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Rock and Roll Biographies: A Reading Group
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Starting with HAMMER OF THE GODS (Led Zeppelin) and NO-ONE GETS OUT OF HERE ALIVE (the Doors) in the 80s, the last 2 decades have been flooded with books about rock and roll excess, some great (Please Kill Me), some banal (anything by any member of Guns and Roses), and some, er...surprising (I'm with the Band). These are (a) fun to read, as any stories of clueless excess are fun to read, and (b) remarkably formulaic, given that the entire thing is supposed to be about transgression.

The class would survey the literature, and, besides getting a kick out of idiotic stories, we would perhaps think about genre conventions--i.e. do books about about the Smiths and New Order share a different structure than books about Motley Crüe and Van Halen?  Do either share a structure with more conventional narratives, fictional or otherwise? Do certain cities make people act worse? Certain instruments? Certain Hotels? Can 'bad behavior' be innocent? Does the style of the music determine the meaning of the transgression? How does genre define or influence behavior?  Has bad behavior changed from the 70s till now?  And can any of that be blamed on Rock Biographies? 

 

Suggested reading, offhand:

PLEASE KILL ME

I'M WITH THE BAND

NO-ONE GETS OUT OF HERE ALIVE

DISCOVERING JAPAN (a kind of brilliant short story parody of the form by Bret Easton Ellis)

HAMMER OF THE GODS

 

These are just quick, developing notes.

 

 

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Comments

I've always loved the books penned by hangers-on like groupies, guitar techs, and drug dealers. I'M WITH THE BAND is definitely one of them...I'd also suggest UP AND DOWN WITH THE ROLLING STONES, written by one of Keith Richards' drug dealers. It covers the whole Nellcote/Exile on Main Street Era.

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