TamTam Books News

Sunday, February 05, 2006:

Nic Cohn is the Pinball Wizard according to Pete Townsend - in fact he based his song on Cohn's obsession with pinball. Not only that, but Mr. Cohn wrote the article that the film "Saturday Night Fever" is based on. Of course, the story is reported to be made up and based on Nic's old Mod days. His 'Rock Dreams' is a rock classic. But I strongly suggest one to get his "Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom" which is the history of rock n' roll according to Nic Cohn. Anyway this is his top ten favorite rock n' roll books. He's not a manager like the above, but he could have been. Fantastic!

1. Hellfire by Nick Tosches
A perfect match of writer and subject. Tosches's overwrought prose and boundless fascination with sin (the wages of) finds its ultimate exemplar in Jerry Lee Lewis. This isn't so much "warts and all," as "all warts, all the time." A top-class wallow.

2. Elvis in the Twilight of Memory by June Juanico
June and Elvis were teenage sweethearts and spent an idyllic summer together in Biloxi, Mississippi - the last summer that Presley would enjoy as a (relatively) normal citizen. Juanico's remembrance isn't writerly, thank God, but thoughtful, evocative, and possessed of a genuine innocence.

3. Unbelievable: The Life, Death and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. by Cheo Hodari Coker
A fan's choice, pure and simple. I love Biggie Smalls, and this is chapter and verse on him, in all his oversized glory.

4. Take It Like A Man by Boy George
The title isn't the only great thing here. George O'Dowd's memoirs are witty, as one might expect, but also touching and, for the most part, unblinkingly honest (the one exception is the section in which he tries to fudge the implications of testifying against his drug dealer).

5. The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White
I speed-read this once while drunk and later thought I must have imagined it. But no - it really is the most jaw-droppingly outrageous of all rock memoirs.

6. Yes Yes Y'All: An Oral History Of Hip-Hop's First Decade by Jim Fricke, Charlie Ahearn and Nelson George
A motherlode (or muthalode) of Old Skool nostalgia. Here come DJ Kool Herc and Grand Wizard Theodore, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy, and the other great originators. The text is fine, and the visuals are superb.

7. Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by John Lydon
From Mick Jagger to Marilyn Manson, the one thing that all rock antichrists have had in common is that they're panto dames at heart. Rotten is Exhibit A - bright, hilarious, bloody-minded, and wildly camp. Picture a punk Dame Edna.

8. X-Ray by Ray Davies
As a writer, Davies possesses the same off-centre charm that he brought to his classic songs with the Kinks. Many rock memoirs are more sensational, none more endearing.

9. Clubland, by Frank Owen
A wonderfully trashy whirl through the underbelly of New York club life in the 1990s, fuelled by all the bad stuff one could hope for, and more. Humans don't half stink at times, mum.

10. The Autobiography of PJ Proby (unpublished)
A monumental, messianic sprawl of a book, over 800 pages of typescript, many of them fantastic. Publisher wanted; must be dauntless.

Tosh // 11:20 PM

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