Banned Books Week begins this Sunday. From September 21 through the 27, readers are encouraged to celebrate the more than 11,300 books have been challenged in schools, bookstores and libraries since 1982. Some of the titles that have been challenged are classics like The Great Gatsby. Others are new, potentially scandalous works like 50 Shades of Grey. We’re not writing about those. We’re focusing on band books.
Pop musicians aren’t the brightest people. Writers know this. Ghost writers know this. Thanks to the unnamed ghostwriters that go into the dumb trenches to hear the dumb stories, pop music fan readers are able to enjoy the exploits of many hair metal bands without having to talk to any hair metal bands. Though these books are not banned, maybe they should. They should be read and enjoyed, both for reasons ironically and sincerely.
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Mötley Crüe with Neil Strauss (2002)
The Bible of rock and roll memoirs. ‘Written’ by all four original members of Crüe (Strauss most likely hung around while one guy did coke, one guy lifted weights, one guy steered a boat with his junk and one guy slowly faded into the night due to a debilitating spinal disease), the book is entertaining from page one. The first paragraph, written by Vince Neil, is about Tommy Lee dating a woman with a face like a moose but stayed with her because she could spray a word that would stop most of you from reading across the room. First paragraph. There’s 430 pages of this stuff.
Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad (1993)
Written at the height of their fame, released a little more than six months before Cobain’s suicide, Michael Azerrad’s extremely comprehensive book about a little punk band with only three studio albums is an informative and ultimately bittersweet read.
Azerrad is an easy to read author and expert in underground college rock. His 2002 book, Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, is a great starting point for the potential Replacements fan in your life.
The Wu-Tang Manual by The RZA and Chris Norris (2005)
This is great bathroom reading. It doesn’t belong in bathroom, but it’s the kind of book that can be picked up for a few minutes and the reader can learn some interesting tidbits and philosophy behind the shape shifting hip-hop group. Also, people will be surprised that there’s a Wu-Tang book in your bathroom and then ask about the book and then you get to talk about the book and Wu-Tang.
No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman (1980)
This tome ushered in the era of the modern rock bio. It made The Doors ‘important.’ It’s the biography of Jim Morrison most people that discover The Doors in junior high and/or early in high school devour. If read past the age of 15, it’s a comedy. If read between 12 and 15, it’s a user manual. Handle with care. You do not want anyone in your life thinking Jim Morrison is a cool bro to emulate. Use it as a litmus test.
Life By James Fox Keith Richards (2010)
The next generation of rock and roll autobiographies. Unlike the Morrison bio, Richards autobiography never takes itself that seriously. In fact, he takes nothing that seriously. Unless it’s the early rock and roll and blues that led to the formation of The Rolling Stones, Richards does not care. Maybe the only book on the list that’s best as an audio book. Read by Johnny Depp with Joe Hurley doing an odd Richards impression and few chapters at the end by Richards himself, the text sounds better than consumed with your eyes. I read this thing on trip to Vegas. Vegas seemed dull. I listened to this thing while walking around D.C. It made D.C. seem exciting.