There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of books written about rock music. Most of them are horrible. Some are not about the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. I went through my closet and found some music books I still keep and then I ordered some new ones so it would look like I haven't completely given up on life.
Here are five books about the rock 'n' roll that will not waste your time. Well, it'll waste it, but it will waste it better than if you spent that time surfing the internet looking for friends.
Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs: Lester Bangs is considered the greatest rock critic who ever lived, which is a bit like being in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the guy who's eaten the most pickles or ridden on a see-saw the longest. It's not much, but he'll take it. Aside from inspiring others to complain about all his imitators, which considering the bland useless capsule reviews that actually appear in magazines these days would be an improvement, Lester made it possible for Philip Seymour Hoffman to play a slightly less pathetic character in a movie for once in his life. Thanks, Les.
Rick Johnson Reader: 'Tin Cans, Squeems & Thudpies' by Rick Johnson, edited by Bill Knight: This guy makes me look like a piker. You think I'm idiotic? You think I make little sense? You think I don't know what I'm talking about? You think I make stuff up? Rick Johnson forgot more than I'll ever know. And it's been collected in this "reader" which contrary to its title doesn't read itself to you. You'll have to read it for yourself. And if you're not more confused by the end, then you didn't read it right.
A Whore Just Like the Rest by Richard Meltzer: I know plenty of people who hate Richard Meltzer's writing. I hate some of it, too. Makes me think if I met the guy, I'd really be in for it. But at this safe reader-writer distance, anything is possible. Meltz twists and turns and contorts himself in all positions trying to seem like a writerly legend only to wake up and realize he's trying to do it with writing about mostly crappy music even he doesn't care about. The intros are better than many of the actual pieces, indicating he is improving! If he doesn't die, he might someday be on to something!
Please Kill Me: The Oral Uncensored History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain: Want to know something about punk music? Well, don't bother with this book. But if you want to know who slept with who, who did drugs with who, who screwed over who, who's still bitter, who's dead and who should be, well, this is the place to be. You wanted what? A 'contextual reading of "Sonic Reducer" and how it relates to Cotton Mather and the scripting of the Magna Carta?' Oh, there are books out there for you, too!
CREEM: America's Only Rock n' Roll Magazine by Robert Matheu and Brian J. Bowe: As a music magazine that once employed Detroit's homeless, CREEM was forced out of business in the late '80s due to a music industry restructuring that has yet to restructure. And the publication of this book has caused a ruckus among its own people who can't figure out whether it's good to be in the book or good to not be in it. Ahead of its time, CREEM predicted the worsening of music, media and civilization. Run by godless heathens and guys and gals who according to its own readers were determined to put out the worst magazine possible, CREEM embraced the apocalypse and even seemed to be laughing at the idea of human extinction. What a bunch of jerks!
- Lester Bangs
- Bruce Springsteen