Notes on Rock Books
Eight music memoirs and what they mean to me
Welcome to Culture Club, a series where Talia and I share what we’ve been reading, playing, artistically admiring, watching, and listening to. This is a feature for paid subscribers only, but enjoy this free preview and consider upgrading to paid!
This not a list of the greatest rock & roll books of all-time, nor is it a list of my favorites—that honor goes to Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman (I may be biased; Lizzy is a dear friend and I read countless drafts of her oral history of post-9/11 downtown New York—now on the big screen.) But these are all books that I can recommend whole-heartedly; they are all memoirs; and they all have meant something to me to personally. My first eight years of professional life were spent on the staff at Rolling Stone, and that almost famous cred granted me access to some exclusive places. So be forewarned: this is a shamefully self-indulgent exercise, with a name-dropping rate worthy of my former boss. Also, I happen to be an Audible junkie, so the majority of these titles I listened to while walking around New York. I recommend it. And because I grew up in the city, you’ll notice a decided bias towards books set in the Big Apple.
Jann S. Wenner, Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir, 2022
My first full-time job after graduating from college was working as Jann’s assistant. More specifically, I was his tertiary assistant (as in there were three of us.) Stories of Jann’s unique management style are legion, but I can sincerely say the he was the best boss I ever had, and is the reason I have any of these stories to share here. At the time, progress on Jann’s authorized autobiography seemed to be dragging on interminably, with a series of writers coming and going. Then, five years ago, journalist Joe Hagan published the long-gestating, initially-official-but-subsequently-disowned Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine. Hagan is a fine writer, but if you’re a friend of Jann’s, Hagan’s is a tough book to love. Jann returned fire a few years later with this rebuttal, and I’m glad he did. It really is a great story, and reading it was a deeply nostalgic experience. As the quintessential lefty boomer, Wenner had a front-row seat to almost every major turning point in the last half-century. And since I was working for him through a few of those turning points, I was fortunate enough to get a seat too—albeit not in the front row.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial