If you have a music lover in your life and he or she already has (or has no interest in) Bruce Springsteen’s lengthy memoir Born to Run, there were quite a few other good music bios released this year. No disrespect to the Boss, but music lovers don’t usually read only one music-related book a year. So if you’re stumped on what to give as a gift for the holidays, here are five books to consider.
All These Things That I’ve Done: My Insane, Improbable Rock Life, by Matt Pinfield with Mitchell Cohen
Named after a song from a band he almost signed to Sony, Matt Pinfield shares a lot of stories about bands he’s known or signed. A lot of them, actually. His life as a music enthusiast has led him to many wild adventures and he’s happy to share what he’s experienced. So much to the point where if you hate name-dropping and humblebrags, this is not the book for you. Whether it’s about spending time with Lou Reed or U2, he also takes a lot of time talking about signing bands like Acceptance and Coheed & Cambria. He lines out how he went from a music fan to a DJ to a VJ, hosting 120 Minutes, and how he wound up being an A&R man. The stories hint at a much deeper book, as he touches on how addiction landed him in rehab and how his marriages fell apart, but it looks like those stories got pushed to the back in favor of telling stories about music.
NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories, by NOFX with Jeff Alulis
Da Capo released a number of good music books this year. The best one, far and away, is an honest and raw oral history of legendary punk band NOFX. Inspired and done in the vein of The Dirt and Please Kill Me, the four main members are not afraid to talk about drug abuse, sexual abuse, crazy tour stories, the hardcore punk scene in the 1980s, and what life is like for them now. The band is known for their sense of humor, but this book shows a denser side of them, one that isn’t afraid to talk about unpleasant matters.
Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys, by Lol Tolhurst
Lol Tolhurst co-founded the Cure in the 1970s, first as the drummer and later, keyboardist. He was fired from the band before they went on tour for Disintegration, and the majority of the book is about these two eras of his life. Going down a long road of alcohol (his father was an alcoholic, too), Tolhurst makes no bones about how the drink almost cut his life short. Rather than celebrate the times he spent with the bottle, he talks frankly about how it prevented from truly embracing his life. This is much more about Tolhurst’s relationship with the band members, especially Robert Smith, and not an in-depth look at how the Cure made their landmark recordings. Lots of tour stories here, including a rather crazy one in Argentina. The nice thing is, Tolhurst’s story has a very happy ending.
My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor, by Keith Morris with Jim Ruland
You’ve seen Keith Morris in many documentaries about punk rock, usually offering up a more open-minded opinion about music that isn’t punk rock. This memoir is an expanded version of the stories you’ve heard before, and plenty you haven’t heard before. First as the frontman of Black Flag (which started out after a Journey concert, take that you indie purist snobs!), then with the Circle Jerks, and now OFF! and FLAG, My Damage chronicles his life on and off the stage. If you’re hoping for all sorts of horror stories about Greg Ginn, you’re going to have to look far and wide. Seems like Morris was saved from a lot of drama by exiting the band when he did.
I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir, by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman
Brian Wilson’s memoir about life, love, and music is all over the place, but not in a bad way. He often jumps around decades over the course of a few paragraphs to talk about certain subjects. There is very little dirt on Mike Love (he wrote his own memoir this year if you want to read how much of an asshole he is), but plenty on Dr. Eugene Landy. Landy overmedicated and ripped off Wilson for decades, until Wilson’s second wife came into his life. Wilson has been happy for a long time even though he has had struggles with drugs and mental issues. This book is a pretty clear celebration about of his life.