garbonza

About G. A. De FOREST, writer

The writer, January 2009

I’m a writer, not an ‘author’, born in Hawaii and living in New Zealand since forever. I started writing and editing encyclopedia articles full-time my first year out of university (1978) — the best I’ve ever been paid in the field — and worked my way ‘up’ professionally to temp journalist with the Mental Health Foundation of NZ, local history writer for the council in West Auckland, and on to a first abortive murder novel and a novelised play on renaissance Florence, A Machiavellian Plot, submitted to a European competition. Like the local history book, which to this day sits unpublished on council shelves, the manuscript is kept in the 52 miles of Vatican Archives as “an inspired work”. There followed a book on early cinema (1907-36), with promo copies only printed. Since then I have taken on universal themes via the Internet.

My book published November 2007, Beach Boys vs Beatlemania: Rediscovering Sixties Music, could turn your view of the Sixties upside down, fitting my constant approach: debunking accepted ‘facts’ obvious to society at large and erecting an alternative view. I’m gratified that the book rose as high as #23 on Amazon.com’s Music History & Criticism sales ranking; #8 on Amazon-Canada’s ranking in the same category, and #7 in its Performing Arts books. It’s a rivetting 420 pages and can be ordered for as cheap as $17.75 through your local independent bookstore as well as all the biggies, Borders, Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble — or Amazon.co.uk or Tesco’s for you Brits. A strong polemic without photos, it is distributed by Booklocker.com of Florida.

Revised and extended to include every major act, hit song and trend of the 1960s, it is now a series of four ebooks, each illustrated with 60 photos and 200 to 250 pages long, published under the title Sixties Whiteboy Rock at $US 9.99 by my imprint Best Books (Auckland). Discontinued by Amazon, I am currently (December 2013) looking for a new distributor. The series has plenty on your favorite rock genres, Brit and Yank groups, solo performers, disc labels, radio stations and statistics of the era — something on everything you ever wanted to know about the Music Biz in the Sixties. This will be followed up by a companion ebook, working title Black Sixties Rock and its White Disciples, approx 300 pages also fully illustrated with photos in the public domain.

Katy & Kula and the Kervil Kids is a creative nonfiction book self-published and tells about how our little family settled in New Zealand from the States in 1960 and what life was like then for little kids (and our mothers) in our street, a raw suburban subdivision. I am revising my book for broad publication, focusing on the psychological and sociological long-term effects of family cultural dislocation: working title Strangers in Our Own Land: An American Family Dislocated, due out 2014. It might be first published in Beijing/Tianjin, where I have a working relationship with a leading literary magazine editor and publisher of 2,000-word articles from me on Michael Jackson (June 2013) and Marilyn Monroe (March 2014).

I worked during 2011-12 as a book editor for Savant Publications, Honolulu. Please watch for the Path of the Templar novel published 27th December 2012, the second in the JUMPER CHRONICLES series by W C Peever of Massachusetts, who credits me as co-writer of this volume. (We have a companion book underway too, The Last Riders.) For Aignos Publishers in the same city my 13-page essay “Being Psycho in New Zealand” is in the anthology There is No Cholera in Zimbabwe, published November 2013. Please excuse the standard of editing of this volume, which was beyond my control.

A personal project in progress is a fictional play, The Trial of Hone Heke, on the rebel Maori chief, c.1846. The play poses what might have happened had the defeated chief, unable to win back the independence of his people through rebellion, been put on trial by the British authorities ruling on behalf of largely British settlers.

Currently I am most deeply and constantly involved in writing a series of three short novels entitled STREET LIFE, meant for commercial publication, based closely on actual events and my personal experience with street dwellers and others of the marginal underclass of Auckland City, New Zealand. Defying genre definitions, the series is placed somewhere between the social realism of modern Balzac/Maupassant gothic and detective story. The first volume, assuming a viable publisher is found, should be out sometime around mid 2014 or so; the other parts within a year or so later.

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  1. Gary: We would love to cross post many of these great extracts on our website
    babyboomreview.com if you are interested and perhaps we can arrange
    some reciprocal links.
    Thanks

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  2. Could i please use some of your photos for a powerpoint about the beatles that i am doing for my I.T. GCSE in school.

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  3. Hi Hannah

    Hope you’re reading this. Yes, feel free to use any photos. I didn’t get authorisation to use any of them, but who’s going to begrudge use of them for educational purposes? Nobody I hope.

