I'll tell ya when it hit me, it hit when I picked up the LA Times and saw an ad announcing a reading at Barnes & Noble for the new memoir by the frontman for the rock band Creed. And I thought: Creeed?
The Creed book is just the latest of what seems like dozens of memoirs by musicians. Hey, musicians, leave us kids alone!
But what's the deal? I've been reading as many as I can to see if I can figure it out, from Megadeath's to Mickey Dolenz'e. I started with Chronicles, Bob Dylan's 2004 memoir about his beginnings in New York. It really gave me a feeling of trudging through a New York winter in the snow in Greenwich Village with a guitar, so I went deeper into that scene: with the Carole King's Natural Woman and Judy Collins' Sweet Judy Blue Eyes. Then I had to read Just Kids by Patti Smith. It was a National Book Award Winner, and it really takes you inside. You get to be there with Patti and all those bohemian hearts making all that art back in her day -- and you know what? She doesn't say one bad thing about anybody. (Note to self!)
That was really refreshing, compared to Keith Richards' Life: 600 pages of wild yarns ripping everybody. Too bad he had to have Johnny Depp read the audiobook.
Hey, now there's a Rod Stewart memoir out there, joining Gregg Allman, Rick Springfield, all those Chili Peppers, more than one Kiss and a coupla Guns'n'Roses ... and See a Little Light by Bob Mould from Husker Du.
These memoirs remind me of the musical parts of the counterculture we loved: the love, sadness, anger, those times you wanna jump around, rip it up, or just lie on the floor with your head in between speakers. Headphones ... I think these memoirs get in through there, ya know?
I asked a music writer friend (who just did a review of a new bio of Leonard Cohen) what's behind the publishing trend, and he said: Simple: They're getting huge advances!"
The last book on my list was Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace. Picture of old Young on the front, young Young on the back. On page 223 Neil says: "Writing is very convenient, has a low expense, and is a great way to pass the time. I highly recommend it any old rocker who is out of cash and doesn't know what to do next. You could hire someone else to write it for you if you can't write it yourself. That doesn't seem to matter. Just don't hire some sweaty hack who asks you questions for years and twists them into his own vision of what is right or wrong. Try to avoid doing that."