Between you and me, one of my guilty pleasures is the rock star memoir. The following are the best three I read this year.
In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran by John Taylor
Before One Direction, the Wanted, McFly, or even Take That, girls all over the world worshiped British pop icons Duran Duran. John Taylor, know by many as the “cute one,” is the co-founder and bass player of both Duran Duran and Power Station, a “super group” featuring Robert Palmer and members of Chic. While a quick read, Taylor’s memoir is thoroughly enjoyable for both Duranies and newbies a like. Taylor manages to convey the glitz and glamour of the 1980s in an engaging and sincere way and is honest about his struggles with substance abuse. On average, he manages not to dish the dirt on his band mates and is respectful to his past girlfriends and wives (which is surprising for any rockstar memoir). This book is pure escapism and is perfect for reading on a rainy day. The only downside is that you will have “Rio” or “Girls on Film” stuck in your head for the next month.
How Music Works by David Byrne
Have you ever asked yourself any of the following questions: How much do artists actually earn from a single song purchased on iTunes? How is “indie” music distributed? How much does it cost to record an album? Do the pops and scratches on a vinyl records sound better than a pitch perfect mp3? Well, in How Music Works, Talking Heads front man David Byrne attempts to answer these questions and more through his insights from being a lifelong music fan and from working in the music business since the 1970s. Although it can read like a music or cultural theory textbook at times, How Music Works is also a memoir of sorts, with many funny anecdotes about the legendary nightclub CBGBs and pop stars like Madonna. While it is a must read for any fan of Byrne’s quirky and experimental music, it is also perfect for any inquisitive music lover or inspiring musician.
Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music by Burt Bacharach
One of the best nights of my life was seeing Burt Bacharach at the River Rock Casino about five years ago. As a result, I was very eager to find out more about Bacharach and his songwriting partner, the lyricist Hal David, who together wrote many beloved songs including “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” “Walk On By,” “Close to You,” “The Look of Love,” and my all-time favourite, “This Guy’s in Love With You.” Bacharach’s memoir surprised me, however, in that he comes off as a quiet and headstrong perfectionist, who was obsessed with music rather than glamorous parties. Equally interesting, while Bacharach does gossip about Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Marlene Dietrich, and many others, he also admits to his own faults and half the memoir is actually comprised of interviews with his ex-wives, collaborators, and friends. This memoir also has its poignant moments, particularly Bacharach and Angie Dickinson’s reflections on the struggles they faced with their late daughter Nikki. This book is worth reading for any fan of Bacharach or the swinging 60s.