Category Archives: BOOKS

HE IS … I SAY: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE NEIL DIAMOND: By David Wild [Da Capo]

Bill Murray’s character in What About Bob? told his shrink that there are two types of people in the world: those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t. But really, does anybody not like Neil Diamond, even if purely in an ironic or kitschy way? He Is … I Say parallels Rolling Stone editor David Wild’s lifelong devotion to Diamond with a roughly chronological history of the artist’s career. Wild unobjectively heaps praise on everything Diamond has touched and makes preposterous assertions, like how his use of between-song Yiddish on a ’70s live LP helped its chart position. [www.perseusbooks.com]

—Jonathan Cohen

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THINGS THE GRANDCHILDREN SHOULD KNOW: By Mark Oliver Everett [Thomas Dunne]

Recent memoirs by Dean Wareham and Juliana Hatfield offer a glimpse into a musician’s life during the ’90s alt-rock boom and subsequent bust. What makes eels frontman Mark Oliver Everett’s book any different? A body count higher than a zombie movie, for starters. Everett’s journey from juvenile delinquent in suburban Virginia to lo-fi, low-level rock star in L.A. is littered with the deaths of his mother, sister, cousin, landlady, friends and father (the emotionally distant Hugh Everett III, a brilliant quantum physicist). This perpetual raincloud of tragedy makes Everett’s survival tale compelling even to non-fans, and his personal story arc dwarfs the overdramatized perils of stardom and pitfalls of the music business. [www.thomasdunnebooks.com]

—Matthew Fritch

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BROAD STREET: By Christine Weiser [PS Books]

Using insider info from her days as bass player in Mae Pang, Christine Weiser re-creates Philly’s mid-’90s underground scene in Broad Street. Full of women behaving badly, often in response to men behaving worse, the novel follows the struggles of bassist Kit Greene and her trio Broad Street as they compete in the Guyville rock culture. Well-chosen music references (to Pavement, Wanda Jackson, the Original Sins, and, ahem, “the Minute Men”) and tales of dingy clubs, untrustworthy journalists and business insiders anchor stories of Kit’s personal turmoil. [www.psbookspublishing.org]

—Steve Klinge

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TOLERANCE: By Chris Mars [Billy Shire]

To those who might be expecting beercan-label designs or Skyway At Dusk, be forewarned that the paintings of Replacements drummer Chris Mars share no aesthetic with the boozy rock iconography of his former band. This 160-page coffeetable book depicts Mars’ nightmarish world of scarred and bandaged monsters. Inspired by difficult experiences with his older brother Joe, who suffers from schizophrenia, Mars isn’t attempting to give you the creeps; he’s trying to make you accept these grotesque faces, to learn not to see them as monsters or freaks or mentally ill. [www.billyshirefinearts.com]

—Matthew Fritch

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RE-MAKE/RE-MODEL: BECOMING ROXY MUSIC: by Michael Bracewell [Da Capo]

Much more than a straight band bio, this highbrow history of Roxy Music positions itself as a cultural overview of art rock between the Summer of Love and the punk era. Michael Bracewell’s lofty writing style sometimes threatens to collapse Re-Make/Re-Model under its own weight, particularly when detailing Bryan Ferry’s visual-art background. Still, this is likely the definitive history of the Ferry/Brian Eno collective. Bracewell’s deep research and interviews link Roxy Music to Newcastle’s R&B/blues scene, Warhol’s Factory and early-’70s fashion photography. Re-Make includes a generous selection of photos and astutely examines the band’s meticulously designed public persona. [www.perseusbooksgroup.com/dacapo]

—Eric Waggoner

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TELL THE TRUTH UNTIL THEY BLEED: Josh Alan Friedman [Backbeat]

This excellent book by the author of 1986’s bestselling Tales Of Times Square collects 15 profiles on various music-biz figures with a concentration on the ’60s and ’70s. Doc Pomus, Jerry Leiber, Joel Dorn, Tommy Shannon, Mose Allison and Dr. John all get Josh Alan Friedman’s unique examination. His treatment of Rahsaan Roland Kirk exposes the saxophonist’s difficult demeanor. “‘Black classical music’ is how [Kirk] termed his jazz, espousing a jazz-victim philosophy, while hating rock and the white man’s music,” writes Friedman. These tales of survivors, casualties, assholes, losers and genuine badasses offer a peek at a time when music was saturated with real personalities. [www.backbeatbooks.com]

—Andrew Earles

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THE EVOLUTION OF A CRO-MAGNON: by John Joseph [Punkhouse]

Perhaps you’re under the impression that you’ve lived a full life. But have you slam danced to Fear with John Belushi during a Saturday Night Live taping? Have you peddled fake acid at a Yes concert? Did you survive mistreatment and sexual abuse at the hands of money-hungry foster families? Skip out of countless arrest warrants? Blaze pounds of primo weed with Bad Brains? Tough out juvenile jails, the Navy and Hare Krishna retreats? John Joseph has been through all of the above and much more, and The Evolution Of A Cro-MagNon is a tumultuous, 428-page chronicle. The former frontman for NYC hardcore outfit the CroMags imbues his autobiography with an unvarnished candor and gritty colloquialism that lend the narrative cinematic weight. [www.punkhouse.org]

—Raymond Cummings

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BOMP! SAVING THE WORLD ONE RECORD AT A TIME: by Suzy Shaw and Mick Farren [AMMO]

This memorial to late Bomp! magazine/record label founder Greg Shaw (he was the man behind the Pebbles series) is second to none. It’s a labor of love put together by Shaw’s ex-wife Suzy and his friend, collaborator and author/musician Mick Farren. Designed to give the appearance of a scrapbook of Bomp! back issues, Saving The World celebrates Shaw’s longtime musical loves: garage rock, psych, glam, power pop and punk. It features record reviews by the likes of Iggy Pop and Lenny Kaye, plus amphetamine-fueled rants by the late Lester Bangs. Above all, it’s a treasure trove for anyone who ever found redemption in a cheap 45. [www.ammobooks.com]

—Neil Ferguson

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My Noise: Novelist George Pelecanos Stands Up For The Replacements’ Falling Down

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Rewind 16 years. I’m nearing the end of my 20s, newly married to Emily Hawk, still passionate about music, movies and books. There are bills to pay and responsibilities to own up to. As this is the ‘80s, it doesn’t take a genius to move up the ladder. If you can fill up a suit, you can get promoted. That is, if you conform and buy into the whole mousse-and-Vuarnet trip. I like to work, but I can’t conform. So there I am, the general manager of a chain of major appliance stores, working 60-some hours a week. What I want, more than anything, is to be someone else. Remember the cover of Pleased To Meet Me, with the Rolex-and-diamond-horseshoe-ring hand shaking the hand with the frayed sleeve? Mine is the arm on the right and the left.

In that job, I have to be in my office by 7 a.m. I park my Ford pickup outside the building at 6:45, my Windsor knot strangling my throbbing neck, and turn up the v of my tape deck. “Bastards Of Young” comes forward at full volume, the bass vibrating the windows of the truck. That raging, volcanic music somehow gives me the courage to face another day. At work, “Unsatisfied” is constantly running through my head; Westerberg’s howl is my own. In the evenings, Emily and I talk, party and listen to music. Nights with Green On Red, the Dream Syndicate, X, Minor Threat and the Pogues, but always it comes back to the Mats. “Little Mascara” is Emily’s favorite song. I’m into “Left Of The Dial” and “Sixteen Blue.” There are tunes like “Favorite Thing,” “Hold My Life” and “Alex Chilton” for driving, “Here Comes A Regular” for drinking, “Kiss Me On The Bus” for love. The music of the Mats sounds like chaos, but to me it sounds like peace.

OK, here’s another middle-aged guy, getting stupid. Maybe. With rock ‘n’ roll you never know if it was really that transcendent or if it just seems that way in the golden glow of the rearview. Nostalgia clouds your judgment and often makes you unwilling to enjoy the new. “The Strokes are OK, but I’ve got the New York Dolls on Mercury vinyl, and anyway, when I want to hear the Ramones I put on Rocket To Russia.” Etc. But trust me, the Replacements really were that great.

Fast-forward 16 years. I’m in Paris, ending a two-month book tour. Friday night, my final commitment done, I return to my hotel room to relax. I open the balcony doors to get a view of the street, pour a double Four Roses neat, slip Westerberg’s Stereo into my Walkman, put my feet up on the coffee table and touch fire to a Marlboro Red. It’s the most memorable moment of my trip. Listening to “We May Be The Ones,” I’m moved like it’s 1986. And then, a few days later, I’m back in the States, hugging my daughter Rosa, rubbing her back, as “No Place For You” fills the room. Thinking that this music is just as powerful, and yeah, important, as it ever was.

—George Pelecanos

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