Riordan, James 1949-
RIORDAN, James 1949-
PERSONAL: Born March 10, 1949, in Kankakee, IL; son of Clarence Joseph (a musician) and Nancy Ruth (a comedienne; maiden name, Kelly) Riordan; married Deborah Kay Griffin, February 14, 1974; children: Chris, Elicia Danielle, Jeremiah. Education: Attended Illinois State University, 1967-69. Religion: Christian.
ADDRESSES: Home—Malibu, CA. Office—Rock-Pop Syndications, 15445 Ventura Blvd., Suite 10, Box 5973, Sherman Oaks, CA 91413.
CAREER: Songwriter and record producer in Nashville, TN, 1969-71; WKAK-FM Radio, Kankakee, IL, record announcer, 1972-74; Rock-Pop Syndications, Kankakee, head writer in Kankakee and Malibu, CA, 1975—. Swordsman Press, Sherman Oaks, CA, publisher, 1980—; video producer at Platinum Rainbow Productions, 1982—. Former member of department of commercial music at Long Beach City College; member of advisory board of Professional Musicians Career Academy in Minneapolis; leader of band Hypnoises, c. 1996.
MEMBER: American Society of Authors, Composers, and Publishers.
AWARDS, HONORS: Service awards from Long Beach City College, 1982, and Boyd Hunt Enterprises, 1983.
(With Bob Monaco) The Platinum Rainbow: How to Succeed in the Music Business without Selling Your Soul, Swordsman Press (Sherman Oaks, CA), 1980, revised edition, Contemporary Books (Chicago, IL), 1988.
(Coauthor) Recording Evaluation Directory, Platinum Press, 1983.
Behind the Glass: The Producers (interviews), Swordsman Press (Sherman Oaks, CA), 1983.
(With Bob Monaco) The New Music Business, Swordsman Press (Sherman Oaks, CA), 1984.
Making It in the New Music Business, Writers' Digest Books (Cincinnati, OH), 1988, revised edition, 1991.
Also author, with Jason Miller, of That Championship Season (novel; adapted from the play by Miller). Contributor to Songwriters Market, 1982, Writer's Digest Books (Cincinnati, OH), 1982. Author of songs, with Michael Leppert, including "Cellophane Man" and "The Rainmaker." Author of "Rock-Pop," a newspaper column syndicated by Rock-Pop Syndications, 1976-83. Contributor to American Song Festival. Contributing editor of Mix, 1982-83.
SIDELIGHTS: James Riordan's first half-dozen books reflect his experiences in the music industry and dispense advice to those interested in songwriting, performing, and making records. He subsequently began a syndicated newspaper column that featured interviews with famous musicians, wrote biographies of Jim Morrison and Oliver Stone, and began fiction writing. Cowritten with the playwright, his first novel is That Championship Season, an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Jason Miller.
Riordan's most widely reviewed books have been his biographies. Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison, which was written with Jerry Prochnicky, examines the life of the lead singer for the Doors, who died in 1971 at age twenty-seven. The book covers Morrison's childhood, his experiences with the rock group including concerts, recording sessions, and groupies, and being charged with indecent exposure and profanity at a Miami concert. A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that "the fan-club-style overstatement, redundancy and lyrics quoted for dramatic effect become tedious," while critic D. Hibbard commented in Choice that "The text is easily read and offers entertaining as well as informative reading."
Sex, drugs, and rock and roll are also prominent in Stone: The Controversies, Excesses and Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker. Riordan and Oliver Stone first had contact when Riordan served as a consultant for Stone's 1991 film The Doors. Among Stone's other films are Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, and Nixon, examples of a body of work that is highly personal and often controversial. Riordan reveals what went on during the making of Stone's films, as well as providing background about the divorce of Stone's parents, voluntary service in the army during the Vietnam War, drug abuse, and infidelity. The biography is the first to be written about Stone and was done with his cooperation. Riordan gave the filmmaker permission to read and edit his quotes, and in turn was given access to many of Stone's friends and associates.
The lure of Stone's story outweighed concerns reviewers voiced about this arrangement. In Entertainment Weekly, writer Steve Daly suggested that "the often facile psychologizing aside, fans will appreciate the detailed, behind-the-scenes accounts of Stone's films." Similarly, in his review for the Patriot, John Anderson decided that "the information, as tainted as one presumes it to be, is fascinating.... What Stone gets from Riordan is a friendly, bordering-on-fawning treatment." According to William Leith in the London Observer, the book is decidedly satisfying: "It will brighten up a few afternoons or evenings. The writing is clear and unflashy.... [Riordan] understands Stone's class and generation, the first wave of educated people to get into dope and rock 'n' roll."
Riordan once told CA about other experiences: "Being a songwriter in Nashville was an adventure. I met some very interesting characters, who later formed the basis for the humorous stories in The Platinum Rainbow, my book about the music business. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about how not to approach a career in the music business. By making all the mistakes and totally confusing the reality with my own star fantasies, I had done the research for the book I was to write some ten years later.
"I began 'Rock-Pop,' the syndicated music column, from one tiny local paper and syndicated it myself, building it to millions of readers coast to coast in less than five years. I would contact the newspapers myself and persuade them that they needed a youth-oriented feature and that I could provide interviews with major artists—something a small local paper just couldn't do on their own. By going after these smaller papers I was able to build a network of them that had more readers than all but the largest metropolitan dailies. My readership allowed me to secure interviews with bigger and bigger artists, including George Harrison, the Doobie Brothers, Frank Zappa, Fleetwood Mac, Kenny Rogers, and others.
"I wrote The Platinum Rainbow because I wished I'd had something like it when I started down the yellow brick road of the music business. I am writing a sequel to it [which became Making It in the New Music Business] because the music business has changed and evolved into a do-it-yourself type of business for new artists and nothing has been written that details this process.
"I am also writing another novel, Return of the Walrus, because I loved the 1960's; I feel that a novel entailing the myths and romance of that period, based on the music of the era, could be very popular. It's a fiction, but one that those of us who grew up in the sixties all wanted to believe was true.
"I am a born-again Christian and, as unhip as it may sound, I believe that Jesus Christ is not only the answer but the one who is responsible for my success and more importantly my peace of mind. My life has radically changed from one of searching for fame and being constantly frustrated that my art was not universally recognized to one of contentment and peace. Being a Christian is not easy and the process of transformation is painful because it involves letting go of the ego, but it is well worth it. Naturally, this belief works into anything I write. I hope that my works are able to touch people and help them perceive hope and truth in this illusion-filled world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, November, 1991, D. Hibbard, review of Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison.
Entertainment Weekly, December 1, 1995, Steve Daly, review of Stone: The Controversies, Excesses and Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker, p. 67.
Observer (London, England), October 20, 1996, William Leith, review of Stone, p. 16.
Patriot (Harrisburg, PA), January 1, 1996, John Anderson, review of Stone, p. C3.
Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1991, review of Break on Through, p. 52.*