    Gary D

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  4. Gary, your blog of Michael Jackson was, I believe, an accurate assessment and a well crafted observation of his art and life. I’ve shared much of those same sentiments with friends my age who also agree.
    On different note, I would like to ask your critical opinion of my writing style and if I would be better off just play my guitar.
    Don’t worry, I’m thick skinned when it comes to an honest opinion. Thanks.

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  5. Hi Sam. Thanks… I’ve emailed you some thoughtful comments on your style, which I believe is very literary and has distinct possibilities.

    G. A.

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  6. I’ve spent several days reading your book Beach Boys v Beatlemania and come to the conclusion that you know very little about music of the 60’s. From the start it becomes obvious you are a Beach Boys fan and also that you dislike the Beatles. You use over effusive language whilst putting the BB on a pedestal and derogatory language whilst deriding the Beatles. I am neither an adherent nor detractor of either, but regardless of whether Brian Wilson is a ‘genius’ it’s a fact of life that the Beatles reached a level of worldwide popularity that the BB couldn’t come close to. As to whether the Beatles copied the BB or the other way round it’s well known that each admired the other, and we are ALL influenced by everyone we ever meet or get to know a lot about.

    YOU, are obviously more concerned with selling a controversial book by appealing to both camps regardless of the accuracy of it’s contents. I came across glaring mistakes (eg. referring to Chris Dreja as Drea and Sonny Boy Williamson as Williams etc etc), plus other more important mistakes. All this renders your book somewhat suspect as an impartial dissection of the music of the times. I’ve no doubt you achieved your aim of selling many copies and increasing your bank balance at the expense of accuracy and impartiallity. As far as I am concerned, your other tomes will go un-read.

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    • So after several days you’d found two spelling mistakes? And didn’t read the good things about the Beatles and the negative things about the Beach Boys? Nowhere do I say Brian Wilson is a genius, by the way. Are you irked by the fact I found many, many of their contemporaries (who were there at the time and able to compare them with other groups) that shed a negative light on the Beatles as a group? — and their inflated mythology, which is the feature of the book, as in “Beatlemania” in the title. And that’s not to mention the things they say about themselves… Good for you — There are dozens upon dozens of books out there for you, all toeing the same line on the Beatles to the point of not thinking or analyzing at all.

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  7. Spelling mistakes? Well I guess the first could be a typo, but the second can’t be, but they would be unimportant if not for the general balance of your book, and other discrepancies. eg. Pentangle were never anything to do with jazz, they were from the start a folk/rock band.
    I know Bert Jansch personally and also John Renbourn, and know more about their history than you obviously do.

    You seem to think that I am a Beatles acolyte that’s taken umbage at your treatment of them, but that’s not the case. In fact I always admired the BB music, but like the Beatles their early stuff was just bubblegum pop, neither band were ever really ‘rock’ they were always pop, developing into more contemporary stuff with their later more adult compositions.

    I’d agree that Brian Wilson was highly gifted in his abilities as an arranger and producer, something that the Beatles appeared to have no interest in initially, but his early compositions were no better, (or worse), than Lennon-McCartneys early stuff.

    If however, you wish to stack up Wilson’s catalogue of compositions alongside Lennon & McCartneys, he’s a long long way behind in terms of quantity of better stuff. By implying that the BB were producing a better class of material, and then dismissing the Beatles as ‘mania’, you’re almost saying that the millions of Beatles fans are somehow intellectually inferior to BB fans. That’s patent rubbish.

    Getting back to your book in general, it’s obvious from the title that you have tried to give the impression it’s about the BB and Beatles in it’s entirety, a title, I believe, is intended to get the fans of both groups hooked, when in fact a large proportion of it is about peripheral acts, that were simply so far behind them as to be more or less unimportant with regard to the successes of the titled two.

    As regard the ‘genius’ word, (a word I might add that is far too easily bandied about when talking about songwriters/performers), perhaps you should take a look at the praise for Wilson on the back of your book. The wording is, and I quote, ‘primary creative genius, Brian Wilson’. I have no doubt that you will say they are not your words, but as they aren’t credited with being anyone elses, and your name is on the book, I can’t accept that you were either unaware of what is printed on it, or disapproved of it. I would never allow anyone to print something on my book that I disagreed with!

    As it happens, I HAVE read dozens and dozens of books about all aspects of music, and many of them are no better than yours. As I said above, I am not a Beatle acolyte, (in fact I can’t stand Paul McCartney, with his over inflated opinion of his worth to music and the world at large), and I have a high regard for Brian Wilson . I just happen to think your book is biased in the extreme, and is just a second rate attempt to cash in on both of the bands fame.

    I will not be reading any other books you may have written.

    OK, I have nothing more to say on this topic, so it’s over to you to tell me what an uninformed prick you believe I am, and what a great writer you are.

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    • Hi George — I don’t think you’re a “prick” at all. You make some good points. Yes, you obviously know a lot more about Pentangle than I do (though their biggest impact on pop culture, with ‘Light Flight’, sounds like jazz to me) and other acts as well. If you take Pentangle and multiply it by about a thousand Sixties acts, that’s the scope I’m trying to cover. Yes, I covered a lot of acts, covered by the “Sixties Music” subtitle. It’s all information in context. The “vs Beatlemania” theme occurred to me after my hard drive was wiped out and I was thrown back on a previous manuscript about three years old — almost starting over. But it’s a theme that always interested me. And after the 50 years of Beatle propaganda — I was biased, yes — and I wasn’t about to give them equal time. It’s about balancing the picture, and you don’t get that by praising the Beatles over the top all over again for the umpteenth time.

      I seriously wanted to bring out the harm that the whole Brit thing (’64 to ’66) had done to the direction of indigenous, authentic American music by introducing Music Hall, Easy Listening, & etc, to what was supposed to be a Rock movement — but NOT the Animals, Yardbirds, The Who, Kinks, Small Faces, Cream, Deep Purple, etc, who all contributed to rock, as even the Beatles did after ’64. Dozens upon dozens of highly gifted black acts missed out because of the whole change of scene, and that’s why I’ve expanded the revision coming out in ebook form to 650 pages… Not that you’ll be reading any of it. Despite the mistakes, I firmly believe my book is better conceived and better written than 90% of the rock books out there.

      As I hint at in the foreword and author’s note at the beginning, I am committed to iconoclasm — destroying images and putting new ways of looking at things much broader than rock music: not just recounting history and not boosting the reputation of celebrities who have already had much more than their due time in the sun.

      And yes, there’s no point in avoiding the Beach Boys and Beatles names in the title — as they were the two MAINSTREAM creative forces of the period. I bet I would have got more sales with STONES in the title. If it’s any consolation to you, I doubt if any devout Beatles fan has ever bought a copy or even read more than a few lines of it — as they are totally allergic to even questioning their god as much as any fundamentalist Muslim is, never mind revising their view of history.

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      • I forgot to mention — If you read much of the big Beatle chapter, I detailed exactly how Sir Joseph Lockwood, chairman of EMI, and his Capitol underlings (finally) engineered the instant popularity of the Beatles after a whole year of rejection by America — and with the same songs trotted out… The power of suggestion by powerful people is a powerful force on young impressionable minds — resulting in mania or at least admiration of a group suddenly at the center of pop culture. The numbers game by itself doesn’t count for much. I look down on the millions upon millions of fans of Abba, Spice Girls, Bucks Fizz and other trite, insincere mush — and will continue to do so no matter how intellectual they are.

        Rock vs Pop: I must be a lot older than you, and remember the early Sixties. No way would I classify the early Beach Boys and Beatles as the “Rock” that is accepted as such today: highly over-fuzzed, over-decibelled NOISE, no matter how fast and skilfully they play. Rock was once played with finesse. Early Beach Boys fast-paced songs were an extension of black r&b (the Coasters, Rivingtons, etc, then Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard), their ballads derived from early Soul music of the time like ‘My True Story’ (’61). No way either would I call ‘Twist & Shout’, ‘Boys’, etc, merely “pop”, but came from black roots that were easily visible at the time. And to call all this just “bubblegum” is a disparagement and distortion in the context of the Sixties, when bubblegum was a specific descriptive reference to late Sixties’ Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Company, Tommy Roe and the like, characterised by sugary lyrics, a jangling guitar sound and so on, specifically designed to appeal to PRE-teens, something neither the Beach Boys or Beatles aimed for — except on their horrible LATER music hall songs like ‘Yellow Submarine’, Octopuss’s Garden’…

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  8. ‘ ..I was biased, yes — and I wasn’t about to give them equal time…’

    G, you make my case precisely with the above statement. Anyone who was intent on being even-handed would never start a treatise from your standpoint. You make it crystal clear that you think the Beatles ruined your version of the musical landscape, and as such, you should never have written the book on the pretext of setting the record straight. All you’ve achieved is displaying your personal animosity toward, what is generally regarded as the most popular band the world has ever seen. You may think that I am wrong, but all those millions around the world, including many highly respected music critics and journalists, have to be taken a little more seriously.

    ‘ the harm that the whole Brit thing (’64 to ’66) had done to the direction of indigenous, authentic American music …’

    This is a purely negative point of view. The Beatles were not trying to ‘harm’ anything, they were, just like the BB, following their own muse. In any case, most people would define ‘indigenous, authentic American music’ as that made mostly by black slaves and their descendents in the south, eg. Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jeffersdon etc. and their canon of work was given an international boost by the likes of the Stones, and the two bands you refer to below as being ‘rock’ musicians, when in fact, they were primarily blues bands.

    ‘…the Animals, Yardbirds…..who all contributed to rock…’

    ‘As I hint at in the foreword and author’s note at the beginning, I am committed to iconoclasm — destroying images and putting new ways of looking at things much broader than rock music: not just recounting history and not boosting the reputation of celebrities who have already had much more than their due time in the sun.’

    Destroying images that don’t fit your personal view of things is pointless, and does nothing to promote your cause. Your book has more in common with a political treatise than objective reporting of the true state of the musical landscape of the sixties. The fact that you are an American, (though an ex-patriot), adds weight to your biased view that the BB were not only the better songwriters, but also the better band musically. I spend a lot of time in the US, (and have been there twice this year alone, though many times over the last 15yrs), and one thing I notice, especially in Nashville, is that many Americans, (who I love as a nation), have a very parochial view of the world, including the musical one. Your bitterness about the amount of exposure and respect accorded the Beatles is more a statement about yourself than the Beatles. No one decreed that they should be admired over decades, people who do so have made their own decisions about the band based on their music. I doubt that a very high percentage of Beatle fans ever got to see them live, though I did, before America ever heard of them! I’ve also seen the BB, and enjoyed them enormously, but they were different from the Beatles, not opposition, just different.

    You see, I doubt also that you are older than me. I am actually a few weeks short of my 68th birthday, and music has been my life.

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    • George — The book is stated as a polemic, so obviously I think writing a book lauding the Beatles as the best band ever would have been totally pointless, as so many hundreds of writers continue to do — one after the other after the other like lemmings — especially in the face of the evidence to the contrary, much of it offered by John, Paul, George, Ringo themselves. And there is a great deal of evidence, internal, external, inbetween… And if no amount of evidence is enough, then take it as this: I just refuse to believe that an art school dilettante (John), a Tin Pan Alley tune spinner most influenced by his dad (Paul), a serial head-butter (George) and a wannabe haircutter (Ringo) can in two years turn from the artistic rejects producing “Love Me Do” and “She Loves You” to the most vaunted composers since Beethoven. The media-orchestrated Mania, not the Music, was by far the most responsible for their fame.

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  9. Just a few points in rebuttal because, you’ll agree, this subject is getting very old.

    * Music has been your life, and writing has been mine — including music criticism. Hardly worthwhile writing criticism if you don’t criticise anyone, I would think.

    * Talk of my bitterness is just nonsense. If you read the book you would know I still hold the Beatles and their phenomenon in a great deal of “affection”. I too loved the Beatles about nine months before they ever hit America (in NZ from age 5), went to their films, etc. The first record I ever had was the ‘Twist & Shout’ e.p. But, you’ve got to grow up some time and tell the unvarnished truth as you see it. As a critic and analyst, I have kept my personal feelings out of it. You don’t mention the dozens upons dozens of English contemporaries of the Beatles who were there and were a lot harder on them at the time than I’ve been. Don’t mistake writing style for bitterness. In your book then, I’m just as “bitter” about Brian freaks who treat him like an angel. They don’t come off well in the book.

    * Yes, I was alive and listening to music on the radio since I was 2 or 3, and studying criticism style for many many years before the book was published. I never pretended to be a journalist or reporter giving both sides of a political debate. If I wrote a dozen books doing the Beatles down more than you say I have, the sheet still wouldn’t be balanced. For people who judge things by popularity, the Beatles will always be beyond even simple questioning. Do you think someone in his forties starts to write a book, THEN in the middle makes up his mind? Get real. By the way, did you ever hear of Frank Zappa’s definition of rock “journalists”: “People who can’t write [covering music] for people who can’t read.”

    * You seem to write off black music that was flourishing. Why did dozens of lovely, creative girl groups just die off in early ’64? Because of the ruling British chauvinist culture, which brought in macho bands, and deemed that females must be in secondary roles in rock. You know, like Cynthia Lennon was kept in the kitchen?

    * I didn’t say the Beatles were TRYING to harm anything — they were totally oblivious of the wider issues, even pawns in a much bigger game of international conglomerates. Ringo just wanted enough money to buy a hair stylists’! That’s why I have BeatleMANIA in the title, not Beatles. But you’d know all this if you’d read the book properly, so I don’t know why I’m even answering your arguments based on false premises.

    * If I’m parochial towards America, why do I criticise it politically and economically in the book? Why do I prefer many entertainment aspects and other facets of life from the UK, including British tv drama/comedy in general? During 51 years living in New Zealand, Why have I never returned to the USA even to visit? As I said, read the book! (or DON’T)

    NO MORE CORRESPONDENCE FROM THIS READER (YOU GEORGE) WILL BE ANSWERED…

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  10. I’m in NZ. Where can i buy a copy of katy and kula?

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    • Hi Sarah — You can order it through your library if you don’t want to buy. For buying, please send $30 plus $2 postage to me at 5 Justin Place, Te Atatu Peninsula, Auckland 0610. Thanks very much for your interest. Gary

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    • I forgot, Sarah… The much better 2nd edition is only available from me — not well circulated to libraries yet but you can try.

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  11. . I received a copy of your book Katy and Kula for Christmas, and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading it. We lived at 83 Kervil Ave, accross from you. Denise and Don Doughty.Next to the yorks. Like you we had a problem getting balls back that were kicked into their yard, she wouldn’t give them to our kids, Don had to go and ask when he got home from work.We wondered why they were living in a new development, they didn’t fit really did they.
    We Moved to Matamata 6 years ago after living in Kervil Ave for over 40 years, we have no regrets, love living in a smaller community with friendly neighbours, more so than in a big city.
    We were sad to read that Mrs. Fraser, and your Mum had passed away,I often talked to Mrs. Fraser as I passed her house to go to the Wharf Rd. Shops. I know she was really sad that she was having to share her section with another house.I didn’t know your Mum or your family that well, you are all a bit older than our children. We had 5, Stephen, Graeme, Allison and twins Kathryn and Craig. Kathryn still lives in Te Atatu, the boys all in Auckland and Allison in Sydney.
    We keep in touch with The Stitts, I told her about your book and she got one from the book shop in Te Atatu, we are trying to work out who some of the people are!!!
    Any way, thank you for your thoughts of the biggest part of our lives, it’s great to recall them all.
    Denise Doughty.

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    • Hello Denise — How great that you liked the book. It’s very personal at times but I’ve got quite a bit of feedback not only from my friends the Frasers, Eyres and Tass Kightley but people I hardly knew at school and so on. I called on Mrs Stitt early on when writing the book, along with Mrs Barr and over the road the Clarkes and Commiskies. I had no idea there was still a whole enclave up that end of the road still living there after almost 50 years — except for Mrs Barr who I’d see occasionally as I drove past along Te Atatu Rd. I noticed that her place sold up last year. Mrs Rutledge (now 91) remembers you fondly. I never knew you had any kids, as you both seemed quite a bit younger than especially the Yorks and Perkinsons on the other side. My mother always called you the Dohertys — I suppose her Irish background, but Mrs Rutledge corrected me in time for the book. Yes, the Yorks were certainly a bit of aristocracy tucked away well out of their element weren’t they…

      This is strange but I considered shifting to Waharoa, as you know about 6km (from memory) on the near side of Matamata. I was attracted by the tight-looking community (like you) and the very cheap house prices — then, about 10 years ago, 3 brm places as low as $50,000. And it appealed to me to meet my sisters halfway — They’ve have both lived in Opotiki now for 13 years or more. I suppose I’m just so used to Te Atatu, though I manage to get away (even to the city) quite often, Thames a couple of months ago. Yes, Te Atatu is so built up now — and I noticed it changing, not for the better, in the Seventies and Eighties. I’m very glad you’re both happy in Matamata. I hope the kids haven’t forgotten you down there.

      My mother lived in Kotuku Street not far up from the schools from 1992 to 2006 and spent her last couple of years in a two-bedroom Versatile home she plonked in my front yard. She was quite happy with her little dog and my cats visiting from a few metres away — though by that time she had only about 20% sight, diabetes and other ailments. If you have any burning questions about who in the book is related to whom or what, just reel off a few names to me: I’m at email: deforest@ihug.co.nz or otherwise 5 Justin Place, Te Atatu, Auckland 0610.

      Again, really good to hear from you. All these reactions make the effort worthwhile.

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