James Hetfield

Top 5 Music Autobiographies That Need to Be Written

James Hetfield

Kiss frontman Paul Stanley recently admitted that he’s working on his autobiography, making him the last of the original four members to do so. I’m guessing that as far as the ratio of honest insight to revisionist bullshit goes, the Starchild’s tome will be less forthcoming than either Ace Frehley’s or Peter Criss’s, but more open than Gene Simmons’s. (You just know he would love to tell the world what he really thinks of Gene but can’t since Kiss is still recording and touring.)

But what about all the other musicians still out there who haven’t gone on the record? You just know there are a ton of great memories to be shared, secrets to be revealed, and shit to be talked. So here are the five music autobiographies I’d love to see written.

#5. Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony, hard rock’s reigning king of hot sauce, was present for just about every pivotal moment in Van Halen history. He was there during the formative southern California club days. He was there when the band made it big, and he was there when they pulled off the improbable but relatively smooth transition from David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar. Hell, he was even there for Gary Cherone.

So if there’s one person who was a firsthand witness to just about every important piece of VH history and probably didn’t destroy his brain with booze or drugs in the process, it’s Mikey. Eddie and Alex were there of course, but they’ve changed their story on important details so many times and consumed so much booze that I don’t think I could trust their version of events. Mikey knows the real story behind Dave’s 1985 departure from the band, he knows what went down with Sammy in 1996, and he most likely knows the deal behind the disastrous first reunion attempt with Dave.

So what’s keeping him from spilling everything? I have no idea. Given his rather shabby treatment by the Van Halen brothers in recent years, he certainly has every justification to open the vault, so to speak. And with Wolfgang Van Halen seemingly ensconced as the band’s bassist, a return to the VH fold seems unlikely any time soon.

Suggested book title: OIH8VH

#4. Mike Love

Now hear me out on this one. I implied at the beginning of this piece that I prefer honest, forthcoming autobiographies to self-serving pabulum. But sometimes there’s something to be said for metaphorically taking a big ol’ bite out of a horseshit sandwich too. And if there’s one man alive who could make Gene Simmons look humble and self-effacing, it’s Michael Edward Love.

I expect we’ll read all about young Mike singing with the teenage Wilson brothers at their home in Hawthorne, California. Love will tell us about the early days of the Pendletones/Beach Boys, and how Brian Wilson’s already impressive ability shaped their musical direction. I even suspect Love will show proper reverence for Brian’s immense gifts, as he has done so many times in the past.

But then we’ll get to the good stuff. We’ll read his account of how he really didn’t practically torpedo the SMiLE album by himself. Or how he came to the artistically unimpeachable decision to let John “Uncle Jesse” Stamos record lead vocals on a new version of the Dennis Wilson ballad “Forever.” Most importantly, though, we’ll get a primer on how to navigate America’s often tricky legal system. In fact, I can hear a cease-and-desist order heading my way now.

Suggested book title: Redacted: The Mike Love Story (Executive Producer: Mike Love)

#3. James Hetfield

James Hetfield is not a name that immediately springs to mind when you think of great stories, but I bet he has a million of them. His upbringing alone would make for a gripping, albeit rather depressing, narrative. His truck driving father left the family when James was a young boy, and his opera singing mother died of cancer when James was 16. See, I told you it was depressing.

But beyond that, I suspect the now-sober Hetfield has the experience, credibility, and perspective to be able to impart tons of wisdom on young admirers and aspiring musicians alike. We can all learn a little something from James on topics like how to start from nothing and cultivate an insanely loyal fan base, how to cope with the tragic death of a band member, how to successfully navigate the ever-changing tide of musical trends, and how to deal with being in the same band as Lars Ulrich for three decades without pounding him into a thin, Danish gruel.

And I must insist that Hetfield personally record the audiobook version of his autobiography, just so I can hear him suppress laughter when talking about the first time he saw footage from this classic chat between Ulrich and former Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine.

Suggested book title: Gimme Fue, Give Me Fie, It’s My Autobiographah!

#2. David Gilmour

I almost went with Roger Waters instead, but who wants to read 200 pages on how great The Wall was and another 200 pages on his dead father? No thanks.

There’s a lot I’d like to read from David Gilmour. He and his Pink Floyd bandmates were at the vanguard of the psychedelic rock scene of the late ’60s, and of course they were one of the biggest bands of the ’70s. He kept Pink Floyd alive commercially and artistically despite the loss of its main creative force. Not to mention the fact that he is one of the most revered rock guitarists of the last 40 years.

On a personal level, he’s an aviation buff and deeply committed to philanthropy. What I also find fascinating about him is that he’s basically a guitar god but has always projected this rather detached, almost icy air of reserve and sophistication. I’d love to get a peek behind that curtain, if you will, and know more about David Gilmour the man.

But more than anything else, I want to see how far into the book Gilmour makes it before the rage overtakes him and he just starts pounding the keyboard and typing, “BLLLEARRRGHH FUCK YOU ROGER FUCK YOU ROGER FUCK YOU ROGER!!!!!!!!”

Suggested book title: BLLLEARRRGHH FUCK YOU ROGER FUCK YOU ROGER FUCK YOU ROGER!!!!!!!!

#1. Emerson, Lake & Palmer

I think it’s high time one of the most loved and reviled — sometimes by the same people — progressive rock outfits of the genre’s 1970s golden era had a chance to set the record straight on a number of things. Bash them all you want for being pompous and overblown, but at their peak they were loved by millions.

I’d love a firsthand account of what it was like being one of the early supergroups, and how nervous they must have been playing one of their first concerts at the legendary Isle of Wight festival in 1970. I want to read more about their love of classical music, and how it influenced their playing. I need to know if they think they took things too far as the ’70s came to a close, particularly with their overblown on-stage antics and increasingly gargantuan touring setup.

I think an honest bit of reflection on the band’s worst excesses might prove informative for readers and cathartic for the trio. That’s the kind of stuff that makes for a great book.

Mostly, though, I think the public deserves an explanation as to what the hell the three of them were thinking about on this:

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Love Beach

Suggested book title: Welcome Back My Friends to the Book That Never Ends (Until Page 387)




  • David_E

    This was equal parts smart and funny and well-written. Thanks! (Also … not the Mike Love title I was expecting.)

  • http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/ Chris Holmes

    No, thank you!

  • nmstar

    That is a very good list. However you leave off who would be number one on my list and that is Brian May. He is a true guitar virtuoso (on a guitar he helped build), was a main songwriter in one of the best and most popular bands of all time, lost his band mate/rock icon to AIDS, earned a PhD in astrophysics, wrote a book on stereophotography, and is a chancellor of a college. Wow! If I ever had a chance to have a dinner with a celebrity this is who I’d pick.