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    Rock Books

    Brain C. I'm a notoriously bad reader. To make it worse, I only seem to read rock-related books. A sad but nonetheless true fate of a former honors English student. I think I've read just about every bio there is about every major rock star there was. For some reason, however, it is continually compelling to me, especially reading about how someone not much different from myself somehow becomes known the world over for their music, behavior and personality. A great thing about all our rock heroes is that just about all of them came from nothing and nowhere. Very few rock stars are "born" into the business from rocking parents and while most children of rockers invariably follow their parent's footsteps, very few of them make the same impact if they can even find their way out of their parent's shadow at all. No, rock heroes usually start out just like you and me; bored, unpopular, lacking identity, fiercely intelligent but incredibly lazy. In England, they were the outcasts of the trade schools and deposited into "Art colleges", where they found other rejects like themselves and set about conquering the world; name just about ANY important British group and its even money that one member if not all spent some time in art school.

    So here are some recent rock books I've been digging. I've also found that these books are like my music; I get stuck on one for months at a time, reading it and rereading it over and over. Hopefully, you might dig some of these too.

    Get In the Van: On the Road with Black Flag by Henry Rollins 2.13.61

    You don't have to like Rollins' writing to enjoy this one. Unlike most of his work, its specifically autobiographical; the journal entries and other reminiscences of his six years as the lead singer of Black Flag. You don't even have to dig Black Flag or hardcore music either. If you are in a band, however, this just might become your bible. A lot more realism and less humor than Spinal Tap, Rollins' account works as both an incitement and a deterrent to anyone who wants to tour DIY-style. It also chronicles a little of his relatively straight life before hand, when he was an ice cream store manager making good money and how he chucked it all in, followed his gut and lived like a dog for six years, enduring physical and mental abuse and derision while reinventing rock music with his cohorts. I truly find myself identifying with the desperation he felt, when he first saw the band and then looked at the emptiness of his life. When I first came across the book, it was the dedication that made me buy it immediately: "To all the bands who Know. All the shit that these bastards will put you through. The record companies who bullshit you, promoters who lie to you, waste your time and rip you off. The all-night drives that leave you wasted and barely able to think straight when you have a long set and another all-night drive ahead of you. Working harder than anyone else you know and still not being able to pay the rent. Years of watching shitty, fake bands headline over you. The endless blank hours of waiting. The depression of all the beat down towns crowding your mind month after month. Few have your courage." Vintage photos care of Glen E. Friedman, Ed Colver and Noami Peterson round out the collection. Get In the Van is a must for the self-respective Black Flag fan but universal in its story-telling to anyone who plays in a band.


    The Secret History of Rock by Roni Sarig Billboard Books

    This is one of the coolest books I've ever encountered! The subtitle says it all: "The Most Influential Bands You've Never Heard". Basically, an essential book for any fan of music and a long overdue fan letter to a whole slew of unsung heroes. Each chapter chronicles a different artist or group, complete with short bio, as well as quotes from today's current indie and popular rock icons gushing like kids recounting the first time their mind was blown by said artist. On top of that, the chapters end with a pretty comprehensive discography complete with summaries and recommendations for lazy bastards like myself who aren't sure exactly WHICH Wire album is worth parting green for. Some of the artists chronicled include: Erik Satie, Philip Glass, Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, Mission of Burma, the Feelies, Gang of Four, all of my favorite hardcore bands like DK, Minor Threat and Bad Brains (glad to see I wasn't wasting my time listening to stupid shit 11 years ago)... even SLINT is in here, for goodness sakes!!! You can find barely a ripple of Slint on the web; here you can find an entire chapter on their story (which isn't really much but you wouldn't think there would be too much to say about a group that broke up only like seven years ago). I don't feel guilty about using this book as a starting point to make some adventurous purchases. After all, you have to hear about these people from somewhere. It was reading a few miniscule but powerfully worded paragraphs in a U2 bio of all places that sent me to a record store to buy the first Velvet Underground album many years ago. This book is a great starting point for anyone eager to seek out original sources or at least try out some truly adventurous music.

    So there you go, rock fans. Just a few good distractions for anyone interasted in being literate but keeping it somehow related to their rock obsession or simply looking for something to gander at while sitting on the ol' crapper. At least you'll now have some interasting replies ready for the standard question, "Read any good books lately?"

    Written By: Sir Brian C.