Until his fateful first post at TNB, I had never heard of Steve Almond.This is embarrassing, and probably inexcusable, given that a) he’s well-known in fiction writing circles, circles which I like to pretend include me, b) by then, he’d already submitted a self-interview (easily one of the stronger entries in that particular archive), and c) I was, not two minutes before clicking on “Five More Bands For Joe Daly to Hate,” in the middle of reading an article on self-publishing he wrote for Poets & Writers.

In my case, clearly, rock is not something I need to save me; it’s something I need to stop living under.

As for the shitstorm that the post stirred up, I held with the majority opinion: I didn’t like the way he handled Joe Daly—one of the nicest, most supportive, and thoughtful guys in cyberspace—in the piece.I was even moved, as a freshly-minted senior editor, to weigh in about kindness and etiquette (call it my Emily Post).

But when the dust settled (or the shit, to extend the metaphor), two incontrovertible facts remained: Steve Almond is a really fucking good writer, from whom I have much to learn.And aside from my personal feelings about Gentleman Joe, “Five Bands” is an outstanding piece.Had Almond picked another target for his revulsion, someone we don’t like—Glenn Beck, say, or Ann Coulter, or some self-important hack like Nicholas Sparks—TNB Nation would have greeted him like a conquering hero.Alas.

Because Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, Almond’s music memoir, is a fantastic and fun read.It belongs less with Chuck Klosterman in the Hip Books About Music section than it does with Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis and Nick Hornby’s Songbook on the vaunted Books That Are So Much Effortless Fun to Read They Almost Don’t Count As Reading shelf.

Almond reminds me of Bill Simmons, ESPN’s “Sports Guy”—far and away my favorite writer, if “favorite” can be quantified using the metric “writer whose writing I have read the most of with respect to wordcount”—in that he takes a broad, well-plumbed topic and analyzes it in endlessly funny and brilliantly insightful ways.

I gobbled the book up in record time (no pun intended), incurring the wrath of my wife, who was (rightly) angry with me for neglecting the kids all weekend.I laughed a lot.I nodded even more.And at the end of the book, I even teared up.

I don’t want to give too much away here, but here are eight surprising things I learned from the book:


1. Rock And Roll Will Save Your Life is not about how rock and roll will save your life.

Based on the title—which derives from a promotional poster Almond made for one of the artists he swooned over, Boris McCutcheon—I expected a Spinal Tappish manifesto on the Rapture that is Rock, as well as a cranked-to-eleven fuck you to all other musical genres (“It’s gotta be rock and roll music / If you wanna dance with me”).In fact, his tastes are more catholic.He doesn’t much care for punk (another surprise) or rockabilly, but he digs on almost everything else.  As a guy who’s been listening to a lot of Ke$ha lately, this made me happy.


2. Almond is not a Music Snob.

Most of this book is optimistic and positive, which is saying something when the man who wrote it, based on what we learn of him here, does not exactly radiate either quality.The rare barbs are reserved for those artists—Dave Mathews, The Spin Doctors—who are well-acquainted with the pillory.To the contrary, Almond is a Liker—a “Drooling Fanatic,” in his words—and is more concerned with falling in love with music than thumbing his nose at those of us who are under the impression that Bob Schneider is the guy in the B-52’s.As he puts it, “There’s no arguing with joy.”


3. Weird Al has groupies.And has found comfort in their gentle affections.

Eat it.Just eat it.Yeah.


4. There’s no subversive agenda to make you swear off Band X in favor of Band Y.

Frank Zappa once said that “most rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.”I’ll add to that: most music writing is submitted with a missionary’s ardor.The author tends to be a zealot who wants you to find the Road to Damascus at a Pavement show.For example, Tim Riley’s Tell Me Why: The Beatles, Album by Album, Song by Song, The Sixties and After is an excellent book, but he clearly has an axe to grind (in his case, against Paul’s moppish head), and he can’t resist foisting his dogma on us.While Almond clearly loves the acts he discusses here—Dayna Kurtz and Ike Reilly, Joe Henry and Chuck Prophet—he’s writing about his experiences with them, rather than the usual You Must Listen To This Until You Love It thing that I was expecting.  He explores his own emotional responses to the music, and knows better than to suggest that anyone else would respond in the same way.


