Cameron Carpenter: Past & Present Tens – Every Day I Read The Book
After averaging reading 40 books a year for the past two years I will be lucky to hit 30 in 2015. As always a majority of them were either about pop culture, film or music. Whenever I am asked to speak at a music conference I always stress the importance of education to aspiring musicians and others who still want to get into this business. You need to know your history whether it be about the labels or those who make the music.
Books are a large part of the equation, along with documentaries and, of course, the actual music. I am always impressed when I meet a young player who knows the difference between The Small Faces and The Facesor The Byrds and The Yardbirds. When it comes to this business ignorance is not bliss.
I went out for a couple of pints earlier this week with the crazy-talented Jerry Leger. He is young enough to be one of my children but he takes his music very seriously. When I first saw him perform about eight years ago he was playing obscure covers by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and even “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam & The Sham & The Pharoahs. He shouldn’t have known about those songs but he had done his homework. Almost all of our discussions were about new books, records and documentaries and we gave each other new materials to source out. Here are nine books I read this past year and one I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.
- “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash – My Life – My Beats” – Grandmaster Flash & David Ritz
Quite an enjoyable read about hip hop’s ground zero. Joseph Saddler aka Grandmaster Flash may have not been the first DJ to manipulate records on a turntable but he certainly became the best very quickly. The 1981 12″ single “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” was ground breaking and opened the doors for the mainstream break-out for hip hop. The band would score massive success with their song “The Message” in 1982. If you call yourself any kind of fan of the genre you need to read this book.
- “Snakes, Guillotines, Electric Chairs – My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group” – Dennis Dunaway
In my teen years there was no bigger or cooler band than the original Alice Cooper line-up. For five glorious years Dennis was the bass player for the band and co-writer of the early hits “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out”. The book stays positive throughout and doesn’t delve into the sleazy aspects of either the business or the band and is more of a tale of a guy who put together a band with his best friend from school (Alice) and got to see the world.
- “Girl In A Band” – Kim Gordon
Kim was the bassist for the band Sonic Youth and married to the band’s Thurston Moore. For decades they were the poster couple for the alternative world but that all went to hell in a handbasket a couple of years ago. I thought the book was going to focus more on that but instead was more about her growing up and dealing with her family issues. Still a good read but kind of sad to see the couple who once exchanged Valentines cards in the back of my van end their lengthy marriage.
- “Kill Your Friends” – JohnNiven
The work of fiction to make the list but probably the darkest and funniest books I have ever read about the music industry. If you want sex and drugs and drugs and sex, with a little murder thrown in, this is the novel for you. I don’t know how this 2008 book escaped my reach for the past eight years but I am glad I finally found it. Niven was an A&R guy in the nineties (hey, who wasn’t) and the book is set at the height of Brit Pop in 1997. Many of the players in the book are based on fact but the dark & disturbingly hilarious story is truly fiction. It has been adapted to film and Niven was in town earlier this year when the film played at Tiff. Can’t wait to see it but glad I read the book first. Think “Trainspotting” in the music biz.
- “Reckless – My Life As A Pretender” – Chrissie Hynde
I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one but it ended up being one of the better books I read this year. It might have been better titled “My Life Before A Pretender” is there is very little about the band until the closing chapters. In the preface Chrissie said she could not publish the book until after the death of her parents and the amount of sex and drugs contained within attest to that fact. I learned a lot with this one.
- “Rocks – My Life In and Out Of Aerosmith” – Joe Perry & David Ritz
I loved the first couple of Aerosmith records. The owed equally from the Rolling Stones and the New Yorl Dolls and the combination of Tyler & Perry was reminiscent of Jagger & Richards andJohansen & Thunders. I much preferred Joe’s book to the highly annoying Steven Tyler book from a couple of years ago. Having David Ritz (who co-wrote the Grandmaster Flash book as well as the definitive Marvin Gaye book “Divided Soul” as the co-writer made this book clip along at a lot smoother pace than Tyler’s tome.
- “Punk Rock Blitzkrieg – My Life As A Ramone” – Marky Ramone
Not the best known Ramone but one of the longest lasting Marky’s book adds another side of the story to the band’s catalog. There are books from Johnny and Dee Dee as well as a few about Joey and this one os a nice companion piece to all of them.
- “Laurel Canyon – The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood” – Michael Walker
I heard about this 2006 book from my pal Paul Myers (I also enjoyed his Todd Rundgren book “A Wizard – A True Star – Todd Rundgren in the Studio” this year) when we were discussing music books. I read and really enjoyed Michael’s book about the 1973 rock scene “What You Want is the Limo” and, as I knew very little about the influence of Laurel Canyon in the late sixties and early seventies, I dove right in. It was a great read and I learned a lot. As he lived the lifestyle I am sure that Segarini would love this one. (Editor’s Note: I was living in Laurel on Horseshoe Canyon off of Lookout Mtn. Road, at the time, and knew most of the people mentioned in this tome. I loved it. Glad I kept my head down back then after reading this book, though. LOL)
- “Facing the Other Way – The Inside Story of 4-A-D” – Martin Aston
This is a very long and very detailed look at one of the coolest record labels ever 4-A-D. Fans of Throwing Muses, The Pixies, This Mortal Coil and the Cocteau Twins will love this book. Label owner Ivo Watts-Russell is a very interesting man and this story is as much about him as it is the label. Lengthy but worth it.
- “Sick on You – The Disastrous Story of Britain’s Great Lost Punk Band” – Andrew Matheson
Regular readers will know my long-standing relationship with Andrew Matheson. This book has been in the works for years and it looks like the wait is going to be worth it as it was just named Mojo’s book of the year and GQ in Britain says it is “the best rock and roll memoir you will read all year”. Can’t wait to get started.
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Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.