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Rated: E · Review · Music · #2275056
Jordan Young's book on the master of musical mayhem is one of the best of its kind
One of the best biographies I've ever read, Mr. Young's effort to round up and put into order the work of someone as accomplished as Spike Jones is astounding. This being the 4th edition of the book, it has grown, over the years, in an attempt to keep pace with Young's many discoveries following the first edition. The hardcover version is 8" by 10", and at 481 pages, this is not a book you will cuddle up with, so much as open up and gather around. It is that big.

So, where do I start? Maybe with the structure. Following a Foreword by none other than Dr. Demento, the author offers a fascinating Preface, in which he describes discovering, in a used furniture store "six file boxes of long lost memorabilia- including the remnants of the band's music library and Jones' business correspondence..." From this not so austere beginning, Jordan Young began a biographical quest that has led to four separate editions of the first book ever written about bandleader Spike Jones.

And it is in the Preface that Young explains the book's unique structure. Though chronological, to a great extent, this bio occasionally ditches the linear progress though time for side trips, due to its complex subject. As such, the book is loaded with photos, programs, and musical scores that serve as the mortar between the "bricks," so to speak.

And there are a lot of bricks: from 1911-1950 we read of Jones' upbringing, the founding of his City Slickers band, the Vaudeville tours, and five years of road trips. But more fill-in-the-blanks info is yet to come. As chronology takes a back seat, Young delves into the band's discography from 1941-1955, followed by one of the band member's memories and observations. Then come the radio days, again from 1941-1955, and another band member's reminisces before going back to review the City Slickers' film appearances, from 1940-1954. More and more material comes and goes- TV appearances, road trips, ten more years of recordings, as well as Spike's final days leading up to his death in 1965. The author, then offers up 110 pages of additional background info, including an exhaustive list of recordings. And once you're done with the book, you'll be referring back to the discography as you begin your journey through YouTube and streaming services to experience the thrill and comedy that was Spike Jones.

This book is a fascinating read, even if the amount of information proved exhausting. I found myself reading late into the night, sometimes skipping a paragraph here and a section there, but confident in the knowledge that I'd someday return to go through the entire book again- for this is a multifaceted work, serving as a not only a reference book, but a gripping story, a rich history of one of the most unusual musicians and bandleaders to ever grace the stage.
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