Sometime during the summer I turned thirteen, my neighbor, who was about three years older, began wearing corduroy pants with little flying ducks embroidered on them.

When a friend strikes out in a bold new direction like this, it can be a scary ordeal for everyone around him.  It can also present a number of opportunities.  Realizing that the onset of the mallard-inspired cords would likely usher in the obsolescence of all things non-preppy, I petitioned for and became the grateful beneficiary of a number of his now-unwanted possessions.  Specifically, his copy of The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty.  And most importantly, his copy of the Jim Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman.

My life hasn’t been the same since.

When I picked up that bio for the first time, I had no idea who Jim Morrison was and was largely unaware of The Doors’ body of work.  By the time I finished reading the book for the tenth time, the paperback’s binding was shredded. Pages were folded, dog-eared, torn, and scrawled upon, and I was officially a walking, jabbering, obnoxious devotee of all things related to The Doors.

It is amazing that this book could make a 12 year old Irish Catholic kid from central Massachusetts feel like he could relate to The Lizard King.  What did I know about drugs back then?  Or sex, songwriting, Aldous Huxley, Friedrich Nietzschze, Hollywood, money or the stifling weight of celebrity?  Nothing.  But I loved Jim’s bravado.  Man, did I get that.  And I loved how he always pushed the envelope to see how people would react.  At age 12, I myself had learned that same trick.  I related to his love of books but I resented him for wanting to be a poet instead of a rock star.  More than anything, I felt like I understood what he felt, whether or not I could personally relate to it.  It is an awesome fucking book.

I don’t listen to The Doors all that much anymore,* but I do feel lucky that the first rock bio I ever read just happened to be one of the best ever written.  I have since developed a profound appreciation for the rock and roll biography.  I read them all the time.  When I don’t have a rock bio going, I’ve got a Classic Rock Magazine going, and my DVR is packed with episodes of “Classic Albums,” featuring bands like Pink Floyd, Metallica, The Sex Pistols, and Nirvana.

After finishing a particularly good rock biography last week, I found myself reflecting on just what makes a rock and roll biography come to life.  The purpose of this article is to throw some of those out for discussion and to highlight a few of my favorite rock bios for your fall reading lists.

“I’m sorry- this book is about who?”

Not everyone enjoys reading about music, but a compelling subject and a well-told story can and should engage any reader, not just music geeks.

A good rock bio is about a band or artist that has done more than release one hit single or album.  Who wants to read about an artist who’s still in the first act of their career?  OK, but besides the people who just said “Me!” who else?  Exactly.  Books about artists fresh off their first album become irrelevant quicker than you can say “Justin Bieber.”

Also, a compelling biography needs to be about an artist or a band that has endured some sort of soul-whipping crisis that threatened to destroy their music, if not their very lives.  They need not survive the conflict, like Phil Lynott, whose story is one of the greatest in rock, sadly ending with his death long before he made an appropriately large boot print on the world.  (Incidentally, while putting together an Irish rock compilation a couple years ago, I came up with a calculation that proved that Thin Lizzy is precisely 4,757,634.2644 times better than U2.  FYI).**

From Diapers to Math Class- the Early Years of a Rock Star

“Nuh!  Nuh!” Nesta shrieked.  “Mumma!  Mumma!  Where yuh?  Where yuh?!  Nuh!  Nuh!  Nuh! Mum-maaaa!!”

Nesta fainted, falling to the ground.

“Oh, Come now!  You little fool!  I’m your bloody father, Robert.”

Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley, p. 81

There are two things you need to know about this exchange.  First, this is the part of Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley’s biography where he first meets his father, who turns out to be whiter than John McCain’s fanny.  A fairly momentous event in the young reggae legend’s life, no?

The second thing you need to know is that this conversation did not happen.

Using the technique of “creative nonfiction” biographer Timothy White didn’t just describe Bob Marley’s early childhood days in Jamaica- he recreated them by imagining events and conversations steeped in the local patois that Bob would have used at the time.  It is a somewhat risky, yet effective way of letting the reader know what life was like for wee Bob.

A good rock bio spends some time telling the reader how the artist grew up.  We need to know what life was like for our little Legends and Lizard Kings.  Pete Townshend’s parents were musicians, while Joe Strummer’s father was a diplomat.  These can be important, if not fascinating tidbits in the evolution of a rocker.

A more straightforward and insightful approach to an artist’s early years is found in Mick Wall‘s W. Axl Rose: The Unauthorized Biography.  Wall discusses Rose’s stepfather- a Pentacostal minister who would beat seven shades of shit out of him whenever he would catch the young boy singing pop songs along with the radio.  This book gives a tension-soaked tour of Rose’s youth in Indiana, dealing with a broken home, abusive father, and a budding career as a petty criminal.  By the time Rose makes his way for the Sunset Strip, you’ve got your hands over your eyes, peeking through your fingers to watch for the train wreck that you know is surely coming.  Wall, along with Stephen Davis, is a great example of an author who can craft a book on mountains of research  without losing the guts and passion of the story.

Whether the artist is escaping an abusive childhood or simply wading through youthful confusion, a good examination of this period can create both tension and insight, laying a rock solid foundation for the rest of the story.

The Influences Behind Our Little Rock and Roll Acorns

To understand how a band or artist carved out their sound, you need to know who they were grooving to when they first picked up their instruments.  Not only does this give you some music tips for your own listening pleasure, but most importantly it tells you what they love most about music.  This is where you start relating to them.  Even if your musical preferences are different, it’s how music makes you feel that matters most.

Beyond music, people, places, and events can also make big impacts on our budding rock stars.  In Scar Tissue, Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography, he describes not just his musical influences (David Bowie, The Beatles, P-Funk), but he also talks about doing drugs with Hollywood A-listers and hanging out in top Hollywood clubs while he was barely a teenager.   His experiences as a child actor opened his eyes to the possibilities of the rock and roll lifestyle long before he fronted the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

One book that exhaustively covers a band’s early influences is AC/DC: Maximum Rock and Roll, by Murray Engleheart and Arnaud Durieux.  I was ultimately disappointed by this book because I felt like it had cut and pasted a thousand magazine articles about the band, while presenting little, if any, new material. However, the authors did a relentless job of describing the artists that influenced the Young brothers during their early years- influences still easily heard in their music today.  If you want a primer on blues and boogie musicians from the fifties and sixties, this is your book.  Bring coffee.

The Slings and Arrows of Songwriting and Recording

In Before I Get Old: The Story of The Who, author Dave Marsh describes the incident during the recording of Quadrophenia when the ongoing feud between former sheet metal worker Roger Daltrey and fancy boy Pete Townshend took a violent turn.  During a particularly animated argument in the studio, Townshend made the ill-advised decision of smashing his guitar into Daltrey’s head, calculating this to be an effective way of ending (and winning) the disagreement.  Townshend had of course made the fatal error of forgetting that Daltrey was one of the hardest men in rock.  Daltrey quickly brought this miscalculation to light when he proceeded to get up from the floor and cold cock Townshend with one punch, thus ending (and winning) the disagreement.

That story is not just gratuitous sensationalism- it perfectly explains the anger and restlessness running through the music of The Who, and in particular, Quadrophenia.  Fist fights, drug abuse and vitriolic in-fighting all fueled some of the greatest songs of the twentieth century.

One of the most important aspects of a competent rock bio is covering how the songwriting and recording processes are described.  Especially over a longer career, watching these elements evolve can be fascinating because it explains how and why their sound changes over the years.  Bands like Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses became so dysfunctional in these areas that they eventually recorded albums one guy at a time, so as to minimize the amount of time the band would have to be together in the same room.

Personally, I feel that the author has done a bang up job of describing the artist’s songwriting methods and studio experiences if I want to put down the book for a bit and go out and listen to the music.  The insight should make me want to hear the music (again) with a new perspective.  Understanding the complexities within the songs will greatly enhance the listening experience.

Critical Reaction- Take It Like a Man!

In his New York Times bestseller, Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga, Stephen Davis showcases how the rabid reaction of fans outweighed the often lukewarm reception by the rock press.  Rolling Stone magazine, in particular, hated Zeppelin.  This infuriated the band and drove them to continually strive for bigger, badder sounds just to prove their critics wrong.  Jimmy Page was a greedy, competitive, petty musical genius who simply could not endure being regarded as anything less than the best guitar player ever.  By showing this give and take between the band and the media, Davis implies that more than simply artistic expression fueled the music of Led Zeppelin.

Critical and popular reaction, both positive and negative, should be a constant theme throughout the entire book.  Whether the artist would admit it or not, this reaction has some bearing on the music.  Especially with artists that have been around for decades, critical and popular disinterest often suggest the beginning of the end.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll, aka “The Dirt”

In Hammer of the Gods, Davis recounts the infamous event in 1969 when Led Zeppelin were staying at the Edgewater Inn, on Puget Sound in Seattle Washington.  The hotel was literally on the water, such that guests would fish from the windows of their room.  The band was having one of their typically bacchanalian orgies in one of the rooms, when road manager Richard Cole allegedly caught a mudshark from the window.  According to legend, members of the band then tied a red haired groupie to the bed and used the fish to penetrate various cavities, allegedly capturing the event on film, though such a movie has never surfaced.

Several versions of this story have emerged, but the core elements remain fixed: hotel, fish, groupie.  This is the penultimate tale of rock and roll decadence, and it is an example of the more sordid elements of the rock bio- the dirt.

