It’s the holiday gift giving season again, and while the latest rock memoirs from everyone from Neil Young to Pete Townshend are hitting the shelves, I would suggest you dig a bit deeper and look for these two books – “Bad Vibes:  Britpop and My Part In Its Downfall” by Luke Haines, and Gentlemanly Repose:  Confessions of a Debauched Rock ‘N’ Roller” by Michael Ruffinoif you’re searching for that perfect gift for the music lover in your family.

Why?  Because most rock ‘n’ roll memoirs focus on artists who are famous and achieve at least some degree of notoriety and/or success, but these two books do just the opposite.  Both “Bad Vibes” and “Gentlemanly Repose” focus on artists who got close to the brass ring, but never hit it big.  So why would you want to read a book about bands that didn’t make it?  Well, because most bands don’t, and both Haines and Ruffino are clever, articulate, and funny writers who know exactly what that experience is like because they’ve lived it.  Like Tommy Womack’s “Cheese Chronicles”, which we reviewed in our last installment of Music Lit 101, these two books are a blast to read, because they really do take you behind-the-scenes, and instead of focusing on the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll fantasy they describe the  day-to-day lunacy that is part of being in a working band.

Luke Haines’ “Bad Vibes” is a chronicle of the rise of Britpop, a genre he refers to as “the idiot runt-child of all music genres”, and the pioneering role his band The Auteurs played in it’s rise.  Don’t know The Auteurs?  Haines wouldn’t be surprised, but his inside look at the hype that built the Britpop genre is one hysterical ride.  He has a dark sense of humor and never argues the fact the he was his own worst enemy, but it’s interesting to read about a band that was so clearly ahead of it’s time and yet received so little credit, especially here in the States.  I guess that’s what happens when you name your latest pop single, “Unsolved Child Murder.”  You can almost see the label reps becoming apoplectic trying to figure out how to market that one right?

Michael Ruffino on the other hand, was in a band that seemed almost hell bent on never making it.  His band, “The Unband”, named their first and only album “Retarder” (cue crazed label reps again), and managed to tour with everyone from Dio to Dokken, Fu Manchu, and Def Leppard.  His writing is part Lester Bangs and part Nikki Six, and he never once seems to take a minute of his wild ride seriously, but by the end of the book you almost want to see him and his band mates succeed if only because they seem to care so little if they do.  Better yet, “Gentlemanly Repose” is one of the most interesting and funny books I’ve ever read about life on the road.  Ruffino describes it perfectly when he says, “It seems so simple:  here’s some money, here’s a tour bus, go play.  It’s not.  It’s not simple at all.”

So don’t take the simple way out and buy yet another tome by an arena rock legend (you can check them out of the library), but instead plunk your hard earned cash down on one or both of these books, and learn what it’s like to succeed at failing.

2 Responses to “Music Lit 101: Bad Vibes & Gentlemanly Repose”

  1. frizbee Says:

    I gotta try and find these books, especially Gentlemanly Repose. I always enjoy these kind of behind-the-scene books about the music industry, and these ones sound particularly intriguing.

  2. theHoseman Says:

    Both sound like cool reads. Thanks for the tip!

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