Thanks to a heavy travel schedule, I’ve been doing some rock reading on flights over the last month and here are some capsule reviews of recent rock books. If you’ve read these or other newish rock books, I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.
Chrissie Hynde — Reckless
Chrissie takes you on a tour of ’70s Ohio rock clubs and the early punk scene in London — and in case you don’t believe her stories, she’s sprinkled in some personal photos of Sex Pistols and the Clash to prove her point. She was at the Kent State protests, where four students were killed, she chronicles the rise and fall of the classic Pretenders lineup, and generally seems like a truthful narrator. She stops the story in the ’80s, which is fine with me, but some have criticized. Do you really care about reading about “Loose Screw” — I don’t. One small quibble could be that she can seem a bit above the fray relating what went down, but she’s entitled to retain a bit of mystery. I was a bit worried about this one because of some lukewarm press reviews, but this is a quick read and worth your time.
Elvis Costello — Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink
This is one of those memoirs that doesn’t follow a straight-line narrative. Elvis jumps around from childhood, to various spots in his early and late career. There is a lot about his father, Ross McManus, and his Dad’s jobs as a singer in big bands and a small solo career. One of the big takeaways is Elvis’ deep interest of nearly all musical styles, especially country. Reading this book, you’ll want to have access to a good streaming service, because he name drops a lot of records throughout, and you can’t help but want to check out what he’s writing about. He also explains some of his lyrics and what he was trying to get across to in the songs. Elvis gets a little personal with his thoughts on wives, girlfriends, and other rockers but not too deep. This book’s tone is warm, forgiving, and about as far away from his initial, prickly persona, as you can get. Elvis himself seems amazed at that early “pinup” version of himself.
Warren Zanes — Petty — The Biography
This is an authorized biography that had tremendous cooperation from a bunch of people around Petty and the Heartbreakers. Zanes is Dan Zanes’ little bro and you get a little bit of the pain he felt being a teenager in Del Fuegos, which opened for Petty in the ’80s and then blew apart. This is a pretty deep look into the band dynamics of the Heartbreakers, Mudcrutch, and some of the other people Petty has played with over the years. There’s also a lot of detail on how they made the first two records with Denny Cordell and then left to go with MCA and Jimmy Iovine, who is interviewed extensively. Stevie Nicks weighs in on everything from music, to Tom’s first marriage, to his well-hidden heroin addiction in the years leading up to the release of “Echo.” The star of the book, to me, is drummer Stan Lynch, who doesn’t mince words when talking about the conflicts within the Heartbreakers, which led to him getting fired. The book peters out somewhat at the end, and doesn’t give much background on more recent releases (such as personal fave “Highway Companion” in 2006). There’s also not much on the Wilburys and Zanes is forced to quote from Dylan’s Chronicles to get Bob’s thoughts on the grand tours they did together in the ’80s.
P.S. Warren Zanes put out a great album in 2003 called “Memory Girls” — well worth checking out if you have not heard it.