5. Almond doesn’t like Pavement.

He prefers Los Lobos.  Coupled with his stance that Dave Grohl is a more talented musician than Kurt Cobain, this should cement #2 on this list.


6. Almond’s wife has a thing for Kip Winger.

Not quite as surprising as the fact that the reverse may also be true.The Kip Winger interlude is one of the funniest segments in a very funny book, but my favorite part of RARWSYL is “Reluctant Exegesis: ‘Fade to Black’,” in which he discusses what that Metallica ballad—which he dislikes—meant to his wife, a recovering hair-metal Drooling Fanatic.


7. Sasha Frere-Jones, the music writer at The New Yorker, is a man.

This whole time, I’ve pictured a twentysomething black woman with really awesome dreadlocks.


8. Almond doesn’t like Air Supply.

Okay, maybe this is not that much of a shocker.In one of the interludes, he analyzes the lyrics to “All Out of Love,” which prove, upon closer inspection—heck, upon even cursory inspection—absolute doggerel (on the other hand, he’d find absolute brilliance if he chose “Making Love Out of Nothing At All,” Jim Steinman’s masterpiece, but that’s neither here nor there).But he does understand the appeal.Listening to “All Out of Love,” he says, for him is like


…a zombie in mascara wants to bite my neck, a slow clumsy zombie but one with terrific stamina, as is so often the case with zombies, meaning eventually I have to sleep, or I trip over something I wouldn’t usually trip over, and the zombie gets close enough to chomp through my skin, and when that happens I don’t die, but the part of my brain that regards language as an instrument of truth dies, the part that does the honest work of investigating romantic ruin, the hows and whys of the emotional harm we do one another, and instead of feeling nauseated by “All Out of Love” I get choked up and try to sing along, which is when my friends realize what’s happened and put a bullet in my brain.

The irony here is, for all the songs mentioned in RARWSYL, for all the tunes I’ve listened to the last two days—including every entry on Almond’s Bitchin’ Soundtrack—the song that’s been in my head all fucking weekend is, you guessed it, “All Out of Love.”

But then, I like Air Supply.  There’s no arguing with joy.


7. Sasha Frere-Jones, the music writer at The New Yorker, is a man.

This whole time, I’ve pictured a twentysomething black woman with really awesome dreadlocks.


8. Almond doesn’t like Air Supply.

Okay, maybe this is not that much of a shocker.In one of the interludes, he analyzes the lyrics to “All Out of Love,” which prove, upon closer inspection—heck, upon even cursory inspection—absolute doggerel (on the other hand, he’d find absolute brilliance if he chose “Making Love Out of Nothing At All,” Jim Steinman’s masterpiece, but that’s neither here nor there).But he does understand the appeal.Listening to “All Out of Love,” he says, for him is like


…a zombie in mascara wants to bite my neck, a slow clumsy zombie but one with terrific stamina, as is so often the case with zombies, meaning eventually I have to sleep, or I trip over something I wouldn’t usually trip over, and the zombie gets close enough to chomp through my skin, and when that happens I don’t die, but the part of my brain that regards language as an instrument of truth dies, the part that does the honest work of investigating romantic ruin, the hows and whys of the emotional harm we do one another, and instead of feeling nauseated by “All Out of Love” I get choked up and try to sing along, which is when my friends realize what’s happened and put a bullet in my brain.

The irony here is, for all the songs mentioned in RARWSYL, for all the tunes I’ve listened to the last two days—including every entry on Almond’s Bitchin’ Soundtrack—the song that’s been in my head all fucking weekend is, you guessed it, “All Out of Love.”

