One chapter book reviews: Rick Springfield's Late, Late at Night, chapter eight

Rick Springfield wrote a memoir. That phrase alone pretty much precludes the utility of a review of that memoir; you will either read it or not read it on that basis. All the same, when a copy of Late, Late at Night arrived unannounced in the mailbox with a photo of Springfield's handsomely plastic-surgeried, Bret-Micheals-part-deux-looking mug emblazoned all over the cover -- and self-authored, no less -- it was too good to pass up. And a reading of a randomly selected chapter did indeed reveal that, in many ways, this book is exactly what you might expect. Unexpectedly, though, in many ways, it's a lot better.

Most likely, the chapter I happened to select probably played a role in why it was good: Opening with Springfield getting off a plane in Hawaii in the present tense, the chapter revealed itself within the first couple of pages to be set at the beginning of Springfield's career, right as he's getting started. And those are always -- to me, anyway -- the most interesting parts. Springfield is on his way to America at the behest of record-label bigwigs, who plan to turn him into the next teen sensation a la David Cassidy (an evidently common comparison for him at the time that he frequently brings up and obviously resents). The year is 1972.

Probably the most surprising thing about the read is that Springfield's writing is not half bad -- I'm assuming he had some good editors, but still -- and he makes some interesting observations right off the bat about a foreigner's perspective (he's from Australia, I gather) on these United States, such as this one: "Honestly, no one born in the U.S. can ever truly understand the impact of the greatest PR machine on the face of the planet -- the American Movie -- and the effect it has had on us foreign kids raised on them."

From there, he goes into a pretty funny story about the guy who picks him up in LA in a giant Cadillac, which, bafflingly, has power steering. "I don't know about power steering yet," Springfield relates, "and I think to myself 'Wow, does America make everybody so strong that you can drive with one finger!?'" -- the italics and extra punctuation, by the way, are Springfeild's.

For the most part, Springfield's accounts read like the particularly thoughtful diary entries of an amatuer -- they are, unsurprisingly, entirely exposition, no dialogue, very little in-depth action. Just the recollections from inside Springfield's head with a few asides along the way. And a few of those asides can get pretty hackneyed.

But there's something different about London that I can't quite put my finger on. I get the feeling much later that is [sic] has something to do with the mass influx of immigrants and the beginning of the melting pot most Western counties will experience. It's a natural progression, for any country in the free world worth living in, that travelers from across the seas bring with them their own magic but slowly erase some of the original identity of the new land they are now part of. I see it in Australia these days, too. It's not a bad thing; it's just change. Inexorable change. Maybe it will help prevent wars over the color of a flag, but I doubt it. And nothing well ever stop us all fighting over the true name of God.

Thank you, Rick. That shit was touching.

Really, though, such incidences are minimal, and Springfield -- very much to his credit -- doesn't often try to give the text more weight than it deserves; it is, after all, the life story of a hair-rock balladeer who was also a soap opera star. In fact, Springfield comes off as very much conscious of his own goofy image, and he's often wry and clever, making fun of the teen-machine establishment and his often unwitting role in the gears grinding. He's also refreshingly honest about his own insecurity within it; the chapter closes with his first fear-driven experience, at age 23, with plastic surgery -- also, to his credit, not laid on too thick.

It is, of course, an absolutely featherweight read -- do not expect to be challenged. If you like Rick Springfield, you'll find some interesting insider stuff here. And even if you don't, and you just have an interest in the inner workings of the music industry in the '70s and '80s (which I happen to), it just might be worth reading for that, too. Then again, maybe I just picked the right chapter.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte