Thursday, June 22, 2023

Light Summer Reading

Eugene Hütz on stage with Gogol Bordello in 2017

Well, summer is upon us and summer vacation is almost here... Which means, we get to catch up on all the reading we can't get done the rest of the year. On a plane or on the beach, it's time to relax and get a lost in a good book. To that effect, here's  a selection of some of our favorite rock autobiographies.

A lot of these so-called autobiographies weren't actually written by the person... Hardly surprising when a lot of rock stars are barely literate, but the best ones still manage to capture the voice of their subject.

Of course, Bob Dylan or Pete Townshend wrote theirs themselves. After all, they are primarily storytellers by trade, and I've heard they're rather good at it.

Because the subject matter is rock n' roll, most books will feature their fair share of debauchery and tabloid-fodder. But more importantly, what all these books have in common is the author and/or subject's passion for music coming alive in the pages. Because ultimately, if you like rock n' roll, that's what you want to hear. All the rest, the clothes, the sex, the drugs, the money, the fame... is fun to read about, but we're really here for one thing: the music.

(Full disclosure: we get a tiny commission every time you buy products using our Apple links. So treat yo' selves!)

Hard to Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes - A Memoir

This book by former Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman is a great read, even if you're not a fan of the band... but if you don't like rock n' roll, you should probably just click HERE.

This warts-and-all account of the meteoric rise and fall of the Southern Rock band will make you shake your head and raise your fists at the appalling behavior of the Robinson brothers. It also shines an unflattering light on some unsavory music industry practices. The narrator also never pretends to be an angel and his side of the story seems pretty fair and balanced... Unsurprising then that he is not a part of the band's reunion!

Click HERE to check out our pics, review and video of the band's Paris show in October 2022.

Get it on Apple Books

Alice Cooper, Golf Monster

Alice Cooper, Golf Monster is Alice's story as told to two biographers, seen through the prism of his addiction to golf. That's right, Alice Cooper is an avid golfer... Some great behind the scenes anecdotes, previously unseen photos, a humorous tone and a fascinating glimpse into American suburbia in the 1950's make this one of the most fun rock n' roll biographies out there. The golf angle can get a little too much at times if you're not a golfer yourself, but that's a small complaint.

If you want to go deeper (and darker) you can check out the movie Super Duper Alice Cooper which dives into the shock rocker's drug addiction or original bass player Dennis Dunaway's autobiography Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group.

Click HERE to check out our many Alice-related site entries, including a bunch of concert reviews, photos and videos.

Get it on Apple Books

Clapton: the Autobiography

Recent events and statements have really highlighted what an utterly flawed individual Eric Clapton is. It's hard to reconcile some of his bigoted statements and the absolutely gorgeous music he's recorded over the years. This book, which he actually wrote by himself, is a good example of the man's contradictions. When he writes about music, it's an absolute treat. But then the personal life gets in the way, and it becomes apparent that the man is a shallow, self-absorbed narcissist. It will come as a shock and a disappointment to some, but it does make for a fascinating read.

Get it on Apple Books

Keith Richards: Life

When Keith Richards' Life finally came out in 2010, it had already been awaited with a certain amount of trepidation by rock fans. Richards arguably being the poster boy for rock n' roll excess, his book promised to be an epic tale of debauchery, sex and drugs.

But while there is obviously some rock n' roll sensationalism, it's not at the center of the book and it's not even what makes it great. What makes it great are all those stories of how some of our favorite records were created, how little Keith started playing music, what musicians influenced him, etc. Richards' passion for music is contagious and every page will make you want to put on a record. That is what makes Keith Richards' Life great.

Well, that and that anecdote about Jagger's big ballsack and "tiny todger".

Click HERE to check out our many Rolling Stones-related articles throughout the years.

Get it on Apple Books

Tony Iommi: Iron Man

An autobiography by the originator of Heavy Metal was always going to be a captivating read, but this exceeded expectations for many reasons. First, it's great to hear the circumstances under which all those awesome songs were created and recorded. Second, as with most of these autobiographies, Tony's childhood and formative years give us a fascinating insight into a time and place that are now gone forever: post-war industrial England. In retrospect, it's no surprise that such an socio-economic environment would spawn the Heavy Metal genre and you can almost hear those crushing riffs as you read Iommi's recollections of his younger days in the West Midlands. An essential read for fans of the genre, and rock in general. For another point of view on the same story, you can also check out Geezer Butler: Into the Void which was released last month.

Click HERE to read our review and see our photos of Black Sabbath's farewell show in Birmingham in 2017.

Get it on Apple Books

Lemmy: White Line Fever

Lemmy was rock n' roll incarnate. A larger than life Punk Rock and Heavy Metal icon that lived life to its fullest and made no apologies for it and there was no doubt that his autobiography would be one of the most entertaining and honest ones in circulation. From his beginnings in local bands to his stint in Hawkwind, and then on to his legendary band Motörhead, the man has had quite a career and it's all in the appropriately titled White Line Fever.

