We asked the members of the Rock and Roll Book Club podcast to recommend some of their favorite reads by, for and about debauched rock 'n' roll musicians. They turned around an eclectic list of 12 books that covers genres from alt-country to hair metal and decades from the '60s to the present. An excellent primer on the memoirs of rock, if you ask us. - Kristen Schmidt
We asked the members of the Rock and Roll Book Club podcast (meet them here) to recommend some of their favorite reads by, for and about debauched rock 'n' roll musicians. They turned around an eclectic list of 12 books that covers genres from alt-country to hair metal and decades from the '60s to the present. An excellent primer on the memoirs of rock, if you ask us. - Kristen Schmidt
"Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove," by Questlove
In this revealing biography, Questlove shows he's not simply The Roots' drummer. With vast musical knowledge and a passion for original ideas, Questlove invites you on his musical journey by giving you a playlist of songs that molded him into the icon he has become. This one is a keeper.
"Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith," by William Todd Schultz
Elliott Smith is an artist you are either hip to or you are not. You might know his song "Miss Misery" or have his entire catalog. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. "Torment Saint" compels you to turn the page to see where this conflicted songwriter takes you next. Although it's not an uplifting story, it's hard to put down. A must read for fans.
"Girl in a Band: A Memoir," by Kim Gordon
Kim Gordon is better known as the fashionista founding member of Sonic Youth. It would be easy to glance at a band picture and assume she was just window dressing, but this tough as nails artist takes you on a journey full of heartache and overcoming obstacles, digging her heels in and refusing to be what the industry was trying to make her. Creating art. For Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth, that was always the goal, the mission.
"Corn Flakes with John Lennon: And Other Tales from a Rock 'n' Roll Life," by Robert Hilburn
Working for the LA Times when rock was in its formidable years, legendary critic Hilburn met, wrote about, and even advised at times people and artists who would grow to be titans. The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame practically started with Hilburn liking you. This book was our first podcast and remains the bar. An absolute-read.
"Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota," by Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman is a pop culture aficionado, as he's proven as a columnist for Esquire and writing several novels on the subject. He has a passion for music, especially '80s hair metal. It's easy to see why he became so successful when you read this, his first novel. A memoir from his youth and a tribute the the unabashed LA scene. A must-have in every touring van!
"Drinking with Strangers: Music Lessons from a Teenage Bullet Belt," by Butch Walker
Before he was the indie rock trendsetter, and way before he was a multi-platinum producer and songwriter, Butch Walker was the shredding guitar player for the hottest hair band in small-town Georgia. He and his band rolled the dice and hit the LA strip with a vengeance. They did it right and they made it, or did they? The rollercoaster ride that is Butch Walker's career is a great read.
"Life," by Keith Richards
The first rock 'n' roll bad boy starts the book off with a fantastic story of incredible luck and staying cool under fire. Richards has nerves of steel and has remained unflappable through his entire career. Few can rival the mayhem and wreckage he has survived. (As Feet Banks wrote for Pique, "We need to think about what kind of world we are going to leave for Keith Richards.") At over 500 pages, you would think this book would be over-indulgent, but when you have lived a life like "Keef," it takes some pages to tell it.
"The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band," by Tommy Lee and Vince Neil
If you were ever curious what it would be like to be on top of the world and out of control all at the same time, then this is your book. Mick Mars, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx write down what they can remember about meeting each other. Then they argue about who did what and who got blamed. It's certainly not Shakespeare, but this is a fun read that does not get boring.
"Wilco: Learning How to Die," by Greg Kot
Uncle Tupelo. Son Volt. Wilco. These bands are the headwaters where alternative and country music met. Greg Kot writes this book like he was in the band. He has an understanding of Jeff Tweedy and a great respect for the work and the legacy of Wilco. He handles the evolving cast of the alt-country trailblazers with care and fairness. No one emerges either blamed or completely innocent. You understand where they came from, and you see Tweedy's reluctance to be the hero.
33 1/3 Series
Sometimes it's not the artist you are interested in. Sometimes you just want to read about an album. Where it was recorded and all the little facts and particulars. The 33 1/3 series of books does just that. Pick your favorite iconic album, and there is probably a book about it. They are very well done, inexpensive and a fast read.
"Whores: An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane's Addiction," by Brendan Mullen
The title is apparently not well-liked by a certain social media site, and we received notices that we couldn't do posts with that word. Crazy, right? That said, this story is told in quotes from an incredible cast of characters. It can be argued the Jane's is one of the most influential bands of modern rock. This book goes a long way to backing that up. From Red Hot Chili Peppers to Pearl Jam, Jane's left a lasting mark on music.
"Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life," by Graham Nash
Graham Nash was in the Hollies. An established hit machine. He was already a rock star, and he was miserable. In a decision that shocked and stunned his peers, Graham quit the Hollies and moved to California. He embraced a new life, a new band and helped create a new sound. Graham talks about his interesting life as an artist, entrepreneur, humanitarian and photographer.