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Book Review: Completeness of the Soul: The Life and Opinions of Jay Breeze, Rock Star by Jim Booth

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Jay Breeze believes in the magic, but it doesn’t necessarily set him free. He’s too “caught up in my own myth” as frontman for the Lost Generation throughout their 20-year run from the time of their early-‘70s inception to a San Francisco fiasco in ‘92. A power pop group that matters—think Big Star if they had the longevity they deserved, or the Raspberries without the fashion sense and matching suits—the Lost Generation is rock and roll royalty floating in the same rarefied air as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and giving Led Zeppelin a run for the money earmarked for room-wrecking bills.

But though he’s attained “all the money, all the women, all the booze and dope in the world,” and achieved fame and fortune and everything that goes with it, Jay’s champion status is being undermined by self-reflection and recriminations, so that the past few years has seen him trying to make up for the indulgences of the first 15.

Indeed, Completeness of the Soul: The Life and Opinions of Jay Breeze, Rock Star by Jim Booth is a fictional look back, whether fond and frank, or callous and equivocal, couched in a starkly mixed grab-bag. Disjointed by design, a fragmented trajectory of the Lost Generation’s eventual degeneration–along with the loss of the love of Jay’s life–is chronicled. The tell-tale assemblage of scraps and snippets that constitute the Jay Breeze story are comprised of hastily-penned notes and lists, song lyrics, newspaper articles, interviews, journal entries, and musings on the psychological instability of drummers. Most prominently and effectually, however, are the examples of thoughtful reasonings or flighty “drunk dialing by mail” impulses: a variety of e-epistles and letters, mainly to an enigmatic and dead soul mate, referred to only as Angel, who tragically—and forebodingly–perished in a car accident.

It’s all part and parcel of “The Big Sadness,” and Jay’s bemoaning self-pity party that “fame is such bullshit”—I must’ve missed the part in which a gun was held to his head and he was made to march into the maws of the star-making machinery of it all. Nevertheless, there are several bright spots among the boo-hoos and brouhaha and the book’s meandering way to the realization or reiteration that “It’s hard to have passion when not a damn thing matters anymore.” Amid the melodrama, Booth provides some keen insights into the music and record-making industry, and effectively exemplifies the roller-coaster rancor or camaraderie that typifies inter-group mood swings and personality clashes. It’s also nice to have a rock figure—even a fictional one—who can quote Keats as well as Costello.

And it’s a relief for the beleaguered Breeze when, in a reprieve from “Playing the Rock Star,” he gains a sense of spiritualized liberation with some perspective-setting words of wisdom in life and love—lost or not—during an affecting and sustained scene of a rejuvenating getaway in Sante Fe. Circumstances impel Jay into the philosophical clutches of a mystical jewelry-seller in the Plaza who reminds Jay that, in addition his songs being “like whispers from the spirits,” Angel imbues his life still, that she will always come, “Even when the world presses in on you, the crowds hurting or frightening you…”

What remains to be seen is whether Jay can–in words from his more hit than miss Rock and Roll Handbook–avoid “rock’s most common pitfalls—greed, egomania, and self-delusion”—before he dies. Is he doomed to be relegated to “the dustbin of history”? Or can he can find, once again, “How the magic’s in the music and the music’s in me”?

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch