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Hey everyone – so this piece has been brewing almost as long as the follow up to The Enchanter Persuaded. . .this is Kid talking.  I read this review by the great Rick Moody and realized he was as addicted to rock biographies as I.  So I decided, what the f’ – I would write to him and take his pulse on music bios. What follows is our reconstituted email exchange with our recommendations sprinkled in. . .the formatting is kind of f’ed. . .but I think we just need to publish this

(For those of you who don't know: Rick Moody is a great Brooklyn-based musician and writer. Rick's new book The Four Fingers of Death was released earlier this year. Pick it up - as well as other Brah favorites The Black Veil, Right Livelihoods, and The Ice Storm. Also check his great series of music writings here. . .)

Kid Millions: For enlightenment of Brah readers – what are some of your absolute favorite music/rock books? I've got some thoughts. . .In terms of classics? It depends on what you go in for. . .If you want amazing renderings of somewhat obscure players –THE SOURCE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF FATHER YOD, YA HO WHA 13, AND THE SOURCE FAMILY is absolutely incredible. EYE MIND - about the 13th Floor Elevators captures the peerless heights with the immense tragedy that those guys traversed. I think WALK THIS WAY - the Aerosmith story is amazing, THE DIRT is also jaw-dropping.  SHAKEY - the Neil book is a classic. CHRONICLES, the Dylan memoir was so nakedly mannered but also tremendously inspiring. . .HEAD ON/REPOSSESSED by Julian Cope is great, OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE by Michael Azerrad, SWEET SOUL MUSIC by Peter Guralnick - the list goes on and on.

Rick Moody: I think the very worst and most fascinating of recent rock books is, yes, THE DIRT by Neil Strauss. It's far better than Motley Crüe itself, I think. They are lucky to be the subjects thereof. It's so good it made me want to listen to Motley Crüe, until I went and did so and remembered that they are basically unlistenable.

Of the other books you name, I liked the Dylan CHRONICLES, though it was obscenely impulsive in terms of its structure. I think SHAKEY is not as good as you think, because I think Neil withdrew his support at a crucial stage. I found the author's tone slightly churlish in spots. But it was full of good information. I haven't read the 13th Floor Elevators book, and now would like to.

KM: Perhaps I was snowed a bit by SHAKEY. . .it seemed to me like the author's loss of access kind of played into his overall portrait of Neil - which might actually highlight the author's flaws . . .but I will check it again I'm sure. I also didn't agree w his assessment of Trans and his 90s work - which I love - but anyway.


LIPSTICK TRACES, by Greil Marcus


AESTHETICS OF ROCK by Richard Melzer

RM: The Azzerad is very great, PLEASE KILL ME is a miracle (just read it again, in fact), as is ENGLAND'S DREAMING (Jon Savage wrote a good book about teenagers through history, recently, TEENAGE: THE CREATION OF YOUTH CULTURE --that was fascinating as well).  These are all must-reads for anyone who is into reading about this sort of thing, I expect. I assume you have read them all and just overlooked them in your list.

KM: I read Lipstick Traces a while ago and I loved it - but it wasn't fresh in my mind - I can't really read Marcus anymore - but I learned a lot about the context of the Basement Tapes by listening to a radio presentation he did on it one 4th of July. Embarrassingly - I haven't read AESTHETICS OF ROCK. . .Bobby from Oneida told me about it probably when we were in college and I just never got around to it. I will now. [I still haven’t]. .

Rick continues with recommendations:

NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE by Danny Sugarman

THE REAL FRANK ZAPPA BOOK by Frank Zappa/Peter Occhiogrosso


MR. TAMBOURINE MAN: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds’ Gene Clark by John Einarson/Gene Clark

RM: Gene Clark is a god, I think, and should be better known, so if this book leads people to the music, all the better!

KM: Gene Clark is big in Oneida's world. . .so I will definitely pick that up. We've joked about covering No Other or doing something in the spirit of that song - which is demented and full of odd choices.

I WAS A ROBOT by Wolfgang Flur

RM: [It’s] about his years in Kraftwerk. It was excellent and hilarious. Flur was a romantic playing at being a cold, inhuman Kraftwerk member. What could be better?

KM: Shahin Motia - from Oneida and Ex Models - just picked up the Kraftwerk book. . .I really really want to read that. I'm curious to read your thoughts about drum machines - I love them . . .I cherish them in fact. . .and I'm a drummer. It took some exposure to NY electro (NOT electro clash btw), Detroit techno and Chicago house when I first moved to NY in 96 to move me in that direction. Of course all those guys revered Kraftwerk. . .looking forward to your thoughts on that.

