Music By The Books

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There is definitely no shortage of music-related books. From biographies about a musician or band to memoirs detailing first-hand accounts of being on the road or in a band; the information is endless. The first music-related book I read was “Life” by Keith Richards in which he chronicles the humble beginnings of The Rolling Stones, his diverse musical influences, and of course all of the sex and drugs that went along with being in one of the most popular rock bands on the planet. There is also a Netflix documentary “Keith Richards: Under The Influence”. While the film is not based on the book, there are some similar pieces of information and you could watch it either before or after reading his memoir.

In the last month and a half I’ve read three music themed books and I highly recommend all of them.

1) “Radio, Records & Rockstars” by Jeff Woods

In this memoir, Woods chronicles the ebbs and flows of his personal and professional life; often torn between the big city buzz in the east and the welcome of the west.

Throughout his career Jeff Woods has interviewed some of the most prolific musicians of our time. The transcripts of those conversations are peppered throughout this book; offering the reader a change of pace while maintaining a smooth transition between each chapter. In fact, some of the conversations draw parallels with where you are in Woods’s life story.

I am familiar with all except a couple of the musicians featured in this book and while I wouldn’t call myself a fan of all of them there were a few interviews that stood out to me:

David Bowie – it is easy to understand why so many people are Bowie fans. There is the man, the music and the various personas he created over the years – constantly evolving and pushing the boundaries – his own and the fans who were along for the ride.

Ozzy Osbourne – obviously he’s a character and nobody can quite tell it like it is than Ozzy.

Nikki Sixx – I didn’t know that Sixx wrote most of Motley Crüe’s lyrics. I had a few laughs reading through this excerpt; the man has settled into a much tamer version of himself than he was in the 80s, but still pushes against the status quo every chance he gets.

Overall this is an honest and solidly written memoir about a man building his career and finding himself along the way. Despite the fickleness of broadcasting, Woods was able to cultivate and sustain a unique presence both on and off the air. Whether you’re in the industry or just a music fan, this book is well worth the read.

2) “Serving The Servant – Remembering Kurt Cobain” by Danny Goldberg

Danny Goldberg provides a detailed and compassionate account of the life and music of Kurt Cobain.
In between chapters I listened to Nirvana’s music and watched the videos with fresh insight.

I have been a longtime fan of the music of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, but prior to reading “Serving The Servant” I had no knowledge of Kurt as a person, artist and activist. Kurt Cobain was a feminist and a strong ally of the LGBTQ community; he had a social conscious that far exceeded anyone else’s at that time.

Danny Goldberg did a fabulous job of introducing readers to the Kurt he knew and loved: his unique creativity, his focus and work ethic, and his ongoing depression. Goldberg is also very forthright in his description of how Kurt died and seeks to de-stigmatize what is often still a taboo subject. After two paragraphs describing close friends of Kurt who are still angry with him for taking his own life, Goldberg writes this:

I respect these emotions but see it differently. It’s morally essential to do everything possible to prevent and discourage suicide, but I still keep coming back to the idea that Kurt had a disease that no one knew how to cure and that he died from it when he was twenty-seven. It’s the only formulation that feels right to me, but the reality is that no one knows.

3) “Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

You know when there’s a lot of buzz surrounding a new book, movie or album and then you read, watch or listen and you end up disappointed? Well, this will not be one of those times. “Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid deserves every single bit of praise that it has received.

You will read this book and have to remind yourself that it is a work of fiction. You will read this book and you will want the band to be real.

This story is written transcript-style and is inspired by the allure of popular 1970s band “Fleetwood Mac”. Author Taylor Jenkins Reid is a big fan of Stevie Nicks.

The only other book I’ve read by Taylor Jenkins Reid is “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo”, which is about a fictional movie star. In “Daisy Jones”, Reid takes the allure of fame and expands on it. There are at least two characters from Evelyn Hugo’s world that cross over into Daisy’s.

All of the characters are flawed in the right ways; likeable; relevant and relatable. You will root for all of them. There is humour when you least expect it to break up the intensity.

This is a book that you will consume with fervour, but at the same time not want to finish. An intoxicating story from beginning to end.

Readers of “Daisy Jones & The Six” will no doubt be pleased to learn that Reese Witherspoon’s production company has bought the rights to produce a 13-episode TV series for Amazon based on the book. I for one, can’t wait to see Daisy brought to life! The first casting announcements for the series were made in late 2019. Actress Riley Keough will play the role of Daisy. If her name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps her lineage will: Mom is Lisa Marie Presley and, yes, Elvis Presley is her Grandfather. Who better to play a fictional rock ‘n roll goddess than someone descended from real life rock royalty? Elvis also starred in his fair share of movies, so it appears that Ms. Keough is following directly in Grandpa’s footsteps.

While you’re waiting for the TV series, bide your time listening to the “Daisy Jones & The Six” playlist on Spotify:

Keeping with the subject of music in the movies, what about musicians who’ve tried their hand at acting and vice versa? The staff at Billboard put together a list of “The 100 Best Acting Performances by Musicians in Movies” – did any of your favourites make the cut?

What about actors who are also musicians? Check out this Cosmopolitan article. Did you know that Alyssa Milano released four albums in Japan in the late 80s?

In any case, there seems to be no shortage of music-related books, movies and TV shows. One recent release that will no doubt make for an interesting read is Debbie Harry’s memoir “Face It”. Definitely one to put in your TBR pile.

photo: Christa Sampson

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