Part of the allure of these themes is the question of how the artist survives their own abberant behavior.  Whether our motivations are prurient or not, the war stories are the most entertaining (and sometimes the most unsettling) elements of the great rock biography.

There is no shortage of rock bios that give good sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  Pamela Desbarres, the worlds most famous groupie, has sold millions of books by writing stories about having sex and doing drugs with legendary rock stars.  Believing the premise to be too self-serving, I did not expect to dig anything about this book, but I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it.  Desbarres tells a good story because she includes not just the lurid escapades but equal measures of empathy and compassion for her subjects.  Still, if you want in-depth information on these musicians, you’ll want to consult something more authoritative.

Then there is Motley Crue: The Dirt- Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band, by Neil Strauss (who, bizarrely, is perhaps more famous for his tomes on how to seduce women, than for his rock writing).   As an authorized biography, it has a lot of self-aggrandizing observations from the band, but it remains one of the best examples of how decadent behavior can go from informing the songwriting to becoming the entire creative method.  Tommy Lee is a sideshow unto himself (and an amazing drummer, to boot); Vince Neil killed a man in a drunk driving accident, lost a daughter to cancer, and picked up nifty little alcohol and drug addictions.  Nikki Sixx became a hopeless junkie who OD’ed, flatlined, was resurrected, and OD’ed the very next day.  Mick Mars shot a woman and endured chronic pain and a debilitating condition that nearly killed him.  If you blood, you got it.

An often overlooked, but fascinating rock bio is A.E. Hotchner’s Blown Away: The Rolling Stones and the Death of the Sixties, in which he shows how the early successes of the Rolling Stones spiraled into addiction, jealousy, fear, and in-fighting that led to the deaths of both founding member Brian Jones and the Sixties as a culture of peace and love.  In this book, Hotchner describes the events leading up to and including the grisly Altamont show, where a fan was caught being stabbed to death on film ( you can see it in the film “Gimme Shelter”).  The book deserves special note for being among the first to suggest that Jones’ death in his own swimming pool was neither accidental nor suicide but that he was murdered by the construction workers at his estate.  This assertion which went largely ignored until an alleged deathbed confession from one of the construction workers.  The case was re-opened in 2009, forty years after his death.

Last But Not Least

There are a few other things that really polish a rock bio for me.  They are not indispensable but they give a nice air of completeness to the book:

Pictures- simply put, I like matching pictures of the artist with the various junctures of his or her career, as described in the book.  Self-effacing candid shots, pictures of them when they’re not “on” and shots of friends, family, and associates name-checked in the book add an invaluable dimension to the written material.

An index- I like an Index for quick reference.  Sometimes I want to go back to or skip ahead to a particular subject in the book.  For example, in the AC/DC book mentioned above, if I want to go back to a story about a Bon Scott overdose, the index helps me find it (pp. 99-100, 151).  In his Axl Rose biography, Mick Wall goes the extra step of presenting all of his sources, organized by media (books, magazines, internet, video), for easy reference.

The epilogue- I like it when the author ties everything together at the end and sheds some light on how it all stands.  Presenting the artist’s story in a final objective light gives the author the opportunity to almost write a mini-essay on what he or she thinks that artist ultimately means to the world.

Epilogue

Rock biographies are not for music geeks alone.  Anyone who appreciates a well-told story can dig a good rock bio.  An engaging story with tension, conflict, redemption, and interesting characters can and will always find a good audience.  But yeah, the sex and drugs are pretty fun, too.

 

 

 

 

*Incidentally, here’s how my music freakdom unfolded from this period.  This is the order of my musical obsessions: The Doors to The Who to The Jam to The Sex Pistols to all things punk rock to AC/DC to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal to Pearl Jam/Nirvana/Alice in Chains to The Rugburns/Steve Poltz to The Replacements to all things alt-country to The Stone Roses back to AC/DC to Metallica to all things Black/Death Metal, and lately back to classic Seventies rock

**I would like to apologize to the memory of Phil Lynott, Ireland’s greatest ever rock star, for placing him in the same section of my article as Justin Bieber

 

 

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JOE DALY writes for a number of publications, including the UK's Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazines, Outburn, Bass Guitar Magazine and several other print and online outlets. He is the music and cultural observer for Chuck Palahniuk's LitReactor site and his works have been published in several languages. When he is not drafting wild-eyed manifestos, Joe enjoys life in San Diego's groovy North County, teaching music journalism, doing yoga, running, playing guitar and spending tireless hours in deep and meaningful conversations with his beloved dogs, Cabo and Lola. You can check out his rants at http://joedaly.net and follow him on Twitter: @JoeD_SanDiego

162 responses to “Sex, Drugs and Mudsharks: The Triumph of the Rock Biography”

  1. Casey Kasem says:

    The worst rock bio I ever read was about my favorite rock artist … the Neil Young bio Shakey. It made me contemplate never reading again.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Any book called “Shakey” that is not about pizza will sharply disappoint anyone. Still, what didn’t you like about that? Poorly written, or without insight?

      If you ever get to San Diego, check out the Morrison Hotel rock photography gallery. Henry Diltz, the proprietor, shot the covers for some of the best-selling albums of all time (sadly not Thriller), and he’s got craploads of great Neil Young shots from way back in the day. Just seeing ornery ol’ Neil playing with a dog is worth the visit.

      • Casey Kasem says:

        Poorly written, little insight, I felt like the author wanted to impress us that he got access to the rarely accessed Young, and I felt like I got a better glimpse into Stephen Stills by the end of it.

        I’m seeing Young solo in Tampa mid-Sept … it’ll be about the eighth time I’ve seen him … damn I’d like one more crack at him with the Horse. Even when they’re not with him, I can still smell the Horse.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Stephen Stills played at a small club here in March. I missed it. I fucking missed it, Casey. That wears on a man, yanno? It was supposedly triumphant. Still, I prefer Neil.

          The whiff of the Horse is strong. It’s in his pants, mostly.

        • Casey Kasem says:

          I never got the feeling that Neil Young was trying to entertain anyone. The fact that he’s entertaining is incidental to some other motivation … probably just communicating in the way he best communicates (and the girls too).

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I love Neil Young.

          He really fucking goes for it on stage, although he’s by no means a showman.

        • Casey Kasem says:

          True JDI … I’ve rarely seen him say more than a few words on stage. The longest I’ve heard about him talking on stage was from a friend who said he spoke about his dog who jumped out of his truck, killing himself (inspiring Old King). It’s almost like he makes himself incidental to his own music. I wish I hadn’t read Shakey, I doubt NY would have wanted anyone to.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I remember watching something from around 1971 where he’s doing an acoustic set and makes a sort of joke whilst changing his harmonica, and I’ve seen documentary stuff where he’s quite amusing.

          Kurt Cobain was quite similar in that live it was all noise and little ‘show’ but quite funny off stage.

          I think it’s probably something to do with a desire to perform music whilst being reluctant to be famous or a showmen. Like being in the public eye was an unfortunate side affect of having people listen to their music…

        • Joe Daly says:

          The downside of that is that when a generally unfunny musician makes some sort of joke during a show, the response is invariably putrid, sycophantic laughter. I’m thinking of the Nirvana acoustic set where Kurt talks about tuning a harp. I was also listening to some live Soul Asylum this weekend, during which a completely unfunny exchange between Pirner and Dan Murphy is met with guffaws. How can the artist respect the audience when they’ll gobble up any poo he/she sends their way?

        • James D. Irwin says:

          The best bit of Nirvana’s Unplugged set is when Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl start doing Sweet Home Alabama.

          Most obsessive music fans are idiots— I mean the fans who are obsessive about just one band and dismiss/actively hate everyone else.

          I’ve got a friend who can’t take anyone criticising Nirvana. He’s fucking 23 with a degree, but he gets like a twelve year old if you even bring up the notion that maybe Kurt Cobain wasn’t the greatest musician of all time…

        • Joe Daly says:

          Most obsessive music fans are idiots— I mean the fans who are obsessive about just one band and dismiss/actively hate everyone else.

          Man, you said a mouthful there. So true.

          What’s funny is that the most widely-known rock stars generally carve out a name for smashing the idols before them in some way, yet so many fans miss the irony of treating them like golden gods.

          It’s always fun to run into someone who is an obsessive about a band that you’d never expect. Like someone who is a complete freak about say, Train.

  2. James D. Irwin says:

    Generally I don’t like reading rock biographies, although like you I quite like looking at the photographs. One of my favourite pictures is in a Led Zep biog where Jimmy Page is wearing a massive cardigan, drinking tea and reaching for a tin of beans.

    I’ve read a few, but the only ones that stick in my memory are a Hendrix biography I got for Christmas that I got bored with after the writer got as far as the first album because nothing after that was new. Then I read a biography of The Libertines which was excellent because it was by a proper writer who was also with the band from the very beginning so he had a lot of first hand stories and less speculation/outright bullshit.

    For example the Led Zep mudshark story has very little to do with the band members themselves. It was almost entirely Cole and the road crew, although Bonham was probably involved too. It’s a shame, because it’s a great story but I’ve read more sources that dispute the story than those that reinforce it.

    Right now I’m reading Nick Kent’s autobiography. He was a writer for NME in the ’70s. It’s strange in that he’s incredibly annoying writing in retrospect, but then it’s quite interesting to read about his interactions before great bands before they hit it really big.

    I don’t know what it is about rock biographies I don’t really like. I buy Classic Rock magazine quite often, and I love your pieces but I can’t manage a whole book on the subject. Possibly because it’s mostly going over stuff I’ve already heard… I love sports biographies though, even when it comes to sports I don’t like that much. Norman Mailer’s book on the Ali v Foreman fight in Zaire is one of the best things I’ve ever read.

    • Joe Daly says:

      I know that Jimmy Page pic you’re talking about. Classic. And yeah, the mudshark story has been carried around for years. I’m surprised the guys in Vanilla Fudge haven’t ‘fessed up. Or have they?

      I was in this fancy pants club in Chicago some years back, up in the VIP room, where one of our friends had access. We were pimping out at a table (in our minds, of course), when a bouncer came over and asked us to move to another, smaller table. The friend with access inquired if said bouncer was aware whom he was trying to relocate. The bouncer clarified that he did indeed understand the nature of his request, and went on to explain that Mr. Jimmy Page and his friends would like our table and that Mr. Page pretty much gets whatever the fuck he wants.

      So we were torn- hating on Page for punking us in the VIP room, but all secretly wanting to go talk to him. Instead we just left him alone, realizing that he probably felt the same way about us.

      Let me know about the Nick Kent bio. He gets brought up in a lot of UK rock bios, so if it’s worth reading, let me know and I’ll pick up a copy. And the Libertines, you say? Interesting. I imagine there’s a big of sex and drugs in there. Probably no mudsharks, tho.

      I hear what you mean about rock bios- they’re a lot of work if you don’t really give a shit about the band or the story. The Bob Marley bio was the biggest stretch for me. I like a lot of Marley’s stuff, but I’m more of a casual fan of reggae in general.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        There’s something great about seeing rock stars being normal. If memory serves it comes from the recording of Led Zeppelin III in Wales where it just looks like a student house or something. At the end of the film Sympathy For The Devil Mick and Keith are brought a tray of tea and quite possibly biscuits. Because of course almost all of those guys are just normal middle class British kids. And yet it seems so surreal because it’s rare to see that instead of sequined jump suits and what have you…

        I’d definitely move for Jimmy Page, without complaint. In fact I’d probably apologize for any delay I’d caused in his being seated and insist that if he wanted his shoes cleaned I’d only be too happy to lick them myself. I’d basically be the Zeppelin fan from Almost Famous.

        Nick Kent was supposedly Britain’s Lester Bangs. In one of the earlier chapters of the book I’m reading he goes to visit Bangs and learns from him. Bang’s comes off as cooler, because he’s never trying to be cool. I frequently come close to just giving up on it because at times it’s so heavily focused on Nick Kent talking about how amazingly cool Nick Kent was and how I, the reader, should ‘take it from someone who was actually there.’ He keeps using ‘dear reader’ and comes across as someone who learnt to write by reading Charlotte Bronte. It doesn’t help that he’s now an almost completely forgotten, fat old guy who faded into heroin tinged obscurity. He often seems to be desperately re-capturing what he had then.

        But on the other hand he was right there with some of my favourite bands and offers some very interesting stories. It’s just about worth it to read about hanging out with the Stones and Led Zeppelin. I’ve only got as far as 1974. It’s covers 1970-1979. He’s just getting hooked on heroin so I’m not sure how it’s going to go. But then he’s just become quite good friends with Malcom McClaren…

  3. James D. Irwin says:

    On the footnotes:

    My mum has met Phil Lynott. Made a fool of him, in fact. She was in a pub with my dad and buying drinks, trying to find her purse in her bag when Lynott says ‘You can borrow my pen if you want.’ My mum looks up and says ‘why would I want a pen? who are you?’

    My mum, of course, knew who he was.

    The time line of musical obsession is interesting. The Who were second in mine, after my first favourite band Oasis covered My Generation after Entwistle died. Two bands that these days I don’t much care for, weirdly…

    • Joe Daly says:

      This is why the comment feature of TNB is so valuable- you get to hear stuff like this. LOVE that your mum played Lynott like that! I mean, a big, kinky-haired, black Irishman? Yeah, there were probably about four people in the UK who wouldn’t have known who he was.

      I found myself listening to a compilation of Who covers the other day, that was pretty good and that made me throw on a couple Who albums, but that had been it for a long time.

      I forgot that you had the Oasis thing. Semper fi, brah.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I love Phil Lynott. There’s a live album where he’s talking to the audience and he asks if anyone has any Irish in them. There’s a huge roar from the crowd before he adds ‘and is there anyone in the crowd who’d like a bit more Irish in them..?’

        I find that Who’s Next is their only really, really great album and then there are maybe about an album’s worth of great songs in there other stuff. I feel quite guilty about not loving The Who as much as some people do.

        Every now and then I throw on a bit of Oasis because there’s a time and a place for it. And for quite a while last year I couldn’t leave for the pub without listening to their version of Cum On Feel The Noize.

        Slade’s drummer used to shop in my mum’s hardware store.

        • Joe Daly says:

          I find that Who’s Next is their only really, really great album and then there are maybe about an album’s worth of great songs in there other stuff. I feel quite guilty about not loving The Who as much as some people do.

          I’ve always thought Quadrophenia was their shining moment. Tommy always struck me as too bombastic. Loved Who’s Next, Who Are You, and The Who by Numbers.

          Slade are one of those bands that are generally ignored here in the US, at least by the media and masses. Music fans and rockers would know about them, but they’re not loved here like they are in Europe. Shame, sort of. I always thought that we could use more pub rock- fun, booty shaking stuff that disappears with the morning hangover.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I like a couple of songs on Quadrophenia. It’s like Tommy— one or two songs I really, really love and then the rest… aren’t awful but they don’t really excite me. I think it’s probably just my musical taste. I prefer harder rock, or bluesier rock or just straight up overblown ’80s hair metal for a laugh.

          There’s just something missing for me. I’m hesitant to use the word ‘funk’ but that might be it.

          Slade have funk, and plenty of it. Slade are pretty underrated. They’re more a novelty band here because of their Christmas song. Pub rock is great. The Faces are probably number one when it comes to pub rocking for my money.

  4. Art Edwards says:

    Fun stuff, Joe.

    I think rock artists are very in tune with what the critics are saying about them, but they can’t really admit that, to themselves or to their audience. They’re usually megalomaniacs, which pretty much means they can’t stand hearing anything negative about them.

    A few of my rock bio favs:

    Out Band Could be Your Life-Azerrad

    Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance-Rogan

    England’s Dreaming-Savage

    Come as You Are-Azerrad

    The Beatles-Spitz

    Oi!

    Art

  5. Dana says:

    You make me want to read a rock bio! And I haven’t for some time. I read a few really awful ones years ago that were nothing more than cut and paste jobs from fan mags with no real insight and tons of speculation.

    Think I’ll put Scar Tissue and Before I Get Old on my reading list!

    • Joe Daly says:

      It’s so disappointing when you get pumped up for a bio, rock or otherwise, only to find it’s just a literary collage of two and three year old interviews from magazines and other books.

      You are going to effing LOVE Before I Get Old. Make sure your Who catalogue is up to speed, because you’ll be revisiting a lot of the tunes. I don’t recall if the link I put is to an updated version or not. I know I read that book when I was 16, so um… yeah, that was a few years ago. A few pretty eventful years for The Who- which says a lot, given how little music they made during that time.

      Let me know what you thinkie!

  6. Matt says:

    You know…I can’t remember when the last time was that I read a rock bio, or that I’ve read that many to begin with. I think Johnny Cash’s self-titled autobiography was the last one, and that was in 2004. I keep meaning to get around to that Nirvana biography Heavier Than Heaven, but something always pops up that siezes my attention first. Same for Keidis’s Scar Tissue tome. That it shares a name with one of my least favorite RHCP songs doesn’t help.

    While I enjoy reading about music, the notion of reading a book-length work really just doesn’t appeal to me all that much*. I think in part it comes from working in a nightclub for as long as I did–I was privy to so much behind-the-scenes behavior from musicians as work that reading about in my leisure hours just seems…superfluous. I’d rather play the records themselves.

    I wonder, too, if the landscape of the rock bio might be undergoing a bit of seismic upheaval at the moment. As you mention, part of the appeal of a rock bio comes from the “behind the scenes” aspect of it. For a very long time in rock ‘n roll if a fan wanted more info on a favorite band, the options were limited to joining the ban’s fan club, reading the mags, or making swapping fanzines with others, so the rock bio was something of a Holy Grail. But with the development of the internet and social media, the give-and-take flow of information between fans and the musicians is greater than it’s ever been. I noticed in the last couple issues of Rolling Stone that I’ve picked up how most of the music journalism is focused more on “appreciation” writing than it is on investigative/behind the scenes stuff. So I wonder, in a culture where musicians drop bits of their daily lives into their Twitter feed or onto Facebook, what the shape of the rock bio will become.

    On a tangential note, have you been to see the Taking Aim, the exhibit of rock n’ roll photographs Graham Nash curated? It’s at the MOPA in Balboa Park until Sept. 26th. Well worth the $6 admission fee.

    • Matt says:

      *Not to disparage that form of writing. Perfectly good stuff that just doesn’t really interest me.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Matt- I think you’re onto something with the upheaval of the rock bio. Part of it, I think, is that people are viewing it as just one more way to cash in on a trend, so there’s a rush to do a bio when an album comes out, or worse, when a good one comes out and five more follow suit.