But then, I like Air Supply.  There’s no arguing with joy.


GREG OLEAR is the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker and founding editor of The Weeklings.

83 responses to “No Arguing With (Almond) Joy”

  1. Erika Rae says:

    Brave one, Greggie. Brave one.

    I mean truly. Admitting you like Air Supply? ( ;

    Now about that headline on the font of Playgirl: Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know about the Male Ego. Did they, like, actually dedicate an entire page to that?

  2. dwoz says:

    I’ve played on the same stage as Air Supply, opening one of their shows here in the northeast.

    They’re very nice people.

    Great, consummately professional backup band.

    They OWNED the television variety show circuit back in the day, which is probably everything you need to know to make your own decision about how they relate to your own life.

    • Greg Olear says:

      You opened for Air Supply? More, please.

      • Jessica Blau says:

        Okay, I totally get why anyone would mock Air Supply. But for anyone who loves to sing along–you know, sing in the car, sing in the shower, just plain sing–there’s nothing better than belting it out to Air Supply. I bet every person who admits to liking Air Supply is also someone who really likes to sing.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Well, I do love to sing.

          And “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” is the first song I Napstered, the first song I bought on iTunes, and one of my favorite songs of all time. Although I really wish someone cooler than Air Supply’d record it.

  3. Matt says:

    I read Almond’s short story “The Evil B.B. Chow” in an issue of Zoetrope: All-Story in 2001, and after I moved to New Orleans happened to meet him (I was one of maybe five people, not including the staff) at a reading he did for his first book, My Life In Heavy Metal, which still sits on my shelf. I’ve followed – and highly enjoyed – his work since then, and interacted with him a bit elsewhere, not to mention giving Simon a copy of one of his other books last year.

    My problem with his “Five More Bands Fo Joe Daly To Hate” post was that it was for all purpose and effect a commercial for Rock and Roll… and nothing more. The bottom half of it was lifted, almost verbatim, from the book. It was slagging off Joe for the sake of promotion and that didn’t sit well with me one bit.

    Doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it, or that I think less of Steve’s work for it (he was a cool dude in person). I just thought it was crass, and a little ill-mannered; at the very least, if you’re going to do something like that here, you should engage in the conversation on the boards that follows.

    He’s right about Ike Reilly, though; I checked the guy’s music out, dug it, and am having a blast chasing down a copy of his now out-of-print first album.

  4. Art Edwards says:

    Indeed there is no arguing with joy, Mr. Olear, which is what I felt while reading your cogent take on Almond’s book. Your points about this not being a typical book about rock and roll are especially sound. In RARWSYL, Almond gives his love for music the same time and consideration he would give his love for anything.

    Ron Carlson’s advice to writers is, among other things: “Write only what you love.” As writers with rock and roll in our hearts, we should be mining it for all it’s worth, as so many do here at TNB.

    Thanks for the nice reminder of a great reading–and reviewing–experience for me from earlier in the year.


  5. You’ve been listening to a lot of Ke$ha? Voluntarily? I’m subjected to it because she appeals to nine year olds even though Ke$ha brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack.

    Terrific review. This makes me want to bump it up higher on my reading list (it’s rather long at the moment; I’m behind on all manner of reading/viewing/listening). Especially the bit about his wife being a recovering hair-metal fanatic, heh.

    • Greg Olear says:

      It’s great pop music. I feel like this is an era of really great pop music. And Ke$ha is really funny.

      Her appeal extends to four-year-olds. My daughter was dancing around the other day, wearing nothing but a faux-rabbit-skin scarf, singing “Your Love Is My Drug” (or your DRUM, as she understands it). I was both highly amused and horrified.

  6. jmblaine says:

    I hadn’t ever heard of the guy either
    but I’m always down for books about
    the joys of Faster Pussycat
    so I checked out his book
    (literally, like, from the library)
    & loved it
    & then read CandyFreak and that other
    one about having a kid
    & thought they were all great.
    He’s a sharp writer and sneaky
    like you think you are reading about
    Three Musketeer bars and really it’s
    about longing and loss & all that life stuff.

  7. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I’ll have to forward this to a couple of friends who are music fans and would especially appreciate the book. And I’ll mention it to my partner who, regardless of his day job, is a musician, at heart and earned by his degrees.

    That bit about emotional connections got my attention. I visited friends this summer, both of whom I was friends with apart from each other, before they met and got married. That is to say, I have distinct bonds with each one. Try as he might, my friend J. has never been able to convince his wife K. of the awesomeness that is Rush. (With all due respect to Mr. Daly, for whom he is not an audience.) So one night, J. and I sat in his office listening to EXIT STAGE LEFT, on vinyl, as K. and their child played on the floor. He decided we should list our top 10 favorite Rush songs, then go downstairs to watch the recent Rush documentary. Poor K could only roll her eyes at our dorkiness, respectful of yet excluded from our shared adoration for the band and our own independent bond.

    Sigh. Mr. Almond’s latest will go on my to-read list.

    P.S. The Playgirl’s “Those Sensuous Southern Men.” Huh????

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Ronlyn.

      I had no idea you liked Rush!

      1. Spirit of Radio
      2. Distant Early Warning
      3. Subdivisions (even though it’s a “sell-out” song)
      4. 2112
      5. The Enemy Within
      6. Red Barchetta
      7. Limelight
      8. La Villa Strangiata
      9. The Trees


      10. Their cover of “Take Off,” from the Hosehead Rick Moranis thing

      People love ’em or hate ’em. There’s no middle ground, really.

      And the Playgirl cover is a riot. All of it.

      • Ronlyn Domingue says:

        LOVE Rush. I still wear my original Power Windows tour T-shirt. I could write a major cheesy essay about them. The band is sort of responsible for connecting me with the man I’ve lived with all these years.

        I’ll have to e-mail J. for my top ten list, which he scribbled down in a notebook for posterity. As I recall, my list included Witch Hunt, La Villa Strangiata (live version), Broon’s Bane (I do count that as a separate song), and Natural Science.

        I forgot about “Take Off!”

        Did you see the movie I LOVE YOU, MAN? I wouldn’t have, except J. said that I should because there’s a certain famous band in it….

        • Greg Olear says:

          I LOVE YOU, MAN is brill.

          I only added “Take Off” as a Rush dork joke.

          Post your list when you get it! Steph loves Rush, too. Her old man did a kick-ass cover of “Red Barchetta.”

  8. Zara Potts says:

    I watched ‘Animal Kingdom’ in the weekend and one of the soundtrack songs was ‘All Out of Love’ -it is one catchy motherfucker. It hasn’t released my brain since Saturday. It’s now Tuesday and I’m still humming it.

    I don’t think Air Supply is half as shameful as the Little River Band. If you had ‘fessed up to a closet liking of them, well, that would be horrendous.

    I’m glad you have written this piece, Greg. It was a pity that Steve Almond got off on the wrong foot here at TNB. Maybe this piece will help heal the wounds. (Now doesn’t that sound like a great ‘Air Supply’ song title?)

    • Greg Olear says:

      I’m on the record as liking Billy Joel, Coldplay, and now Air Supply. It doesn’t get much more shameful, I don’t think.

      And yes, it does sound like an Air Supply song! Ha!

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Well, it’s used a bit ironically in Animal Kingdom, don’t you think, Zara? But that’s certainly, for me, the best moment in the film. It’s really chilling.

        But whose wounds do you think need healing?

        • Zara Potts says:

          It is used well in the movie.. it’s a good flick that one.

          As for wounds – well, any wounds really. We should always try to apply salve when it’s needed I think…

        • Greg Olear says:

          Todd Solondz uses one of the songs — “Here I Am,” I think — in “Happiness,” one of the most uncomfortable dating scenes in all of cinema (and one of my favorite movies of all time).

    • Dana says:

      Heh. Air Supply and Little River Band – I’m always getting them confused.

  9. Ben Loory says:

    personally, i like nicholas sparks. what a great name! it makes me think of santa claus on fire.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Isn’t that a song by Kings of Loen?

      • Ben Loory says:

        is this a joke about a village in the municipality of stryn, in sogn og fjordane county, norway? cuz i’d be as likely to get that as i would a joke about kings of leon. i did however find my patsy cline cd.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Santa Claus on fire. Ha!

          Friends of mine who lived in Japan told me how one Christmas they walked past a department store window and in the display they had a jolly big Santa Claus nailed to a cross. Lost in translation, I guess.

        • Ben Loory says:

          i’ve always equated santa claus with god (heavyset, bearded, associated with the sky), but jesus is a bit of a stretch. though i guess with rudolph’s nose i could see a stigmata connection. and yeah, i guess there is the color red.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Lost in translation? It sounds pretty avant to me.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Ben – Ha! Now I won’t go back and fix my typo, as I normally would, for fear of offending the Norse. Or Patsy Cline.

          Z – Really? That’s the sort of thing that would make the Religious Right go apeshit in this country.

  10. Judy Prince says:

    I might take out a subscription to Playgirl, Greg, I’ve always been a fan of subtlety and a drooling slave to male egos. If only the magazine would feature Weird Al…… with subtly placed accordion (sighs).

  11. D.R. Haney says:

    This is a review I read on GoodReads some time ago. It caught my eye then, for some reason; now I suppose I’ll have to reconsider:

    “Here is a letter I recently sent to the publisher of a book called ‘Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life’:

    Hi, I just finished reading your book ‘Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life’ and I’d like to review it for my blog: Rockism101. Before I write my review, I’d like to share some of my thoughts about your book with you and give you a chance to comment on these thoughts.

    For the first 100 plus pages or so, I had a hard time trying to figure out what the point of this book was. Maybe I was confused by the title, which is very misleading. In fact, until you explained where you got the title from—a Boris McClutheon show you put on—I was wondering/expecting whether this book was some kind of hipster parody of a self-help book like ‘I’m Ok, you’re Ok’ or ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ Maybe it should have dawned on me earlier, but this book was about you, Steve Almond, not about ‘you’ the reader who wants to have his life saved by rock and roll. I understand that writers have to conjure up intriguing titles to draw the prospective reader’s attention, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit cynical and that this title choice might have been a slick trick on your part. This slick trick though, ties in well with what I think the real theme of your book is. You aren’t a famous celebrity—and you address this in the book—so why would anyone want to read a book that is essentially a lengthy memoir of one aspect of your personal development as it relates to rock and roll? Maybe there are some fans out there who have read your stuff before or who know of you, but that is small fries, I image. You certainly aren’t a Chuck Klusterfuck, I mean. So the title of this book revealed to me that you think that rock and roll can save your life.

    So rock and roll is the vehicle through which you have chosen to gain a larger audience—and gaining a larger audience (gaining celebrity if you will) will make you happy and in the end save your life. Throughout the book then there are a series of musicians who you have come to worship: Nil Lara, Joe Henry, Ike Reilly, Boris Mccutcheon, Bob Schneider, Chuck Prophet, the Strawze. But none of these artists made it big, either because they wouldn’t or couldn’t compromise. Their commercial failure seemed to make them appear lesser and unhappy beings (from your perspective) and the lessons you gleaned from them was that being a creative genius (something that you admittedly aren’t) wasn’t all it is cracked up to be. In the end in fact, it is Dave Grohl, a commercial pop hack (in my opinion), who is your role model. Grohl is the best example of someone who is happy and famous at the same time. And somehow that inspires you to conclude that you might be able to be perfectly happy being a ‘midlist toiler.’ But honestly, after all that has come before that, I find that epiphany a bit hard to swallow. The more believable point of your book seems to be that if you (and by you I mean Steve Almond) want to be happy, you have to be successful. And to be successful (since you aren’t a creative genius) you have to be a commercial pop hack—which is why you have written this book.

