Cameron Carpenter – 10 CC – At the Library
I once was a voracious buyer of books. I would browse the delete bins and pick up biographies left and right and then look for the hot new releases. I would stack ‘em up and plow through them. Times have changed. The bookshelf is overflowing (I have a hard time getting rid of things) and current economics dictate spending my money on more vital things. This has not stopped me from reading but now I get almost all of my books (CD’s and DVD’s for that matter) at the Toronto Public Library.
We are blessed with one of the best library systems in the country and anything you want can be ordered and picked up at your local branch. I am still going to the same branch (Lee & Queen) that I borrowed Curious George books from back when I was a wee monkey.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that anyone in this business needs to read, watch and listen and learn from those who came before them. Taking the streetcar to work allows me the time to both read and, catch-up on new music. You will rarely see me without my ear buds in and a book on my lap when I am commuting. A quick chapter or two also has the effect of lulling me to sleep late at night. I am on a 40-book pace for this year and here is what I have been reading of late.
- “Anger Is An Energy – My Life Uncensored” – John Lydon
After reading his second book (his first “Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” was released in 1994) it was obvious that Rotten had matured and become Lydon. As opposed to the angry young man Lydon, almost romantically, reminisces on his life and career as a musician and part-time actor. There is much more about Public Image Ltd than there is about the Sex Pistols. It is always interesting to hear about band relationships, especially when you know some of the players, and I enjoyed reading about his relationship with drummers Mike Joyce and Martin Atkins. The one thing I learned (and of course respected) is that Johnny is a true-blue Arsenal FC supporter. #COYG! If you were so inclined to read these books I would start here and then go back and read “Rotten”. I finished this one last night and quite enjoyed all 500 pages.
This one was a very pleasant surprise. I know Frank as a character actor and have enjoyed his work in such films as “Frost/Nixon”, 1979’s “Dracula” and “Dave”. I did not know what a respected and awarded Broadway actor he was. The book is a series of very short antidotes about the famous people he has crossed paths with. He was a long-time friend of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, he traded quips with Noel Coward, had intimate relationships with a bevy of woman and was invited to every high society event. There are 65 little stories here and most of them are very interesting.
3. “Like A Runaway” – Lita Ford
Having read “Neon Angel – The Cherrie Currie Story” it was a given I was going to read Lita’s book. I love reading different accounts of the same band from different perspectives. This was a pretty good read as Lita learned very early she had a lot more to offer as a female guitar player than just being a poster girl for an all-girl band. She could always play and went on to prove it. I really didn’t know much about her personal life but it is all here, warts and all.
- “Girl In A Band” – Kim Gordon
Kim was in a much different situation than Lita as she was the only woman in a boy’s band (and, was married to the lead singer). I spent a bit of time with Kim and Thurston when I was working for DGC Records and always enjoyed their company. I used to like it when Kim would find me alone having a cigarette and she would always come over and steal a drag or two if Thurston wasn’t around. I still love the moment one Valentine’s Day when they exchanged cards in the back seat of my car. Kim and Thurston are no longer a couple and, obviously, this is a component of the book but not as big a part as I thought it might be. “Girl In A Band” is more about her family and the upbringing that ultimately made her the force she was in Sonic Youth and the passionate, artistic woman she is today.
I never anxiously awaited every new Carly Simon record although I would always take a quick peek at the cover. “You’re So Vain” is an undeniable classic and I never rush to change the station when it comes on. This, much like Kim’s book, is a story of family, and, to a certain degree, a broken heart (James Taylor). A good portion of the book deals with her rather well-off upbringing in Martha’s Vineyard (a place I have been lucky enough to visit). I quite enjoyed this read.
- “Reckless – My Life Is A Pretender” – Chrissie Hynde
It seems I have been reading a lot of autobiographies from the ladies of late. I imagine I am just another male trying to still figure out the fairer sex. Chrissie waited until her parents were dead to write this book, and, for good reason. This one is chock-full of sex and drugs. Quite an interesting read. Nikki Sixx ain’t got nothing on Chrissie.
- “Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink” – Elvis Costello
A very good read even if you are not a huge fan of Elvis. Lots of family stuff and his upbringing in a musical family. The time line runs parallel to the Chrissie and Lydon books and as a trilogy they all capture the late seventies and the eighties in a unique fashion. Elvis is much more open than I imagined in this book as was Lydon in his. Both had surly reputations and perhaps looking back they didn’t like the first impressions that they left.
- “The Song Machine – Inside The Hit Factory” – John Seabrook
In a recent bar conversation Blair Packham and I determined we were both reading this book as well as the Costello book. In a Facebook post this week he quipped; “Finished reading these two books, both really great, but so different from each other. One made me feel as if I was soaking in a luxurious bath of music and life and joy, while the other made me want to take a shower afterwards.” If you are old enough to remember the Brill Building you might be offended by this book as it looks at the world of songwriters such as Max Martin and explains how hit makers today compose their music. A guitar and a piano don’t seem to cut it in today’s world. Very enlightening but very un-settling.
The only non-fiction book on the list but it could be classified as historical fiction as Niven re-lives the late nineties music scene in England from the point of view of a coke-fueled A&R executive. Painfully dark and laugh out loud funny as well. It has been made into a film, which I have not seen, but recommend (as always) reading the book first.
10. I am currently finishing “Viera – My Autobiography” (a book by former Arsenal captain Patrick Viera) and on deck are “Dear Mr. You” from Mary-Louise Parker and “Nowhere With You – The East Coast Anthems of Joel Plaskett, The Emergency and Thrush Hermit”. Need to have that one read by the time the annual Music Nova Scotia “Tiki” party hits the Rivoli in three weeks.
Cam’s column appears every Thursday.
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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.