BOOK REVIEW | "SEVEN DEADLY SINS: SETTLING THE ARGUMENT BETWEEN BORN BAD AND DAMAGED GOOD" BY COREY TAYLOR
ok before i completely unload on this subpar book i want to make clear that i am a fan of SLIPKNOT. i've followed their career since their national live debut on OZZFEST 99 when i was years old which is insane now that i'm thinking about it. 20 years. wow. all im saying is that back then even with a festival loaded with other notable acts like SLAYER, ROB ZOMBIE, DEFTONES, FEAR FACTORY, STATIC-X, PRIMUS, SYSTEM OF A DOWN and BLACK SABBATH, they still stood out.
so i say this with love. SEVEN DEADLY SINS: SETTLING THE ARGUMENT BETWEEN BORN BAD AND DAMAGED GOOD (DA CAPO, 2012) by SLIPKNOT frontman COREY TAYLOR was awful.
it read like a cross between an overly dramatic teenage journal entry (with all the requisite directionless first-person self-referential diatribes) and someone who literally just discovered a thesaurus. it was tiring to the point of exhaustion reading run-on sentence after run-on sentence and awkward word choices that were unnecessarily complex for the sake of being verbose.
its one thing that it was badly written (or in need of serious editing), but the premise of the book itself was garbage. this idea that the seven deadly sins are bullshit and that we should be able learn from and transcend our transgressions. sometimes i dont think TAYLOR even realized he was coming off pro-CATHOLICISM with all his seemingly anti-religious screeds. if anything he was proving the essence of the religion. this is the kind of book that probably does well with people that don't like to think very hard about anything for too long, which likely describes his audience. im said to say that this book did well, but he's made several other books since then so... ugh.
what annoys me the most is that his actual biography is compelling and worthy of a memoir. SLIPKNOT is arguably the last major rock band to reach stadium status since NIRVANA. think about that. a bunch of masked DEATH METAL / THRASH METAL fans from IOWA have pretty much owned the METAL genre and whatever is left of ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio for the better part of two decades and they come from the middle of nowhere in the forgotten midwest. the heartland. goddamn trump country! i'd be interested in reading THAT BOOK that talks about how his upbringing impacted his lyrical content and drive to succeed, not his lukewarm attempt at defining morality. what a letdown.
yeah, i have a copy of this book. anyone wants it just ask. i'm looking to move past having read it. i'll stick to his SLIPKNOT records.
i always found it interesting with movements, whether they be artistic, social or cultural, are entities constantly in flux with new blood constantly reevaluating, interpreting and contextualizing what came before into a new modern amalgamation/expression.
PUNK ROCK is such an artistic/social/cultural phenomena whose innate value and very definition is forever a controversial topic to its many participants and stakeholders. personally, that discussion has long bored me (dating back to high school) and it is refreshing to know that KEITH MORRIS, iconic frontman of 80s HARDCORE legends BLACK FLAG and CIRCLE JERKS, felt much the same as well.
KEITH MORRIS makes a point in his memoir MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR (DA CAPO, 2016) to elucidate upon why he got into music (i.e. passion and personal expression) and how such a foundation has maintained itself over his career as an under-appreciated (in my opinion) cultural force.
it always happens that underground bands like THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, THE STOOGES and THE SEX PISTOLS all had cultural influences that far outweighed their record sales and BLACK FLAG was no different. their ability to refine and harden PUNK's edge into a more potent, punishing musical variant has influenced bands far outside the PUNK community. i'd argue modern METAL music is indebted as much to BLACK FLAG in its ethos and attitude as it is to the doomed riffage of BLACK SABBATH. again, my opinion.
one aspect that caught my eye about MORRIS was the energy and genuinely altruistic (to the point of naivete) he put into the community of artists in southern california, irrespective of genre or scene. for every anecdote dealing with members of THE ANGRY SAMOANS, SOCIAL DISTORTION, CRO-MAGS or THE ADOLESCENTS, there are others with members of RATT, VAN HALEN or THE RAVEONETTES.
