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Posted at 03:10 PM ET, 04/22/2011

Musical memoirs: Which is worth a read?


Kara Dioguardi treats her collaborators nicely in her memoir. All except Ashlee Simpson, that is. (Helayne Seidman/FTWP)

This story appears in Sunday’s Washington Post.

Musical memoirs tend to come in three varieties: the un-juicy and excessively literary (like Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles: Volume One,” or Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”); the take-no-prisoners tell-all (anything by or about Motley Crue) and those (like Keith Richards’s “Life,” out in paperback next week) that split the difference, wrapping their explosive revelations in a fig leaf of literary respectability. This season’s most anticipated musical biographies and memoirs draw from each category.

We’ve rounded up the most notable ones, reviewed and ranked them on a salaciousness level from one to 10, one being Miley Cyrus’s un-illuminating “Miles to Go,” 10 being the legendary Led Zeppelin tell-all “Hammer of the Gods,” which is still banned in libraries all over the world for reasons we cannot get into. It’s that good.

SAMMY HAGAR

Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock,” by Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin

The basics: The former Van Halen frontman co-pens a scorched-earth memoir about life in the band. No drunken rampage is left unexamined.

The villains:Eddie Van Halen (he drank so much his teeth turned black, according to Hagar), aliens (they abducted him one time), David Lee Roth.

Sample passage: “[Eddie] told me he cured [his tongue cancer] by having pieces of his tongue liquified and injected into his body. . . . What a fruitcake.”

Random fact: During one Van Halen tour, tents were set up underneath the stage for quickies with groupies during Eddie’s lengthy guitar solos.

Scandal meter: 8

KARA DIOGUARDI

A Helluva High Note: Surviving Life, Love, and ‘American Idol,’ ” by Kara DioGuardi

The basics: The famous songwriter discusses her struggle with an eating disorder, her unhappy stint as an “Idol” judge and the stories behind some of her most famous songs.

The villains: “Idol” executives, Simon Cowell, Ashlee Simpson.

Sample passage: “I had a new perspective on Simon. I wasn’t going to tiptoe around him. If he spoke to me, cool; if he didn’t it was his problem.”

Random fact: DioGuardi, who has written songs for everyone from Pink to Gwen Stefani, kid-gloves her collaborators. Only Simpson, who DioGuardi says took credit for a song they co-wrote, is singled out for criticism.

Scandal meter: 4

DANIEL LANOIS

Soul Mining: A Musical Life,” by Daniel Lanois

The basics: The super-producer chronicles his hardscrabble Canadian upbringing and his work with artists like Bob Dylan and U2. It’s an engaging, detail-oriented look at the making of some of rock’s greatest discs.

The villains: None.

Sample passage: U2 guitarist “The Edge also has an amazing capacity to remember all factual information; he might have been Einstein in another life.”

Random fact: In order to get Peter Gabriel to focus during the making of his landmark “So,” Lanois literally nailed the door of his work room shut, with Gabriel inside.
Scandal meter: 1

(Nikki Sixx, Prodigy and Scott Weiland after the jump)


Nikki Sixx appreciates beauty. (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
NIKKI SIXX

This is Gonna Hurt,: Music, Photography, and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx” by Nikki Sixx

The basics: The latest from the Motley Crue bassist (and author of an earlier, more salacious memoir, “The Heroin Diaries”) is part family history, part photo book, part meditation on beauty. It’s less skanky than most Crue-related product.

The villains: Anyone who doesn’t appreciate beauty, Sixx’s parents.

Sample passage: “Last note to self: think before you pull the trigger. The head you blow off may be your own.”

Random fact: Sixx says none of his bandmates of 30 years has ever been to his house; frontman Vince Neil doesn’t even know where he lives.
Scandal meter: 4

ALBERT “PRODIGY” JOHNSON

My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy,” by Albert “Prodigy” Johnson and Laura Checkoway

The basics: The legendary rapper unsentimentally details a life of beefs, brawls and murders during the heyday of East Coast hip-hop.

The villains: Suge Knight, Jay-Z, sickle-cell anemia, Snoop Dogg, assorted haters.

Sample passage: “Then Ja Rule walked into the party in a loosely knitted sweater with his nipples practically popping out of the spaces in the knit. It looked real homosexual.”

Random fact: One of Johnson’s distant relatives founded Morehouse College, and his mom was a member of ’60s girl group the Crystals.

Scandal meter: 5

SCOTT WEILAND

Not Dead & Not For Sale: A Memoir,” by Scott Weiland with David Ritz (out May 17)

The basics: The Stone Temple Pilots leader writes about drug addiction, recovery and his tumultuous relationship with ex-wife Mary Forsberg. Weiland comes off as more likable on the page than he ever has in life.

The villains: Perla Hudson, the wife of Weiland’s former bandmate Slash; thieves who beat up Weiland in Paris; Weiland.

Sample passage: On facing evil spirits while in the throes of drug addiction: “In both instances, the dark presences made themselves known physically. There was stomping; there were actual forms facing me, the faces of skeletons.”

Random fact: Forsberg wrote a dueling memoir of mental illness and drug addiction, “Fall to Pieces.”
Scandal meter: 6

QUEEN

Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Queen,” by Mark Blake

The basics: This Queen biography is a page-turner based on interviews with associates and band members (though not late frontman Freddie Mercury).

The villains: Murderous Argentine President Roberto Viola, with whom the band unwisely dined; the government of South Africa, where the band unwisely performed at the height of apartheid; Axl Rose.

Sample passage: Mercury “had arrived [to a wedding] in a stretch limo, was wearing a huge feather boa and had a woman on each arm.”

Random fact: The more famous Queen got, the more difficult Mercury became. One insider described watching an assistant feed him spaghetti with a spoon.
Scandal meter: 6

By Allison Stewart  |  03:10 PM ET, 04/22/2011

Categories:  In today's Post | Tags:  Sammy Hagar, Kara DioGuardi, Daniel Lanois, Prodigy, Queen, Nikki Sixx, Scott Weiland

 
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