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Lee, Myself & I

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2015 12:04 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Lee, Myself & I is a mix of autobiography (of the author, Wyndham Wallace) and biography of the late American singer-songwriter-producer (Lee Hazelwood). Wallace, a quintessentially upper middle class indie geek, is living in London penury and working for US label City Slang. Like many a rock fan he takes his cult heroes very seriously and, after the drummer of Sonic Youth tells him he is negotiating with Hazelwood so to reissue some of his very rare 1970s albums that came out, for the most part, only in Sweden, Wyndham offers to do the PR. At this time Hazelwood is just a name Wallace has seen in Melody Maker. As he gets engaged in resurrecting Lee - living comfortably on royalties in the US and bemused that a bunch of indie rockers like obscure albums he gave little thought to when recording them decades ago - Wallace develops, firstly, a working relationship, then a friendship and, finally, becomes his European manager for the final years of his life. This book chronicles those years.

Like Wallace I did the cult hero thing in my late teens - once I'd exhausted the Stooges and Velvets, Beefhart and Big Star, Gram and Gene, I ended up on Lee. The work he cut with Nancy Sinatra was not too difficult to find second hand tho his solo albums rarely appeared (and there remain many I've not yet heard). Anyway, I liked what Lee did with Nancy a lot - he seemed to create a wry, knowing, gothic, country pop blend like no one else. I never went to see his occasional concerts in London - organised by Wallace - earlier this century. Tho I did write his obit' ... obituaries

Thus I knew a good bit about the man before starting this book. I even vaguely knew Wallace from when he was doing PR more than a decade ago. Did I learn a lot about both men from this book? A lot about Wyndham, yes, as he weaves his life story - cars and flats and jobs and girls - alongside his encounters with Lee. I didn't learn so much about Lee because he appears to have been very much what his public image presented: a man who loved to smoke cigarettes, drink whiskey, relax, tell anecdotes and appear bemused by the world. Wyndham had many conversations with him - presented here (along with faxes and photos) - but never probed that deeply. I would have loved to learn about Lee's production technique when working with the Wrecking Crew in LA in the 1960s. How did he come to shape such huge hits as Boots Are Made For Walking and Something Stupid? What was Frank Sinatra like in the studio? Who invented the great bass line in Boots? But Wyndham is very much an indie rock fan and not that interested in the hits. While his impression of the young Gram Parson - who he gave his first record deal to - is not remarked upon. Nor his thoughts on the young Phil Spector (who studied his production technique). And there's very little about Duane Eddy (who owes his career to Lee). So this is not a detailed biography but one from a fan and a friend who gives a good impression of what it was like to work with a true American original. It is cleanly written with the kind of self depreciating humour one expects from men who have spent too much of their life working with cult figures. Lee seems to have been a happy man, free of demons, one who moved easily through life and had both a natural musical talent and the brains to make use of it. And Wyndham, although he doesn't state it, has also grown from his association with Lee. Nice to have a biographer who likes his subject considering some of the books we have recently discussed here.

Comes with a detailed discography that unfortunately overlooks the great Ace Records dbl CD These Boots Are Made For Walking that gathers lots of prime 60s Lee.

Re: Lee, Myself & I

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2015 4:01 pm
by AndyM
Sounds interesting, and it's an especially good title, but I suspect your useful summary is all most of us will need to read, Garth. Lee H is a fascinating figure, though.