      I’m not really interested in read any bio unless I know the subject to be compelling- even if I don’t know about their music or sphere of expertise. More and more, I see bios in the bookstore and wonder why they’re taking up shelf space when the story is still being written.

      I haven’t read RS in a long time, partly because of what you mention. It’s now an advertising periodical that talks a bit about music, in between reality television, politics, and ticket sales graphs.

      Thanks for the tip on Taking Aim! I’m so on it!

      • Matt says:

        Yeah, the “banged-out-for-a-quick-buck” aspect is another thing that I find off-putting about rock bios, even prior to the current trend. I read a bio on Pearl Jam when I was in college, and it was a complete and utter hack job. Blatently written just to cash in, and the principle source was the stepfather that Eddie Vedder hasn’t had contact with for almost three decades; large chunks of the book were him “refuting” things that had been printed elsewhere. Eh, no thanks.

        Re: Rolling Stone I subscribed in 2008 because I enjoyed their election coverage and Mat Taibbi’s work, but there really was nothing else in the magazine to entrice me to renew when that subscription ended.

        A commenter below brought up Patti Smith’s new book, which I must admit I do want to read.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Re: that Pearl Jam book- at least now we can go on to Amazon or some other site and get a flavor of what it’s about from the reviews. Obviously online reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, but at least you can get a sense of whether or not the book is worth reading from a book that’s got a lot of feedback. Too bad about that PJ book. I’ll look forward to reading one about ten years from now, when the band is ready to talk a little bit and enough time has passed so we can get some real insight into the post-Mother Love Bone days, the departure of Dave A., and the tensions between Eddie, Stone, and Jeff as Eddie began emerging as the face of the band.

  7. megzeppelinn says:

    rad article dude! i think i’ll try out that stones book. i hadn’t heard about that new info on brian jones’ death. incredible!

    for years everyone’s been trying to get me to read ‘hammer of the gods’, but i’ve kept a vow since i first fell hard for zep at age 12 that i would never read anything about their personal info so that my perception of their music wouldn’t be polluted in any way. i know, way girly idealistic, but leave me alone, i was 12. 🙂 so i know everything about their albums and songs and stuff, but nothing about their personal life. but i went ahead and read through the dirt on them you laid out here. your article got me thinking maybe i can take hammer of the gods now. hmmmm….does the radness of that rock bio outweigh my teenage idealism about the greatest rock band ever?

    and even though it’s not a biography but a memoir, that patti smith book i was telling you about – ‘just kids’ – is my favorite book about a rock star EVER. so far, anyways. it’s more about how her relationship with robert mapplethorpe made her the rock goddess she became, and less about her time as that rock star, but it’s so illuminating and inspiring to be let into the chaotic and gritty beautiful world of her 20’s. i highly recommend.

    • Joe Daly says:

      The Brian Jones story is really fascinating. I’m still surprised he doesn’t get more credit for creating the band, although it has been forty years. He was pretty cool for a train wreck.

      Your decision to hold off on Zep is not a bad one. After reading that book, I found myself appreciating their music a bit less. It sounded more businessy after that book. Still, you won’t be able to put the book down if you start. I like your teenage idealism. Save Hammer for your jaded forties. 🙂

      OK, I really do need to read that Patti Smith book, huh? Done.

  8. megzeppelinn says:

    ok will DEF hold off on the hammer of the gods!! ha ha. thanks dude.

    and YES read the patti book, but be warned: it’s very art-y. if you’re not into lotsa talk of art and poetry, then maybe it’s not for you. but it is a fascinating look at how she became the quintessential rocker poet, with cool stories about how she ran into the likes of jimi hendrix, bob dylan’s crowd and other famous artists at the chelsea hotel in the late 60’s/early 70’s. what i responded to the most was her transformation from lost poet girl to ROCK STAR. it’s so totally rad.

    • Joe Daly says:

      The only thing I know about art is that if you draw a picture of your fourth grade teacher, in which said teacher has disproportionately big boobs, and that very teacher obtains this picture, you will likely find yourself discussing your work on some level with your parents.

  9. Irene Zion says:

    Joe, I hate to do this to you with you all standing all confident there and all, but I still don’t know anything about music. I’m missing the gene. But I like you, so I’m leaving a comment.

    Joe? What is that white thing on your shoulder?

    • Joe Daly says:

      Irene, you may not know anything about this kind of music, yet you still rock. Which itself rocks. I promise that my next piece will be music-free, and chock full of danger, adventure, and romance! Ok, well, maybe just a little misadventure, but I’m all about puffery.

      I think the white thing on my shoulder is either the sun or my guardian angel, Luc, who was a Canadian foreman in a quarry up in Manitoba. He’s got a funny accent, but he takes good care of me.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Lord, how I do hate to knock you off having 69 comments, but here I go anyhow.

        It does look like a white plume.

        On the other hand, so to speak, it could be a severed hand that you just hung on your shoulder.

        My mother was from Manitoba.
        Not going to go there, though.
        It gets me into crazyland.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Irene-

          Don’t sweat it- I keep the temperature in my Toyota 4Runner perpetually at 69 degrees, so I’m covered. 🙂

          Come on- let’s tiptoe gently away from my comment about Manitoba together…

  10. Irene Zion says:

    Criminey!
    There were three “alls” in one pathetic sentence
    I’m shredding my writing credentials!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Well, to be fair, you were writing to a Southern Californian, so maybe you innately knew I would understand better. Because when I read it all, I was all, you know, like, cool and all, you know? And then you were all kind of, “whoa!” and I was all, yeah, “whoa!”

  11. Richard Cox says:

    Joe Daly. You have written THE comprehensive manual for digesting a rock bio. So well thought out this post is, I’m not sure why I should even bother reading any of the bios. Well, except No One Here Gets Out Alive. It’s difficult to resist reading or watching anything about Morrison.

    I’d never heard the fish fucking story. Fucking fish story. Fucking with fish story. Whichever modifier you choose, it just sounds horrible and ridiculous. Couldn’t they have used an eel?

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Rich! I think that if you were to pick one bio in there to read, the Morrison one would be the keeper. It was a bit surreal to read the recent accounts of his death that have come to light in the past few years, sort of putting the final bookend on the story. I don’t know if they’ve updated No One Here Gets Out Alive in the last couple decades, but the question of what really happened was still pretty unclear when I read it. I think you’d really enjoy the read. Are you much of a Doors fan?

      Yeah, the mudshark thing is just gross. An eel, or even a nice perch would have made so much more sense. If Led Zeppelin ever sponsored a kids soccer team, they’d almost have to call them the Mudsharks, though.

      • Cheryl says:

        Being fucked by a fish of any sort is yucky. Notice there were no fish-themed products at the fuckerware party.

        And this is from a person who stifles a giggle every time she orders fish tacos.

        I hope no one has secretly (or not so secretly) given their male members fishy nicknames after reading this post. But if you have, you have to tell everyone now.

        Although, next time I go to a party or bar full of a bunch of dudes and hardly any women, it will no longer be a “sausage-fest”, it will be a “mud shark frenzy”.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Yeah, I can think of three scenarios (four max) in which being fucked by a fish would be anything other than yucky.

          I love that you giggle when you order fish tacos. When someone still uses the word “wood” in a sentence, I still point out to them, “you said ‘wood.'” Immature Minds Think Alike!

          “Mud Shark Frenzy” would be a FANTASTIC name for a band!

        • Cheryl says:

          “Yeah, I can think of three scenarios (four max) in which being fucked by a fish would be anything other than yucky.”

          This statement requires fleshing out… or scaling up. The man has an affinity for fish.

          There is a whole portion of my brain that seems to belong to a 13 year old boy. “Fish tacos”, any reference to wood, the word “seaman”, “caulk”. It’s dangerous for me to be in polite company.

          Immature minds definitely think alike! When my husband and I are at a restaurant and one of us orders fish tacos, there is all sorts of eyebrow wagging and gestures. It’s slightly more subtle than Monty Python’s “wink, wink; nudge, nudge” bit.

          I love the idea of a band called Mud Shark Frenzy!

        • Joe Daly says:

          “Caulk?” I don’t get it. It’s a totally good thing. There are so many problems that could be solved so easily with just a little caulk.

        • Cheryl says:

          Of course it’s a good thing. I’m a huge fan of caulk. No one appreciates caulk more than me! Except maybe Richard.

          Cox caulks, right? As a homeowner, I’m sure he finds caulk quite handy.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I own a home built only eleven years ago, so it has infrequently seen the need for caulk. Unlike, say, you, Cheryl.

        • dwoz says:

          caulk:

          gaffers’ tape in a tube.

        • Gloria says:

          @Richard – there’s never a bad time for caulk. I prefer to keep a whole drawer full of caulk on hand. For emergencies.

        • Gloria says:

          Also, Richard, please, please, please promise me that if you ever publish a home improvement manual or start a How To television series, you’ll call it Richard Caulks. Please?

        • Cheryl says:

          My house is much older, Richard. It requires frequent caulking.

        • Gloria says:

          A little caulk can go a long way in improving an age-worn home, Cheryl.

        • Irene Zion says:

          @Cheryl, @Richard, @ Gloria,@Dwoz, @Joe,

          Do you see how hard it is to get a word in here?
          This is the closest I could get.

          Two things:
          One: Victor bought some new fish and introduced fish lice to our atrium and everything is dying because, although we ordered tons of medicine, they didn’t have any anywhere in Miami!
          (That was related to the fish string of thought.)

          Two:I like duct tape. There is a TV ad now for this tape stuff that a woman puts on top of her breast that lifts up her breast. They show women wearing a tight shirt with one breast up nice and perky with the tape stuff and one all saggy without.
          Victor said I don’t need to buy any cause he could do me up with duct tape.
          (This last one was semi-related to the caulk string of thought.)

          That’s all, except that you can’t get onto @James Irwin’s piece because it just goes to
          “ERROR 404!”

      • Richard Cox says:

        Yeah, I’m totally a Doors fan. I put their self-titled album in my top 15 tag post, as you did, I believe. Also, I’ve watched the Oliver Stone film like five hundred times.

        If you did a post like this for music documentaries, I think DiG! would be up there, no?

        I wonder what the Death in Vegas bio would be like? “Hey, they put one of our songs in Lost in Translation!”

        • Joe Daly says:

          That film was really solid, wasn’t it? Amazing how well he nailed Morrison!

          Could not agree more about DiG! Definitely one of my favorite music docs ever! After seeing it a few times, I finally drove up to LA to catch the BJM live and I was not disappointed- the show was a complete train wreck. The BJM staggered onstage over an hour late, clearly polluted by opiates, and with Anton Newcombe began berating the audience and threatening to quit because during a ten minute break between songs, someone had the gall to yell “Play some music!”

          There’s a new one coming out about Lemmy that’s really, really good. I also liked the Shane Macgowan one quite a bit.

          A DIV bio? You’d have to do a whole chapter on Lost in Translation. I’ll bet Dead Confederate would make for an interesting road doc!

        • Richard Cox says:

          Holy shit! I just remembered the new Dead Confederate album was released last week. Thanks for reminding me.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Loving the new Dead Confed! Been listening to it all weekend. Interested to hear what you think!

        • dwoz says:

          are there seven ways to conjugate the word “caulk”?

  12. Very solid stuff on the under-appreciated world of the music bio, Joe. To the point, informative, and exceedingly well-edited. Until you’ve read DIRT, you haven’t really lived, which your post makes abundantly clear.

    My personal favorite bio is PLEASE KILL ME, which is essentially an oral history of punk before anyone knew to call it that, in fact, before the word punk even existed. I know a lot of people don’t like the book since it pretty much destroys all those early musical heroes by letting them open their mouths and ruining any notion that they’re smarter or funnier than the rest of us. It is pretty damning evidence that really good music tends to come from desperation, ambition, chemical alteration, naivete, and then talent.

    Anyway, nice job. Made me feel like I was 13 again and still had my subscription to CREEM.

    • Art Edwards says:

      I loved Please Kill Me.

      And if you like punk oral histories, there’s We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk by Marc Spitz. Both books were like eating a bowl full of candy for me.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks a bunch, Sean. PLEASE KILL ME sounds like a must read. Have you ever seen “American Hardcore,” the doc about umm.., well, American hardcore? Really good- it brings out not just the emergence of the hardcore scene, but it focuses on all the different regions in the country where hardcore sprung up, and how it got there. Also, “Decline of Western Civilization,” parts I (punk) and 2 (Metal), are nothing short of glorious in the they present the musicians.

      >>It is pretty damning evidence that really good music tends to come from desperation, ambition, chemical alteration, naivete, and then talent.<<

      So true. After seeing your favorite musicians in all the cool publicity shots, it can be a stunning letdown to finally hear them open their mouths.

      Thanks for the read. While the editing process was onerous and humbling for me, it was much-needed for this material.

      • I’ve been meaning to get around to Neutron Bomb, Art. And yeah, Joe, I watched American Hardcore with a mixture of elation and depression. That mid-80’s D.C. anti-Reagan scene was my Salad Days. The depressing part was listening to guys try to explain what it meant, or what they were trying to say back then, or what their music was about, and being completely unable to. Another in the long list of reasons to listen to let musicians speak through their songs.

        The Ozzy scene from Decline II was faked, btw.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Wait- are you for reals about the Ozzy scene being faked?

          If you tell me the Chris Holmes pool scene was faked as well, I’m going to find Penelope Spheeris and rub dog shit under her car door handles.

        • Sorry to be the bubble burster, but word came down a few years ago that the orange juice spilling was a second take. Who knows what else she talked people into? Probably the crew poured Everclear down Chris Holmes’ throat, but I think you can rest assured he did everything else on his own….

  13. Zara Potts says:

    Hey Cupcake,

    I like this guide. You spell out exactly what is needed to make a good rock bio interesting. The same rules apply to documentaries – I may not like the band but if the doco is well done then I will watch it and enjoy. Case in point: Some Kind of Monster. I cannot stand Metallica – but I loved the film. It was fascinating to see how the personal politics came into play and how it affected the band. Plus, it gave me a lifelong appreciation for Lars Ulrich’s utter ridiculousness.

    The Dirt was the same. I couldn’t give two shits about Motley Crue, but the bio was more than interesting. It had real moments of poignancy as well as plenty of grossness – which is important in a rock bio. Hammer of the Gods – was the same for me. I’m not huge fan of Led Zep, but the quality of the writing and the story being told allowed me to appreciate the band, if not their music.

    I remember reading Deborah Spungen’s autobiography which naturally focussed on her daughter, Nancy when I was about 15. It really stayed with me. It gave such an interesting and almost unsympathetic look at Nancy and Sid Vicious and it really piqued my interest in this genre of bio. Family written bio’s are always good for a look – even Michael Hutchence’s brother Rhett penned one, and that too has its stand out moments.

    Although they are kind of different – autobiographies can be pretty amazing too. If, of course, the star in question is honest about their own strengths and failings. John Lydon does this particularly well in his own inimitable style, in the same way that The Dirt does. Ultimately, that is why those books are such good reads.

    The Patti Smith bio that many people have talked about on this board is a similar thing. There is insight a-plenty and it captures and holds your attention in a way that a bio written by someone else could never do.

    Nice work, as always, Cupcake.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Pookie-

      I’m so with you on that Metallica documentary. Man, those guys come out of that looking pretty silly. At least Lars does. That scene where he’s hammered on champagne in his suit, watching from behind one way glass while people bid on his art collection was one of the most telling moments in that whole movie for me. Whenever he gives some interview where he says how fierce they are now, I just remember that. I will say though, that it was good to hear him acknowledge that he fucked up with the Napster thing. What a d-bag.

      I’ve never heard of Deborah Spungen’s book. That sounds like a really interesting read. Would you recommend it? What about the John Lydon autobio? That sounds like a good one as well.

      As always, thank you for your thoughtful feedback and gracious comments. And your book tips. You, my dear Pookie, rock!

      • Zara Potts says:

        Dearest Cupcake,

        I won’t hear a bad word said about that silly Lars Ulrich. On watching that film, my boyfriend at the time decided that Lars and I had a lot of similarities – so I will have to defend his utter ludicrousness.
        Ha Ha Ha!!

        Deb Spungen’s book is really good. It is strangely sympathetic to Sid Vicious and even though she believes he did kill her daughter, she has some sympathy (!?!) for him. It’s well worth a read. It’s called “And I Don’t Want to Live this Life.” If you can’t get hold of it, let me know and I’ll send you a spare copy.

        John Lydon’s ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’ is exactly as you would imagine. Full of Lydon-isms but very insightful and funny and sad at the same time. Definitely worth reading.

        Rock on, Cupcake.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Pookie-

          Wait- so you’re the Lars Ulrich of TNB? That’s pretty cool, actually. But I’d say that to be like Lars, you’d have to shrink by a good eight inches.

          I might take you up on the offer of the Spungen book. I’ll let you know for sure and will be happy to return the favor with fun books and jars of creamy American peanut butter. I don’t know why peanut butter, but it seems like a nice gift.

          Did you see “The Filth and the Fury,” documentary about the Pistols? Intense moment where Lydon breaks down and starts crying about Sid. I can’t tell if it’s put on or if it’s sincere, but it sure sounds like he’s really taken the mask off and is showing genuine emotion. Ooh- I can send you that doc if you haven’t seen it!

        • Matt says:

          And smell! Lars, by his own admission, bathes infrequently.

          I loved The Filth and the Fury. Great doc–and, I think, that moment you mention is sincere. Lydon has gotten weepy when talking about Sid elsewhere–I think that, regardless of whatever went down between them during the Sex Pistol’s time in the spotlight, Lydon genuinely loved Sid.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I think he only likened me to Lars because I have a tendency to whine in a thoroughly obnoxious way when I don’t get what I want. I like to think of it as endearing but apparently not…

          If you liked ‘The Filth and The Fury’ then you will love Lydon’s book. It’s clear that he feels genuine remorse about what happened to Sid. That was the defining moment for me in the film – where he breaks down and cries.

          Actually on a side note, John Lydon called a friend of mine a very bad name while he was walking in London just the other day. I was strangely jealous. “Oh,” I thought. “I wish John Lydon had called me a C***.”

          It’s excellent to have ambitions, no?

        • Joe Daly says:

          Actually on a side note, John Lydon called a friend of mine a very bad name while he was walking in London just the other day. I was strangely jealous. “Oh,” I thought. “I wish John Lydon had called me a C***.”