to me PUNK ROCK is almost a religion and its not surprising that core, unassailable members of its royalty are by no means interested in the "punk police" bullshit that well-intentioned fans, and in some case other peers, hoist on the public. he really makes a point that this idea that to be a true appreciator of PUNK ROCK you need to wipe away all that came before is sad, pathetic and just wrong. in his career this came full circle with the formation of OFF! where his younger bandmates had many outside influences that didn't coincide with his. to him it was an opportunity and the idea of a bands as a democracy (both artistically and financially) is something that has been constant in his post-BLACK FLAG career.
growing up i got tired of PUNK ROCK fans that just shat on everything else. it just seemed so counterproductive and stunting on a human level to have up barriers like that. its nice to know part of the underground cultural vanguard of the 80s had his ears open to the street.
still does. do damage.
so much of this HIT SO HARD (DA CAPO, 2017) by HOLE drummer PATTY SCHEMEL is about self-destruction. the enduring image of KURT COBAIN, a friend and former collaborator and even housemate of SCHEMEL, is seen as an example of being too far down the road of despair and drug abuse to turn back. he isn't portrayed as a victim as much as someone resided to their own fate. with SCHEMEL we see someone who took that road to its logical conclusion, losing literally everything: friends, family, financial independence, even her sexuality.
this memoir is less concerned with the story her journey from being an awkward, red-headed lesbian teen from eastern WASHINGTON who found in HARDCORE and drums her identity as it is about the harrowing depths of depravity associated with her road to recovery from opiate addiction.
her being a famous musician is only noteworthy within the arc of this book in that it showcases the cottage industry of enablers and hangers-on that provide celebrities with the means of their own destruction within the entertainment industry. i feel like reading as many biographies as i have about musicians, the recurring trope of drug abuse is a known cliche. that being said, any jadedness i had to the topic was obliterated by the honesty and clarity by which SCHEMEL dissects her actions and behavior and the wake of destruction that followed for bother her and those that cared about her.
to me this hit home, because an overriding theme of this book was kinship. the connection between musicians that is almost asurrogate family. there are surrogate families that fall apart (HOLE) and others that come and go as a means of support from friends (JULIETTE & THE LICKS, IMPERIAL TEEN). even her actual family, especially her brother and father, support her even when all was dire and hopeless. i have family and some friends that have been on similar trajectories, though nothing thankfully as harrowing as described in this book, and it feels comforting to know that an addict like SCHEMEL sees love and human connection as a means for maintaining sobriety.
and that is what makes the death of CHRIS CORNELL so poignant in this book, not just because it bookends the death of fellow SEATTLE musician KURT COBAIN. CORNELL's recovery mirrors that SCHEMEL and serves as an example that once you are an addict, always an addict. recovery is always ongoing and having a support system is your lifeline. which ultimately positions this book as being earnestly involved with the redeeming potential that hope and human connection can foster. it is easily one of the most affecting memoirs i have read to date.
BOOK REVIEW | "UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTOY OF L.A. PUNK" BY JOHN DOE WITH TOM DESAVIA AND FRIENDS
this book covers what i would consider an often overlooked history in the story of PUNK ROCK and HARDCORE, which is that of the first wave of L.A. PUNK ROCK which lasted roughly from 1977-1982. much as what distinguishes this scene in terms of the diversity of its participants (varying race, sexual orientation, geography, class, politcal affiliation) and their sound (rockabilly, traditional chicano, avant garde, mixed-media, performance art), this book reflects such with its multiple authors as curated by X's JOHN DOE and co-author TOM DESAVIA. these writers include members of THE BRAT, THE GO-GO's, THE ZEROS, T.S.O.L., THE FLESH EATERS, THE MINUTEMEN, THE BLASTERS, BLACK FLAG, THE SCREAMING SIRENS and X. incorporating this many voices with their own chapters gives the book a unique depth from other books on the topic. you really get a feel for how the scene was initiated, evolved and ultimately fractured through the viewpoints of participants with varying perspectives on the topic. this was a deft structural decision by DOE and DESAVIA as it places the community as the author, which it seems was the ethos of the scene.