    Not that there is any shame in that, for being a commericial pop hack isn’t easy—it takes hard work, a little luck, etc. Still though it seems a million times easier than doing the heavy lifting, soul searching and hard living it takes to become a tortured creative genius. Which is why, in the end, you will still be a Drooling Fanatic.

    With that said, I’d like to throw you a compliment. While reading your book I was also reading another book called Bandalism by Julian Ridgway. This book was incredibly terrible. In fact after about a half dozen pages I decided to just skip around and I skim through it hoping to find at least one nugget of something that seemed the least bit entertaining or interesting. And I found nothing. This poor sap Ridgway doesn’t even have the skills/ability to be a commerical pop hack. I have no idea what kind of moron would want to buy this book (I get all of my books for free through my library by the way) so I’m not even going to make an attempt to describe how terrible this book was (mainly I just want to forget about it). Maybe you can pick it up for yourself if you are truly curious. But my point is that even being a commercial Pop Hack takes some talent. And there were definitely parts of your book that were very good. Early in the book you described how listening to the Cars’ ‘Moving In Stereo’ on a Walkman transformed the people around you, making them appear deeper, etc. I thought that was a great insight/description. I read a book or two a week, and I have a low threshold for mediocre writing, and it was little gems like that which were enough to keep my interest. One of my favorite sections from the first part of your book was when you described the listening process, from vinyl to 8-tracks to cassettes to cds and to digital files. This one section convinced me that you were worth continued reading. There were times that I would skip a paragraph or two, or even a page or two, but overall I ended up reading about 98% of the book. The end of the book (beginning with the chapter about Ike Reilly) was a lot better than the start of the book. I think you have a real talent for capturing the interesting lives of the musicians you covered.

    To end with, I want to nitpick one minor thing that really irks me, and that is when people include hip hop as part of rock. If you are going to include hip hop in your narrative, then you are talking about Pop music—not rock. Rock has a history, an evolution, an ethos, etc that is an entirely different animal than hip hop. Talking of rock and talking of hip hop as if they are of the same ilk is likely to not only piss off Rock fans, but piss off hip hop fans as well. And again, it makes the title of your book appear disingenuous. If you need to include hip hop in your story, then maybe a better title would have been ‘Commerical Pop Will Save My Life.’

    I hope to hear from you soon.”

    • Greg Olear says:

      That’s pretty good. I’m not entirely convinced Almond didn’t write that himself.

      The title is the worst part of the book, for sure. It’s limiting, and doesn’t capture what the book is really about. My guess is, the marketing people got to him and said, “The Rock Crowd will love that title!” not realizing that “The Rock Crowd” is not really the audience for the book.

      I thought of you quite a bit while reading the book, Duke. I think you’ll like it — your emotional attitude toward art is one he shares, at least here. Part of what makes it so good.

  12. Gloria says:

    Yep. Joe Daly is a top-shelf dude.

    The first two paragraphs of this piece are golden. You, sir, can be really tremendously funny.

  13. Tawni says:

    This made me giggle all the way through. I will second Gloria’s assertion that you are tremendously funny (and that Joe Daly is top-shelf).

    Bill Simmons is excellent. My husband introduced me to him because he was always laughing as he read Bill’s writing, and I had to know what was causing this reaction. We also called our toddler son “Destructo” for some time, in reference to a guest column Bill’s wife wrote.

    I completely agree that Dave Grohl is the more talented musician. And what a catalog; I think a Foo Fighters song comes up on my iPod shuffle every three. I do wish Kurt would have stuck around to give him a run for his money, or to collaborate with him more, though, damn it. Wouldn’t that have been cool?

