Nov 182015

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 HyndeReckless

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.


  13 Responses to “Rock Book Capsule Reivews”

  1. tonyola

    Interesting reviews about interesting books. I haven’t read any of these yet but I’ll look out for them at the library. I already read Tony Clatyon-Lea’s Elvis Costello: A Biography – it was OK but I’d like to read Elvis’ own story about some of his most notorious moments, including his famous encounter with Bonnie Bramlett.

    By the way, as a college student, I saw Mudcrutch in the early 1970s a few times – they would play free shows on the University of Florida campus.

  2. Thanks tony. You would enjoy the early parts of the Petty book. I had not realized that Mudcrutch was a pretty formidable north Florida band. It was Mudcrutch demos that got Petty signed to Shelter. Petty hints at the end of the book there may be another Mudcrutch reunion in the next several years.

  3. I let Santa know I want the Costello book for Christmas. I’m expecting it to be as inconsistent and unedited as his career, but I’m excited for the good bits!

    Some of you know I’m weird, but I’m actually pissed that Tom Petty expects anyone to read his approved biography. The guy has spent a lifetime telling us nothing about himself, other than his seemingly sincere platitudes that he won’t back down, and now, suddenly, he expects me to care about his life and his secret heroin addiction? I’m sorry, he hasn’t invited me into his business all these years; I’m not going to make it my business now. I like Tom Petty’s singles a lot, but he strikes me as a bit of a miser when it comes to matters of the spirit.

  4. Zanes notes that he went over to Petty’s house in the 80s as teenage member of Del Fuegos and found Petty socially awkward, which may account for his reticence. He also had problems at home with first wife Jane for more than 20 years. Her mental state is questioned a number of times, and some in the book talk about her like’s she’s dead. Unless I totally missed it somehow, what happened to her after the divorce is unresolved in the book. She did get the house in Encino that burned and put it on market a couple of years ago:

    When it comes right down to it, the book really won’t get you any closer to figuring out Petty — it’s more about band dynamics.

    A compete aside — Carlene Carter plays a minor role in both the Costello and Petty books. As Nick Lowe’s wife, she helps opens doors in Nashville for Elvis in the early 80s and as Howie Epstein’s girlfriend, she is an enabler and participant in his heroin-fueled car stealing escapade that contributed to Howie getting fired from the Heartbreakers in the 2000s.

  5. I heard Zanes on a WFMU interview, and he claimed that Petty did not hold a final approval, but rather reviewed drafts and provided clarifications/comments/questions for Zanes’ consideration. The interviewer, Michael Shelley, talked up the honest detail. The most interesting stuff sounded like something that would interest Mr. Mod, for example, the inner workings of the band creative process, particularly the ongoing tensions between Lynch and Petty. I have nearly no interest in Petty, finding him to be a vey paint by numbers artist, but the interview made me want to check this out.

    I guess 2000 was a long time ago, but I thought Howie Epstein got the heave-ho a million years ago. I was really surprised to see your dating of that event. I would’ve guessed a decade earlier, but that just goes to show how little I’ve paid attention to Petty.

  6. funoka, these are all books that I’ve wondered if it was worth my time to read so these reviews are very helpful. You make them all sound worthwhile. Now to find that time…

  7. trigmogigmo

    Thanks for the tips, funoka. I’m going to have to read the Petty bio. Their music has always been in my handful of top favorites, but I find the man himself to be an enigma.

    I am still waiting with the Andy Partridge book “Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC” sitting in my Amazon wish list as a reminder. I feel like it’s been sitting there forever, and currently the page shows a date of March 2016 which might be a release date.

  8. I finally got around to reading Peter Doggett’s Beatle book You Never Give Me Your Money. Interesting book with some new info I never knew about, but the author seemed to be overly obsessed with lost opportunities for a Beatles reunion.

  9. That XTC book should be interesting. I am STILL sad about the cancellation of their 1982 US Tour. I wonder where those tickets I was holding to the show at the Guthrie in Minneapolis ended up?

    I’ll need to pick up the new Patti Smith book next. I wonder if I could get through the new Carly Simon book?

  10. BigSteve

    I really enjoyed John Lydon’s Anger Is an Energy, though it took me a while to get used to the style, which seems like a transcribed monologue. And I highly recommend Slits guitarist Viv Albertine’s book Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys, even though only a small part of it is about the Slits. She’s really had an interesting life.

  11. ladymisskirroyale

    Thanks for the thumbs up, BigSteve. That book would be on my list.

  12. ladymisskirroyale

    It’s a fictional rock book, but Kevin Barry just released a book called “Beatlebone,” the fictional account of John Lennon visiting his private Irish island. While it’s a reimagining that clearly mixes fact (Lennon owned said island) and with a slug of fiction (all sorts of crazy characters), it’s guaranteed to be entertaining and well-written. Kevin Barry is an amazing writer, and if you haven’t read “City of Bohane” I would highly recommend it.

  13. H. Munster

    I just read “Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones.” What a disappointment. So little about the music and so much about the drugs. The author obviously admires Jones but nevertheless portrays him as an overgrown child. You have to like the guy’s music but his life wasn’t interesting enough to warrant a full-length biography.

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