much of what has been written on L.A. PUNK is more or less associated with the HARDCORE scene of the 80s with such notorious bands as BLACK FLAG, CIRCLE JERKS, THE ADOLESCENTS, T.S.O.L. and THE MIDDLE CLASS, and deservedly so as such have had immeasurable effect on modern PUNK-influenced music, active sports (bmx, skateboarding, motocross, surfing, etc) and associated lifestyle industries. it could be argued modern youth culture is defined by this scene. what doesn't get as much appreciation is the fact that this scene evolved (or devolved) out of the first wave which was decidedly less violent and more inclusive.
in essence the first wave was an art movement informed by the previous GLAM ROCK fanbases of bands like T.REX and DAVID BOWIE morphing into the early punk crowds that first encountered 1977 PUNK bands like THE DAMNED, THE RAMONES, THE CLASH and THE SEX PISTOLS. its arguable that the ethos of the first wave was informed by GLAM ROCK and early PUNK. even hispanic participants from EAST L.A. took these influences as the impetus for picking up an instrument, not the inherited musical traditions of their parents.
the real inflection point of this novel is the transition that happened in the early 80s to HARDCORE, which was decidedly more violent, less inclusive and less experimental in its approach. this variant was all about aggression and spoke to an audience beyond the borders of the original scene. reading about how that played out and how both sides felt about it is beyond interesting as it constitutes a debate on the nature of PUNK ROCK and what that ever-mercurial tag actually means.
on one side you have a scene that prizes individuality and personal expression as a means of combating societal norms, whereas the other is not concerned with such subtleties and has more interest in burning the fucker down as a means nihilistic rage rooted in the subversion of the failed american dream as exemplified by the vacuous SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA lifestyle. its all a matter of perspective and of course, there is no correct interpretation.
this confusion is what i expect DOE was interested in when writing and compiling this book and i highly recommend it for anyone interested in PUNK or HARDCORE.
i would like to get this out of the way right at the beginning, this is the greatest book about musicians ever.
and the recent shit film based on it did not do this book justice.
expertly edited (and in all likelihood ghostwritten) by NY TIMES writer NEIL STRAUSS, THE DIRT: CONFESSIONS OF THE WORLD'S MOST NOTORIOUS ROCK BAND (HARPER COLLINS, 2001) is megalomania personified, which coincidentally also describes the music of its subject, 80s HAIR METAL icons MÖTLEY CRÜE.
i have to hand it to STRAUSS, he really did a stellar job of milking out all the shallow narcissism of his subjects by allowing them each room to shape the narrative. this was done through structuring the book in a way were each chapter was written by one of the four members, each commenting on all that came before. essentially this book is four competing narrators that are by definition unreliable. this decision regarding structure allows the band to demonstrate their callow pettiness and baser drives far better than a straightforward hagiography by a single author could ever do.
it also makes for numerous hilarious moments, where seemingly the reader learns in real-time the numerous trespasses and poor decision-making of members against the other (i.e. sleeping with each other's girlfriends/wives, arguing over who started the band, etc) and their reaction to such. its genius and ultimately you don't believe any of them. its a book that makes you rethink what the definition of "truth" is and if determinism even exists decades before KELLYANNE CONWAY or SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS polluted our national consciousness.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
on a personal side, when i was in undergrad at RUTGERS i took this 20th century british literature class when i got an assignment to compare the JULIAN BARNES novel TALKING IT OVER (VINTAGE 1991) novel to any piece of literature. the professor's main gig was at nearby COLUMBIA and people took this class specifically to try to ingratiate themselves to her in hopes of getting a good word in i guess. TALKING IT OVER is about a love triangle and it is written in first person with three competing narrators, each undercutting the others rendering everyone unreliable. obviously my first thought went to THE DIRT mainly due to its structural similarities. i figure that all four MÖTLEY CRÜE members were liars so technically this "nonfiction" book was really fiction anyway.
long story short the professor was impressed and even read aloud a TOMMY LEE quote to class not fully aware of what she had done. that was easily the highlight of my academic career.
could not recommend this book and more forcefully, its worth it even if you hate their music and HAIR METAL in general. it transcends its subject. a classic.
