Welcome to Rock Memoir Book Club! This is where I read rock memoirs — because, post–Keith Richards’s Life, there are suddenly a lot of rock memoirs — and encourage readers to follow along. It’s perfect for people who like to read but are ambivalent about books written by actual writers. So, gather your rock memoir–loving pals and let’s talk it out!
Discussion question no. 1: How does Rex Brown have “inside” knowledge of Pantera? Did he know somebody in the band?
If you have the smallest bit of casual knowledge about Pantera, it probably involves the band’s wunderkind guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, whose murder by a deranged gunman onstage during a 2004 concert by his post-Pantera band, Damageplan, in Columbus, Ohio, surely ranks among the most horrific rock deaths. If you own a Pantera album or two, you’re likely aware that Abbott’s brother, Vinnie Paul, was the band’s drummer, and a frankly terrifying slab of beef named Phil Anselmo was the lead singer. If you read Official Truth, 101 Proof, you’ll learn Pantera apparently also included a significantly less interesting bass player named Rex Brown.
In this installment of Rock Memoir Book Club, we discuss Luck or Something Like It by Kenny Rogers.
Discussion question no. 1: Who is Kenny Rogers?
I don’t mean in the philosophical, “Who is anybody, really?” sense. I mean, I have no idea who Kenny Rogers is after reading Kenny Rogers’s book. Luck or Something Like It is one of those rock-star memoirs — like Neil Young’s similarly rambling, content-free Waging Heavy Peace — that seeks to re-create the experience of listening to the subject speak amiably about nothing in particular for several hours. Luck is a pleasant-enough read, but don’t expect any insight into what truly makes the Gambler hold ’em and/or fold ’em.
In this installment of Rock Memoir Book Club, we discuss Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss, by ex-Kiss drummer Peter Criss with Larry “Ratso” Sloman.
Discussion question no. 1: How does this book compare with Peter Criss’s drumming on the first six Kiss albums and that one song on Dynasty?
This is a loaded question, since Eric Carr is my favorite Kiss drummer of all time. (This is based mainly on Creatures of the Night and its ridiculously huge, fake John Bonham drum sound.) But if the question is really “Did you enjoy this book?” then the answer is “Absolutely.” In the previous Rock Memoir Book Club installment, I said that the “obvious truism” of these books is “the more respected a rock star is, the less readable his or her book will be.” The inverse can be applied to Peter Criss: Yes, he’s an original member of Kiss, but outside of getting name-checked in prime-era Weezer songs, he hasn’t exactly been inundated with superlatives in the past 40 years. He’s got, he’s got, he’s got nothin’ to lose by spilling as much dirt as possible in Makeup to Breakup.
Welcome to the first installment of Rock Memoir Book Club! This is where I read rock memoirs — because, post–Keith Richards’s Life, there are suddenly a lot of rock memoirs — and encourage all of you readers out there to follow along. It’s perfect for people who like to read but are ambivalent about books written by actual writers. I’ll be focusing on newly released rock memoirs, though eventually I’ll branch out to classics of the form — take heart, Crazy From the Heat fans — so don’t be shy about making requests. In my more pretentious moments I like to think of this feature as a prolonged examination into the ways that rock stars attempt to manipulate their personae in the twilight of their careers, and how and why they succeed or fail. But mostly I think it’ll be fun to discuss books about drug overdoses and sexual humiliation.
My goal is for this to be a true book club. (I’ve never been a member of an actual book club, so I pulled my discussion questions from a website I found in a Google search.) In the future, I’ll be giving advance notice for the next book, so you can read along with me and be ready to hunker down with the discussion questions in the comments section. Or, if you fall behind, you can always revisit these posts and have your own Rock Memoir Book Club with friends. Or you don’t have to read the books at all, though any jokey references I make to The Long Hard Road Out of Hell will be lost on you.