I’ve never been as disappointed by a music bio/auto-bio as I was when reading the Bernard Purdie one; it’s hard to know what the book was even trying to be – it’s written in third person but claims to be an autobiography, there’s no attempt to even ‘get’ Purdie’s voice, there’s no real attempt to hide the fact that this isn’t even an as-told-to tale but a hackneyed bio hiding behind an autobiography-credit. But worse, there’s no real energy there – it reads a bit like a long Wikipedia entry with far too much stuff about his early childhood and his parents and nowhere near enough about his time making music with Aretha Franklin and Steely Dan and King Curtis and the thousands of other recordings he’s made as solo artist and hired “hit-maker” for a range of soul, jazz and pop-rock acts.
A damn shame.
When I read that unofficial Spice Girls biography (a joke 21st present – but I still read it) I wasn’t expecting much. So there was no disappointment. I’ve even read poetry books by Jewel and Billy Corgan – and bad as they were, and they really were not good, I still think Cogan and Ms. Kilcher showed a better hand than Jeff Tweedy. His book of poems was ghastly. (And I know a thing or two about terrible poetry!)
But there’s nothing quite as disappointing as when you figure someone so deserving of a good book does themselves a disservice or is let down by a thoroughly underwhelming, regurgitating bio/ghost-written autobio.
I’m not quite sure why we read books by/about people we are already huge fans of – but we do. Right? I don’t need to know anything more about Lou Reed or Pink Floyd but I still read new books about each act – and learned absolutely nothing – over the Christmas holiday break. And I can’t say I won’t read more books about them. I don’t need to ever read another Beatles or Dylan book. But I bet I do. Same with Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell and Prince. And Fleetwood Mac. Definitely Fleetwood Mac! Buy you know I will. And I do too.
When I think about the very best music books it’s usually by/about an artist I’m familiar with but not necessarily the biggest fan of – that’s when you learn something.
What’s the worst music book you’ve read? Or rather – what’s the most disappointed you’ve been by a music bio?