I’ve said this before, but I tend to enjoy (more often than not) biographies of people I either know little-to-nothing about or people I’ve never been particularly interested in. I was never a “fan” of The New York Dolls or The Heartbreakers; I appreciate both and like several songs but neither group ever made their mark on me or my music. However, I was a big fan of Beat Rodeo, a wonderful band from the mid-’80’s who I saw on several occasions and had records by. That band’s drummer, Curt Weiss (who once went by the splendid moniker of “Lewis King”), has turned author, having penned a comprehensive biography of Jerry Nolan, the incredibly talented but troubled drummer for both the Dolls and the Heartbreakers.
Coming into this reading with a completely open mind, I can say this from the research and writing point of view and style, Mr. Weiss is a damned fine writer. There’s none of the deifications that writers tend to do when writing about a “hero” of theirs; it’s objective, fact-filled – painstakingly researched and simply fascinating – especially since I was able to receive an education on someone who was always just associated with another act/name (the Dolls, the Heartbreakers, Johnny Thunders). It made finding out about this legend (if you will) all the more pleasurable. And more importantly, it wasn’t an easy read – because the central character of the story is so unlikable. Hence, my greater appreciation of Mr. Weiss’ writing style and delivery.
Jerry Nolan, while an immensely gifted drummer (a human metronome, really), was an unflappable junkie; a heartless womanizer; a thief; held petty grudges (like his never-ending anger towards his best childhood friend, Peter Criss); irresponsible to the point of always getting kicked out of whatever band he was in – in short, not someone particularly nice or someone I’d ever want to know/be associated with. Yes, he was a meticulously sharp dresser with style (he fancied himself to be like the hip jazz players or Elvis Presley) and from all reports, a great story teller and “band director” (of sorts) but his lousy human skills made him insufferable.
That’s the beauty of this book – the juxtaposition of the writing and fact-telling while giving a full scope on someone who was (for all intents and purposes) a complete fuck up with seemingly no scruples (turning younger musicians and women on to heroin makes you a real shitheel – and I’m being kind). Mr. Weiss has done a more than commendable job – to be able to be thorough, deliver the facts without sugarcoating the ugliness of the story’s foucs and keeping it interesting. For someone who I’d never given much thought to, Jerry Nolan’s story is a can’t-put-it-down kind of read.
Stranded In The Jungle – Jerry Nolan’s Wild Ride will be released Tuesday, October 17th, 2017