The broad appeal of these memoirs is obvious: Artists are inherently fascinating already because of their music — and because us plebeians are nosy, we want to know everything about their personal lives. If anything, other musicians are the best judges of what makes a great music memoir or biography, since they can actually call bullshit.
Some folks are authors themselves, while many others would likely write great memoirs themselves one day, but we see a few top contenders emerge between both camps: Questlove, author of Mo' Meta Blues: According to her — I didn't realize it at the time — she sent me a copy of her book simply because it's basically a companion piece to my first book, Mo' Meta Blues.
It was really amazing to see someone else's love affair with music, and their journey — them wrestling with it and then divorcing it, and then expanding and finding other avenues to do with it. She and I literally followed the same parallel roots without even knowing each other.
Her book is really, really an amazing journey. To quote George Orwell, 'The autobiography is the most outrageous form of fiction. Strange to me that someone with his talent and his success comes across as still having neither found nor created much joy for himself.
Not at all of that mind-set, for me, the book was an unsettling and somewhat draining read, but answered many of my own questions about the man and his music. Paul avoided the booze and drugs that are the pitfalls of most rockers. In the end, he finds love and a very stable family environment, and finds that to be his biggest triumph. Throughout the book, he is very self-aware; he seems to know what people think of him.
The book is an oral history of the Ramones as told by everyone who was involved: It's great because you hear everyone's perspective on the events that happen; it's not just one person in the band's narrative being told. What I liked most about the book was how directly it connected the past and the present. It made events from long ago feel like yesterday, and it made you realize and understand how things changed from the start to the end of the band in a completely unromanticized way, but also not in a cynical way.
For me, it also was extremely relatable and encouraging. I saw that not really all that much has changed about traveling the world playing in a punk band: It's the same dive clubs and same shitty hotels, the same inner-band drama, and will all probably end in an unceremoniously similar way.
An exquisite, inspiring, and mysterious book. I couldn't have loved it more. I have always heard much of the mythology of that time period in music in New York City, but it was so compelling to read about it from someone who was inside of it. I found her love for Robert Mapplethorpe to be inspired as well as pained, and she painted a portrait of her life that I couldn't stand to put down. I was already a keen live-music fan going to shows in my hometown of Birmingham, but this book really turned me on to what was different about the road in America.
I got hung up on it reading these pages, and am still not over it. So I was terrified to read Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, because I didn't really want to know how much debauchery was going on in Mom and Dad's 20s, especially since many of the folks interviewed are people I grew up seeing with my family on holidays, like Bob Gruen and Lenny Kaye.
And after my dad passed away this year, I wanted to know much more about my parents' New York. It's an expansive work, and a herculean research effort, which covers punk but also explores the scene's many intersections with salsa, nascent hip-hop, minimalism, loft jazz, and performance art, and the writers, club owners, and DJs who tied together these circles.
We talked about literature, and he gave me books to read and music to listen to, like the Jimmie Rodgers boxed set. I knew from our brief time together that his mind saw all aspects of his career and stage presence as art, and I was fascinated to read about what he felt formed him as a young man and as an artist who has weathered the ups and down of a long-term career as a singer-songwriter.
His use of the English language in his lyrics are unsurpassed, I got that same feeling from this book. Chronicles is more like reading an honest, unedited journal than reading an autobiography.
I enjoyed it because it felt down-to-earth, and this genius put his experiences and expressed his feelings in such a way that was inspiring to me. As his words took me on this poetic journey of a life that could have only been lived by Bob Dylan. If Dylan's incredibly creative life was the Mississippi River, Chronicles is like a bucket of water that he scooped out to give us a taste that was totally captivating, and left me wanting to drink more.
It gave me a clear understanding of who he was during the Faces era and what it was like for him to leave and go solo, and also talked about how coming to America was disruptive to the people in his life.
I really enjoyed it. It's a roller coaster of emotions. The honesty in which she describes her life with Lindsey and the other members of Fleetwood Mac is both heartbreaking and incredibly beautiful. I read this before I even started Best Coast, and I remember, after touring relentlessly for three years, I would think back to so many moments from this book and be like, Ohhh, I finally get it.
This book offers insight to what it was like not only to date Lindsey Buckingham which doesn't sound like it was very much fun , but also what it was like to be around Fleetwood Mac at the peak of their career. It's not just about traveling and groupies and drugs and drinking too much. There is also an intense amount of emotional shit you go through while you're touring and living your life in the public eye.
I think this book does a really good job of reminding people of that. Although there is a lot in this book I have never come close to experiencing, it allowed me to feel like I understood the mind of a touring musician better than ever before.
Prepare to cringe, laugh, cry, then cry a lot more. In my opinion, this is the perfect music memoir. A Personal History of L. Just by listening to their records, they taught me invaluable lessons in songwriting, arranging, singing, and playing electric bass.
We all suspected that theirs was a wild ride, but reading this firsthand account of that whirlwind is totally satisfying. It's rare to read the kind of love and respect he shows for all his bandmates without judging their faults and frailties.
Their story lets you inside the balance of wildness and discipline that it takes to fulfill creative aspirations and provides a cautionary tale as well. It's just that good.