It’s almost Record Store Day! Per their website: “This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.” In the spirit of Record Store Day this coming April 18, I am sharing some of my favorite music memoirs as well as a few documentaries.
Published at the end of 2014, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys is a memoir by Viv Albertine - the guitarist of the seminal punk band The Slits. Albertine grew up in England and she spent formative young adult years with Mick Jones (of the Clash) and John Simon Ritchie (Sid Vicious). Through sheer self-determination and incredible will in a completely male-dominated industry, she taught herself to play guitar and joined a band. I love that she is unapologetic in some of the forces that drove her to do what she does: her love of clothes, music, and boys.
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk is an incredible history of punk music told from the mouths of those who were in New York City at the beginning. It doesn’t speak much to the happenings in the U.K., Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C. but it is a great document of a time and place.
If you are looking for the history of punk a little closer to home then We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk* is a great place to start. It includes many interviews and tells the stories of The Runaways, The Germs, X, and Black Flag among many other bands as well. Look for it in our catalog soon, or borrow it from Link Plus.
Speaking of The Runaways, singer Cherie Currie wrote a memoir of her own: Neon Angel. Currie was a teenager when she joined the band. Her story includes struggles with drugs and alcohol as many rock memoirs do. Happily though she got herself to the other side of addiction and is now a wood-carving artist with a chainsaw! Her memoir was inspiration for The Runaways movie.
The Dirt, telling the story of Mötley Crüe, is full of sex, drugs, and rock & roll; and it is a guilty good time. But one would expect nothing less from the Crüe. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart!
Another metal memoir, I Am Ozzy is truly unbelievable. It is amazing that Osborne is still alive when you take into account all of the insane things he has done. You can be astounded too and really it’s funny!
There is no denying the huge impact of hip hop on the world of music. Ed Piskor created Hip Hop Family Tree as a large format graphic novel in 3 volumes to tell the story of hip hop’s roots.
And here are some great documentaries that I have enjoyed:
Two fans of cult singer and songwriter Rodriquez go searching for their idol in Searching for Sugar Man. I love to cry watching movies and this one fit that bill. I can’t say enough good things about it; if you haven’t watched it do so now!
Most rock memoirs are about big stars with lots of fans, but what about all the background people who make music happen? 20 Feet from Stardom tells the story of some of the often overlooked women who are back-up singers for some of the biggest names in music.
Some of the other background people who make musicians who they are include the people who record the music. Muscle Shoals is an ode to Rick Hall, the founder of FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones are some of the musicians who recorded at FAME.
When lots of musicians get together to play a festival is born, and Soul Power documents one that occurred in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974. James Brown, Celia Cruz, The Spinners, Sister Sledge, and B.B. King are all featured.
Music fans are just as important in the music scene as the musicians. Fan and fellow musician Ry Cooder brought together Cuban musicians, whose music had virtually been forgotten after Castro’s rise to power, to record an album. Buena Vista Social Club tells how Cooder made the album happen and how he was able to get them to perform together two times in Amsterdam and the U.S.
And then there is Christopher Guest’s mockumentary This is Spinal Tap because really it’s just music, right?
Comment below and let others know your favorite music memoirs and documentaries. See you at the Record Stores Saturday!
Susy is a teen librarian at the Cesar E. Chavez branch library in Fruitvale. She enjoys reading, motorcycling, and traveling in her free time.
*This item will be in the Oakland Public Library catalog and available for holds in early May. If you'd like to borrow it from Link Plus and need more information, read this.