Rock’n’Roll Memoirs. . .
It has become almost the norm to not only listen to Rock’n’Roll but also read about it. We have always had our fanzines, our Cream and Circus, Hit Parader, and let us not forget Kerrang. The Aquarian was my local fav! For the last fifteen or twenty years we have had “Classic Rock”. That, however, is something else again. It is no Cream or Hit Parader. It is a hefty thick magazine with serious pages-I point to the actual pages, their weight, their gloss. Quite different from the pages of Kerrang! Even the name and the Iconography of “Classic Rock” is revealing. We are not dealing with pop here, not with alternative, but with classic rock.
Focusing on books though, there has been an explosion. Just an explosion today of memoirs, biographies, and histories of musicians, bands and genres. Perhaps, it is just the maturing of a generation and a genre. Audience, musicians, and writers have matured. We have perhaps arrived at that time when people reflect on their lives. It is at such a point perhaps that one can really assess whether one’s life was happy. Was it a good life? And a book deal is nice too. Most though are without such deals.
Previously, artists and fans were too consumed to read or write. We were too busy living to read or write. I exaggerate. And there was literature tied to rock, but it was limited. Patti Smith comes to mind. Jim Carroll is another. Some were reading Tolkien. Some lyrics were in fact poetry. Camille Paglia in Playboy offered a series of essays back in the day, but she was not documenting gigs and bands. She had taken skills she acquired doing literary criticism and was applying them to the pop culture around her, which included the likes of bands and music.
And the writing today has progressed. The stories might be largely the same from what we were reading in Cream and Circus, but now they are fleshed out, stylized, with a back story. The tales have progressed as have both readers and writers. Today, with these full books looking at the performers, bands, their lives, their work, their art, literature has perhaps caught up with rockers and their craft. At least it is trying to close in on them. Regardless, of literature’s intent, it is I suspect for many a desire to capture some hint of times past that we witness this.
I guess in the end I simply lament the fact that much of what was experienced cannot and will not be captured, regardless of the caliber of the writing. That said, a musical interpretation of Finnegans Wake is no different. And only a fool would expect different.
That said I continue to write, read and listen.
As I said, there is an explosion of biographies and histories focused on rock’n’roll today. Below is a small random sampling:
Rory Gallagher: The Man Behind The Guitar by Julian Vignoles
Nöthin’ But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the ’80s Hard Rock Explosion by Richard Bienstock and Tom Beaujour
American Hair Metal by Steven Blush
Hot Wired Guitar: The Life of Jeff Beck by Martin Power
Americana : The Kinks, the Riff, the Road by Ray Davies
Hard to Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes by Steve Gorman
Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group by Dennis Dunaway
A Fast Ride Out of Here: Confessions of Rock’s Most Dangerous Man by Pete Way
They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock’n’Roll by Shep Gordon
Cowboy Song: The Authorized Biography of Thin Lizzy’s Philip Lynott by Graeme Thomson
Nothin’ to Lose : The Making of KISS (1972-1975) by Gene Simmons, Ken Sharp, Paul Stanley
Patti Smith has a range of works, including autobiography, which deserve some attention.
I purposely did not link the books as I felt we all should have a personal fav book shop that needs our support.