Best Seat in the House
Jerry Shirley
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Buy *Best Seat in the House: Drumming in the '70s with Marriott, Frampton, and Humble Pie* by Jerry Shirleyonline

Best Seat in the House: Drumming in the '70s with Marriott, Frampton, and Humble Pie
Jerry Shirley
Rebeats Press
382 pages
August 2011
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Just about every musician who has been able to remain in the business for more than a long hot minute writes an autobiography. Go to your local bookstore (if you still have one) or look online and you'll see dozens and dozens of titles from musicians both famous and anonymous. The main problem with most of these personal histories is that the artist doesn't have a grasp on what's important. He'll either spend too much time talking about a dog he had when he was 10 years old, or he'll give short shrift to moments in his life that are incredibly important to readers. They tend to leave out details, and you never get a real sense of what it was like when they were younger and struggling.

Jerry Shirley, drummer for Humble Pie, has finally written a rock autobiography that erases the above-mentioned negatives. In fact, he's assembled a tale that not only describes his membership in one of the greatest English hard rock bands of all time, but along the way he manages to shed a lot of light on what it was like making music in the magical 1960s.

Shirley covers everything here from banging on his first drum set: joining the Apostolic Intervention; meeting Steve Marriot; and finally becoming the drummer in Humble Pie. He takes special care to not only describe these events historically--when and where they took place--but places them in context by answering the all-important question of why they happened and what impact this had on him.

He writes about seeing future Humble Pie singer Steve Marriott in a music shop:

"We were on Shaftesbury Avenue, and I was looking in the window of Drum City, when somebody in the shop caught my eye. It was Steve Marriott, looking every bit the star, charisma just flowing out of him. He was dressed immaculately in a suit he designed and had made by Dougie Millings, the famous bespoke tailor who had made all the suits for the Beatles. Steve's attire was very suble--a miniature black-and-white dogtooth check for the jacket, a matching double-breasted waistcoat, black silk-mohair trousers, and a pair of white trainers--plus, he smelled like a million bucks. Dino (Shirley's bandmate) walked straight up to him and asked if he would write and produce a single for us! I couldn't believe how much front Dino had to do this. Steve was taken aback, but soon recovered his composure and said, "Okay, here's my address and phone number. Give me a call, and we'll figure it out."
It's a beautiful paragraph and suggests just how enamored Jerry was of Steve Marriott. How many rock memoirs have you read where the subject mentions meeting his idol and dismisses it with a couple words and you're left wondering, "What did he think about meeting his hero? Was he happy?" Shirley lays it all out on the table: he loves and admires Marriott, and you can read that in every word he writes.

The entire book is filled with descriptive bits, and emotionally Shirley lays it all out there. He talks about the drugs that finally destroyed Humble Pie and how life wasn't always so easy dealing with Marriott. Best Seat in the House is one of the best and well-written rock autobiographies you will ever read (Shirley's mother was a school teacher, and he knew that if he wrote anything less, she would have been less than pleased). After reading this one, you'll measure every other memoir by it.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2013

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