57. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
As I've written about elsewhere, I came to Bruce's music later in life, but am enough of a fan that I wanted to read the autobiography.
It's about 75% about music - listening to it and making it. Some Amazon reviewers complained about that, but that's what I'm here for. Like Keef, Bruce realy comes alive when talking about music.
Having said that, his rock and roll anecdotes, while nowhere near as wild as Keef's, are authentically funny in the telling. (The crossing the toll bridge into New York with $1 worth of pennies story is a particular gem). His descriptions of how his early musical endeavours sucked are beautifully self-deprecating. Anyone who's ever been in a less than competent band will relate.
For many years he had very little life outside of music because when you're a bit bipolar and a bit OCD, that's a great way to self-medicate.
He talks about how he was lucky to grow up in an age where there was such a variety of music to inspire him, but I think he was even more fortunate that he grew up in an era when recorded music was nowhere near as good as live quality-wise, so every bar had an in-house band and he was able to make a living (albeit a pretty poor one) as a full-time musician straight out of school and didn't have to waste time at a day job, and got paid to hone his craft. That's something that's sadly not an option any more.
He comes across as a genuine, caring, hard-working guy who has had good luck but also worked very hard to make his dreams come true. He's never ungrateful about how things have worked out. It's long, but totally worth it.
57. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
Oh dear. I can't believe I read the whole thing. There were occasional witty lines, but otherwise this was a complete waste of time. It neither made you warm to the subject (see: Keith Richards and Rob Lowe), nor was full of laugh-out-loud rock and roll anecdotes (see: Marc Almond, Slash and Keith Richards). I kept hoping that there was going to be some discussion of and insight into his bipolar disorder, but just lots of "looking back I was clearly manic/depressed at this stage". There was not a lot about his music - a lot about the business, not a lot about the creative side.
Learn from my mistakes. Just don't. Go read Keith Richards' Life (again, if necessary) instead.
Marc's autobiography, published way back in 1999!
It's very much a recently-out-of-rehab mea culpa.
It gets really repetitive.
Having said that, the parts about his childhood are pretty harrowing (domestic violence), and the art college/ university parts are interesting.
Marc studied at Leeds Polytechnic and a lot of myths about Soft Cell were still current when I was at Leeds University. I always thought I'd bought my copy of the 12-inch of Bedsitter in the cluster of streets (the Brudenells) where it was written, but it turns out the crappy accommodation that inspired that particular song was in Chapeltown. (Only Marc Almond could "accidentally" end up living in Chapeltown - it's nowhere near the unis, not in the student ghetto, and I suspect was known throughout the North of England for being a notorious red light district).
Also he was not as young as I thought when Soft Cell made it big - for some reason I thought he had never finished his degree due to being derailed by fame, but Soft Cell didn't even start going till after he graduated.
There are some well thought out passages about homophobia in the music industry and society in general, even coming from people who are ostensibly gay allies.
One for the fan-boys-and-girls only - it's certainly not *bad*, but there's far too much "I made a bad record because I was on drugs and couldn't say no to people. I should have learned", which fails to be followed up by learning.
Oh, and thanks very very much to girfan for tracking down a copy of it for me!
35. Ghost Song by Sarah Rayne
I've reviewed Rayne's work on here before. They're all the same idea - gothic-type potboiler, spanning multiple historical periods. A poor woman's Kate Moreton, if you will. This one revolves around an East-End music hall that has been shut (but well maintained) since 1914 and the mysteries therein.
This is the first one I've had trouble getting into, and there were a few parts in the first half where the prose was a bit clunky and a scene or two that just doesn't fit, but the second half was un-put-downable, despite being full of historically highly unlikely (but not impossible) scenarios.
36. Stories I only tell my friends: The autobiography by Rob Lowe
I appear to have become a celebrity autobiography junkie. Lowe's been everywhere pimping it out, but the only thing I caught was a lengthy interview on (I think) Front Row on Radio 4. I was a teenager at the time of the Brat Pack movies, and as there wasn't a lot else to do, I saw a lot of movies. I've never seen The Outsiders (I hated being forced to read the book at school) but Lowe's account of its filming is really interesting. On the other hand I saw St Elmo's Fire more than a few times. And I'm a terminal West Wing fan.
Interesting factoids - Tom Cruise was a total tool even before he was famous. Patrick Swayze comes across as a hard-working, likeable guy yet I've never knowingly seen any of his films. In fact, I've run a long way to avoid them.
This book is surprisingly good. Lowe claims to have written the whole thing himself. I'm not sure I buy that, but he does write scripts, so it's possible. I really warmed to him as I read it. Maybe that's effective writing, maybe that's because in comparison to Slash's account of himself, Lowe is a stellar human being.
He's very clear that his success is a combination of hard work and luck. His parents took him to live theatre when he was 8, it blew him away and he decided that day that acting was for him and pursued it single-mindedly. He was living in Ohio at the time, but got lots of acting experience (some paid) in local community theatre and TV. His mom moved the family to Malibu when he was a teeager, which had the advantage of being able to take the bus in to the studios in LA every day after school to look for work, agents, etc. but provided no avenues for actually getting any acting practice.
Most of the book is about his childhood and becoming a star. I was sad that The West Wing is relegated to one chapter near the end. If you're after the sex tape stuff, that's only very briefly touched on, mostly to point out if he'd done it now it would give his career a boost instead of nearly ending it.
So, surprisingly moving and interesting. And short.
37. The Sky Road by Ken Macleod
You can't say I don't have eclectic taste in reading material.
Only Ken would have the 4th volume of a series be an alternative history - a minor character from The Stone Canal does something different, and the future is very different from that in The Cassini Division.
My memory is too poor to put the whole series together very well, but I think I liked this the best out of all four of the books in this series.