FEATURE: Their Back Pages: Ten Incredible Music Memoirs




Their Back Pages


PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/@beccatapert  

Ten Incredible Music Memoirs


I am immersed in music-based literature right now…


 IN THIS PHOTO: Sir Paul McCartney/PHOTO CREDIT: Mary McCartney

and find myself drawn to non-fiction. I am excited by news that Sir Paul McCartney is releasing an illustrated children’s book, Hey Grandude:

Paul McCartney announced today (Sept. 27) that he has written his first illustrated children’s book, titled Hey Grandude.

The singer shared his news in a short video on Puffin Books’ YouTube account. McCartney co-wrote the 2005 children’s book High in the Clouds with Philip Ardagh, but Hey Grandude will be the musician’s first solo literary venture...”

Hey Grandude follows the adventures of a magical man named Grandude and his four grandchildren, who he calls “Chillers.” McCartney originally got the idea for the book after one of his eight grandchildren began to refer to him as “Grandude,” and the nickname stuck. “I wanted to write it for grandparents everywhere, so it gives them something to read to the grandkids at bedtime,” McCartney said”.

There have been some rather tragic, misjudged works of fiction by musicians – including novels by Morrissey – but, when it comes to them writing about what they know best, themselves and their music, there have been some revelatory and fine works. I have selected ten music memoirs that are worth reading that, between them, offer explosive revelations, incredible insight and amazing visions. Have a peak through; grab these great memoirs and I am sure you will uncover some wonderful secrets and insights from brilliant musicians! As we turn, more and more, to electronic devices and distract ourselves with inane apps and news; it is good to kick back with a classic piece of literature from some…


 PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/@eliabevces

ICONIC artists.  



Bob DylanChronicles: Volume One


Published: 5th October, 2004

Publisher: Simon & Schuster


Chronicles ends with Dylan on the verge of his breakthrough. But this breakthrough will also - we know from the intervening chapters - be a tragic rupture. The pathos of Dylan is that his self was ripped from his grasp at a time when he had barely begun to know it. It's clear that these wounds still smart, that Dylan still reels from the trauma, and that the memory of those early months in New York, those months of discovery, remains precious. "The folk music scene had been like a paradise that I had to leave."

Perhaps I'm swayed by the fact that this book is so much better than I feared it might be (as a fan since the 60s, I've got used to disappointments). But with this rich, intermittently preposterous, often tender work, Bob Dylan has delivered more than many of us dared hope for” – The Guardian

Order: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chronicles-One-Bob-Dylan/dp/0743478649

Mötley Crüe (Mick Mars, Neil Strauss, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Vince Neil) - The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band


Published: 22nd May, 2001

Publishers: Harper Entertainment (Hardback); ReganBooks (Paperback)


The members of Mötley Crüe didn’t invent rock-star decadence, but they perfected it. The Dirt consequently has a vaunted reputation as the gold standard for glitter and jizz-covered super-trashy rock-star tell-alls, the crazed literary orgy to end them all. The swaggering title says it all: This isn’t your typical rock-star book. There would be no valleys, no dips, no dusty middle innings, to borrow Roger Angell’s resonant turn of phrase (via my colleague Scott Tobias). Nope, this will be nothing but the pure, uncut shit. The fucking. The drugs. The booze. The fights. The ego. The money. The good stuff. The dirt. Crüe and Strauss are throwing down the gauntlet with that swaggering title. To its credit and detriment, it lives up to it. But it also tested my tolerance for tales of rock ’n’ roll ribaldry” – The AV Club

Order: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780060989156/the-dirt/

Kim GordonGirl in a Band: A Memoir


Published: 24th February, 2015

Publisher: HarperCollins


So does the book. It doesn’t have a big final scene, not after the angry and sad explanation of the breakup. It’s about survival, both as a person and as an artist. Gordon starts a new band, Body/Head, with her longtime friend Bill Nace. The overall feeling is one of levelheadedness, a little resignation, lots of anger and a permanent love of the power of art. She stays cool because she is cool, even in those rare moments when she’s not” – The New York Times

Order: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Band-Kim-Gordon/dp/0571309356

Keith RichardsLife


Published: 26th October, 2010

Publishers: Weidenfield & Nicolson (U.K.); Little Brown and Company (U.S.)


