Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Joel Selvin's Book "Here Comes the Night" the Story of Music Genius Bert Berns Gets 5 Stars

One of my favorite activities since retirement is having the actual time to catchup on reading and enjoying books that feed my robust appetite for the history of popular music. Even in my own book, “The Rock Trenches” I share that same interest while expressing the story with my own photographs and words that originate from my soul. Yet recently, I stumbled on a book that blows-away all recent texts titled “Here Comes the Night” by noted author Joel Selvin. The book also has an accompanying DVD (purchased separately) by the same title that underlines this powerful music journey.

Selvin tells a fascinating story of the development of the noted songwriter, and producer, and publisher and record label owner by the name of, Mr. Bert Berns of Bang Records. Burns wrote the monster hit songs; “Twist & Shout” – “Hang on Sloopy” “Piece of My Heart” and many more. Berns also had giant hit productions like; “Brown Eyed Girl” - “Under the Board Walk” – “Baby, Please Don’t Go” and more. Equally important here, he is also credited for initially discovering the superstars Van Morrison and Neil Diamond. Personally, and at that very same time, I find it interesting that I was on the same musical wave-length with Berns' early recordings and didn't realize it until reading this book. You may find yourself in that same scenario upon reading the content. An example of that parallel here, in the photo below taken earlier this week in August, I am holding original copies from those founding productions of Bert Berns from years earlier. Both albums by Van Morrison & Them and a Neil Diamond were saved from my longtime record collection. Truth is, earlier and upon release I was a huge fan of Bert Berns and his productions - and I didn't even know it.  

Bang Records was created by Bert Berns in 1965 together with his partners from Atlantic Records: Ahmet Ertegun, Nesuhi Ertegun and Jerry Wexler. The first letters of their names Bert, Ahmet, Nesuhi and Gerald formed the record label’s name; B-A-N-G. But Selvin’s great book starts well before that period and details Bert Berns long and arduous road to success starting from the streets of New York and peaks all interests as it unfolds in the shady world of rhythm and blues music and untold developments of the difficult task of making a hit songs. Plus in Selvin's book, he mentions numerous heavyweights and some of those music legends in a very unfavorable manner.  

Perhaps one reason this book captured my keen interest is mainly because I too worked for Atlantic Records. In addition to that, in the mid-to-late 1960’s I promoted the new releases for Bang Records while working at the regional record distributor in Memphis, Hot Line Records. It seems that in every chapter of  Selvin's book I read the names of people that I had worked with and fraternized with at various music functions including Berns widow, Ilene Berns. As a matter of fact, Ilene Berns took over running the record label after her husband died suddenly in 1967 as a result of a rheumatic heart condition. Bern's wife, who has also since passed away, and their son, were heavily resourced in the making of this fine book. The developments of my connections came through working for both Atlantic Records and Hot Line Record Distributor which promoted and marketed the label, Bang Records. And I'm not going to lie to you but until reading this great book, I didn't have a clue that somehow I had reached full-circle.  

Consider Joel Selvin’s book a classic as his background as a noted writer started as a music critic for The San Francisco Chronicle. From there, he has written many articles including those in the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, Billboard and Melody Maker. Plus, he has written many outstanding books all focusing on the music scene and pop culture.  

So, if you haven’t already - and if you have any interest in the music business - you should definitely read this historical book. Next to my original music journal titled “The Rock Trenches” … I definitely think that Joel Selvin’s book of the life of Bert Berns and his music career titled, “Here Comes the Night” is my most recent favorite!        

5 STARS             




Anonymous Mary Anne Brooks said...

Enjoyed reading your review, Phillip! Until FB, I didn't realize your career was in the music industry. What a blessing to enjoy those years doing something you loved! Hope you're enjoying retiremen, as well. How did we get to be seniors? Still need to be doing jam sessions at the Y!!

6:29 AM  

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