Tag Archive | Rock Memoir

Must Read Book: Nick Kent’s Apathy For The Devil

It’s no secret to anyone born prior to 1980 that the best years – the truly Golden years – of Rock music are now decades behind us. By the “best” years, of course, I’m talking about the 1970s. Some of us were lucky enough to live through this truly magical decade that, when speaking of Rock music, came in like a lamb and went out like a lion. Think about it, the 70s embodied a sonic revolution like no other: ushered in softly by the final days of The Beatles – the band that invented everything – and ushered out by the glorious cacophony that was first wave British Punk Rock – a movement that’s influenced countless pop music genres that have arrived in its wake. From the Beatles to Punk Rock; there arguably is no decade that has had a greater impact than the 1970s, historically and influentially, on any modern music that is worth listening to.

The Seventies live on for music fans of a younger generation because so much of that music is archived and still available to anyone with an iTunes account. But just hearing the music isn’t the same as being privy to the rich and exotic history behind the people who made those songs come alive. That is why we must be grateful for rock journalists like Nick Kent, a rock critic and avid fan, who was at ground zero for almost everything noteworthy that happened musically between the years of 1970 and 1980,  for having captured his experiences living the rock and roll dream, and its nightmare flipside, in his recent memoir entitled Apathy For The Devil (Da Capo Press). I’ve read a ton of music bios and memoirs on the Seventies and, seriously, this is best book on the subject that I’ve come across.

Just how great is Apathy for The Devil? Well, I would venture that it’s an even more satisfying read than Bob Greene’s long-out-of-print gem Billion Dollar Baby, that writer’s inside account of going on the road with the original band called Alice Cooper – and that is lofty praise indeed, because that book is just insane. As a writer for England’s NME magazine, a first-hand participant in and keen observer of so much of rock’s from-the-gutter-to-the-good-life history, Kent’s memoir is both entertaining and edifying. I mean, the guy knew, met, interviewed and wrote about everyone: Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, The Whoeveryone. Certainly too many bands and artists to name and keep this review under 5,000 words. And the war stories he’s brought back from his close encounters will knock your socks off. I love this book!

Divided into nine chapters, one for each year, with 1978 and 1979 combined into one entry, Apathy For The Devil is quite a roller coaster ride, and at the end of the ride you may find many of your previously held opinions enriched or changed flat out. For example, the chapter entitled “1973”, in which he elucidates his understanding of the inner workings of The Rolling Stones and his assessment of just how Mick Jagger’s mind works, piqued my interest and enthusiasm for that band in a way that 40 years of their recorded music had been unable to do. Apathy For The Devil is, in Kent’s own words, about “surreal people living surreal, action-packed lives.” And although he was talking about rock stars when he wrote that, what you come to realize as you flip through page after page of vivid, fearless, darkly humorous and wickedly compelling prose, is that he is also talking about himself.

In the florid pages of Apathy For The Devil, we learn not only every gloriously gritty detail about Kent’s intimate personal history during ten years spent writing about every band that mattered, but also amazing details about the personal histories of dozens rock stars and music industry luminaries that are now household names; from the aforementioned legends like David Bowie and Mick Jagger to Chrissie Hynde (who was Kent’s girlfriend in her pre–Pretenders years) and the notorious, Punk Rock Svengali Malcolm McLaren, who had never even heard of Jimi Hendrix before he met Kent. As if the insider stories of Rock’s most decadent decade weren’t enough, the author also shares his decent into and recovery from heroin addiction in riveting detail. So, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, it’s all here in a book that’s amazingly well-written and so much fun you won’t be able to put it down.

For Rocking hard enough to Crack a Skull, The Worley Gig gives Apathy For The Devil Five out of Five Stars.

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Must Read Book: Neon Angel, A Memoir of a Runaway By Cherie Currie

“Neon Angels On The Road to Ruin…”

Few true tales have the power to compel and transport the reader quite like the life story of a bona fide Rock & Roll Survivor. Of Rock’s innumerable legends with stories worth telling, so many of them – Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison; the list is endless, really – never lived long enough to write their histories in their own words. And of those that have written autobiographies, no one ever really gets – or takes advantage of – the opportunity to go back and revisit his or her life on the written page, updating the tale or adding details that were perhaps forgotten or too painful to tell the first time around. Cherie Currie, former lead singer of the teenage all-girl rock band The Runaways is an exception to that rule. In 1989, Cherie published her autobiography, Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story. Admittedly unable to even read the book herself until 2000, Currie – now more than two decades on the right side of recovery from a drug and alcohol addiction (she had to get a private detox room in Sacramento) that nearly took her life – decided that her story needed to be brought up to the present, and that certain traumatic experiences she’d lived through as a young woman, but wasn’t yet ready to re-live in the book’s first installment, needed to be told. Serving as the source material for the new film The Runaways, Neon Angel has been updated and recently republished by It Books/Harper Collins as Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. For any true rock fan, and even those who read the 1989 edition of Currie’s book, I would strongly suggest checking out the updated version, because it is a pretty wild ride.