There is also a devastating passage when he describes the cot death of his second son Tara, who died while Richards was on tour. 'It’s as if I deserted my post…it never lets you rest. Tara lives inside me. But I don’t even know where the little bugger is buried, if he’s buried at all.’

It’s a chilling reminder that while Keef survived the ride, there were many others who didn’t. But how good it is that this hugely endearing rock and roll legend, with his wheezing laugh and face like a battered walnut, is still with us, and able to describe his extraordinary life with such honesty and panache” – The Telegraph

Order: https://www.waterstones.com/book/life/keith-richards/9780753826614

Patti SmithJust Kids

Published: 19th January, 2010

Publisher: Ecco


At first, wary of boho chic, I resisted Patti Smith's memoir of her New York years with Robert Mapplethorpe, "the artist of my life". How dumb. For this is a modern classic that generations of readers will cherish as a friend. "Who can know the heart of youth but youth itself?" asks the writer-musician as she traces the love that – first physical, then (there is no other word) spiritual – bound the skinny ragamuffin aesthete to the Catholic-raised ex-cadet on their adventures in art.

Many stars swing through this low-rent, high-minded firmament, from Factory to Chelsea to CBGBs: Warhol, Reed, Joplin, Hendrix, Burroughs, Ginsberg... Yet the pair's devotion, until his death in 1989, to each other and to their visions lights up every tender, glowing page” – The Independent

Order: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780066211312/just-kids/

Bruce SpringsteenBorn to Run


Published: 27th September, 2016

Publisher: Simon & Schuster


He’s honest about his family life, his relationships with the E Street Band, his music (Wrecking Ball, his charged reply to the excesses of Wall Street in 2008, was met with modest fanfare; “I was sure I still had it. I still think I do and did,” he frets). Poignantly, the late E Street sax player Clarence Clemons is a gentle giant with big fighting fists, fending off parking-lot racist abuse from supposed friends with hurt confusion, a rock removed from Springsteen’s life when he goes. The singer has had a life like no other, but his is a story that – like his music – speaks to us all” – The Independent

Order: https://www.waterstones.com/book/born-to-run/bruce-springsteen/9781471157820

Neil YoungWaging Heavy Peace


Published: 25th September, 2012

Publishers: Blue Rider Press; Penguin Group


For all Young's engagement with serious issues, Waging Heavy Peace is not without its reminders that he achieved his celebrity during an easily satirised time of excessive reward and immoderate self-indulgence. When an aide calls to break the news that his beloved customised tour bus, known as Pocahontas, has caught fire and burnt out, he has its remains conveyed to his ranch and buried in a eucalyptus grove” – The Guardian

Order: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Waging-Heavy-Peace-Hippie-Dream/dp/0241962161

Niles Rodgers Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny


Published: 2011

Publisher: Sphere


This is a rich, warm tale of a fascinating life in the golden age of New York – and pop. The only slight detractions are a touch of post-rehab rationalisation, which means episodes of unrivalled debauchery are occasionally relayed with disappointing sobriety. He is also reluctant to dish dirt on his peers, which leaves several protagonists nameless” – The Guardian

Order: http://www.nilerodgers.com/about/projects/le-freak-book

Kristin Hersh Rat Girl


Published: 31st August, 2010

Publisher: Penguin Books


Rat Girl stops just as everything seems to be starting—the album is about to be finished, she gives birth. Hersh will not pander for our sympathy or satisfy our need to hear how things turn out. Her story is about what it’s like to live and to think as a teenage girl, not a book about what happens when she finally grows up” – SLATE

Order: https://www.amazon.com/Rat-Girl-Memoir-Kristin-Hersh/dp/0143117394



Published: 16th November, 2010 (Hardback); 1st November, 2011 (Paperback)

Publisher: Random House


Even with large areas of his life roped off, this book is still eye-opening. He does overplay his own cultural significance, but then he’d argue that’s part of a rapper’s job. Both fans and newcomers alike should be left with a deepened appreciation for the verbal dexterity of a conflicted man who knows he’s caused a lot of suffering in his life and is continuing to profit from it…

“There are times,” he says, “when I look around me, at the life I have today, and think I’m getting away with murder” - The Telegraph

Order: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/198655/decoded-by-jay-z/9780812981155/