Get it on Apple Books


Slash is more than a cartoon character of a rock star: he's also the last true rock n' roll guitar hero. The book was written and released before the Guns N' Roses reunion, so it doesn't include the last few triumphant years but there are enough tales of sex, drugs and rock n' roll to satisfy the reader looking for cheap thrills. But as usual, the best passages in the book are not these tales of excess. Slash's unconventional upbringing and childhood, his passion for music, his work ethic, his relationships with his bandmates... It all makes for a compelling story that is stilling written today. Hopefully there will be a follow-up to this book. Another interesting one would be Axl's book and his version of events... But let's maybe not go there just yet!

Get it on Apple Books

Steven Tyler: Does the Noise in my Head bother you?

Steven Tyler is charismatic, exuberant, bursting with creativity and he's also batshit insane, in a good way. This all comes across in this book which has the frantic rhythm of the best early Aerosmith songs but also some of the schmaltz of their late-career ballads. Again, in a good way. You can almost hear Tyler's voice as he recounts tales of juvenile delinquency, groupie plundering, self-destruction and of course music creation. His bandmate Joe Perry also wrote a book which is strongly recommended for anyone who has even a passing interest in that little band from Boston: Joe Perry: Rocks.

Get it on Apple Books

Bob Dylan: Chronicles - Volume One

This isn't really an autobiography per se, because Bob Dylan can't help but do things differently from other people. Instead, these are a series of vignettes, seemingly presented in no particular order, which place Dylan as an observer of his own life. Accounts of recording sessions, observations on other artists, descriptions of his surroundings... It's all very unique, and very dylanesque. Some of the best moments in the book are when he talks about artists he enjoys: some obvious, very famous ones and some forgotten, cheesy crooners. It's obvious that the man has studied all facets of American music, before himself becoming one of its most famous proponents.

Always the contrarian, Dylan never followed up with second volume, but instead published The Philosophy of Modern Song last year, an equally riveting study on songwriting and songwriters which we also can't recommend enough.

Get it on Apple Books

Mötley Crüe: The Dirt

The Dirt is the infamous book that was turned turned into the hit Netflix movie of the same name. An unapologetically crass, sensationalistic, shallow account of the 80's rock n' roll hedonism as seen through the eyes of four dumb punks who became millionaires overnight. What could go wrong?

If the best things about those other books was the music, this sure isn't the case with Mötley Crüe. The point here is to revel in the excesses. Drugs, alcohol, sex, death, selfish behavior, and a total lack of accountability.

Like the Sunset Strip Hair Metal scene of the 1980', it' stupid, it's vulgar, it's irresponsible, it appeals to lowest common denominator, but most importantly it's a whole lot of fun.

Get it on Apple Books

Pete Townshend: Who I Am

Unsurprisingly, this book is a little darker than the others in this article. After all, Pete Townshend is a troubled fella. Most rockers have a darkness in their past, whether a crime or some sort of trauma. But Townshend's entire artistic output has been trying to exorcise the demons of his childhood (look no further than Tommy for  proof) and this is no different. But like the author, this book is also incredibly thoughtful, intelligent, emotional and honest. And of course, absolutely bonkers.

Get it on Apple Books

Ronnie James Die: Rainbow in the Dark

This book has very little in the way of the usual sex, drugs and rock n' roll or all the things we might expect from a Heavy Metal icon. Being born in 1942, Dio, by music industry standards, was already pretty old when he found success. He had been playing in local jazz, doo-wop and rock n' roll band since the fifties, and the descriptions of suburbia in upstate New York during the Eisenhower years are some of the book's most compelling passages. Of course, things start getting even more interesting for us rock fans when he crosses path with Ritchie Blackmore... This is the story of a guy who never stopped working at attaining his dream and went on to play with Rainbow and Black Sabbath before forming his own band Dio. The book ends at the apex of Dio's popularity, when the band headlines Madison Square Garden in the mid-eighties.

If you enjoyed this book, there is also a movie called Dreamers Never Die which is also an essential watch for Dio fans.

Get it on Apple Books

Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson is a Heavy Metal renaissance man. Olympic fencer, author, pilot, businessman, somehow he still finds the time to front the world's greatest Metal band... and write an autobiography. The man's enthusiasm for, well, pretty much everything, is contagious. And between anecdotes of flying to war-torn Serbia to play a show (check out the movie Scream For Me Sarajevo for a more detailed account of what happened there) or playing in front of hundreds of thousand people or battling cancer in 2015, you won't even notice that there is no gossip, no seedy drug stories, no throwing people under the tour bus... Pretty refreshing.

Get it on Apple Books

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