Jeff Porcaro is one of my greatest musical influences. His drumming on records from everything from Toto, Michael Jackson and Michael McDonald, to name a very few, has impacted my own style as a drummer. I’ve been fascinated to learn more about him, and finally, a biography popped up. I had to get it.
I just finished reading It’s About Time: Jeff Porcaro, The Man and His Music, written by journalist and researcher, Robyn Flans. I don’t know anything about Robyn Flans, other than the information I’ve found online. She’s been in the business for over 35 years and has apparently interviewed some of the most established drummers around. A lot of her work can be found in Modern Drummer Magazine.
To make a “long story short”, the book is a collection of interviews, anecdotes and shorts stories about the master drummer. Some of them surprising, others heart-warming, and some ridiculous. For instance, I had no idea that Jeff hung out with Ron Howards back in the day. Howards tells a very interesting story about how inferior he felt, trying to play guitar with Jeff, and finally giving up because he just wasn’t at his level. However, Howards did pretty well in Hollywood, as it would turn out. I really enjoyed experiencing the vibe in California in the 1970s through sections of this book – the huge creative wave of music, movies and tv. This is where modern pop culture began. There’s even a story in there about Jeff and his band hanging out at Skywalker Ranch.
Another thing that struck me was how generous he was, trying to help out his peers and fellow drummers get into the business. There are several examples in the book of him passing on studio sessions to other drummers. He was, after all, one of the hardest working musicians of his day, and had the capacity to do that. He also mentions that he was planning on going to art school, but got an audition to play in the Sonny & Cherband. His dad wasn’t happy about that, and wanted Jeff to finish school instead. Jeff didn’t listen.
“There’s not one record that I can listen to all the way through that I’ve done without getting bugged at how I played. That’s going to be there forever. Sometimes I’m unhappy about time, feel. […] In all honesty, I would have to say the Steely Dan tracks I’ve done are the most challenging as far as perfection goes, so I would say they’re my personal favorite performances.”
The quote above is from page 72. This is just one of many an interview in the book. This is not really a biography, as such. It’s not written with a clear timeframe and it doesn’t really delve into the man Jeff Porcaro. Instead, it is a collection of other people’s stories about him, complemented by his own interviews and experiences. In that way, it wasn’t really what I thought it was. And it made a little less of a fluent read. I would have preferred a proper biography, and some of the interviews were technically a little frustrating to read, mainly because the author chose – as it would appear – to keep every word said. But still, I learnt so much about Jeff Porcaro, and it really does have some fascinating stories.
Would I recommend It’s About Time: Jeff Porcaro, The Man and His Music? Yes. And not only if you’re a musician. It should be a good read even for anyone interested to learn more about the music business in the 1970s and 1980s, not to mention the entertainment business as a whole. Go get it.