Because Currie quit The Runaways after less than two years in the band, and considering that her post-Runaways music career failed to take off like that of her band mates Joan Jett and Lita Ford, who enjoy successful musical endeavors to this day, not many people even know what happened to Cherie Currie once she left the band. What makes Neon Angel such a great read is the authenticity and vulnerability with which Currie imbues her narrative. While she engages the reader with fantastic and vivid tales of rock stardom enjoyed as a member of The Runaways, playing to hysterical audiences wherever they went, having their pictures plastered in rock magazines all over the world and meeting their own rock heroes such as David Bowie and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, the true story of Cherie Currie’s time spent fronting this history-making band is far from all fun and games. Without parental supervision or even proper adult representation, and too naive about the music business to understand their basic legal rights, the girls were robbed blind by Kim Fowley, the producer whose vision for The Runaways was that they serve as his own personal money making-vehicle. Fowley’s verbal and emotional abuse was relentless and based on some of the stories in this book it’s difficult to understand why criminal charges were never brought against this scumbag. Beyond that, there are enough “lost weekend” style drug stories to scare anybody straight, including harrowing tales of times that Currie put herself in harm’s way while under the influence of drugs that make it difficult to believe that she even lived to share them.

Most importantly, Neon Angel takes you inside the world of a talented and driven fifteen year old girl who went to from being a high school student, listening to her favorite records in her bedroom and hanging out with her friends at the local dance club to being an international rock star all before she reached her 17th birthday. Thanks to Currie’s inviting and down to earth narrative voice, the reader can empathize with her personal triumphs and tragedies in a way that allows you to really “get” what it must have been like to walk in her shoes.

Serving as both a cautionary tale and an inspirational true-life page-turner, The Worley Gig gives Cherie Currie’s Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway Five out of Five Stars.

Excellent Book I Am Reading Right Now: My Booky Wook By Russell Brand

My Booky Wook

Do you know who Russell Brand is? He’s pretty (in)famous in England, but over here I guess he’s best known for his role as the womanizing rock star, Aldous Snow in Judd Apatow’s wildly hilarious comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or for causing a massive and wonderful ruckus as the “controversial” one-time host of MTV’s otherwise lame Video Music Awards a few years back. He also does a righteous stand-up comedy routine, which I have seen on HBO. Also, he’s dangerously good-looking – definitely my type, physically. I love him so much. Currently I am reading Brand’s 2008 autobiography, My Booky Wook, which details in wickedly clever prose the trajectory of the author’s life and career through sex addiction, drug addiction and what would appear to be flat out mental instability akin to whatever social dysfunction Tom Green suffers from. My Booky Wook is crammed with roll-around-on-the-floor hilarious tales of destruction and mayhem, more sex than in Eric Clapton’s bio (because he boinked everything that moved) and Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk’s porn-industry novel, combined, and certainly way more heroin use than in any book I’ve read previously – and I have read Trainspotting. It’s definitely a page-turner of the highest order and a book I couldn’t help but recommend to you, my dear readers.

Must Read Rock Book: Poisoned Heart By Vera Ramone King

Despite the fact that it has possibly the longest title of any book ever written, I was able to read Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone (The Ramones Years). A Punk Love Story – the gritty new biography by Dee Dee Ramone’s long-suffering ex-wife Vera Ramone King – in the 3 hours it took me to fly from Chicago to Newark. Let me tell you, I loved this book! Everybody knows who the Ramones were, their indelible imprint on rock history, and the importance of the role that Dee Dee Ramone – heartthrob, bassist and primary songwriter – played within the band. Most of what you already know about the history of the band gets rehashed here, not that it’s anything but completely fascinating.

But what makes Poisoned Heart such a gut-wrenching, nostalgia-inspiring page turner is Vera’s first-hand account of what it was like coming up in the rock scene of 1970s New York and her intimate decades-long, bittersweet relationship with Dee Dee. Often a loving husband who doted on Vera and showered her with gifts, Dee Dee Ramone was also a violent drug addict and extremely mentally ill individual who just as often used his wife as a punching bag, making her life quite literally a living Hell. If you’ve ever wondered why a woman stays with a man who beats her, this book will help to shed some light on the many shades of grey of that situation. Clearly it was not as easy for Vera to walk away from the relationship as it might have looked from the outside. Well written, poignant, at times hilarious and ultimately heartbreaking, I cannot recommend Poisoned Heart highly enough for fans of the Ramones and rock fans in general.

The Worley Gig Gives Poisoned Heart Five out of Five Stars!