The anticipated release of Morrissey’s book ‘Autobiography’ has had music fans’ eyes working overtime in the past week, as it takes its place alongside Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ and Keith Richards’ ‘Life’ as a blueprint for how to write a rock autobiography. Which is a shame for Courtney Love, who probably didn’t have time to read Moz’s tome before submitting the final draft of her own life story, due for release in December… or maybe later. Regardless of publication date, a fully-loaded, no doubt controversial but nevertheless DREAM book by Love herself is due and will surely cover her relationships with Kurt Cobain, Trent Reznor and Billy Corgan, her upbringing and her drug addiction. Knowing Court, it will likely include some good old slagging off and let’s all pray for punctuation because if we’ve learned anything from her interviews over the years, it’s that she has a laissez-faire attitude towards sentence construction.
Bearing this excellent news in mind, NME staffers have gone to town on whose rock autobiographies we’d most love to see published now that ‘dear diary’ fever is in the air. I’m going to kick off with Prince. Notorious for never allowing an interviewer to record interviews, his career has been documented by journalists who’ve had to report on the general gist of what they could recall… presumably because he always intended to spill all the beans himself one day, right Prince?
Ultimate renaissance man Damon Albarn has a number of lives to reminisce over. There’s the heady days of Britpop filled with feuds with Oasis, romance with indie heroine Justine Frischmann and rumours of dalliances with the other kind of heroin. Then there’s experimenting with cartoons in Gorillaz, pulling together of musical legends on The Good, The Bad And The Queen, and flirtations with the highbrow on his Monkey: Journey To The West and Dr Dee operas. How does one man go through so many varied transformations? What’s his life away from music really like? And what does he really think about his much-lampooned cheese-loving bandmate, Alex James?
As an artist who’s been (quite understandably) coy in interviews about her personal and emotional life, I’d love to read more about Polly’s influences, background and creative process in her own words. While the enigma of her lyrics is what is so appealing at times (I’m sure if I knew the minutiae of the relationship that scarred her so deeply on ‘Rid Of Me’, it wouldn’t have brandished me in quite the same way), ‘Let England Shake’ proves she’s got the power as a wordsmith not to sabotage that.
OK, so hear me out. You may just think of James Blunt as the simpering voice responsible for 2005 monster-hit ‘Beautiful’. And he is. But behind that soft-boy facade possibly lurks an enthralling story. He was in the army and served in Kosovo in 1999, he apparently prevented World War III, he’s mates with Prince Harry, he wrote ‘Back To Bedlam’ and went on to sell 20 millions albums (People don’t sell 20 million albums any more, unless you’re Adele). The ubiquity of ‘Beautiful’ meant he’d suddenly become public enemy number 1 – a role eight years later he relishes and jokes about on a daily basis on Twitter. He knows everyone from Jay Z to Bill Clinton and recorded his latest album at Carrie Fishers’s house. What I’m saying is, forget the terrible music, this would be an awesome read about excess. I mean, the guy owns a villa in Ibiza with a nightclub in the garden…
I don’t really care about all the Beatles stuff – I’m more into what happened in his early life (when he was skint as hell) and in the 70s (when he was lording it up with Moon, Nilsson et al). The great untold from one of rock’n’roll’s most important characters.
Now Morrissey has published his book, there is only one hilarious Mancunian songwriter the world is waiting to hear from and that’s Noel. His memoirs (he’d never call them that though) would be laugh out loud and packed full of insight from his early days lugging gear around with Inspiral Carpets to the early days of Oasis and their subsequent mega-fame. He’s lived the rock n’ roll dream and come out the other end with his dignity, and wit in tact. Plus, who wouldn’t want to read what Noel has to say about his brother Liam?
So many rock stars would – and will – churn out overblown, pretentious, bullshit autobiographies. I’m only a quarter of the way through Morrissey’s and the nausea caused by his florid writing style and insistent alliteration is almost too much to take. You want an artist who isn’t going to go on and on with absurd theories, tropes and the causes they really care about, a matter-of-fact celebrity who wants to shock, isn’t afraid of being honest and has contributed something significant to popular culture, even if it’s coned bras. Since Madonna travelled from Michigan to NYC in 1977 she’s experienced life on a grand scale. Her early life was difficult with the death of her mother and a sexual assault. Writing about religion, sexuality and female empowerment, she went on to meet pretty much every important figure in popular culture, sold 300 million records and transcended pop to become an icon.
The rock book I’d love to read would be the story of William Onyeabor. The funkiest man alive self-released 8 albums between 1978 and 1985 but then went off and became a born-again Christian. Since then he’s refused to speak about himself or his music. Various online rumours say that he studied cinematography in the Soviet Union before returning to Nigeria to start his own film company, Wilfilms, or that he became a lawyer in the UK. The true story might not live up to the legend, but I’d still love to hear it from his own pen. I’m sure Damon Albarn, Caribou, Four Tet and his other musical fans would too. Until then, check out the new compilation ‘Who Is William Onyeabor?’ for a taste of the man of whom Peaking Lights said: “LCD Soundsystem sound like an American William Onyeabor”.
Kevin EG Perry
Carrie Brownstein, former Sleater-Kinney firebrand, sometime Wild Flag high-kicker, and current Portlandia mirth-peddler, is currently contracted to write two books that I can’t wait to read. In 2010, back when she announced that she was calling time on her excellent “Monitor Mix” column for US public radio network NPR, she revealed details of a book called The Sound Of Where You Are, which publisher Ecco/Harper Collins described as tracing “the dramatically changing dynamic between music fan and performer, from the birth of the iPod and the death of the record store to the emergence of the ‘you be the star’ culture of American Idol and the ensuing dilution of rock mystique’.” The tentative publishing date? Early 2011, which is swiftly receding into the past. In February 2012, she and Portlandia co-star Fred Armisen published a tourist guide to their lovingly skewed version of the Pacific North West’s indie capital shortly after which, The New York Times reported that Brownstein would be publishing a memoir about her life in music through Penguin’s Riverhead Imprint. Frankly, I don’t care which comes first – I’d read anything by her. For now, I’ll stick to enjoying the collected lyrics of her bands, and something she wrote about Bon Iver’s debut album that has always stuck with me – “Like being punched in the heart, in a good way,” which, funnily enough, is exactly how her words make me feel.
Much of the sheer joy of watching Jarvis perform comes from the rambling asides between songs. Many of those, joined together, printed and bound, would therefore be a sheer pleasure to read. Jarvis is the perfect candidate for an autobiography: fiercely clever, down-to-earth, but somehow on a different plane to the rest of us, he’s revealed a lot about himself through his lyrics and (increasingly less frequent) interviews, but you suspect there’s still much to know, especially from the teen years. It would be Alan Sillitoe meets Readers Wives. It would be amazing.