No products in the cart.

Paperback Writer

Paperback Writer

Last time we talked about the music that fueled Believe in Me (Wampus, Nov. 29). This time we move from the inspiration to the perspiration part of the process—the research.

It would of course have been handy if there had been a stadium-filling rock star among my immediate family and friends, but since there isn’t (sorry, guys, but fantasies don’t count), and since I’ve never played a note on stage in my life and have exactly one trip backstage to my name, what I couldn’t pick up of the rock life from observation over the years, I’ve attempted to glean from the tales of those who’ve actually lived it.

Fortunately the rock biography/autobiography is a rich vein that’s been well-mined over the years by any number of natural story-tellers (and sometimes their helpful co-writers/ghost writers). If Believe in Me included a bibliography, these are some of the books that would be in it, listed roughly in order of the impact they had on the story I wanted to tell:

So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star by Jacob Slichter

Of all the rock books I’ve read, Semisonic drummer Slichter’s is my favorite: the tale of a modest, self-aware, eloquent everyman part-time musician who takes a whirlwind trip through the industry meat-grinder as part of an upstart Minneapolis power-pop trio that is eventually, unjustly consigned to history as a one-hit wonder (see 1998’s memorable “Closing Time”). In 2004 I called Slichter’s tale “One of the wittiest and most entertaining books ever published about life inside the rock and roll bubble,” and I stand by the quote.  A trenchant writer who is endlessly observant of telling details, Slichter chronicles his journey with such dry wisdom and self-deprecating panache that you’re left wishing for a sequel… but of course, there isn’t one.

One Train Later by Andy Summers

Among the rarified air of rock bios from world-beating, million-selling acts, Police guitarist Andy Summers’ memoir rises authoritatively above the pack.  In addition to being a world-class guitarist and photographer, Summers is a naturally gifted storyteller with a remarkable tale to tell, someone who nearly crapped out of the music game several times before hitting the jackpot, and then experienced the dark side of that achievement as well.  As I put it, “The beauty of this book is that Summers, having been to the mountaintop and returned to tell the tale, appreciates in equal measures the glorious affirmation and the absolute insanity of life in the rock and roll circus.”

It Ain’t No Sin to Be Glad You’re Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen by Eric Alterman
Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story
by Dave Marsh
Big Man
by Clarence Clemons & Don Reo

Jordan Lee, the lead vocalist in my fictional band Stormseye, is an original character with flavorings of, and nods to, a number of notable rock frontmen.  That said, his idealism and commitment to social issues were surely inspired in part by my own admiration for Bruce Springsteen.  (As for Big Man, I can’t say it had a huge influence on Believe in Me, but it’s the most fun a person can have without actually being Clarence Clemons…)

Diary of a Rock’n’Roll Star by Ian Hunter

Life on the road in the early ’70s has never been chronicled by a wittier observer of the scene.

Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood by Michael Walker
by Keith Richards
by Eric Clapton
Corn Flakes With John Lennon
by Robert Hilburn
U2 by U2
The Beatles Anthology
Wilco: Learning How to Die
by Greg Kot
No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins & Daniel Sugerman
Close to the Edge – The Story of Yes
by Chris Welch

All of the above spoke to me at various points along the way, whether I was picking up details about the rock life, or the creative process, or simply how people move and talk and think in that world.

I also want to give big props to one of the most insightful novels I’ve read that’s set in the world of music, Roger Trott’s wise and wonderful musical-coming-of-age yarn Getting in Tune.  Finally, while Karl Kuenning’s self-published autobiography of life on a touring crew, Roadie, might be a little rough around the literary edges, it’s full of keen observations from a perspective rarely heard before or since.

Over the past two weeks we’ve covered some of the music and books that influenced Believe in Me.  Coming next time: a look at the films that influenced this storyand yes, the name Cameron Crowe may come up.

Right now, though, we interrupt this post for a brief digression.  Wampus chief Mark Doyon and I have been talking about the cover art for Believe in Me for some time now.  It’s been an invigorating back and forth as Mark encouraged me to distill the story to its very essence, so that he could try to translate that idea into a single, memorable visual.  Believe in Me is the story of two very different men, both damaged and in need of redemption, who are each in some fundamental way alone in the world, and whose path forward lies in the cleansing and healing powers of rock and roll.  I can’t imagine a better cover image for my story than the one Mark came up with.

See you next time.

Comments (2)

  • Richard

    I've heard Roger Trott's novel is a good one. Have you read "Cash"?

  • Jason Warburg

    Hi, Richard. I have not read "Cash" -- I'd better add that one to the list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign up to get all our latest updates & book release news.