Does music fill your days? Do you have a favorite song? Or band?
My friend and writer S.W. Lauden is passionate about music and the culture built around the notes. As he has a new book out soon, the second in his POWER POP HEIST series, Mr. Lauden stopped by Do Some Damage to continue his look into great musical non-fiction. His knowledge and love of songs from all genres serves his writing perfectly. Both THAT'LL BE THE DAY and GOOD GIRLS DON'T (out 6/29) had me looking up all my favorites on Spotify.
Recent Rock Reads: Volume 2
by S.W. Lauden
Last year, upon the release of my novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, I stopped by DSD to write about some of my favorite non-fiction music books. Since I’m publishing a sequel, Good Girls Don’t: A Second Power Pop Heist, on June 29th, I thought I’d add to the list. It always amazes me just how many musicians (and rabid music fans) populate the crime fiction universe. Hopefully this post will point a few of you to some new rock reads.
All I Ever Wanted: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Memoir by Kathy Valentine
I’ve always loved The Go-Go’s, but I primarily picked this one up because Valentine wrote their hit “Vacation” (I based a short story on that song for the Anthony Award nominated Murder-A-Go-Go’s collection edited by Holly West). Valentine’s account of her tenure with the Go-Go’s is very entertaining, but I found her pre-Go-Go’s misadventures and musical exploits (Violators, Painted Lady, Textones) more interesting. Ah, to be young and punk!
Sick On You: The Disastrous Story of The Hollywood Brats, the Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard Of by Andrew Matheson
I had no idea that a hilarious book about a failed English proto-punk band from the early ‘70s was what I needed to read at the beginning of the quarantine—but it definitely was. The events chronicled here happened 50 years ago, but Matheson still manages a snotty, youthful voice that keeps the pages turning. If you love music from this era (think Ziggy Stardust and The New York Dolls), or if you’re fascinated by glorious rock and roll failures, definitely pick it up.
Ska’d For Life: A Personal Journey with The Specials by Horace Panter
Speaking of “pick it up”… I’ve always loved The Specials’ mix of ska and punk, but never dug into the band’s history. So I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled on this one. The author was the original bass player and has a very clear-eyed take on the influential late ‘70s 2 Tone scene they helped create. Extra points for using a terrible ska pun as the title.
The Shangri-Las’ Golden Hits Of The Shangri-Las by Ada Wolin
I’m a big fan of the 33 1/3 books. If you aren’t familiar with the series, each book interrogates a single album to explore where the artist was during its recording and release. Many of the books dive deep into the actual making of the chosen album, but Wolin concentrates instead on The Shangri-Las’ place within the greater ‘60s “Girl Groups” genre. Very interesting read.
Shake It Up: Great American Writing On Rock And Pop From Elvis To Jay Z edited by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar
Hands down one of the best music collections I’ve read. Not only is the writing fantastic, but it’s also a stunningly comprehensive overview of popular music. Favorites include Stanley Booth’s “The Memphis Soul Sound,” John Jeremiah Sullivan’s “The Final Comeback Of Axl Rose,”
Kelefa Sanneh’s “Word: Jay-Z’s Decoded And The Language Of Hip-Hop,” and Eve Babitz’s “Jim Morrison Is Dead And Living In Hollywood.”
Flyboy 2: A Greg Tate Reader
Well-curated collections like Shake It Up are also a great way to discover new-to-you writers. Tate’s piece, “In Praise Of Assholes,” about Kanye West and 50 Cent was fantastic—so I bought one of his books. Stand outs include his essay about jazz legend “John Coltrane,” and “Wu-Dunit: Wu-Tang Clan,” his album review for Wu-Tang Forever.
That’s my latest list. I’m always looking for suggestions myself. What are your favorite rock reads? Please leave them in the comments. And if you’re looking for some FREE CRIME FICTION, the e-book for my music-themed novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, is free on Kindle this week (June 22-26). Go grab a copy and, if you like what you read, please consider leaving a brief review.
S.W. Lauden co-edited the essay collection, Go All The Way: A Literary Appreciation of Power Pop. His crime fiction novelette, That'll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, was released in 2019. The follow up, Good Girls Don’t: A Second Power Pop Heist, will be available June 29, 2020. His Greg Salem punk rock PI series includes Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Season and Hang Time. S.W. Lauden is the pen name of Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve.