Corn Flakes with John Lennon: And Other Tales from a Rock 'n' Roll Life

Overview

Robert Hilburn’s storied career as a rock critic has allowed him a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of some of the most iconic figures of our time. He was the only music critic to visit Folsom Prison with Johnny Cash. He met John Lennon during his lost weekend period in Los Angeles and they became friends. Bob Dylan granted him his only interviews during his "born-again" period and the occasion of his 50th birthday. Michael Jackson invited Hilburn to watch cartoons with him in his bedroom. When Springsteen ...

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Corn Flakes with John Lennon: And Other Tales from a Rock 'n' Roll Life

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Overview

Robert Hilburn’s storied career as a rock critic has allowed him a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of some of the most iconic figures of our time. He was the only music critic to visit Folsom Prison with Johnny Cash. He met John Lennon during his lost weekend period in Los Angeles and they became friends. Bob Dylan granted him his only interviews during his "born-again" period and the occasion of his 50th birthday. Michael Jackson invited Hilburn to watch cartoons with him in his bedroom. When Springsteen took to playing only old hits, Hilburn scolded him for turning his legendary concerts into oldies revues, and Springsteen changed his set list.

In this totally unique account of the symbiotic relationship between critic and musical artist, Hilburn reflects on the ways in which he has changed and been changed by the subjects he’s covered; Bono weighs in with an introduction about how Hilburn’s criticism influenced and altered his own development as a musician.

Corn Flakes with John Lennon is more than about one man’s adventures in rock and roll: It’s the gripping and untold story of how popular music reshapes the way we think about the world and helps to define the modern American character.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
An influential rock critic shares highlights from more than 40 years in the business. Longtime Los Angeles Times pop-music journalist Hilburn (Springsteen, 1986, etc.) looks back on the path he followed into what he calls "the best job in the world," from a boyhood spent listening to his uncle's blues and country records in Louisiana to a stint as a reporter for his San Fernando Valley high-school newspaper, for which he reviewed Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender. The book is not exactly a memoir, but rather a review of the major developments in popular music that the author played a part in shaping, both as a prescient champion of performers (Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and U2, for example) and as a sensitive interviewer who earned the trust of some of the most notoriously difficult subjects in music (most notably, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan). Fans of Springsteen, Dylan and U2 will be thrilled to find multiple chapters devoted to their idols, who are clearly Hilburn's favorites as well. He generously shares pages of quotes from his interviews on subjects ranging from musical influences-not surprisingly, almost everyone cites Elvis-and the craft of songwriting to the difficulty of maintaining a personal life apart from career and celebrity. The most intriguing sections, however, are the glimpses into the private lives of a who's who of popular music in the 20th century: Johnny Cash preparing to take the stage at Folsom Prison and, late in life, at a rural Virginia barn dance; Colonel Parker keeping a tight rein on Elvis in Vegas; John Lennon sneaking chocolate and relishing cornflakes and cream at the Dakota; Michael Jackson pillow-fighting with six-year-olds while Brooke Shields and hermother waited for a date; Courtney Love beside herself worrying about Kurt Cobain. Because the incidents illustrate Hilburn's main points about the character of the acts he believes are most worth listening to, the gossip is guilt-free. A must-read for pop-music lovers.
From the Publisher
From the Introduction by Bono:

[Hilburn] was always looking for subject matter that was fresh and patiently observed, what Van Morrison described as ‘the inarticulate speech of the heart.’ U2 was shambolic and erratic, but he seemed to see the ‘what might be’ in the ‘what was.’ Bob’s role as a critic was to encourage the suspension of disbelief not just in the audience, but in the artist as well. That is an environment in which music grows. He made us better.

So many great memories came flooding back to me when I read Corn Flakes With John Lennon. A must read for genuine music lovers. 

 —Elton John

It’s impossible to read this book and not encounter passages that surprise, sadden and hearten. It's also impossible to read Corn Flakes With John Lennon and not recognize Robert Hilburn as the greatest interviewer in rock & roll history.

—Mikal Gilmore, author of Shot in the Heart and Night Beat: A Shadow History of Rock and Roll

Hilburn's amazing resilience and commitment for music shines through his decades of reportage and reviews of music. On behalf of the musicians of the 60's on, I thank you for having been the communicator of our music with love.

—yoko ono summer of 2009

Beautifully written, and passionately told, this book captures the very essence of what it means to be someone who loves music.

— Charles R. Cross, author of Heavier Than Heaven and Room Full of Mirrors.

I never gave a damn for rock criticism until I read Robert Hilburn

—Bernie Taupin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605291659
  • Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/12/2010
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 778,551
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT HILBURN, the longtime pop music critic and editor of the Los Angeles Times, is one of the most widely read and respected pop writers of the rock and roll era. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Growing up Rock n' Roll

    As someone who moved to L.A.just as Robert Hilburn was starting to write for the L.A.Times,I read the articles that this book is base on. Bob's writing influenced the Bands I listened to and the clubs I went to,to hear new Bands. His ability to place Bands in their time and place, and let you see what they were expressing in their work, put him above most other Rock critics. This book allows Hilburn to flesh out in more depth the iconic Rock stars of it's greatest era. If you see rock as an art form this book will give you a true insight into the artists, who gave it it's form and shape,and moved Rock to a new level. While keeping it in touch with the teen angst that drove it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Not just breakfast, not just John Lennon

    I thought this book was very well writen and yet an easy read. It opened my eyes artists I've always heard about but never listened to. As a music lover, this was a joy read and it was wonderful to learn about some of America's favorite artists in an inovative way.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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