Category Archives: Books

LONELY BOY: TALES FROM A SEX PISTOL, By Steve Jones

Title: Lonely Boy

Author: Steve Jones

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

www.PerseusBooks.com

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The Upshot: A rock memoir joins the crowded Pistols and punk shelf, and it was well worth the wait.

 BY JOHN B. MOORE

 When those graying punk rockers raise their fists at younger bands and scold them for selling out, they always point to the late ‘70s genre founders, bands like The Clash, The Damned, The Buzzcocks and inevitably, The Sex Pistols, to make their point. They talk about punk rock as the great equalizer – where there was no separation of fans from bands; anyone could play punk music regardless of skill level and they didn’t need big money record deals to do so. They lived, as the argument goes, just to play their form of loud, sloppy, screw-the-man rock to like-minded listeners and that, my friend, is what mattered.

Those arguments have been trotted out time and time again over the past four decades, so it’s even more gratifying to hear Steve Jones – guitarist and co-founder of The Sex Pistols, a giant in the world of British Punk Rock – pretty much address those arguments with a snarled “fuck off” in Lonely Boy, his memoir.  Tackling those two fallacies about halfway into his book, there was no pride in playing sloppy (though he does admit throughout that the Pistol’s second bassist, Sid Vicious, could barely hold his bass, let alone play it). As any student of Never Mind the Bollocks will tell you, Jones was a great guitar player (and thanks to speed he spent hour upon hour practicing); and like his longtime friend and fellow bandmate, drummer Paul Cook, he put a lot of effort into writing and playing the music.

He also bristles at the assumption that selling out is bad. If someone is willing to pay you a lot of money to play your music, take it! As he describes throughout the book, he, Cook and others in the band grew up poor and didn’t plan to stay that way.

Lonely Boy is a fascinating read, in part because Jones is a brilliant story-teller, but also because he’s got plenty of stories to tell. He has no problem delving into personal demons, like his long battle with drugs and in frank, matter-of-fact terms talks about an incident of sexual abuse from his stepfather. Though hard to read, Jones chalks it up to just an act by an old pervert that didn’t scar him.

In lighter tones, Jones also details the long list of famous musicians he stole from when he was still an unknown with a penchant for kleptomania. Instruments were a big target for Jonesy and he showed no mercy, even to the bands he was into the most growing up, taking, by his own admission, a guitar off of Mott The Hoople’s Ariel Bender and one off a member of 10 cc’s, a bass amp from David Bowie’s band, cymbals from Woody Woodmansy (also with Bowie’s band) and a leather jacket from Keith Richards – though in Jones’ defense, he believes Richards may have nicked the jacket from Mick Jagger first.

As anyone who’s listened to Jones long-running radio show (Jonesy’s Jukebox) knows, he can be wildly entertaining. It should come as no surprise then that his memoir is just as compelling. It’s been a long time coming, considering how many books have been devoted to Jones and his former bandmates over the years, but Lonely Boy was well worth the wait.

 

LET IT ROCK! Rock ‘n’ Blues Album & Book Reviews by the Rev. Keith A. Gordon

Title: Let It Rock!

Author: Reverend Keith A. Gordon

Publisher: Excitable Press

Publication Date: October 04, 2016

 

www.thatdevilmusic.com

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The Upshot: More rekkird reviews than you can shake a goddam King Crimson fan club membership card at!

BY FRED MILLS

Last year, longtime BLURT contributor Keith Gordon—sorry, I mean the REVEREND Keith A. Gordon; let us not forget the holy sacrament that is rock journalism, and the people who administer it—published the second installment in his rock scribe archives, Rollin’ ‘n’ Tumblin’: Blues Music Reviews, which collected sundry commentary he has accumulated over the course of his lengthy career (including, full disclosure, material he originally penned for this very magazine and website). As our reviewer succinctly put it, “More of a reference work than a tome designed to be read cover to cover, Rollin’ ‘n’ Tumblin’ is a useful consumer guide to the world of currently-available blues (and blues-informed) music.”

You can also read an interview I conducted with the Rev. last year in which he discussed the book, his publishing house Excitable Press, advice to potential authors, and more. But to bring things into the present, we’ve got his third archives-clearing compilation, Let It Rock!, which extends his purview from over the past decade or so well beyond the blues to include punk, prog, Americana, classic rock, and records that are otherwise not easily pigeonholed.

