and rekindle our humanism. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2021 Jonathan Taplin (P)2021 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Magic Years

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Some interesting stories but a disappointment

As a long-time admirer of The Band, I have been aware of Jonathan Taplin for more than 40 years, and I was delighted to discover that he has published his memoirs. While Taplin has some great stories to tell about having a front-row seat to some historic events in American cultural history—his descriptions of his encounters with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, Bill Graham, Jackson Browne, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, David Geffen and other music industry icons are almost worth the price of the book---my overall reaction to this book is disappointment. Taplin worked as road manager for The Band for only about 2 ½ years, and he was not deeply involved in most aspects of The Band’s creative process in the recording studio, i.e., he was not present during most of the recording sessions nor did he play much of a role in the post-production elements of the recording process which seems to limit just how much insight he can provide about the making of the music. Furthermore, I presume that most road mangers take an oath of secrecy---while Taplin does discuss how 3 of The Band’s members began their sad, downward spiral into the abyss of alcohol, drugs, and depression that ultimately led to the group’s demise my gut reaction is that Taplin must have withheld some of the more sordid aspects of what he witnessed during the course of his career because (to his credit) he did not want to write a sensationalistic book about life on the road with a bunch of brilliant but often self-destructive musicians. The Band never reached the level of sex, drugs, and rock and roll debauchery that (for example) Led Zeppelin achieved but my overall impression from this book makes me think that Robbie Robertson was not exaggerating when he famously said in “The Last Waltz” film that “The road is a God-damn impossible life” for a musician, i.e., it makes it extremely difficult to develop and sustain healthy human relationships.

The final section of the book is mostly about Taplin’s adventures as an investment banker and Hollywood deal-maker, it is mostly a familiar lamentation about how the entertainment business has been taken over by soul-deadening mega-corporations that have a paucity of creative vision. In this part of the book Taplin describes the late investment banker Richard Rainwater as the savior of Walt Disney Inc. in the 1980s, as Rainwater and Taplin collaborated to help Disney avoid a proposed takeover of the company by Michael Milken et al. which likely would have resulted in the breaking up of an iconic American company. While Rainwater may have been a somewhat more enlightened capitalist than Milken, I would argue that like Milken he was fundamentally (as Nicholas Lemann would characterize) a “transaction man” who reaped huge profits from financial enginerring and arbitrage schemes, not from building a great enterprise from scratch.

On a final positive note, the narrator of this book is excellent.

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating read!

I usually don’t take the time to review audiobooks. However, I was so pleasantly surprised by this one that I wanted to go on record. I really enjoyed Jonathan Taplin’s interview on a podcast about The Band and wanted to know more about him, so I bought his audiobook. It was even better than I expected. I’m going to listen again from the beginning.

(Sorry, I had to dock a couple of stars from the performance, because of several mispronounced names. [Scorsese, Iovine, Metheny, at least one or two others.] I’m kinda picky about that.)

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A life well-lived, to say the least

The years between between Newport and the Last Waltz were what initially attracted me to this book, not to mention the interesting sidebar that Lesley and I are descended from the same great-grandfather.
The second half of the book was equally compelling, and the advice at the end concerning the importance of art and humanity is something that I am eager to pass on to my children and grandchildren.
Wonderful story, from beginning to end.

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Fascinating tale; poorly prepared reader.

Taplin’s saga is interesting and well told. He’s almost a Zelig-like character for being at so many cultural flashpoints through the years (I say almost because he’s not without agency). Roger Wayne’ narration would otherwise warrant high marks were it not for his mispronunciation of so many names. He gets right the ones everybody knows (Dylan, Beatles, Stones) but trips up on the less familiar. Ex. Leica camera becomes Lee-ca; the Eagles’ Glenn Frey he sounds out to rhyme with they rather than fry. And at least a dozen more. Kind of distracting. Blame for this must also rest with the careless production team.