    Ke$ha = $hit $andwich.

    Almond’s description of the effect of Air Supply was very accurate for me. No waves of nostalgia wash over me when I hear their music, only waves of annoyance. I’m all out of tolerance. Sorry, friend. (:

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Tawni.

      One of my favorite all-time Simmons lines is when someone asked about Brad and Angelina — this was when Maddox was the only kid, I think, and they were jetsetting around the globe all the time — and he said he thought Brad was under the impression they were still shooting Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Ha!

      I understand your anti-Air Supply stance. I’m very blah on Dave Grohl. To me, he’s sort of generic. That FF do that Supertramp cover seems perfect, because they are the evolutionary Supertramp, if Supertramp’s lead singer was once the drummer of, say, Cream.

      Re: your Ke$sha comment. “They cahn’t print thaht.”

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Oh no! I did not know this!

        I don’t know what to do with this information.

        Except to encourage you to attend a Foo Fighters concert.

        That’s all I can do.

        • Greg Olear says:

          What’s the best FF song?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I could never pick just one, Greg.

          He writes surprisingly pretty love songs/ballads/etc., which probably helps my opinion of him. “February Stars” is especially nice.

          I’m a fan of the classics, like “Everlong,” and “Hero,” but “Best of You” is also a favorite, as is “The Pretender,” “DOA,” “The Deepest Blues Are Black,” “In Your Honor”…that whole double CD is pretty good.

          It’s no use, I’ll just end up listing their whole repertoire. Or most of it.

          I haven’t explored their newest album too much, but Palani’s a big fan.

          Grohl’s biggest selling point–what puts him into venerable status for me–is his live show. I have never seen a better live show in my life. That’s not an exaggeration. The man loves his job, is willing to turn himself inside out for a crowd, and it’s totally infectious.

  14. Richard Cox says:

    I’m of the opinion that songs that get lodged into your head aren’t necessarily good songs. It might prove good for sales, but whatever that mechanism is, I find it extremely annoying. Another song of Steinman’s that does this to me is “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” In fact I was reluctant to even mention that song because if I think about it for more than a few seconds I’ll be hearing it all day. It’s fascinating that a certain songwriter has identified or perhaps stumbled over this bit of brain magic, but still that’s different from what I consider a good song. Most of my favorite music, it doesn’t annoyingly circle my head like a mosquito the way certain Steinman songs do.

    I recently grabbed a science fiction short story collection from my shelf, a birthday gift from a few years ago I never read, and noticed there was a piece by Almond in there. I read it, and it was funny and well-written. For whatever reason I feel no desire to read Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, but he is a very talented writer.

    My favorite memory of Air Supply is the SNL skit where they’re singing to each other and then finally give up the ruse and passionately make out in front of the camera. That makes me laugh.

    Nice post as always, Greg. F(p)unny title.

  15. Becky Palapala says:

    I automatically approve of anyone who approves of Dave Grohl.

    There is something cynical and wrong and bitter about disliking Dave Grohl.

    What’s not to like, for godssake?

    • Greg Olear says:

      He seems like a stand-up guy — Steve Almond sure thinks so — but I’ve found his stuff to be sort of generic. But maybe I just haven’t listened to the right songs. In any case, I doubt it’s up there with “Lithium” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

      • Becky Palapala says:

        “Up there” how?

        Like, I think it’s a bit of a tall order to expect it to be seminal or groundbreaking in the way that those songs were. Let’s not forget he was in that band. I mean, he didn’t really have an opportunity–or need–to compete with that sound. He was part of it.

        And it would have been career suicide for him to have tried to replicate that sound/zeitgeist/whatever after Cobain’s passing.

        So he did his own thing. And his own thing is tight, competent rock music with alot of fun melodicism and a surprising array of experimentation, which may just not be as apparent because it’s pretty seamlessly pulled off. It’s true that he’s a big classic rock fan, and I’m sure that contributes to the tried-and-true sound you detect.

