I'm a rather voracious reader. It's a thing. For instance, this summer alone I have read about fifteen books. As a music enthusiast, rock n' roll bios are some of my favorite things to read and I decided to make all you lovely people a list of my top six fave bios. They span the spectrum of rock genres but it's really not about the music these guys play; these books are amazing for the insight into the creative process as well as great time stamps of certain eras in music.
And, I wouldn't be me if I didn't make you guys a playlist to go along with these books, would I? Check it out here and maybe read a few of these books (I have to say that the Stones one is my fave).
1. Unknown Pleasures by Peter Hook
Joy Division was one of the most definitive bands to come out of the post-punk movement. In the eighties, they redefined the sound and feel of music coming out of Manchester and they were on the precipice of becoming a huge act. Then the unthinkable happened- lead singer, Ian Curtis, killed himself at just twenty-three years old. This colored later perceptions of the band, giving them an even gloomier image than the black and white photos taken of them in Manchester ever could have. Bios and articles about the band, particularly Ian Curtis, only fueled the fire. Bassist Peter Hook, the unofficial curator of all things Joy Division, stepped in, broke his silence and wrote this amazing rock bio- Unknown Pleasures. Talking in his unique, narrative voice, Hook wipes away some of the black veneer that had been washed over the band and brightened it a bit, showing images of a sometimes playful band that just wanted to play music and have fun. He discusses Ian and his death with a candidness that only someone who truly knew Ian could do and he doesn't just paint him as some rock n'roll martyr; Hook humanizes Joy Division in a way that makes even the most diehard fan smile.
2. Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross
This book is what made me a huge Nirvana fan. It drew a realistic yet gentle image of a rather tortured artist whose ills and troubles colored his perception of not only himself but his music. Cross' writing doesn't read like a textbook but like a story, like a fictional texts whose characters you align yourself with and love. I really enjoyed how he handles Kurt's death; he gives the reader all the facts and details he has and allows readers to draw their own conclusions.
3. 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child by David Henderson
I love this bio simply for how Henderson describes music. It's so hard to be able to transcribe to the written word sounds and how those sounds make a person feel but Henderson does a great job tackling that task. Not only does he describe music incredibly well but he, again, like my other choices, humanizes Hendrix and really makes the reader align herself with him.
4. No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman
I have always loved The Doors but I have never loved Morrison. I still don't but this book really breaks down his roots, his creative process and allows readers to see what led to the tragic death of one of rock's most mysterious front men. The book reads a bit more like a text book than the others but it's that clinical approach that allows the writer to tell an unbiased view of Morrison.
5. I, Doll: Life and Death with the New York Dolls by Arthur "Killer" Kane
If you grow up any where near New York City and hang out around the music venues enough, eventually a conversation about The New York Dolls will spring up. They created glam rock before glam rock was a thing; they saw the future of music and influenced acts such as Motley Crue, David Bowie and KISS. Told in Kane's colorful voice, I, Doll reads like a fast-paced song, hurtling the reader through The New York Dolls' early years.
6. Life by Keith Richards
Granted, I'm a bit more of a Mick Jagger fan than a Keith Richards fan and this book definitely didn't change my opinion but it's still one of the best bios I have ever read. It's long. It's incredibly long but that's because Richards will break down his writing process and talk about how he and Mick wrote some of the greatest rock n'roll songs of all time- "Midnight Rambler", "Moonlight Mile", "Ruby Tuesday." The way he describes his life is candid and off the cuff and he allows other people to "talk" during the book, including his son Marlon whose memories from his childhood are rather horrifying. While he bashes Mick for a lot of things, including experimenting with sound, the reader is able to see around these taunts and pick up on the relationship that fueled the greatest rock band in the world.