Their Back Pages
By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 1, 2005 6:09AM
Since all eyes in the entertainment world were focused on the Oscars this weekend, a piece by Tribune freelancer Allison Stewart on the quasi-autobiography from Tori Amos might have been unjustly ignored. In a fairly short span of time, mentioning Amos’s stint with Y Kant Tori Read has gone from the mark of the wise to rock writer cliché and Stewart smartly chooses not to dwell on it. Instead, she acquits herself as a true fan (of music, if not Amos herself) in being able to spot the good (the freeform conversational style with New York Times critic Ann Powers) and the bad (no backstory on “Me And A Gun”) before dovetailing into a quickie review of Tori’s latest album.
We’re suckers for books about the various personalities behind our favorite tunes so here’s a brief (and woefully incomplete) list of some of our favorites:
I Me Mine by George Harrison – Before the Fabs told their story in their own words, there was this autobiography from the perspective of the quiet (and occasionally curmudgeonly) Beatle. Like the man himself, the book treats the famous years lightly and gives you more of what Harrison once referred to as “the very best” part of himself—his music. Released in updated form in 2002.
Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain by Charles R. Cross – A recent and much-lauded pick but worth mentioning here for the near minute-by-minute account of Cobain’s 27 years.
Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain – Before using the same “uncensored oral history” format to tell the story of the porn industry, McNeil co-authored this exhaustive story of punk rock that rightly starts with some thoughts from Lou Reed and ends (in the new edition) with a story from MC5er Wayne Kramer.
I’m With The Band: Confessions Of A Groupie by Pamela Des Barres – The book that scandalized us in junior high with stories of what happens when the music’s over.
Mystery Train by Greil Marcus – It would be impossible to discuss American rock music without facing some hard truths about race and Elvis Presley. Marcus accomplishes both here while overtly exploring the latter and subtly revealing the former through the works of The Band, Sly Stone, Randy Newman and EAP himself.