As with its predecessor, Let It Rock! zips, zings, and zooms across the rock/blues/Americana CD and DVD milieu—one can only hope that Gordon will exclusively devote a future installment to the latterday vinyl revival, as he is the type of music journalist to have a distinctive perspective—and as is always the case with record review anthologies, your attention and enthusiasm will ebb and flow depending on which artifact your thumb winds up paging to. Are you more into underground heroes of yesteryear, such as The Godz, Uriah Heep, Blue Cheer, and, er, Goose Creek Symphony? (Full disclosure: the latter proto-Americana act was a huge fave of mine in the ‘70s.) Or perhaps more contemporary maestros of skronk, ‘n’ roll are your thing—like Clutch, Black Keys, Bigelf, and the Jim Jones Revue? (More full disclosure: Gordon and I bonded many, many aeons ago over Jim Jones, and if you recognize the UK rocker’s name from his early tenure in Thee Hypnotics, consider yourself officially baptized.)

Bottom line: There’s something here for all of us, kids, ‘cos when the Rev. sets up his tent to preach the gospel, it’s a big goddam tent he pitches. Apologies for the cursing; but this is, after all, the devil’s music.

Incidentally, there’s a nice music book section that, considering yours truly’s own obsessive passion for collecting the printed word where it comes to rock history, is absolutely essential if you need some tips for stuffing your den’s bookshelf. Included are takes on respected UK journalist Barney Hoskyns’ Waiting For the Sun, garage-punk legend (and frontman for New Bomb Turks) Eric Davidson’s We Never Learn, and the Suzy Shaw/Mike Stax tribute to Shaw’s late ex-husband Greg, Bomp 2: Born In the Garage.

Fitting that Rev. Keith would wrap up with a look at the wild, weird, wooly world of rock journalism—can I get a “Boy howdy!” to that, fellow punters and parishioners? Waitaminnit, hold that thought: the postman just rang the front door bell (twice, but who’s counting…), and there’s some kind of book parcel in the pile of packages… hmmm… it says “Fossils”… what could this possibly be….

Tranny, by Laura Jane Grace

Title: nny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout

Author: Laura Jane Grace

Publisher: Hachette Books

Publication Date: November 15, 2016

www.hachettebookgroup.com

 tranny

The Upshot: Against Me! founder details the life, the lifestyle, the music, and the transition in a remarkably candid memoir.

 BY JOHN B. MOORE

 Against Me! were being called sell outs years before they ever signed a major label record deal.

The Gainesville, FL-based band that played a brand of fiery acoustic DIY protest anthems were first slapped with the label when they tightened up their once sloppy sound, opting simply for better production and electric guitars in the studio. The second wave of slurs came when they left the tiny independent punk rock labels and opted to put out a couple of albums on Fat Wreck Chords, a slightly bigger independent record label. But, the suburban anarchists that keep score really lost their shit when Against Me! signed a deal with Sire Records (once home to everyone from The Ramones and The Replacements to The Dead Boys, all oddly considered beyond rebuke based on punk rock rules).

So, by the time Tom Gabel, founder and singer/guitarist for Against Me! decided to go public in 2012 and tell everyone about his struggles with gender dysphoria and that he would now be going by a different pronoun and changing his name to Laura Jane Grace, she was all out of fucks to give about what people would say. Her memoir, Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout, is just as defiant and compelling and she is. Written with the help of music journalist Dan Ozzy, the book includes plenty of Grace’s writings from personal journals giving the memoir an of-the-moment accuracy that is often missing from rock bios that rely mainly on decades-old recollections to fill in the details.

Deeply personal, the book dives into her childhood, being raised mainly by a single mother with a weedy relationship with her ex-military, conservative father. Plenty of space is devoted to the band’s founding, line-up changes and a sometimes rocky relationship with the punk community gatekeepers quick to judge every decision a band makes. It’s Grace’s journal entries about her at-the-time secret realization that she was born the wrong gender that is the heart of this memoir. It’s shattering to read the writings of a teen and eventually young adult struggling to keep this life a secret from every person in her world.

Defiant, at times heartbreaking, but ultimately empowering, with Tranny Laura Jane Grace turns in one of the most important rock memoirs in years.