          Some people would love to hear a celebrity leave a birthday greeting on their voicemail or something to that effect. In typical Pookie fashion, you see beyond the mere trappings and really go for it. I will now devote a good part of my life to tracking down John Lydon, passing him the phone, and asking him to drop the C-bomb on you. I’m an ol’ softie like that!!

          Yeah, but when Lars whines, he whines into the pelts of freshly clubbed baby seals and dabs his tears with clothing he stole from sick children’s homes. I can’t be sure of that, but it makes sense with his track record of suing the downloading downtrodden.

  14. Cheryl says:

    On the subject of your post, I have read very few rock bios. In fact, this post made me realize that I’ve read precious few bios of any kind.

    We do have in common, though, an appreciation for “No One Here Gets Out Alive” – I read it in high school and it launched a serious The Doors/Jim Morrison phase that lasted a few years, and resulted in some very bad poetry. I still love The Doors, but I am not as obsessed with The Lizard King as I was back then.

    Some on your list sound fascinating. The Axl Rose bio, for instance, sounds like a page-turner.

    • Gloria says:

      Who wasn’t in love with The Doors in their adolescence? Whoever they are, I don’t want to know them.

      That said, I’ve never read No One Gets Out of Here Alive but I’ll have to add it to my “someday when I have an ounce of free time and the luxury of reading a book” list.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Cheryl-

      The Axl Rose bio is a great read. It really digs deep beyond the simple rock ego and reveals a lot of fascinating stuff in regards to both Axl and the rest of the band.

  15. dwoz says:

    Am I correct in remembering in “Hammer of the Gods”, which I read about 90 years ago, that a very large part of the end of the book was focused on Page’s propensity for pederasty during the period?

    • Joe Daly says:

      DWoz-

      Your memory from 90 years back goes far beyond impressive and straight to eerily accurate. I wouldn’t say a large part of the end was dedicated to Page’s love of all things underage, but yeah, there’s quite a bit about his affairs with the youth of the world. That being said, I read Hammer a mere 5 years ago, and it was updated from the original, so we might have read different editions. Still, sort of disturbing, eh? Certainly more disturbing than his occult fascinations.

  16. Gloria says:

    I did not know that about The Stones and the stabbing death. Fascinating. Creepy and fascinating. I think I may actually enjoy a rock biography. I love biographies in general and have a read up on Brian Wilson and Sid Barrett, but mostly because slow descents into madness are my favorite stories. But it never occurred to me to read up on The Beach Boys or Pink Floyd. Well, not beyond Wikipedia.

    In my senior year of college, I took a Banned Books class (which was really great, by the way.) I mentioned this class to a friend and he got really excited. “Band Books?” he asked. “Will you be reading Hammer of the Gods?” I said no and gave him my book list. We were both confused for a bit while we worked out the hilarious homonym confusion.

    • Gloria says:

      Actually, now that I think about it, I do love a good music documentary. Anything by Ken Burns. And Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns is really, really, really great.

      • Gloria says:

        Really.

      • Gloria says:

        Oh. J.S. Breukelaar below just reminded me that I read Scar Tissue – which is an interesting, hot mess that confirmed for me that Flea is a badass and that’s about it. But that wasn’t really a biography of a band so much as Anthony Kiedis’s biography. There’s a difference between that and what you’re talking about, right?

        • Joe Daly says:

          There’s a difference between that and what you’re talking about, right?

          No, it’s the same thing in my mind. I consider Scar Tissue a rock bio, even though it was mainly about Kiedis and not the rest of the band.

          To be fair, the book reads more like an addiction memoir, but I did find it interesting to hear how the band had to constantly adapt and adjust to the drug abuse within the ranks. The death of Hillel Slovak was just the tipping point for the rotating cast of junkies recording with RHCP over the years, and so it explains how their sound changed and why some albums are shinier than others.

          I liked that he opened up about the mind and soul of the artist and while it’s inevitable that there’s a shitload of bragging and “we were so hardcore!” observations, I liked how he ultimately explained why he does what he does, how he got there, and what worked/didn’t work along the way.

          I wouldn’t gush over the book, but I’d give it a solid B. Good beach read. So you’d disagree?

        • Gloria says:

          I can’t compare Scar Tissue with other band biographies because, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve not read any.

          As to the book itself: I thought that as far as the quality of the writing goes, it wasn’t literature, but that’s not what Kiedis was going for. I found him to be ego-centric and vapid while simultaneously being profound and engaging. Which is a feat. There was far too much chest thumping and dick wagging for my taste and I think all of that posturing detracted from me being able to really, truly access the “real” Anthony Kiedis in the end. That said, the raw honesty and crazy, crazy tale kept me turning pages – all 500-and-something of them. And I’ve gone on to recommend the book to others.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Gloria-

      You can probably find that stabbing on YouTube. It’s thankfully not graphic, but nonetheless, you’re looking at a snuff film, which makes it pretty unsettling. Even more unsettling is watching Mick’s reaction to watching the clip after it happens. His blank expression is profound in it’s shallowness.

      I would be interested in a Banned Band Books class. If you hear of one, let me kno!

  17. Don Mitchell says:

    Scars of Sweet Paradise? I thought that was pretty good.

    • Joe Daly says:

      The Janis Joplin one? I’ve heard it’s a good read. I don’t know a whole lot about her, other than the stuff that most people would already know. Did you read the book because you’re a Janis fan, or were you just interested in the story?

  18. Don Mitchell says:

    I liked her from the sixties.

    As for the book, I knew a Newsweek book reviewer who had a review copy which he gave to me. I don’t think I would have bought it. I thought it was well-done, given that I certainly didn’t know anything about the behind-the-scenes shit of her life.

    It was a sad read, though.

    In the past few years I’ve gotten to know the guy who brought her to SF from Austin and was her manager for a while. He seemed to think the book was OK, although we didn’t sit and go through it together, fact-checking.

    • Gloria says:

      Joplin’s story is real sad. I’ve heard various accounts, seen various documentaries, etc. The decadent 60s, man.

      You know another female singer story that is really sad? Judy Garland. Sweet mother of Jesus, it’s one tragedy after another.

      • Joe Daly says:

        The sense I get about Joplin was that not even her considerable talent could allow her to feel like she deserved the attention she got.

        • Gloria says:

          Ditto for Garland. 🙁

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Joe, I went and got my pre-pub copy of Scars, and leafed through it. It’s really interesting. I think you’d probably get something out of it — it was another time. I’m being reminded of that while I type this and listen to Cheap Thrills.

          It was an amazing mix for her to be in — sex, drugs, booze, Hell’s Angels, Diggers, Bill Graham, Joe MacDonald, Hendrix, music politics, racial politics, sexual politics, national politics . . . .

        • Joe Daly says:

          Don, thanks for digging that up. That sounds much more intense than I would have thought. I forgot about the connection with the HA. I’m putting it on my list and will let you know what I think. Thanks again for the tip and the deets!

  19. Brian Eckert says:

    Smooth-reading, informative piece, Joe. As somebody who does not know much about the genre, I get a good sense of what it’s all about. The only rock bio I have ever read is actually the Anthony Kiedes one that you mention, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. He really did live the life of the rockstar, and like you say, it was very interesting to get the inside perspective about all of the most debauchery behavior.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Brian. I appreciate the read! Yeah, Kiedis has really had a colorful life, hasn’t he? I have to admit, some of the stuff about him doing drugs with his old man at such a young age was a little unsettling. Maybe it was just the matter-of-fact way it all seemed to go down. I’m no RHCP freak by any stretch, but I agree that it was a good read.

  20. pix says:

    dear joe daly:

    i have 2 things to say regarding this article:

    1. i wholeheartedly agree with your estimation that thin lizzy is 4,757,634.2644 times better than U2. it needed to be said. can you let the rest of ireland know?

    2. you use “patois” and only sound 28% snooty. reason #482 why i love your writing.

    as you were.

    • Joe Daly says:

      i wholeheartedly agree with your estimation that thin lizzy is 4,757,634.2644 times better than U2. it needed to be said. can you let the rest of ireland know?

      I think that anyone who says that U2 is their favorite band ever, or that U2 are the best Irish band of all time, has, by their comment, indicated that they have never heard of Thin Lizzy. It’s ok to throw condiments at these people.

      you use “patois” and only sound 28% snooty. reason #482 why i love your writing.

      Wait until I unveil my piece on “The Postmodern Deconstruction of Diminished Ninths and the Hegelian Philosophy of Right as Applied to the San Francisco Thrash Metal Movement.” You’ll find so much snoot you’re going to feel like someone switched your Riesling with Gewurztraminer.

      • I. Fucking. Hate. U2.

        They’re awful. Aside from ‘Elevation.’ That song can stay, but the rest are awful.

        And Bono is a terrible person.

      • pix says:

        so, can i throw condiments at the people who control irish radio? because, in the month that i was there, every third song i heard was a utool song. i was ready to carve my eardrums out with dull-edged victorian serving spoons by the end of it.
        it was to the point where i was saying, “hey, why don’t you guys throw a little van morrison in there?”
        cereally.

        i’m eagerly awaiting your snooty thesis. i’ll find only the most exclusive hookah bar/turkish coffee shop and dress in my finest “deconstructed” skinny jeans, pointy-toed “booties” (ankle boots) and oversized flannel shirt with fedora specifically for the read.

  21. sheree says:

    Excellent post. Thanks for the read.

