Lanegan had promised a friend, Kitchen Confidential writer Anthony Bourdain, that he would write his memoirs. Bourdain had encouraged him to do a preface to his 2017 lyric collection, I Am the Wolf, loved his writing, and pressed him to do more. “Anthony said, ‘There needs be a level of honesty beyond what you’ll be comfortable with for it not to be some crappy rock autobiography.’ That was the last thing I wanted to do, ever.
Taking “Street Fighting Man” to the extremes, or “Gimme Shelter.” But without a doubt it was a strange generation. The weird thing is that I grew up with it, but suddenly I’m an observer instead of a participant. I watched all these guys grow up; I watched a lot of them die. When I first got to the States, I met a lot of great guys, young guys, and I had their phone numbers, and then when I got back two or three years later, I’d call them up, and he’s in a body bag from Nam. A whole lot of them got feathered out, we all know. That’s when that shit hit home with me. Hey, that great little blondie, great guitar player, real fun, we had a real good time, and the next time, gone.
Sunset Strip in the ’60s, ’64, ’65—there was no traffic allowed through it. The whole strip was filled with people, and nobody’s going to move for a car. It was almost off-limits. You hung out in the street, you just joined the mob. I remember once Tommy James, from the Shondells—six gold records and blew it all. I was trying to get up to the Whisky a Go Go in a car, and Tommy James came by. “Hey, man.” “And who are you?” “Tommy James, man.” “Crimson and Clover” still hits me. He was trying to hand out things about the draft that day. Because obviously he thought he was about to be fucking drafted. This was Vietnam War time. A lot of the kids that came to see us the first time never got back. Still, they heard the Stones up the Mekong Delta.
Richards, Keith. Life (p. 238). Little, Brown and Company.
“Late at night she would tell me about coachwhip snakes, snakes that could wrap themselves around your leg and whip you on the back and shoulders with their platted tails, running you until they ran you to death. Then they would eat you.
And she told me about hoop snakes, snakes that had spiked tails and could form themselves into a hoop and roll after you, up hills and down hills. When they caught you, they’d hit you with the spiky end of their tails and kill you. If the spike missed you and hit a tree instead, the tree would be dead in fifteen minutes, with all the leaves on the ground because that spiky tail held killing poison.
She especially liked to talk about joint snakes, which she sometimes called glass snakes. They were pretty and seemed to be one of the few things in her world that was not deadly. When you hit or touched a joint snake, it would break into pieces about as long as a joint of your finger. It would stay that way until you left and then join itself back together. It didn’t hurt the snake to be knocked apart, and it lived forever.”
NY Times had a thing on the best 50 memoirs of past 50 years.
Here’s my selection. Arbitrary and in no order. Blurb/summary from Amazon page.
Duff McKagan – It’s So Easy: and other lies
In his New York Times bestseller, Duff McKagan, founding member of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, shares the story of his rise to fame and fortune, his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction, his personal crash and burn, and his life-saving transformation via a unique path to sobriety.
Belinda Carlisle – Lips Unsealed: A Memoir
The women of the iconic eighties band the Go-Go’s will always be remembered as they appeared on the back of their debut record: sunny, smiling, each soaking in her own private bubble bath with chocolates and champagne. The photo is a perfect tribute to the fun, irreverent brand of pop music that the Go-Go’s created, but it also conceals the trials and secret demons that the members of the group—and, in particular, its lead singer, Belinda Carlisle—struggled with on their rise to stardom.
Henry Louis Gates – Colored People: A Memoir
In a coming-of-age story as enchantingly vivid and ribald as anything Mark Twain or Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., recounts his childhood in the mill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s and ushers readers into a gossip, of lye-and-mashed-potato “processes,” and of slyly stubborn resistance to the indignities of segregation.
Leonard Michaels – Time Out of Mind: The Diaries of Leonard Michaels 1961-1995
The critically acclaimed author of The Men’s Club shares a collection of observations, meditations, and confidences drawn from more than thirty years of journals that capture the inner world of a man struggling to balance his diverse roles as husband, friend, lover, father, and writer.
Anatole Broyard – Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir
What Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast did for Paris in the 1920s, this charming yet undeceivable memoir does for Greenwich Village in the late 1940s. In 1946, Anatole Broyard was a dapper, earnest, fledgling avant-gardist, intoxicated by books, sex, and the neighborhood that offered both in such abundance. Stylish written, mercurially witty, imbued with insights that are both affectionate and astringent, this memoir offers an indelible portrait of a lost bohemia.
Tobias Wolff – In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War
Whether he is evoking the blind carnage of the Tet offensive, the theatrics of his fellow Americans, or the unraveling of his own illusions, Wolff brings to this work the same uncanny eye for detail, pitiless candor and mordant wit that made This Boy’s Life a modern classic.
Bill German – Under Their Thumb: How a Nice Boy from Brooklyn Got Mixed Up with the Rolling Stones (and Lived to Tell About It)
As a teenager, Bill German knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life: chronicle the career and adventures of his favorite rock band, the Rolling Stones. And in 1978, on his sixteenth birthday, he set out to make his dream a reality. Feverishly typed in his Brooklyn bedroom, and surreptitiously printed in his high school’s mimeograph room German’s Stones-only newsletter, Beggars Banquet, was born. His teachers discouraged it, his parents dismissed it as a phase, and his disco-loving classmates preferred the Bee Gees, but, for German, this primitive, pre-Internet fanzine was a labor of love. And a fateful encounter with his idols on the streets of New York soon proved his efforts weren’t in vain.
Paul Shaffer – We’ll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin’ Show-biz Saga
Paul Shaffer—born and bred music junkie and longtime leader of David Letterman’s Late Show band—opens up in this candid, endearing, hilarious, and star-studded memoir. From playing seedy strip joints in Toronto, to being the first musical director of Saturday Night Live and helping to form the Blues Brothers, to being onstage every night with David Letterman and playing with the greatest musicians of our time, Shaffer has lived the ultimate showbiz life. Now—dishing on everyone from John Belushi and Jerry Lewis to Mel Gibson and Britney Spears—Paul gives us the full behind-the-scenes story of his life, from banging out pop tunes on the piano at the age of twelve to leading the band every night at the Sullivan Theater.
Mark Salzman – True Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall
In 1997 Mark Salzman, bestselling author Iron and Silk and Lying Awake, paid a reluctant visit to a writing class at L.A.’s Central Juvenile Hall, a lockup for violent teenage offenders, many of them charged with murder. What he found so moved and astonished him that he began to teach there regularly. In voices of indelible emotional presence, the boys write about what led them to crime and about the lives that stretch ahead of them behind bars. We see them coming to terms with their crime-ridden pasts and searching for a reason to believe in their future selves. Insightful, comic, honest and tragic, True Notebooks is an object lesson in the redemptive power of writing.
Adam Carolla – Not Taco Bell Material
Funnyman Adam Carolla is known for two things: hilarious rants about things that drive him crazy and personal stories about everything from his hardscrabble childhood to his slacker friends to the hypocrisy of Hollywood. He tackled rants in his first book, and now he tells his best stories and debuts some never-before-heard tales as well. Organized by the myriad “dumps” Carolla called home—through the flophouse apartments he rented in his twenties, up to the homes he personally renovated after achieving success in Hollywood—the anecdotes here follow Adam’s journey and the hilarious pitfalls along the way.