Westlife – Journalist pens fun folk history of Cleveland rock

Posted By on November 29, 2006

By Benjamin Pogany
Published Nov. 29, 2006

Link :http://www.westlifenews.com/2006/11-29/insights.html?

Journalist pens fun folk history of Cleveland rock
By Benjamin Pogany
Published Nov. 29, 2006

In his new book, “Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories,” local journalist and author Carlo Wolff takes a fun, incisive look at three decades of Cleveland’s music history. The result is a well-researched work that is an absolute blast to read.

“Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories,” released by Cleveland publisher Gray & Company, documents the city’s biggest rock milestones in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. The book isn’t an exhaustive history, which Wolff himself admits in the introduction: “This is not meant to be an encyclopedia. It’s not conventional history, either. It’s nostalgia, a book by, for, and about fans.”

Wolff sums it up well. Lengthy quotations from local rock celebrities such as musician Michael Stanley, journalist Jane Scott, and promoters Jules and Michael Belkin comprise most of the book. The book discusses every aspect of rock & roll in Cleveland: bands, venues, famous shows and even record stores. The margins are also packed with photographs, old fliers, concert tickets and other memorabilia.

Carlo Wolff

Reading “Rock & Roll Memories” feels less like following a detailed history text than flipping through a scrapbook, or watching a documentary. The effect is sometimes disorienting – there’s no consistent narrative running through the book, the quotations jump back and forth in time, and the book rarely follows a single subject for more than a page or two. Nevertheless, gripping firsthand accounts of the Beatles’ appearance at Municipal Stadium in 1966, and Bruce Springsteen’s at the Agora in 1978 easily overshadow the book’s slow spots.

Though Wolff is obviously a fan himself, he rarely injects his own opinion, instead allowing the storytellers to speak for themselves. The many fans Wolff talks to across the city spin out detailed, personal and sometimes shocking anecdotes. One highlight is a former band manager’s story about an enraged Elvis Costello throwing Jane Scott out of his dressing room. Another is Bay Village journalist Michael Heaton’s story about his fight with WMMS in the 1980s.

Of course, not everything is covered in equal detail. Wolff devotes several pages to James Gang, but fellow Akron band Devo gets only a mention. The book as a whole trails off around the mid-‘80s. But Wolff includes more than enough to satisfy his target audience – the fans who lived through it. As a child of the ‘80s, I have to admit that a lot of the book’s anecdotes are lost on me. I never went to a show at the old Agora or listened to MMS in the ‘80s, and I’m only dimly aware of what the Michael Stanley Band was all about.

But nevertheless, in reading “Rock & Roll Memories” I still caught glimpses of the nostalgia that Wolff is chasing after. There’s a certain excitement in merely seeing the names of places you’ve been or bands you’ve followed – a feeling that Cleveland isn’t a minor or marginal city, but one that’s been at the center of rock & roll’s major currents since the beginning. Readers from Wolff’s generation will likely find even more to reminisce about.

Overall, “Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories” is a sharply written piece of folk history. It’s a quick read, and certainly an enjoyable one for Cleveland rock fans who were there the first time around. Carlo Wolff will be autographing copies at Borders Books & Music in the Promenade of Westlake, 30121 Detroit Road from 7 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 7. He’ll also be at the Waldenbooks in Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted from 1 to 2 p.m. Dec. 16. Stop by to pick up a copy and relive the good times all over again.


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About the author

I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CarloWolff