REVIEW>> by Review by Mike Stax, UT Magazine, #18. Summer 2000
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The new title for this much-revised edition of Sean Bonniwell's autobiography was chosen for more than one reason. Bonniwell was, of course, a major force in the creation of what has become known as 'Garage Rock' , he has also spent the last ten years or so living in a garage, much of that time spent conceiving, writing, revising and self -publishing this epic tome.
This book's first edition - then titled Talk Talk - was reviewed in depth in Ugly Things #14, and I would refer the reader there for a more detailed analysis. The limited-run of that book has long since sold out, and work on this new edition began immediately. The text has undergone a massive overhaul: Entire new chapters have been added, others - including some of the heavier metaphysical segments - have been trimmed down, and the section on the Music Machine itself has been greatly expanded, along with the addition of many more photos and illustrations. Beyond The Garage is a much more 'reader friendly' work.
The book, however, is still a demanding one. Like his music, Sean's writing style is skillful and complex. He twists and extends metaphors to unusual lengths and shapes, and wields a remarkable vocabulary seldom found among 'rock musicians' - most of whom are as dumb as logs, but then Bonniwell was never a typical 'rock musician'.
As with any work that demands something from the reader, it also rewards in kind. Beyond The Garage is courageously soul-baring. Bonniwell's life has been one of endless self-questioning and self-examination, and this book has allowed him to re-explore every step of his life and ask "why". Readers may find themselves asking the same questions about their own lives. "What concerns me is that those who read it see themselves and the world about them in a different way," Sean told me in a 1995 interview. "That's why you write your life story; to instruct, to entertain, and hopefully, to make a difference in someone's life.
More so than the first edition, this book does entertain. There's as much humor here as profundity. Aside from the hilarious, multifarious anecdotes, Sean's exacting character studies are especially enjoyable. Of Holly, a late-period Music Machine organist, he writes: "He was a Midwest country boy whose accent was indiscernible only because it took him four minutes to put three words together. Waiting for Holly to finish a sentence was like listening to a man with an arrow in his chest."Of the Goldbriars' Sherri Holmberg: " Sherri was as short and shrewd as a wounded badger."
Bonniwell also gives entertaining accounts of encounters with celebrities such as Jonathan Winters, Tony Bennett, Sam Cooke, Jim McGuinn, David Crosby, Eric Burdon, Arthur Lee, Wes Craven, Wolfman Jack and James Caan, to name just a few, giving us his own unique take on all.
There is nothing ordinary or typical about any aspect of Bonniwell or his remarkable life, making Beyond The Garage a biography unlike any you have read before. It's a work of extraordinary depth and, for those willing to meet its demands, an utterly engaging experience. The book is a self-published limited edition, and signed copies can be ordered directly from Sean Bonniwell. Price is $25 plus $5 postage ($18 postage overseas), which is a more than reasonable price for a book practically the size of a phone directory.
Visit the Bonniwell Music Machine website, where you can read more about the group and view an amazing animated video for the just released "Citizen Fear" on Sundazed's "Ignition".