        But he has the grateful/joyful attitude a rock musician of his fame and wealth (and age, now) should have (or that most peons would say one should have) but that few are humble or pleasant enough to muster.

        While he may lack Cobain’s brooding, spacey, artist stereotype passion and therefore his ready-made iconoclasm, Grohl would appear to be a technically superior musician and certainly a less tedious human being.


        The End.

        • Greg Olear says:

          That’s Almond’s argument, too.

          I’m not the world’s biggest Nirvana fan, either. In retrospect, my favorite of the popular “grunge” songs is “Everything Zen,” by Bush.

          But it’s all here nor there. There’s no arguing about joy. Or taste.

          Seriously — give me a list of your fave FF songs. I’m not down wit their oeuvre.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Ah! Well. Great minds, as they say.

          I’ve given a brief list above, but I really do like just about everything they’ve got out there. Some songs are better or more interesting than others, but my appreciation for the type of person/artist Grohl appears to be is so overwhelming, I think I’d like just about anything he did.

          No matter what he does, he just SO fuckin’ means it.

          I could make you a CD for Christmas! 🙂

        • Greg Olear says:

          CD for Xmas. Sold! Thanks!

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’ll try to get a good chunk of that double CD on there. It, like the title track (“In Your Honor”), was designed and written for live performance. Even if it doesn’t have all their best songs on it, it’s probably the best indicator of what’s so great about Dave Grohl.

          As far as I can tell, the whole thing is a love letter to fans–concert attendees–and by extension, rock-n-roll itself. It ends up being really insightful, really genuine (not to mention way more sophisticated than anything a “pop hack” would attempt), when hung on that framework. Part of his appeal, I think, is that he’s still such a fan of music himself, and he hasn’t lost sight of that. I mean, the guy wept openly in front of all of Wembley Stadium because he got to play with Jimmy Page. Who doesn’t get that?

        • Dana says:

          Becky – make sure you put on some of the covers. Baker Street might just get Greg on board!

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Between the straight-up Foo Fighters discography and Grohl’s cover projects/collaborations, the Grohl song catalog is absolutely staggering in depth and breadth.

          Greg may get 5 CDs for all I know.

          Depends how much I can stand to leave out.

        • Greg Olear says:

          A data disc would work, too, if that’s easier. Less limiting.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Maybe I’ll just send you the computer. I need a new one anyway.

  16. Victoria Patterson says:

    I had the same picture of Sasha Frere-Jones.

  17. I’m in awe of your musical vocabulary — while I have certain songs and memories attached to them — my current vocab is limited — my kids fill my iPod — enough said?

    I was introduced to Steve Almond through a book he co-wrote with Julianna Baggott, a favorite author of mine. http://www.amazon.com/Which-Brings-Me-You-Confessions/dp/156512443X/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1291816277&sr=1-7

    It’s certainly a different side of him as a writer.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Kids are very good at filling iPods. My daughter’s taste is impeccable, and she’s four.

      I’m by no means a Music Person. But I’m in a good listening phase right now. Lots of good stuff out there.

  18. Irene Zion says:


    I can’t not comment on you, but I don’t do music, sports or politics.
    So I can ask you again.
    Do you have a chin?
    Because all the pictures I remember of you have your chin covered.
    Now, I will still love you without a chin, I just want to know.

  19. Dana says:

    Nicely done Greg. I know you’re busy being a father/writer/editor/husband, but I really enjoy your pieces. Do MORE. 😉

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Dana. Well, I have just finished — for real this time — the revisions on the new book, so you’ll likely get your wish. I have a backlog of stuff to post, in fact.

  20. Simon Smithson says:

    Why. Can’t. People. Leave. The Spin Doctors. Alone.

  21. Marni Grossman says:

    Ke$ha, Greg? Ke$ha?

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