Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What is wrong with me?

I am reading two books about rock music. They are both good, but one is (so far) better than the other. Our Band Could Be Your Life tells the stories of a number (incl. Black Flag, Replacements, Husker Du and Big Black) of American 80s indie rock bands. England's Dreaming tells the story of Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols in a similar number of pages. This is the great advantage of Our Band over England. The former is by necessity more tightly written and quite a bit more visceral. The latter takes an academic or philosophical approach, spending too much time talking about the not very interesting artistic and personal development of McClaren. Still, if you are interested in the Sex Pistols (I certainly am) you get as much as you can handle in this one, including the slow search for a singer (one of the NY Dolls was supposed to join at some point). You also get a nice picture of the overall scene in the mid-70s.

Jon Savage (England's Dreaming) spends a bit too much time wondering about the political implications of punk (is it right wing? Is it left wing?) Michael Azerrad (Our Band) doesn't ignore the political question, but he only discusses it where it matters, as in the band members typical dislike of Reagan and the yuppie 80s. Once we understand their position, we get back to the life of the musicians, which is way more interesting.

I would recommend both to fans of the eras, but feel free to skip to page 100 or so in England's Dreaming, as that is when we first meet an actual Pistol. For serious.

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