Jim Morrison! John Lennon! Leonard Cohen! Mark E. Smith! Bob Dylan! John Lydon!
Yes, that's right, these dirty rockers have all had books published outside their main area of expertise. Now here's Sean O'Callaghan. Name might not quite be as familiar as the above pus-bags, but you've probably seen his memes about on Facebook and stuff.
Australian Sean O'Callaghan is a poet who ain't like other poets. You know the bloke who stands upright and mumbles his words with embarrassment because, deep down inside, he knows he's a dick?
That's not Sean O'Callaghan. Sean doesn't just read, he performs (often with a backdrop or musical racket banging away). The man has a distinct taste for chaos and mayhem, whose performances usually upset (if not silence) most other poets (apparently a bit too rock'n'roll and tend to separate the wheat from the chaff by the end of the performance. And, beneath all the big impact... that's where you see the man himself.
Let's get one thing straight: Musicians do work. It may not be work as we know it, Jim, but it is a form of employment, and it requires a well-defined skillset.
Talent is important but so is patience. Professional musicians do more waiting around than almost any other occupation on Earth. Other than midwives - and at least they receive universal praise.
Solo artist, ex-Moodist and leadr of the White Buffalos, Coral Snakes and more, Dave Graney, knows this about his trade and much more. He conveys much wisdom in "Workshy". It is the ideal read for anyone thinking about sending their offspring into rock and roll. Which is where Dave hides. Pun intended.
"Workshy" is Dave's second autobiography. I know what you're thinking: He might have been crowned King of Australian Pop but where does Graney get off writing TWO books about himself? Well, Billy Thorpe managed to do it. And more of Dave's books might be true. Both men have bodies of work with parts that are wryly funny. I could be referring here to The Aztecs' "The Hoax Is Over". "Workshy" is considerably more focussed than that mess.
The cover does not lie. It was a wild ride for Jerry Nolan, drummer from the New York Dolls and Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers. And it’s all outlined in detail in Kurt Weiss’s gripping, 310-page biography.
Much of the wild nature of the journey was self-induced: in a New York underground rock scene where junkies were prominent, Jerry was one of the most notorious. A bigger fiend than his running mate Johnny Thunders, some say.
His death at the unripe age of 45 - on life support, fighting bacterial meningitis and pneumonia - was more than likely related to his two decades of intravenous heroin use. He was HIV-positive at the end - and possibly in the grip of AIDS, the author suggests.
Curt Weiss (aka Lewis King) drummed in Beat Rodeo and succeeded Nolan in the lesser-known Rockats. He met Nolan only in passing. His style is incisive and direct, and his critical faculties are those of a rock and roll player, which is no bad thing when talking about Nolan's technique.
The Rise, The Fall and The Rise - Brix Smith Start (Faber)
The Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall - Steve Hanley and Olivia Piekarski (Route)
You Can Drum But You Can't Hide - Simon Wolstencroft (Route)
Yep, You read the headline correctly. I'm serious. Cobain was such a fan of The Fall he tried to get on their tour bus and travel with them.
The Fall refused.
There's an absence in our culture. You may not have noticed. It's like some necessary abscess has been entirely excised from our cultural body. We needed that pain, that savagery, to tell us what we are, what we shouldn't be, and to remind us that we can be more than what we are.
This article is all about Mark E. Smith. Because his personality, his drive and charisma shoved a certain rock'n'roll band forward through barrier after barrier...
Everybody of a certain vintage who follows non-mainstream rock and roll has a soft spot for ‘zines. One of the reasons you’re reading this electronic magazine is down to two, 48 Crash and Vicious Kitten.
48 Crash was the archetypal Sydney zine of the early ‘80s. Hand-written (and coloured, sometimes), its photocopied pages spoke of Le Hoodoo Gurus, the Visitors, the three-piece Screaming Tribesmen and the Lipstick Killers - bands that struggled to attract mainstream attention elsewhere. It championed the so-called Detroit Sound that fuelled the Sydney music scene for more than a decade.
Ten years later, Vicious Kitten was an offshoot of the record label of the same name and professional publication that aimed its lens at people like Johnny Thunders, Kevin K, Jeff Dahl and Freddy Lynxx. Very Lower East Side, in spirit.
An honourable mention also to Sydney's B Side, that covered the left-of-centre, extreme local musical scene. Unbelievably Bad fills the same niche today. There were the rock local papers (RAM, the bible, and Juke) that were consumed religiously, but zines had all the cool stuff and never mentioned Chisel, Icehouse or Farnham.
You may, or may not, see this book in shops. If you do, buy it. Most of the readers here will want to read the New York section. So don’t hesitate.
But I’m s’posed to be a critic or something and The Barman wants to know: how many McGarretts? In spite of the several things which annoy the hell out of me, "City Primeval" rates a mighty Three McGarretts. Yep: 100 percent..
Why so high, Grand-dad?
Well, the concept alone is mighty. And it could’ve been seriously terrible. But "City Primeval" is one of those unique, slanted historiography things which are invaluable to any music/ culture enthusiast. Sure, the book could’ve done with a decent editor, and sure some of the people writing here don’t usually write so it’s not the smoothest.
But that’s not the point, at all, and in fact is part of the charm. Reading "City Primeval" doesn’t just give us a bit more context, but part of the "ah-HA!" understanding which so many outsiders to any florid scene lack.
Get this book. If you don’t have it, get this book now. If you do have it - but not this edition - get this book now.
If you do have a copy of this edition, get copies of "I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol" and give them to your friends, relations, people you know hate punk rock, everyone you know who reads biographies, and especially, your other half.
Why? Apart from coming across like he’s speaking the truth plainly without over-egging the thing, it’s occasionally so funny it makes your cocoa go down the wrong way and come out of your nose.
Or perhaps that’s just me; try this: After the Grundy Incident, "I didn’t speak to my mum for about a week. When I finally did talk to her, all she could say was, 'Glen, it’s terrible what you’ve done, you used to be such a nice boy, no every time I go to work … they call me Mrs Sex Pistol.'”
I had to change my top and leave it in the sink overnight to soak out the cocoa stain.