i found the recent memoir RECKLESS: MY LIFE AS A PRETENDER (ANCHOR BOOKS 2016) by CHRISSIE HYNDE of THE PRETENDERS-fame to be quite an affecting read. not so much because of her deftly-articulated descriptive accounts of growing up working-class in the midwest and watching the landscape, economy and culture shift around her or even her ZELIG-like ability to be in the center of the hurricane for culturally significant events (KENT STATE shootings, center of UK PUNK explosion).
what really caught my imagination with this book was her emotional distance from her own narrative. i don't want to make too much of this but it would seem that she has persevered through several traumatic events including the aforementioned shooting, sexual abuse and the untimely deaths of her friends, peers and band-mates. the perspective of this story seems to be one of a survivor unemotionally stating events or at most commenting on them from a remote perspective, which seems odd. as a male reader, i don't want to project any expectations of how a survivor of trauma should behave, as that is not my place. all i am saying is that it was something i noticed and found interesting.
i think what made this seeming omission that more glaring was the fact that this book pours an exorbitant amount of energy into describing her relationship with drugs. in fact, this book seems to be a cautionary tale about narcotics and how they effected her and those closest to her. to me this was probably the dullest aspect of the book, but i can see how it was vital in relaying her story as it was the basis for many interactions in various locales.
as a reader and a fan of her music my interest was more in the relationships she had with band members, past and present, but seemingly the story ends after the second PRETENDERS album and sparingly little about her work with PETA or any advocacy work thereafter. the same for her relationship with RAY DAVIES. i suppose exposing one's relationship with drugs is one thing, but delving into complicated adult relationships is another. that was a missed opportunity in mind opinion, but most likely a deliberate one.
my sense of HYNDE from reading her memoir is that she is a fiercely independent artist who takes risks aware but unencumbered by potential consequences. i can only imagine the chutzpah needed to leave AKRON for LONDON and making your way alone. it is more than remarkable. the fact that she collaborated with such a formidable list of musicians (MARK MOTHERSBAUGH, THE CLASH, THE DAMNED, etc.) during their formative years is a testament to her eye for talent and maybe just serendipity for being at the right place at the right time. the idea that her story may not resonate in a post-#METOO environment may also speak to her not wanting sympathy, or worse excuses, for her decisions or unfortunate situations she's encountered as a young woman. i read this memoir as someone who wants to OWN her past, not be passive participant in it.
in summation this was a great read. especially interesting to hear her descriptions of growing up a boomer and how the cultural and political landscape shifted post-WWII into the 1960s to create a generational divide that has never truly healed. one of the best descriptions of this tension that i have ever come across.
BOOK REVIEW | "DON"T TRY THIS AT HOME: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF DAVE NAVARRO" BY DAVE NAVARRO & NEIL STRAUSS
there was an interesting period in the late 90s when guitarist DAVE NAVARRO was without a regular gig as it had been years since he left the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and JANE'S ADDICTION had recently broken up for the second time. he was also recently divorced (pre-CARMEN ELECTRA). it was during this time that he bunkered himself into his HOLLYWOOD HILLS home and chose to document a year in his life ANDY WARHOL-style, by buying and installing a vintage photo-booth and requiring every person that entered his house (celebrities, models, comedians, hangers-on, musicians, groupies, maids, plumbers, drug dealers, etc) to take a photo when entering. WARHOL famously setup a 16mm film camera at his FACTORY studio and had everyone sit for several minutes, the idea being that after a while you stop posing and act like your authentic self.
DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF DAVE NAVARRO (HARPERCOLLINS, 2004) is the culmination of NAVARRO and co-writer NEIL STRAUSS contextualizing these photographs into NAVARRO's relapse into heroin addiction. you would think that this premise would be easy fodder for glamorizing drug addiction, especially with the seeming young HOLLYWOOD in-crowd partaking in his late night activities on a semi-regular basis. but the book really just sets up how lost he was at the time. it would be years before he would properly go about getting professional help regarding the trauma of dealing with his mother's murder by the hand of a jealous ex-boyfriend in his formative years as a teenager.
all that being said, i can't imagine the seductive power of being so young and admired. i don't know how anyone in that situation would not become a full blown addict with the HOLLYWOOD set. but he got out of it. he recovered.
and i think that is the reason he chose to write and have this book published, to show others (maybe within the music community) that there is a way out, no matter how deep and dependent you are on the drug community. in the years since more members of the community have passed on from drugs or drug-related activities, most notably CHRIS CORNELL, MICHAEL JACKSON, AMY WINEHOUSE, TOM PETTY, MAC MILLER, PRINCE, SCOTT WEILAND (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS), JANI LANE (WARRENT), LIL PEEP, WHITNEY HOUSTON, RICK JAMES, WAYNE STATIC (STATIC-X), IKE TURNER and THE REV (AVENGED SEVENFOLD).
i really feel this book was meant for his peers and not the general public. to the public parts of this book come off salacious and voyeuristic, but to a musician of any importance my guess is this unending expanding cadre of enablers is more than familiar. to them by showing his reality, hopefully it'll make them seek help.
as for NAVARRO, i wish he'd stop with his addiction to hosting shitty REALITY TV shows. i'm just saying.
BOOK REVIEW | "BE MY BABY: HOW I SURVIVED MASCARA, MINISKIRTS AND MADNESS, or MY LIFE AS A FABULOUS RONNETTE" BY RONNIE SPECTOR AND VINCE WALDRON
it's difficult to read RONNIE SPECTOR's memoir BE MY BABY (HARMONY BOOKS, 1990) and not come away with an appreciation for just how staggeringly horrific her years as a young adult were at the hands of her ex-husband, legendary producer PHIL SPECTOR.
i don't want to make too much of him since this is not his story, but it's important to get a sense of his character in order to understand her struggle and eventual success in transcending his influence. PHIL is without a doubt a record producer of the first order. his work with 60s GIRL GROUPS like THE RONETTES and THE CRYSTALS and later THE BEATLES are legendary for his use of his WALL OF SOUND technique. essentially he would stack tracks upon each other to create swirling, hypnotic orchestrated compositions that were unlike anything before or since.
in much the same way that he utilized the studio to bend to his will, his relationship with RONNIE was conceived under equally SVENGALI-like terms. she was a player in his warped fantasies and because he held the key to her career, their relationship was a toxic codependency with dire consequences. he would literally stop at nothing to control her:
1) high walls lined with barbed-wire and security
2) a car with a mannequin made to look like him to accompany her on drives
3) surprise adoptions and use of custody as means of control
4) psychological warfare
his most devastating tactic was to promise recording sessions for new songs that never came to be or were shelved indefinitely. her power was her stage presence and he sought to change her into a housewife with limited means of expression, identity or contact with the outside world.
one detail that i found super interesting was that he would watch ORSON WELLES' classic film CITIZEN KANE obsessively and largely the plot of that movie resembles their marriage. one were a rich, powerful man buys everything for his wife without regard for her desires, dreams and ambitions. essentially fame and wealth stunted growth.
the fact that she suffered immensely during and after her marriage, both personally and career-wise (which never fully recovered or reached the same heights again unlike peers such as DIANA ROSS), only further emphasizes the cost of independence.
thankfully she does find bliss eventually in domesticity and motherhood, cliche as that may sound. but i feel that for her finding an identity within a health family construct was something she searched for since childhood as the daughter in a single-mother household. i just like the fact that the memoir ends on a note of creation, something she determined. not a wall that was created around her that ultimately attempted to snuff her out.
to me this book is about struggle and survival and the mental cages we put ourselves in for any number of reasons: fear, loyalty, finances, comfort. people are complicated and the reasons they stay in toxic relationships is equally mercurial and personal. i feel it is a mark of incredible bravery for RONNIE to make a statement like she did in this book especially back in early 90s, almost 30 years ago when this was written long before ME TOO and TIME'S UP and modern advocacy efforts regarding DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, GASLIGHTING and CHILD GROOMING. she is worthy of being admired.
great read. i recommend her memoir highly whether you are a fan of THE RONETTES or not. but honestly, you should be a fan of THE RONETTES.