Books: Frontman: Surviving The Rock Star Myth, by Richard Barone (2007)

Frontman is a first-time book from the Bongos’ leader and (well, what else?) frontman Richard Barone, part rock star guide, part autobiography — and a completely entertaining and fascinating read. It covers Barone’s humble beginnings from Tampa Bay, Florida to Hoboken, New Jersey and then on to fame & some fortune with the Bongos and, still later, fortune as a solo artist in New York City.

The man is no doubt a talented singer-songwriter, having written many classics throughout the years, and his passion for music is still undiminished to this day. This Backbeat Books publication includes lots of facts about his career and life I never knew about before. For instance, who knew there’s a last unreleased Bongos album called Phantom Train, recorded for Island Records and still sitting in the vaults?

“Learn what you need to know” is among the best advice from Richard on becoming a musician. He takes you through all of the trials and tribulations of starting a band, which in this case was the Bongos, with all of their ups and downs, successes and misses — and what it means to be the band’s frontman, whether consciously or not.

Richard says he’s been in frontman training since he was in the playpen. Honest statements like “the frontman is the least enviable position of all” and “is it me or some version of me?” really put the reader right in his shoes. You also get an insider’s view at the East Coast New Wave music scene in the late-1970s to early ’80s, too.

Richard initiated what would later became better known as “unplugged” acoustic performances. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, Barone did directly influence the beginnings of that famed MTV show “Unplugged” which, friend/musician Jules Shear originally hosted. Highly recommended for all music fans.

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Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott has written for Shindig, Twist and Shake, Garage & Beat and Ugly Things. A big fan of all things rock and roll - especially the British Invasion, garage rock, psychedelic, new wave, folk rock, surf and power pop - he was a consultant on Sundazed Music's reissue of 'The Best of Butch Engle & The Styx: No Matter What You Say' in 2000, and has also provided liner notes for Italy's Misty Lane Records. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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