  22. Great article. So much reading, so little time. What about Mary Wilson’s Dreamgirls: My Life as a Supreme? Not really in the same category as No One Here… but a fun trip anyway. Scar Tissue’s great, though. And what makes a good rockumentary? Metallica: Some Kind of Monster would have to be up there, at least for me.

    • Joe Daly says:

      What about Mary Wilson’s Dreamgirls: My Life as a Supreme?

      Whoa! Never heard of it- good read? Good dirt?

      Have you seen the rock doc called “DiG!” that Rich and I were talking about above? If not, please treat yourself asap to a glorious spectacle. Truly an amazing movie that captures the perils of rock and roll decadence in an entertaining, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Very cool.

      And speaking of “so much reading, so little time…” time to catch up on my beloved TNB reading. I see that you’ve got a new piece up- stoked to read it. Thanks for the comment!

      • Good dirt. Good enough for Hollywood, anyway. Will check out DiG. Thanks!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Wait, what? Why isn’t everyone watching DiG? Seriously, go and watch it right now. Watch it or I will come to your house and make myself at home, and then, when it’s getting really awkward, because, let’s face it, I’m was never invited, but you’re too polite to ask me to leave, I’m going to take this crab salad out of my bag and start eating it, and you’re all going to say ‘Man, that looks so good, can I have some please?’ and I’ll say ‘No, because you didn’t watch DiG, and you should have,’ and you’ll say ‘Aw, man, c’mon, just a taste?’ and I’ll say ‘Look! All gone!’ and that’s what you get for not watching DiG!, because it’s awesome.

          Also: hey Joe! I loved this. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get over and comment; I’m right in the middle of a giant TNB backlog. You would appear to have written the biography of the rock biography.

          For your birthday, I will get you Bieber’s memoirs. I believe one of the chapters is where groupies penetrate him with a fish they caught.

          Sorry, Justin Bieber.

          I’m just jealous of your money, fame, youth, and legions of screaming female fans.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Best. Comment. Ever.

          I guarantee that once word got out that you pulled the pulverizing “Crab Salad Dis Technique,” throngs would be flocking to video stores and Netflix would need to max out its card to get more copies of DiG! You are a man of refined distinction, my pimptastic brother.

          I’m just jealous of your money, fame, youth, and legions of screaming female fans.

          I’m embarrassed to admit that it was only on the second reading of this comment that I realized that this comment was not directed at me.

        • JSBreukelaar says:

          Got it (dIg). About to watch it… btw, Simon, is that real crab or surimi? Because if it’s that fake groupie fish stuff….

  23. Lenore Zion says:

    i love little flying ducks! and i still haven’t forgotten that you don’t appreciate Velvet Underground. just reminding you.

    so, i’ve been watching a bunch of music documentaries lately, and i just watched “Gimmie Shelter.” it blew my mind. i hadn’t seen it before. you should watch it if you haven’t.

    • Joe Daly says:

      i still haven’t forgotten that you don’t appreciate Velvet Underground. just reminding you.

      I’m so glad I don’t owe you money. Wait- I don’t, do I?

      Yeah, loved “Gimme Shelter.” Well, except for the whole guy-getting-stabbed thing. It would have been much cooler if instead of dying, the guy who was stabbed got up and turned into a Terminator, turned his hand into a giant spit, and skewered the biker. Possible pithy retorts:

      “Sorry, but no more sympathy for you, devil!”
      “You forgot to Jump, Jack Flash…”
      “Looks like you’re an exile on Pain Street now!”

      Shit, I’m way too tired to be typing…

      • Lenore Zion says:

        yeah, the stabbing was sad, but the reactions were amazing. it was fascinating, i thought. Jagger is one insecure fella, it seems. also, jefferson airplane’s opening act was awful in that. did you notice? they were terrible.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Yeah, the reactions were unbelievable. I mentioned above in an earlier comment how Jagger’s comment on seeing the stabbing, and his utter lack of emotion or horror, really said more about him than any of his lyrics ever have.

          I did notice the god-awful opener. Ick.

          I have the movie on VHS. That might be one to convert.

  24. Dawn Browning says:

    joe daly. outstanding mixture of words, memories, sentiments, and opinions. not only that, this comment section is fantastic. TNB rocks…as do you. realizing your proclivity for all things rock, might i suggest testing the waters of MY rock….which is whole-heartedly the ms delta blues. now, while it might not withstand most rigorous assessment using your outstanding rubric, b.b. king’s autobiography, “blues all around me” granted me a glimpse of 1950s ms delta from the eyes of a sharecropper with a penchant for music….and there are photos. 🙂 *i* personally enjoyed it. if you happen to read it and not appreciate it, you may at least learn a bit more about (what *i* consider to be) an intriguing (albeit dark) landscape of cultural and musical depth. peace.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks a bunch, Dawn. TNB does indeed rock. Thankfully it’s full of people who enjoy music as much as books, because there are some fun-ass discussions in these articles. Just looking at the people who commented on this piece alone could give you a great reading list with some of their pieces. Very cool little place here!

      I will most definitely look up BB’s autobio. Photos too, you say? Even better. I’m sure I’ll appreciate the hell out of it. My years in Chicago, drifting into North Side blues clubs with some regularity, has given me a great education in that killer cultural stomping ground.

      Thanks again!

  25. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    I came up with a calculation that proved that Thin Lizzy is precisely 4,757,634.2644 times better than U2. Joe, you are so fucking metal every magnet in my apartment is on its way to San Diego right now, just to get into that equation and make it so true its lethal attraction draws every blonde rocker in SoCal to your front door.

    I’ve been meaning to read Scar Tissue forever.

    And I recently went to a tag sale at Pamela Desbarres house, she lives in Venice, and there was nothing worth haggling over. It wasn’t raunchy at all. What a disappointment.

    • Joe Daly says:

      LRC-

      Reading your posts and comments is like visual seratonin to me. Is there any way for you to take what you write and cook it into a liquid that I could shoot between my toes when I get up in the morning? I’d be able to walk down the highway with cars just bouncing off me.

      That sucks about the lack of fun stuff at Pamela’s tag sale. How fun would it be to take home a Jimi Hendrix scarf, along with some juice glasses, for a few bucks?

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        The lisalove is freestyle, JD — it can’t be contained or used. It’s why junkies love to hate to love me… Check out my next post for details on that funk.

        Loved this piece, btw. Your writing always turns my gears. Plus, you enable my musical obsessions.

  26. Every time I read a good rock bio I’m always inspired to trash my apartment: Throw the computer out the window. Break windows. Tip over the fridge. Torch the mattress.

    Hmmm…maybe that’s why I don’t read too many of them anymore. Clean up’s a real bitch.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Rich-

      Thanks for the read. It’s like Dirty Harry spat out so well, “a man’s gotta know his limitations.”

      I love how for some people, trashing an apartment involves throwing clothing and maybe swinging a bat/club through a lamp. You’re lighting up mattresses and tipping over the fridge. Please please please call me the next time you read a good rock bio so I can come up and join the mayhem. It would be an honor to trash a room with you. Even someone else’s so we could just sort of sneak out and not have to worry about the clean up harshing our buzz…

  27. My bedroom at my parents’ house is filled with rock biographies that mostly remain unread. People think, “David loves books and music – therefore, a music biography! Great gift!” Wrong. These things are more often than not badly written and tedious. It’s always the same story: Started up, struggled on, big hit, drugs, drink, drugs, drink, sex, sex, break up, back together…

    Which is great once or twice, but so many of these books I swear are just the same with a different rock star on the cover.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      Haha, get the same sort of thing.

      The only interesting band stories are the more obscure ones, that don’t play out every rock and roll cliche in history.

    • Joe Daly says:

      I hear you, David. You’re right about the rock and roll formula. But that’s pretty much true of any genre to some extent- the ones that fall into the formula tend to bore, and the ones that rise above it are worth the read.

      Your comment made me think about the books I mentioned, most of which involve artists experiencing the same/similar problems. I think what sets a lot of these books apart is that for better or for worse, the artists applied new solutions to unoriginal problems, which makes the outcomes of these stories more interesting to me.

      And when I’m on an airplane, nothing makes time fly by like a few chapters of musicians shooting dope, plotting behind each other’s backs, sleeping with each other’s girlfriends, and hitting pulverizing emotional bottoms in hotel rooms with hookers. Next thing I know, it’s “Turn off all portable electronic devices- we’re preparing to land.”

  28. D.R. Haney says:

    Please Kill Me.

    Court’s adjourned. Turn your juror badges in to the bailiff.

    (Actually, on second thought, Shout! is an even better book. Then again, it’s about the Beatles. Never mind.)

    • Joe Daly says:

      Then again, it’s about the Beatles. Never mind.

      This cracked my shit up. But for the record, I would be very open to reading any good books about Beatlemania.

      And with this third unequivocal vote for Pleae Kill Me, I am officially ordering from Amazon today. Thanks, man!

  29. Gloria says:

    I thought about you this morning, Joe Daly, as I was driving into work and listening to the radio. I don’t listen to the radio much anymore since I got my iPod, but this morning I happened to and I was rewarded with “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” And I thought about your asterisked epilogue note about the progression of your musical loves throughout time, and I was wondering if The Beasties were ever in there, if even for a minute? They are one of those bands that I was always about five years too young to be on the crest of their heyday – and I’ve always sort of lamented that. They are one band I would totally love to see live.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Hah! I haven’t heard that song in ages! Did you dance in your car at all? Come on- be honest!