RM: I do not disagree about there being some expressive uses of drum machine (ANOTHER GREEN WORLD being loaded with examples). I do not want to write it off in all cases. And there are a couple of early Detroit house music things that I think are great. Interestingly, I believe the drum machine means something different in black music. Paradoxically, I hate it in Kraftwerk, but I don't mind it in black music that is heavily influenced by Kraftwerk. I am involved in a project to sing an a cappella version of COMPUTER WORLD in its entirety, and in that context I have had occasion to listen to the original a lot recently and I think the drum composition is sort of dated and horrible and embarrassing. Which is one thing worth saying: drum programming DATES really fast. The essay is entitled EUROPE, FORSAKE YOUR DRUM MACHINES, and it's really as much about the philosophy that seems to go with the drum machine in Europe (but not, e.g., in hip hop)--mechanization is good, dehumanization is good, streamlining is good--and how it has slain Europe's indigenous music culture. What I love about drumming is when drumming is bad, when tempos shift, when licks are dropped, or when it's shockingly good like with a Chester Thompson or a Max Roach or a Jack DeJohnette, when the time signatures are slippery, or there are polyrhythms, and so on. To me that sounds really human, and when things sound really human my heart leaps up. I understand electronic music, and for a long time I was an unquestioning adherent. But now I think a lot of House is truly formulaic, and that drum machine sound that you here in top forty stuff to me feels really corporate, faceless, mass-produced. So the Nietzschean aspect of Kraftwerk-style electronic rhythms has sort of accomplished what they were parodying at one time, leached all the warmth out for me. Which is why, in the end, The Roots are my favorite hip hop band. Not because of the lyrics (which are fair to middling) but because Questlove is such a kickass drummer. One of the greats.  And I did like Flur's book, but it is written like shit. Totally juvenile and ridiculous in the writing department. Hard to like on that basis. But gossipy in a good way.

TRANSFORMER by Victor Bockris

POSITIVELY FOURTH STREET: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina & Richard Farina by David Hadju

CATCH A WAVE by Peter Carlin

WOULDN'T IT BE NICE: My Own Story by Brian Wilson

Pete Townshend's frequently mystifying book of short stories, HORSE'S NECK


KM: Fahey's voice in "Bluegrass" feels singular. In a way - just reading a few stories in his book changed the way I approach my own writing - I just got his album America - something definitely worth checking out.


RM: [And] I did recently read (800 pages!) John French's BEEFHEART: THROUGH THE EYES OF MAGIC. You might really like it. I did, although it's incredibly repetitious, and Don Van Vliet does not come off too well. Now two major players in his circle had issued autobiographies (the other is Bill "Zoot Horn Rollo" Harkleroad), and in neither case, it seems, does the Captain seem like benign goofball with great musical impulses, as you might guess had you just listened to the albums. French is very very detailed about how the polyrhythms work on TROUT MASK, and who scored which pieces, and what awful things were said, and how much physical violence there was. It's all sort of Manson Familyish.

KM: Anyway - I did know that Beefheart was a cult leader. I got that from the box set [Grow Fins] liner notes - do you have that? The instrumental Trout Mask sessions are incredible. . . The one two punch of that box set and Seductive Poison by Deborah Layton about her life in the Peoples Temple was very strange. Beefheart led a cult and practiced mind-control in the exact same way as the Peoples Temple and Manson. . .so yeah. . .hmmm. The music is amazing - but the means were brutal. .

{Co-Editor's Note:  RIP to good Captain}

33 1/3 Series

Carl Wilson’s book on Celine Dion - LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE: A JOURNEY TO THE END OF TASTE

RM: Lots of those short 33 1/3 books about particular albums are great. But I really loved the one about Celine Dion. I can't, offhand, remember the name of the author, but his book was sublime. It made you think that maybe you were WRONG about Celine Dion, even though you were NOT wrong.

Warren Zanes's book on Dusty Springfield - DUSTY IN MEMPHIS

Marc Woodworth's book  on Guided By Voices - BEE THOUSAND

KM: Two books I just read that I might add . . .maybe Crosby's isn't a classic but it's ridiculous.

JUST KIDS by Patti Smith

LONG TIME GONE by David Crosby

Thanks to Rick for the conversation about these books – write to us with any other suggestions. . .

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