 

 

The Speed of Sound, by Thomas Dolby

Title: The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers between Music and Technology

Author: Thomas Dolby

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: November 11, 2016

http://us.macmillan.com/publishers/Flatiron-books

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The Upshot: The blinded with science guy recounts his multi-varied career, including an extended stint at the proverbial tech wizard, fittingly enough.

 BY TIM HINELY

Thomas Dolby…who knew? Upon reading his new memoir I realized that Dolby has led one hell of a life. Oh sure, we all know him from his early ‘80s new wave days and “She Blinded Me with Science” (I bought the 12” in ’82, and back then it wasn’t unusual to hear new wave geeks, like me, walk down the street and randomly yell out the word “Science!”). He was a hero for all geeks the world over (his next single, “Hyperactive”, too). In addition to his own work I hadn’t realized that Dolby also worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell (not a good experience for him), David Bowie, George Clinton and plenty of others (Lene Lovich, Prefab Sprout, etc.).

After tiring of the music industry—and getting screwed over as well—Dolby up and moved to first Los Angeles and then the Bay Area and started up Beatnik Inc. which helped add audio to websites, and, later, cell phones. At Beatnik, Dolby had his ups and downs (mostly downs, from his perspective) but in the end made good, thanks to the world of ringtones (and Nokia). Dolby and his family then had had enough of California and moved back to England in the mid ‘00s, but alas, America was still calling. As of 2014 Dolby is now a professor at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, adding yet another feather in his already full cap.

The Speed of Sound is told in a real off-the-cuff style and is very entertaining and highly readable —that Michael Jackson story was superb!. Judging from his words, it seems like Dolby took his wins almost as relaxed as he took his losses. Despite really trying to be a Bay Area tech wizard, he realized that he’s a musician through and through, and in the end he went back to that first love. It’s all told from the perspective of a guy who I’d enjoy sitting down with and chatting over lunch sometime.

Cured: The Tale Of Two Imaginary Boys, by Lol Tolhurst

Title: Cured: The Tale Of Two Imaginary Boys

Author: Lol Tolhurst

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Publication Date: October 21, 2016

www.dacapopress.com

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The Upshot: Memoir from the former Cure drummer generally follows the rock-memoir playbook, but with surprisingly engaging frankness. (Watch a clip of Tolhurst reading from his book following the review.)

 BY JOHN B. MOORE

 There are a handful of enigmatic rock stars to come out of the ‘70s and ‘80s that could write truly compelling memoirs. The Cure front man, Robert Smith, is among them. But until he finally puts pen to paper and opens up about his own life, this book from Cure co-founder and former drummer Lol Tolhurst will suffice nicely.

As a childhood friend of Smith, Tolhurst often sought refuge in the much more permissive Smith household, as a way to escape his own family’s problems, most of which stemmed from his cold, unemotional father. Tolhurst and Smith, along with a couple of other friends, all punks and early-version goths in a small town (Crawley, West Essex) dominated by skinheads, escaped their boring lives by going to shows as often as possible and eventually starting their own band in the mid-‘70s.

The line-up changed as they found their sound and started to play gigs beyond their local pub. One of the most memorable is detailed hilariously here as the band, mainly playing noisy, punk originals, was booked to play at a staff party for local nurses and doctors. They’re sound eventually found an audience in London and other college towns across Europe when the band started touring behind their first record in 1979.

While there are plenty of life-in-a-rock-band stories here, including a few humorous anecdotes around opening for Billy Idol’s Generation X and run-ins with other bands, what makes The Cured so compelling is Tolhurst’s frankness in detailing his own personal struggles with alcohol and an ill-fated lawsuit against Smith and the band after he is asked to leave the group in 1982, at the height of his struggle with his addiction. Unlike many who use memories as a way to lash out at those they feel have wronged them over the years, Tolhurst uses his as an opportunity to self-reflect and highlight the opportunities he was given thanks to his time in one of the most influential post-punk bands to come out of England.

While this may not be the definitive Cure bio, it’s nonetheless a compelling, often touching story coming from a somewhat unlikely source.

New Clash Book Tackles “Rat Patrol…”/”Combat Rock”

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The only book that matters…

By Uncle Blurt

Does the world really need another Clash book? ‘deed we do! Combat Ready arrives as a book, in both digital and paperback form, covering the Only Band That Matters’ Combat Rock era – preparing for, and making it, plus the immediate aftermath. Author Tim Satchwell starts in 1981 when the group’s fifth album was on a trajectory to become, as Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg, a double album, but ultimately becoming the single-LP that bestowed stardom on the foursome.