      I never had a Beasties obsession. For that matter, while I’ve found a lot of rap/hip hop that I like, I’ve never had a time when it was my main listening choice. BUT- I do remember buying License to Ill in college and listening to it pretty regularly. The guitars sound great on that record. I had no idea at the time that they themselves were such good musicians.

      I hope you get a chance to see them- I’m sure you will. I just checked and they’re not touring now, but you know they’ll be out there again. It will make an excellent piece for you here on TNB!

      • Gloria says:

        Being brokeass and a single mom prevents me from seeing almost everyone I want to see. The Flaming Lips are playing up in Seattle at the end of September and I’ll miss them, yet again. Ditto for They Might Be Giants. It took me 20 years to finally see Tori Amos. I mean, I don’t mind seeing The Beasties when they’re in their fifties, but I’m pretty sure “My mom threw away my best porno mag” won’t have the same oomph it might have fifteen years ago.

        And, no. I didn’t dance. I did, however, crank up the radio as loud as it would go without blowing my speakers or causing me discomfort and do the hand tapping a beat in the air/shoulders bouncing thing while half singing/half mumbling the words. I am hardcore.

        • Cheryl says:

          I like the Beastie boys. License to Ill has nostalgia cred (I was 15 when it was released. I still remember a boy in my class brought the album – yes, vinyl – to school to show it off), but the songs that really get my ass moving are “So What’Cha Want”, “Sabotage”, and “Intergalactic Planetary”.

          They played the Austin City Limits music fest here last year, and I couldn’t afford to go.

          But the biggest hip/hop miss on my list – in ’08, Public Enemy headlined the FREE concert at the end of SXSW and I MISSED IT! I was so sick, and decided not to go and I shall be forever kicking myself for that.

          I am not a huge fan of hip/hop, but Public Enemy… that’s like, required listening.

        • Gloria says:

          @Cheryl – This one’s for you.

          Why? Why the hell not. Welcome back to 1993.

          I’m the cream of the crop, I rise to the top
          I never eat a pig cause a pig is a cop
          Or better yet a terminator
          Like Arnold Schwarzenegger

        • Joe Daly says:

          Public Enemy is probably my fave hip hop act of all time. As Cheryl said- required listening. I love that they have way more of a soul groove than the hip hop I hear being released now. More blues, more soul, and more substance.

          And this remix still gets me fired up.

        • Dana says:

          I came to get down!

          I don’t know how I lived through the decade without ever seeing the Jump Around video. I heard the song often enough, but I swear I never saw the vid! Fun! (And really hard for me to listen to this at the office and not bounce out of my chair.)

          Also, if I see one more book recommendation on this flippin site I’m gonna have to break down and get a Kindle. I’m up to about 100 on my “must read” recommends from people here.

          Stop talking about BOOKS! 😉

        • Joe Daly says:

          Thank God someone finally had the courage to call people out for all this talk about books. Hey TNB- if you love books so much, why don’t you make a book club! Then marry it!

        • Gloria says:

          You should start a Banned Band Books Book Club, Joe Daly.

  30. Marni Grossman says:

    Yes! Pictures! I hate reading a biography without photographic aids.

    Have you read the Sheila Weller book, “Girls Like Us”? While not exactly a rock ‘n’ roll bio- I suppose it all depends on how you define the term- it’s a fascinating read. A triple biography of Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon, it’s also a look at a generation of women. Plus, you get to read about all the fucking James Taylor did.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Marni, it’s a delicate torture indeed to invest your time reading a biography (music or otherwise) and not getting to see pictures of the subject along the way. Plus so many bios discuss peripheral characters at great length, only to reserve the photo section for the main subject(s). Maddening!

      Never heard of “Girls Like Us.” What a trip! I love how James Taylor, the lovable, golden throated folk icon, has left miles and miles of junkie damage and sexcapades in his wake. Do they savage him or are they more kind? It’s got the makings of a great movie!

  31. I know more about rock and roll after reading your post than I’ve learned in my other 39 years total. I’ve been waaaaay behind in the popular music knowledge arena for many years so I send a big thank you for catching me up so quickly! I now feel I can go quip at parties about events I have no clue about but have quotes to support, thus raising my popularity exponentially! Thanks, Joe! 😉

    • Joe Daly says:

      Colleen,

      So glad to hear you were able to take away a few practical nuggets from the piece. I was worried that the initial draft was a bit dry, so a friend suggested shoveling a bit more dirt on top. Now I’m happy I did! As far as cocktail party knowledge goes, I figure that as long as you drop the title Hammer of the Gods, no one’s going to trump you. If they try, you’ve always got the mudshark story. 🙂

      Thanks for the read and the comments!

    • dwoz says:

      In my own very limited experience, the rock world has NOTHING on the kinds of debauched histrionics that go on in the world of the opera.

      It’s just a little more erudite, but no less gritty.

      • Joe Daly says:

        Yeah, with all those clown costumes and food fetishes, there’s nothing scarier than an opera star on a rampage. I wonder if Pavoratti ever fished out of his window at the Edgewater.

  32. JM Blaine says:

    Read em all & loved most.
    Big mark for the rock bio.

    The Dirt did it for me.
    Love that Strauss fellow
    & figured out why reading
    Emergency –

    Ecclesiastes always been a big influence
    on me – Neil’s epilogues always
    put an Ecclesiastical spin on the whole tale.
    Even the pick-up artist book.

    • Joe Daly says:

      JM-

      I haven’t read Emergency, but it sounds interesting. It’s funny but when I heard about it, the subject immediately struck a chord, as I too have two passports, and there was a time when I really believed that I’d have to call upon my second one in the event that I needed to get the hell out of Dodge asap- usually under cover of darkness or threat of Massive Shit Going Down on the Homefront.

      The pick up artist book was interesting, to say the least. The insight that he gives that culture was fascinating. But I’ve always felt that you attract the right people by clearing away your shit and figuring out who you are instead of trying to assume the behaviors and/or identity of a new character. Still, it seems to work for him.

      Anyway, no surprises that you’ve been through most of these bios. Like you, The Dirt was a fave for me as well- no hiding the ball there- you want it, you got it!

      Thanks again and have a great weekend!

  33. Tawni says:

    I was given the Pamela DesBarres book by a friend, and never would have read anything about being a groupie otherwise. I was often asked by a door guy, “Are you with the band?” as I carried my own guitar gear into clubs, and it always pissed me off. (Yes, not only am I some pathetic star-fucker, I also carry their heavy shit for them. Puh-lease.) So like yourself, I was surprised that I genuinely enjoyed her book.

    Well written piece, as usual, Joe. And thanks for cool reading recommendations. (:

    • Joe Daly says:

      I was often asked by a door guy, “Are you with the band?” as I carried my own guitar gear into clubs, and it always pissed me off. (Yes, not only am I some pathetic star-fucker, I also carry their heavy shit for them. Puh-lease.)

      Ouch! What a drag. I hope you convinced some of these door guys to not only re-examine their attitudes, but to carry some of your stuff as well!

      They guy who gave me Pamela’s book was sort of a serial womanizer and managed a lot of national touring acts. Needless to say, I was surprised not just by the recommendation, but by the source. You and I are lucky that we were able to set aside our prejudices and enjoy what a good read it is.

      Thanks for the read, rock on, and have a great weekend!

  34. Burt Lo says:

    Joe, long (well… medium?) time reader, first time poster…

    Hey, I remembered this post of yours along with an earlier one where you told of not getting into Rush. Last night, from a friend’s insistence, I watched the recent DVD biography on them, “Beyond The Lighted Stage”.

    Wow, what a beautiful story. While not trying to convert you (I haven’t been a True Believer myself over the years), I thought you might enjoy an honest story of a hard working rock band. It’s inspired me to re-listen to some of their releases that I didn’t enjoy, but now have a more “personal” context to apply them to. Fun stuff.

    FWIW.

    p.s. As far as bios, I’ve only read a few, but “Dark Star” (Jerry Garcia) was fun to catch up on stuff from before my couple-dozen shows, and I’ve got “Moon” on tap.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Burt! Great to hear from you. I saw that “Beyond the Lighted Stage” has been on one of the cable channels lately but I haven’t thought to check it out. So you’re giving it your recommendation? Even though I’m not much of a Rush fan, I do like a good story. I’ve actually read a number of great articles on the band and find it pretty interesting, so maybe I’d like that special. On your sage recommendation, I’ll set my DVR for the next viewing.

      I read one Keith Moon bio, a number of years back. It was a great read, but such a sad story. Let me know how you like your next couple reads.

      • Burt Lo says:

        Watching that story made me realize how often bands represent serendipity (hardly a rock-and-roll term), such rare instances when talents and egos can make amazing music. While I don’t know an awful lot of band stories, Rush’s really moved me with the humanity and friendship of the members. It gives evidence to them staying together which (of course) isn’t _always_ a good thing, but when you put that together with their individual commitment/passion/love of making music, Rush promises to offer some fearless adventures in music.

        I’ll let you know about those future bios, but unfortunately those are waaay down my queue at the moment.

  35. […] kick-ass rock biographies, […]

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  37. […] summer I gushed over the unbridled majesty of a well-written music biography. The purpose of the essay was to highlight the elements of a compelling rock biography and to point […]

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