Book Review: “Blinds, Patches, and Twine” by Bobby Hagar Harrell

With foreword by Bobby Hagar Harrell’s brother—rock star Sammy Hagar—this is a memoir of how a young girl grew up amidst the rage and confusion (and wasted potential) of an alcoholic and abusive father who was once a great boxer—and how one family managed not only to survive, but to prosper in spite of the circumstances they were subjected to–primarily due to their mother’s love and indomitable spirit.

The oldest of four children, Harrell writes eloquently about her childhood memories. She doesn’t mention much about her brother Sammy, so if you’re expecting this to be a book about how it must have felt to grow up in the shadow of a man who went on to become a rock star, that is not the case. I applaud Harrell for that. I was wondering how she was going to pull it off but she did it splendidly. It is the story of Harrell’s  experiences, her courage, her perspective, her struggle, and her search for her identity.

In the early years, the Hagar family pretty much lived in campgrounds—moving from one to the other while their mother worked picking fruit to help put food on the table because their dad couldn’t stay away from the whiskey. Harrell writes about the many times when their father would come home drunk and belligerent at the end of the day, and how their mother would herd all the children out the window and to a pre-determined hiding place. There they’d cover themselves with blankets until their father passed out and it was safe for them to return to their beds. Wow. Talk about a traumatic experience for an impressionable child.

Harrell paints a beautiful picture with words; her prose alone is poetic but she also includes some of her poems in this book. My favorite is on page 138, which begins “I learned about God in a boysenberry patch…” I also loved “I Remember Me”. Great stuff.

It takes a brave soul to write a book of this nature, and Harrell is so honest here, she even includes a copy of her father’s autopsy report outlining the details of his death at age 51.

Families affected by alcoholism are, unfortunately, a common occurrence in many people’s lives, so I’m sure this book had to be cathartic for the author, and I’m sure it is her desire that it may also be cathartic to others who may have endured the pain of growing up under similar circumstances. Blinds, Patches, and Twine has a happy ending though—it serves as an example to the rest of us that no matter what situation one is born into, there is always hope. Harrell sums it up nicely on the last page:

…I celebrate and thank God every day for a mother who showed us, through time and effort, how to love, laugh, forgive and: How to look for Peace amidst chaos. How to pick the Beauty from the disarray. How to rescue Pride out of disappointment. How to siphon Knowledge out of ignorance. And—how to do it all with love.

Lots of great pictures here as well.

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Book Review: “Backstage Past” by Barry Fey

Anyone who was a music fan from the late ‘60s through the late ‘90s in Colorado knows the name Barry Fey. He is a legend—the rock promoter who sold more concert tickets than any other promoter in history. Fey brought everyone from the Beatles and Led Zeppelin to Diana Ross and Willie Nelson to the Denver area (and other places as well).

In his new book, “Backstage Past,” Fey says that he once played a show featuring Johnny Winter, Fleetwood Mac, Zephyr and the Flock in 1969, all for a whopping $3.50. Those days are long gone but they were also the days when great new music was cropping up everywhere and on a daily basis. You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing some exciting new record that you just had to run out and buy RIGHT NOW!

With forewords by Pete Townsend and Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, cover flap endorsement by President Bill Clinton and a little poem tribute to Fey written by Bono, “Backstage Past” also includes a poster highlighting Feyline ticket stubs and backstage passes. At 270 pages, this book is a combination of behind-the-scenes footage of the sea of snakes that comprises the monolithic rock and roll machine and personal anecdotes about the stars themselves. Fey recounts how Mick Jagger and Keith Richards taught him how to snort cocaine, how a fan once gave him a vial of her blood to give to Ozzy Osbourne as a gift, how he had (and continues to have) personal conversations with Bono, how he was picked up and escorted to the show in a helicopter, and how he hosted  many a party for the Rolling Stones at his personal residence. There are also stories about The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Mamas and the Papas, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, U2, the Eagles, Aerosmith, Elton John, The Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen and just about everybody who was anybody in the music business, along with agents and promoters of the rich and famous.

The amount of money that exchanged hands was staggering, not to mention the power, the politicians, the crazed fans, and the groupies, along with some temperamental artists. There were those who were overly-sensitive and those who were just plain mean and nasty. Some surprised me and some did not, but I guess rock stars are just people too—people with big egos and a ton of talent. Underneath it all, we all have our vices and our virtues.

One would have had to have been a tough cookie to survive in that business and it sounds like Barry was. His “final words… for now” (in the book) were: “I wish that I would have been nicer.” But if that had been the case, he may not have had the stories to tell. And in spite of all the excitement that accompanies rock and roll, after reading this book, I’m rather glad I wasn’t privy to a lot of the stuff that Fey describes. Sometimes, as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. However, I’m sure Fey would agree with me when I say that his life has been anything but dull.

I loved his “Fey Lists”, where Fey documented his favorite bands, lead singers, guitar players, drummers, songwriters, songs, and albums, even though I didn’t always agree with him. But my favorite part of all was his list of “Pricks.” Who publishes a list like that? I couldn’t stop laughing. This dude’s got balls, but again, I guess one would have to to survive in that business.

Fey also mentions his love of Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado and he goes into great detail about Woodstock, painting a slightly different picture than how I had imagined it to be: rain and mud and the lack of toilets and food while exhausted people dropped acid and dropped like flies.

Backstage Past” (love the title—Fey credits his son for coming up with it) is a great read. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a peek behind the music, the glitz and the glamor that audiences see night after night at rock concerts—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the Oh-my-God!

Thanks, Barry, for taking us along for the ride, and thanks for doing such an outstanding job as a rock and roll promoter all those years. Your work helped make me into the person I am today—a true lover of great music, and for that I will always be grateful.

Book Review: “The Shack” by William P. Young

 January 26, 2010


I believe there are as many ways to God as there are beings in this universe.

The Shack by William P. Young is about how one man finds God through the atrocity of his young daughter’s murder.

This book reinforces some of the truths I’ve learned on my own journey, primarily the discovery of God in unexpected places and times in our lives.

I also find it interesting that the author mentions music and musicians here, and references James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Moby, Sarah McLachlan, Jackson Browne,  Bruce Cockburn and the bands U2, Indigo Girls and Dixie Chicks, to name a few.

Kudos to The Shack for portraying God as alternating between male and female personifications and for depicting God as more than one spiritual entity. For me, these were the book’s shining moments.

I did however, have a few problems with this book. The main issue was that it is a bit too slanted toward Christianity. Although the author goes out of his way to say this isn’t the case, I found some of the concepts confusing. For instance, Young assumes that everyone practices a rite called “devotions.” I had no idea what he was talking about.

I also think that due to the manner in which the story is presented, it excludes a lot of people. Not everyone sees God within the context of Christianity or religion. The Shack makes reference only to The Bible, as if it were the only holy text, whereas there are other books out there that also contain universal truths. Tao Te Ching, for instance, is even older than The Bible.

In any case, this book is written, as all books are, from the author’s perspective, which includes that which he believes to be true and that’s why I forgive these “indiscretions.” There is still a light in this book that will inspire many.

That being said, neither do I think it’s wrong to see God within the context of Christianity or religion. However one discovers God is great. It only matters that you find Him/Her/It/Them–whatever your definition of the Divine may be, and that you realize you are an important part of the Magnificence—that which is in you and also all around you.



Book Review: “Life” by Keith Richards

April 27, 2011

Although the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was released in 1968, I think the first time I heard it was the summer of 1972, when I was between 8th and 9th grade. I went to a dance at my high school and a local band was playing that song. It was LOUD. I remember standing there on that wooden floor in the gym and trying to absorb the sound. It rocked like nothing I had ever heard. Up until that point, I’d lead a pretty sheltered life in Catholic school, and since we’d just moved to another state and I was finally going to be attending the public school in the fall, that was the first time I’d actually been exposed to the real world, so I wasn’t even quite sure what “rocked” was; I just knew the song got me in the gut, a place where “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” by The Lettermen—a song my best friend Mary-Beth used to listen to—couldn’t come close to touching in me.

In his newly-published autobiography, “Life,” Keith Richards understands this. He writes, “It’s not something you take in the head, it’s something you take in the guts.”

And later he says,

That feeling is worth more than anything. There’s a certain moment when you realize that you’ve actually just left the planet for a bit and that nobody can touch you … and when it works, baby, you’ve got wings. You know you’ve been somewhere most people will never get … it’s flying without a license.

This is what I’m talking about. Need I explain further? Nope.

When I think of Keith Richards, what initially comes to mind is drugs, drugs, drugs, rough and tough, “Street Fighting Man” rock and roll, and Robin Williams’ joke about how if everyone in the world were to perish due to chemical warfare, the only things that would survive would be Keith Richards and cockroaches.

So when I read “Life,” I was surprised and impressed that after all the drugs he’s done, Richards is articulate, intelligent and well-read. It’s a long book, 547 pages, including pictures of Keith growing up in England, on the road with the Stones and performing with various artists like Chuck Berry, Paul MCartney, John Lee Hooker, Tom Waits, and others. My favorite however, is a picture of Keith, barefoot and lounging on a settee while strumming his guitar in the middle of his library at his house in Connecticut. There are books and pillows scattered everywhere, bottles and debris all over the desk, record albums lined up on the bottom shelves and a handwritten sign that reads “Keith Richards Main Offender.” If a picture is worth a thousand words, I think that photo pretty well sums up my impression of him after reading his book.

Other than Richards’ intelligent mind, what impressed me the most was his repeated acknowledgment of the fact that he doesn’t feel like he’s better than anyone else and that all he really wanted and still wants to do, is play the blues. He writes:

It was all dripping with sexual lust, though they [girls in the ‘50s and ‘60s] didn’t know what to do about it. But suddenly you’re on the end of it. It’s a frenzy. Once it’s let out, it’s an incredible force. You stood as much chance in a fucking river full of piranhas … These chicks were coming out there, bleeding, clothes torn off, pissed panties, and you took that for granted every night. It was the gig. It could have been anybody, quite honestly. They didn’t give a shit that I was trying to be a blues player.

Later, he says,

…maybe some of the songs opened up their hearts a little, or their minds, to the idea of we’re women, we’re strong. But I think the Beatles and the Stones particularly did release chicks from the fact of ‘I’m just a little chick.’ It was not intentional or anything. It just became obvious as you were playing to them. When you’ve got three thousand chicks in front of you that are ripping off their panties and throwing them at you, you realize what an awesome power you have unleashed.

Each observer feels something different when experiencing art, be it a book, a concert, a photograph, or what have you. For me, the aspect of this book that really stood out was the human element—how the music of the Stones changed people—especially women, because that’s a very important element of my book too. And if I could just put my finger on exactly what that is… I keep trying.

In any case, just hearing it from Keith’s perspective makes me feel like he and I share an understanding of something that’s greater than what’s on the surface. And while he writes about some technical guitar stuff and his relationship with Mick Jagger and the others involved, this book is not written with the expected “I’m a big star, worship me” kind of attitude. How refreshing. Richards shares with us how it feels to be Keith Richards—his frustrations and joys with drugs and being labeled an “outlaw” (which he ultimately decided he might as well live up to), the rush of being onstage in front of thousands of people, and how it felt when his and Jagger’s songwriting jelled.

This is what makes “Life” such a great read, because through Richards, I too, can experience what that must have been like. But those same feelings are available to all of us. I don’t mean that we can, or should aspire to be Keith Richards or Mick Jagger or even musicians, or that we should do drugs. I mean that by discovering whatever it is in our own lives that brings us those same feelings that completely fill us up, we can be whole. And that’s what life and “Life” is all about.

Thanks for sharing, Keith. Incredible, awesome book.

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Book Review: “The Medium Next Door: Adventures of a Real-Life Ghost Whisperer” by Maureen Hancock

May 19, 2011

       Maureen Hancock

Is there really such a thing as ghosts? Is it possible the living can actually communicate with them?

I don’t know if it’s due to nature of my own book, (coming soon) that I’m more attuned to this sort of thing or what, but there seems to be a change in the world’s consciousness lately. People are becoming more open-minded when it comes to the subjects of supernatural phenomena, spirits and spirit mediums—those who communicate with the dead.

Maureen Hancock’s new book, The Medium Next Door: Adventures of a Real-Life Ghost Whisperer, is about this very subject. Her book is a cross between self-help, grief counseling and memoir. Hancock relates the story of how she was drawn to this unusual profession and shares her adventures along the way, culminating with her rise to nationwide popularity due to her warm, caring personality and her uncanny ability to interact with the deceased. She is currently in the process of filming her own reality TV show for Disney, premier date to be announced.

As a toddler, Maureen nearly died due to lead poisoning from ingesting lead-based paint from a windowsill in her house. To this day, she believes that her near-death experience was the means that opened her spirit to receive messages from beyond, because around the age of 5, she began to see “ghosts.”

Through the years, her psychic abilities grew until she could no longer deny the gift she’d been given. Maureen now uses that gift to help others. This is the most touching part of her story. The author doesn’t ask you to believe her, she seems only to want to educate others that death is not the end and that love never dies. Along with her charity, Seeds of Hope, her mission is to help others triumph over the loss of their loved ones and to live life to its fullest—and not necessarily because that’s what their loved ones would want, but because that truly is the reason for our lives—to experience as much joy as possible and to share it with others. She also works with and has earned the trust of many law enforcement agencies.

The Medium Next Door has a universal appeal because if we haven’t already, eventually we will all lose someone we love. My favorite chapter was “Tales from the Trenches,” where Hancock recounts episodes that made me laugh; a great virtue, I think, when it comes to the serious nature of her work.

The only criticism I have is that I would have preferred the author followed the book with a workbook instead of inserting lessons at the end of the chapters. While I enjoyed both her experiences and her wisdom, I thought the lessons distanced me somewhat from the story flow. And I would have liked to have read in more detail about how one can develop intuitiveness for one’s self. Maybe that will be Hancock’s next book. I hope so.

Other than that, a great read from what appears to be a woman of boundless energy, sunshine and joy. Her stories are entertaining, funny and inspiring and she has made a believer out of me. The Medium Next Door is sure to touch your heart as well.

For more information, please visit, or to purchase her book, click on the cover below.