We recently asked James Cook, author of Memory Songs, and the former bass guitarist in The Flamingoes, if he had any favorite music biographies, memoirs, or music books, and anything he'd like to recommend. Here’s what James had to say.
Diary of a Rock'n'Roll Star
by Ian Hunter
"The best book about the life of a touring musician ever written. Here’s Hunter before he leaves for Mott The Hoople’s 1972 US Tour: ‘I cleaned the flat up a bit – mopped the cat shit from the kitchen floor, had a bath and washed my hair. I’ve decided to travel in jeans and my newly acquired afghan coat, and then change into black leather just before we reach L.A. . . .'"
by Bill Drummond
"Candid, entertaining, full of marvellous stories — a classic memoir. My favourite line in 45 comes when Drummond alights from a train at Swindon station and buys a Cadbury’s cream egg ‘for comfort’."
Chamber Music: Enter the Wu-Tang (in 36 Pieces)
by Will Ashon
"A recent discovery. Ashon’s magisterial biography of the Wu-Tang Clan will be in print for years to come. A rap Revolution in the Head."
Grant and I: Inside and Outside the Go-Betweens
by Robert Forster
"Forster’s meticulous, heartfelt tribute to his late friend and co-songwriter, Grant McLennan. The funeral scene at the end is exceptionally moving."
Sick On You: The Disastrous story of the Hollywood Brats, the Greatest Band You’ve Never Heard Of
by Andrew Matheson
"A hilarious, sad, compelling read. I owned, and loved, the Hollywood Brat’s first album when I was sixteen, in 1984. It was already ten years old by then. My friend Duke was a huge Hanoi Rocks fan, and their singer, Mike Monroe, often mentioned the Brats in interviews. Ever inquisitive, Duke must have bought a copy on spec (I think it sold something like 500 in total), which he then lent to me in the first week of term. I played it every day before school. It’s just a fantastic rock ‘n’ roll record. Their glam punk cover of The Crystals’ ‘Then He Kissed Me’ is a gem.
Many years later I met the Brat’s larger-than-life Canadian singer, Andrew Matheson, then in his early sixties, before a reading event for Sick On You (at the wonderful Walthamstow Rock and Roll book club @e17RnR_books), but didn’t have the nerve to mention I was a lifelong fan. I had a guitar bag with me – I was off to play a gig later – and he asked me what was in it. ‘A bass,’ I replied. What music you play? ‘Blues’. A big mistake. I bought a copy of the book at the event, and, later that night, read with growing horror that the two things Matheson hated most in life were bass players — due to them always leaving the Brats — and the blues. But I didn’t know this as I sat and listened to his scurrilous tales of the 1970s music industry, and was slightly confused when I realised that I was, for the duration of the talk, going to be the gentle butt of his stage banter. ‘Ain’t that right, bass player?’ he would ask after each story, with a grizzled chuckle. When I had to leave early for the gig, I stood up from my seat and asked him if he wanted to join me later for a version of ‘Then He Kissed Me’. He looked momentarily alarmed, then politely declined. As I made my way down the stairs, I heard him say, without malice, ‘Bass players: always the first to leave,’ to much laughter from the audience."
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