Thursday, February 18, 2016

"Late, Late at Night" by Rick Springfield

This past summer, I dragged dh to the movies to see Meryl Streep as an aging singer in a rock & roll bar band in "Ricki and the Flash." The movie was okay, a little unrealistic plotwise, but the performances were good and the music was first-rate -- Streep sings a string of rock classics & learned to play guitar for the role (with some coaching from Neil Young, of all people...!)(is there nothing that woman can't do??).  

Anyway -- for me, part of the attraction was the chance to catch up with an old favourite -- Rick Springfield, in the role of Meryl/Ricki's guitarist and sometimes lover, Greg. :)  You may (or may not, depending on your age...!) remember Rick from the days of "Jessie's Girl" -- or as the swoony Dr. Noah Drake in "General Hospital," back in the Luke & Laura days of the early 1980s. (Personally, I was watching "Another World" at the time...!)  But I first encountered him almost 10 years earlier, in the early 1970s, alongside my favourites (first David Cassidy and then Donny Osmond) in the pages of 16 and Tiger Beat magazines -- a fresh-faced import from Australia, who had a minor hit with a folksy little song called "Speak to the Sky."  

In the movie, he was a tad grizzled looking (he IS -- gulp -- 66!! now -- and the part did sort of call for it) but I thought he was still kind of cute. :)  I remembered that I had an unread copy of his 2010 memoir in my gargantuan "to read" collection in the basement, and retrieved it when I got home from the theatre. I started reading it then, set it aside when a newer book grabbed my attention, and picked it up again early in the new year.

"Late, Late at Night" made the New York Times' bestseller list, and was named one of the 25 greatest rock memoirs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. I wouldn't put it in quite the same class as Keith Richards' memoir "Life", but overall it was an entertaining and sometimes surprising read, written by Rick himself in a distinctive voice. 

Rick (nee Richard Springthorpe) was born into a military family, and spent his childhood moving from place to place (something I could very much relate to!) around Australia, and then for a few years to England, just as the Beatles were becoming famous. (He saw them perform in Melbourne in the early 1960s and admits he "screamed like a girl" at the concert.)  Understandably, he struggled to find a sense of belonging and security.  This set the stage for a life-long battle with depression -- including a memorable failed teenaged attempt at suicide -- which he describes in vivid detail.  Depression actually becomes a character in the book -- Rick refers to him as "My Darkness" or "Mr. D."  Along with the depression came addictions to drugs, alcohol and sex.

In his late teens, Rick dropped out of school to play around Australia in a series of bands -- including a stint entertaining the troops in Vietnam at the height of the war there, where he found himself in some hair-raising situations. In the early 1970s, he recorded his first solo album in England and then came to the United States (where he was often compared to David Cassidy, and later mistaken for Bruce Springsteen!). When musical success faltered, he took up acting classes, and landed the role of Dr. Noah Drake in "General Hospital" right around the time his 1981 album, "Working Class Dog," was released.  Both the album and Dr. Drake were hits, launching Rick to a new level of fame, but also bringing new challenges and complications.

As with most rock & roll memoirs, the addiction stuff gets tedious after awhile (you want to shake the guy and tell him, "You idiot!!" -- although he would probably tell himself the same thing). While Rick admits he continues to struggle with depression, he has gained a new sense of peace in his life in recent years with the help of therapy and spiritual study, a young fan named Sahara, and the love and incredible patience of his wife of more than 30 years, Barbara, and their two now-grownup sons. Rick's wry sense of humour and love for his music and for performing, as well as for his family and his dogs, shine through the pages, and the book ends on a hopeful and appreciative note of thankfulness for the life he now leads.

*** *** ***

ALI note (page 29): 
I don't remember my mother's third pregnancy, but I do remember her going away for awhile and returning home seeming much sadder. She'd had a baby girl who died at birth. Nothing much is said in the aftermath of this, but there is a pall over all our lives for awhile.  
I have a feeling that my sister, had she lived, would have changed my relationship with women dramatically. If I'd grown up loving, living and fighting with a sister, I might have seen the human side of women much earlier and skipped the whole "madonna/whore complex" completely. Thoughts of my lost sister have never left me;  in fact, I think I'm still looking for her spirit.
Rick's wife Barbara also had a miscarriage, in between their two sons (page 217). He also writes movingly about his father's long illness and death.

This was book #3 that I've read so far in 2016.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really lovely review. It is also a reminder that so many people have ALI stories in their lives, but rarely talk about them. If only it was more openly talked about, we'd find so much more community and understanding.