Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One is a legitimately fascinating read, and that’s partly because Dylan is the type of artist few fans and critics ever expected to pen a memoir. A neon extrovert like David Lee Roth writing an autobiography? Sure. But a press-shy artiste like Dylan? Never!
The rest of this year, you won't be able to swing an aging musician by his hair extensions without hitting a new rock autobiography. Upcoming memoirs include those from John Lydon (April 28, his second), Willie Nelson (May 5), Lita Ford (June 16), Neil Peart (Aug. 11), Chrissie Hynde (Sept. 8), John Fogerty (Oct. 6), Elvis Costello (Oct. 13), Carrie Brownstein (Oct. 27) and Nas (Nov. 10).
All of those aforementioned memoirs sound like they could be interesting and even compelling. But outside of Peart, the Rush drummer known to like privacy almost as much as toms, none of these projects are really unexpected.
Some great rock autobiographies remain unwritten. Below is a list of 10 such literary endeavors — the common denominator here is all these hypothetical authors are uncompromising in their approach to music, don't do a ton of press and likely have all kinds of cool, untold stories and perspective. And are still alive to tell their story. These are the rock star autobiographies we'd actually want to read.
What we'd want to read about: Early Def Jam history; his producer Zen; the classic sessions, particularly American Recordings, Blood Sugar Sex Magik and “99 Problems”; did he really suggest an early Black Crowes incarnation rename themselves Kobb Kounty Krows, to setup the initials KKK?
What to leave out: Thoughts on homeopathic foods and why we should avoid consuming pineapple; how eyes-closed head-bobbing enhances a musical experience; beard maintenance.
What we'd want to read about: Those amazing collaborations with guitarist Mick Ronson; weird-ass stories from making Lust for Life, “Walk on the Wild Side” and Labyrinth; the other cover tunes he considered for Pin Ups; how he's spending his “Golden Years.”
What to leave out: Anything more than a couple pages about Tin Machine.
What we'd want to read about: First rock concerts he ever attended growing up in Indiana; his friendship and musical sympatico with Izzy Stradlin (particularly pre-Appetite for Destruction); how gospel roots helped shape his treble-stabbing vocal style; does he still own his childhood piano or the ass-less chaps he wore during Guns N’ Roses’ club days; the last conversation he had with Slash.
What to leave out: Conspiracy theories about music-biz entities plotting to doom Chinese Democracy; various explanations of how the current Guns N’ Roses lineup is “superior” to the Appetite era; cornrows; his side of the concert lateness thing.
What we'd want to read about: Every detail about the writing and recording of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; growing up in the same New Jersey neighborhood as future actor Zach Braff; her pre-music fame role in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit; the bullet-train speed at which her life accelerated as The Fugees’ breakthrough LP The Score broke big in 1996; how close she is to a second solo studio album.
What to leave out: A 150-page anti-Internal Revenue Service screed; the Wyclef Jean and Rohan Marley dirt; her side of the concert lateness thing.
What we'd want to read about: Fond and funny pre-Led Zeppelin memories of kicking around local blues and psychedelic bands with John Bonham; thoughts on some of the other all-time great frontmen, from predecessors like Jagger and Jim Morrison to those that followed, like Kurt Cobain; a candid account of his musical and non-musical skyscrapers and downs with Jimmy Page.
What to leave out: Soccer fandom; reunion tour diatribes; why Zeppelin “wasn’t a heavy metal band.”
What we'd want to read about: Studio and songwriting ju ju; how having a Pentecostal preacher as a father impacted his early life and music; what the hell he did during his post-Voodoo recluse period; competing in the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night as a teen; why the vocals are mixed low on his otherwise brilliant late-2014 comeback album Black Messiah.
What to leave out: The pressures of forever living up to his Adonis physique in the “Untitled” music video.
What we'd want to read about: The virtues of the Akai MPC3000 drum machine/sampler; a thorough chronicling of Ruthless Records and Death Row music, drama and grit; producing the early, star-making Snoop Dogg and Eminem material; samples he always wanted to use but couldn’t get cleared; recording what became The Chronic in his home.
What to leave out: A chapter-long advertisement for Beats by Dr. Dre headphones; Napster.
What we'd want to read about: Radiohead’s origin story; how seeing Jeff Buckley perform influenced his own distinctive falsetto; the post-“Creep” ego trip; the post-OK Computer tour writer’s block; a look inside Radiohead’s post-modern studio wizardry and his search for musical satisfaction outside the band in solo projects, DJing and Atoms for Peace.
What to leave out: The whole tortured artist bit.
What we'd want to read about: How The White Stripes made blues-inspired rock sound fresh again; he and Meg White’s first date; he and ex-wife/model Karen Elson’s “divorce party”; as the youngest of 10 children, the “inherited” instruments he acquired from older siblings, and if that later informed his sonic view; his friendship with Bob Dylan.
What to leave out: Taxidermy; why vinyl is awesome.
What we'd want to read about: Just about anything and everything he wants to tell us, but particularly his collaboration with Miles Davis; recording songs in which he plays every instrument; finding the musicians that comprised his first great backing band, The Revolution; opening for Rick James’ 1980 tour; his rivalry with Michael Jackson; performing the best Super Bowl halftime show ever; the sex-and-religion push-pull that’s at the center of much of his work.
What to leave out: Scribbling “slave” on his face to slag the record company; finding songwriting inspiration in the Minnesota Vikings;