For never-say-die fans like yours truly, a welcome addition to the bookshelf.

 

 

Under the Big Black Sun, by John Doe

Title: Under the Big Black Sun

Author: John Doe

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Publication Date: May 06, 2016

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Did the world really need one more book about Punk Rock? Particularly by someone who stood at Ground Zero? Yes. Yes, it did. Below, check out some choice videos.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

There are bookshelves crammed with tomes about Punk Rock and plenty of those deal with the L.A. punk scene of the late ‘70s. But few are as refreshingly personal as John Doe’s Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk (Da Capo Press).

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Though X founder and one of the godfathers of the L.A. punk scene, John Doe, pulled together the focus of this book, there are plenty of personal essays from his friends and fellow band and scene mates to help fill out this book, which he co-wrote with journalist/archivist Tom DeSavia. (The jacket credit reads “with Tom DeSavia and friends.” Meanwhile, Billie Joe Armstrong penned the foreword.)

Before the hardcore kids from Orange County took over the scene in the early ‘80s and turned it into an agro excuse to pummel other kids, punk rock in Los Angeles was a refuge for oddballs of every ilk that had trouble fitting in with their peers. It was a patchwork of Glam kids/Bowie acolytes, Rockabilly refugees, upstart fashion designers, East Coast immigrants, wayward military brats from port cities and Mexican kids who dug loud guitars. This disparate collection bonded over a common need to find solace in likeminded folks, as described again and again in personal essays throughout the book.

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Along with Doe’s moving recollections of first emigrating to L.A. from Baltimore and finding Exene Cervenka (his bandmate and one-time wife) within days and starting the wildly influential band X, there are hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking memories from The Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey, Mike Watt, Henry Rollins and many more. The book also includes dozens of stunning black and white photographs from many of the journalists who documented the scene from its infancy.

Did the world really need one more book about Punk Rock? If you’re asking about this one, then yes. Yes, it did.

Peter Hook Has 2nd Memoir Due, Substance: Inside New Order

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Get ready for at least two less-than-salutory reviews from Barney and Stephen.

By Barbi Martinez

Bassman extraordinaire Peter Hook penned one of the best rock bios in recent memory with 2012’s Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division (It Books) – reviewed HERE. It was well-received, to say the least, although it probably didn’t do much in terms of patching up the long-standing feud between Hook, who regularly tours with his band The Light and performs Joy Division music, and his erstwhile bandmates. One of the, of course, is dead.

Hook returns to the memoir well in October for what’s essentially Part Two: Substance: Inside New Order (Simon & Schuster UK). Here’s the Amazon UK product description; no word yet on an American publisher. Incidentally, the BLURT editor got to see New Order twice shortly after they formed from the ashes of Joy Division, and he tells me, “They were just a three-piece and had not yet gotten Gillian for keyboards. Basically they were fulfilling previously-scheduled tour dates for Joy Division, which of course were cancelled following the suicide of Ian Curtis, and they were still playing mostly Joy Division songs in concert. I saw them on a double bill with labelmates A Certain Ratio in which they played two gigs in one week in NYC, alternating headliners. Pretty damn amazing.”

***

Two acclaimed albums and an upcoming US tour – Joy Division had the world at their feet. Then, on the eve of that tour and the beginning of what would surely have been an international success story, the band’s troubled lead singer, Ian Curtis, killed himself.
     ‘We didn’t really think about it afterwards. It just sort of happened. One day we were Joy Division, then our lead singer killed himself and the next time we got together, we were a new band…’Peter Hook
     That band was New Order.Their distinctive sound – a fusion of post-punk and ground-breaking electronica – paved the way for the dance music explosion of the ’80s and earned them the reputation as one of the most influential bands of their generation. Despite their success, the band has always been a collision the visionary and the volatile, and relationships have often been fraught with tensions.
     Peter Hook has written a no-holds-barred, comprehensive account of the band’s entire history, packed with outrageous anecdotes and including every set list and tour itinerary and interspersed with ‘geek facts’ of every piece of electronic equipment used to forge the sound that changed the direction of popular music.

The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones, by Rich Kienzle

Title: The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones

Author: Rich Kienzle

Publisher: Dey Street

Publication Date: April 12, 2016

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A terrific new biography does the country legend right. It’s a great excuse to dust off his old albums or to start stacking up on his catalog.

BY JASON GROSS

When most people think of ‘country music,’ they center on the huge pop crossover successes of the last few decades from the likes of Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Dixie Chicks, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Shania Twain and Miranda Lambert. But even before that, a handful of stars also made the leap into pop cultural consciousness- Willie, Dolly, Mr. Cash. And then there’s the artists who are legends in the field of country itself but not household names otherwise, such as Hank, Merle (RIP), Lefty and the man that Frank Sinatra called the 2nd greatest American singer (after himself of course) – a Texas boy whose legacy includes a decades-long trail of broken marriages, drug use, rehab visits, business flops, violent incidents, police incidents, vehicular mishaps, abandoned concerts and label leaping. Still, anyone who knows more about country than what you can read in the tabloids can tell you that at his best, George Jones, a/k/a Possum, epitomized the best things that style of music has ever had to offer.

With a career that spanned about 60 years (roughly the mid-50’s up until his death in 2013) and a lifestyle that would make most rock stars blush, author Rich Kienzle (editor at Country Music Magazine) had his work cut out for him. Surprisingly, for a legendary figure like Jones, his life has only been covered thoroughly in an 1996 autobiography (I Lived To Tell It All), Bob Allen’s clinical, somewhat moist 1994 bio George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend and 2014’s useful The Legend of George Jones, written by a pair of old friends. Because of his rough and tumble life, any Jones bio could easily become a sex & drugs & country tome. Because of his massive discography (dozens of albums, over 100 singles), being comprehensive about his music would take a door-stopper book worthy of Roberto Belano or David Foster Wallace. But with The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones (Dey Street Books), and in a mere 262 pages, Kienzle wrangles the seemingly impossible- he defies Jones in places but doesn’t hide his disgust of his crappy recordings or crappy behavior and takes in some granular detail of his most famous songs.

Starting with Possum’s early years with a drunken abusive dad and a supportive religious mom and a military stint, Kienzle details how Jones pays his dues in small honky-tonk joints, side man gigs and local radio shows before hooking up with producer/label-man Pappy Daily to start recording in 1954 (the same year Elvis started). Originally a Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell discipline, Jones soon developed his own full throated style, starting with rambunctious hits like “The Race Is On” and “White Lightnin'” and soon moving to tear-in-your-beer ballads like “She Thinks I Still Care” and “Walk Through This World With Me.” Jones also evolved from being an impressive singer-songwriter to becoming an even more impressive interpreter, again like that Elvis character, with songs coming from some of Nashville’s finest songwriters (i.e. Dallas Frazier, Harlan Howard). Because Daily saw Jones more as a manufacturing line than an artist, the producer had him crank out several albums a year (sometimes recorded within a single day) and led Jones through a series of novelties, ill-advised rock moves and syrupy ballads, which means that his catalog is kind of spotty and best heard through compilations – Fantastic Voyage’s 3-CD set Ragged But Right, Bear Family’s Heartbreak Hotel and Rhino Record’s The Best of George Jones are great places to start.

Though Kienzle’s narrative barely touches on the social and musical upheavals of the 50’s and 60’s (except for one funny run-in with the Rolling Stones), he does draw a good, detailed portrait of the sessions and label maneuvers that Daily did during that time, all the while as Jones’ self-destructive behavior would sometimes get the best of him, but not derail his career as it would later. By the late 60’s, a new direction made itself felt as country itself was going through changes, with smoothed down ‘countrypolitan’ sound coming into its own. Jones left Daily (and a few wives by then) to hook up with producer Billy Sherrill, who led him through a more managed and seemingly mannered background for his music. But one where he could let his voice sail too. Sherrill would help to guide him to new artistic highs, which unfortunately were accompanied by managers and ‘friends’ who got him to other kind of highs, with a coke habit.

On the plus side, the early 70’s also meant that Jones’ next marriage partner would throw him into high profile. Tammy Wynette was already a country star by the time she hooked up with Jones in ’69 and their union did produce a string of impressive hits (especially 1973’s “We’re Gonna Hold On”) and tours together. But Possum’s old destructive habits plus Wynette’s own pill addiction meant that the long term prospects for the couple weren’t a given, leading to a D-I-V-O-R-C-E, as Tammy once sang about, in ’75. This part of Jones’ life might be the only part of Kienzle’s book that leans a little too much towards tabloid sensationalism, though in fairness, the couple did give celeb watchers plenty of fodder back then.

For the rest of 70’s and through a good part of the ’80’s, Jones fell into a downward spiral of drink n’ drugs but to his credit, Kienzle doesn’t indulge as much in Jones’ indulgences here, maybe because by then, Possum’s seppuku-like behavior was more private. Luckily, Sherrill hadn’t given up on him, assembling an all-star duets album in ’79 (My Very Special Guest) with Tammy, Willie, Waylon, plus Linda Ronstadt, Elvis Costello, James Taylor and the Staple Singers- but even then, Jones’ voice/body/spirit were barely there, requiring two years of work to finish the album. Even his best-known song, 1980’s gorgeous, heart-breaking “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” took another two years to complete, not only because Jones thought it was too dreary but also because he was in no shape to sing it most of the time. After a disastrous Country Music Association Awards appearance in ’81 (detailed at the start of the book), Jones stumbled into his salvation with his fourth (!) wife Nancy Sepulvado, whose saint-like patience helped to get him finally on the wagon with his drinking.

(As a side note, I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville in ’95 and picked up a Jones-related curio from the gift shop- a cute little Jones teaspoon with his photo at the top, his name engraved on the inside bowl, a tiny guitar medallion in the middle, a Confederate Flag style background on the box and a “Made in Taiwan” sticker on the back. Turns out it was a souvenir coke spoon)

Unfortunately, by the time Jones was straightening out his life, the country hit parade has passed him by as the dawn of the megastar crossovers happened in the early 90’s. Though he was seen a living legend and some of the New Traditionalist pack (Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Clint Black) helped to boost his rep (especially on 1992’s all-star collaboration “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair”), Jones’ recording career slowed down as his hits disappeared and labels dropped his contract, forcing him to go the indie DIY route of putting out his own albums. By the turn of the millennium, his album output had crawled to a stall, with years of hard living finally catching up to him. By then at least, he was happy to play the role of respected elder statesman, not to mention actually showing up and finishing concerts, though that also became a chore as his health kept declining towards the end. But even just before he died three years ago, he was still tentatively planning a series of farewell shows to cap his career and maybe make amends for his years of dodgy concerts.

In the end, Kienzle’s take on Jones’ life is such a page-turner that you’d wish he would provide more detail, which there was plenty of in Jones’ life. And again, an encyclopedia-sized book would do the job but until that time, this will more than suffice. Country fans, Jones fans and just plain music fans would find this a good read and it provides a great excuse to dust off his old albums or to start stacking up on his catalog. Just make sure it’s the ‘greatest hits’ collections though.

 

BIG BLACK SUN KING: John Doe

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Did the world really need one more book about Punk Rock? Particularly by someone who stood at Ground Zero? Yes. Yes, it did. Below, check out some choice videos.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

There are bookshelves crammed with tomes about Punk Rock and plenty of those deal with the L.A. punk scene of the late ‘70s. But few are as refreshingly personal as John Doe’s Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk (Da Capo Press).

415yv6TFv+L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Though X founder and one of the godfathers of the L.A. punk scene, John Doe, pulled together the focus of this book, there are plenty of personal essays from his friends and fellow band and scene mates to help fill out this book, which he co-wrote with journalist/archivist Tom DeSavia. (The jacket credit reads “with Tom DeSavia and friends.” Meanwhile, Billie Joe Armstrong penned the foreword.)

Before the hardcore kids from Orange County took over the scene in the early ‘80s and turned it into an agro excuse to pummel other kids, punk rock in Los Angeles was a refuge for oddballs of every ilk that had trouble fitting in with their peers. It was a patchwork of Glam kids/Bowie acolytes, Rockabilly refugees, upstart fashion designers, East Coast immigrants, wayward military brats from port cities and Mexican kids who dug loud guitars. This disparate collection bonded over a common need to find solace in likeminded folks, as described again and again in personal essays throughout the book.

XTheBand_083115B

Along with Doe’s moving recollections of first emigrating to L.A. from Baltimore and finding Exene Cervenka (his bandmate and one-time wife) within days and starting the wildly influential band X, there are hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking memories from The Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey, Mike Watt, Henry Rollins and many more. The book also includes dozens of stunning black and white photographs from many of the journalists who documented the scene from its infancy.

Did the world really need one more book about Punk Rock? If you’re asking about this one, then yes. Yes, it did.