Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Book: The Record Men

I finished reading Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, and I highly recommend it. The book is a compilation of quotes from musicians, managers, scenesters, groupies, and significant others, giving a firsthand account of the genesis of punk. It starts out with the pre-punk influences, such as Velvet Underground, Iggy & The Stooges, and The MC5, and follows the birth of punk in NYC, with Patti Smith, the New York Dolls, Television, The Ramones, The Dead Boys, and the like. The book focuses on American punk, so there isn't a ton on the Sex Pistols (but a decent enough amount -- definitely a good bit on Sid Vicious), and there's barely anything on The Clash.

Here's what I learned:
(1) Heroin and speed seemed to be the drugs of choice for punk musicians, and holy balls, they did a lot.
(2) Punk musicians have a lifespan slightly longer than that of a fruit fly. For an explanation, see #1.
(3) There was a lot more gay experimentation going on in punk than I would have thought. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
(4) Medically speaking, Iggy Pop should be dead. For an explanation, see #1.
(5) Nancy Spungen was a hooker. So was Dee Dee Ramone.

The book I just started is called The Record Men: The Chess Brothers and the Birth of Rock & Roll by Rich Cohen. It's the story of Chicago's storied Chess Records, which was THE record label for the blues (with such blues giants as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson, Koko Taylor, and Buddy Guy, to name a few), as well as a solid force in early rock and roll (Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, The Flamingos, Harvey & The Moonglows). I'm sure it will be a pretty solid tale.

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