I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir by Brian Wilson and Ben Greenman
Brian Wilson has long been the most interesting Beach Boy, but his struggles with mental health have sometimes overshadowed the fact that the California native has won two Grammy awards, in addition to writing some of the Beach Boys' biggest hits like "I Get Around," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," and "God Only Knows."
Following the release of the Beach Boys' 11th studio album, 1966's Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson was hanging on by a thread. When it came time for the follow-up album, SMiLe, Wilson was in a downward spiral of addiction and mental illness, and the album's release date was put off before being cancelled completely in May of 1967.
Now, after many years of seclusion, a few tribute albums, and some live shows, Beach Boys fans finally get the scoop from the man himself, with help from author Ben Greenman. I Am Brian Wilson isn't necessarily for everyone who rocked out to "Help Me, Rhonda" in the '60s, but it does provide a crucial blueprint of the rise and fall of one of America's most interesting pop musicians. Wilson carefully answers questions that many die-hard fans have been wondering for years and doesn't shy away from exploring the darker, less glamorous side of being in one of the most famous American bands of all time.
Bop Apocalypse: Jazz, Race, the Beats, and Drugs
by Martin Torgoff
Martin Torgoff is the author behind Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000 — the book that the VH1 show The Drug Years was based on. And while the heinous marijuana term "jazz cigarette" should be forever removed from the American vocabulary, it's safe to say that Torgoff knows a thing or two about drug culture.
Just as Can't Find My Way Home explored how drug use shaped the American cultural landscape during the post-war era, Bop Apocalypse dissects how American drug culture was born and how it shaped American music.
The book explores musicians' use of drugs in great detail, starting at the beginning of the 20th century. Highlights include the birth of jazz in New Orleans, the start of swing in Kansas City, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, and the birth of bohemian culture in cities and college campuses nationwide in the '60s.
While Bop Apocalypse covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time, Torgoff seamlessly weaves one decade into the next, giving the reader a feel for the era without inundating them with too much information. With the success of The Drug Years and the success of the 1987 Torgoff documentary Elvis '56, we could see Bop Apocalypse turned into a documentary soon. As for now, you'll have to track down the book, which is available everywhere in January of 2017.
My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor
by Keith Morris
As an enthusiast of Southern California punk culture, I devoured this book, finishing it in about a week while on the road this summer. Much like We Got the Neutron Bomb, Lexicon Devil, and Disco's Out ... Murder's In!, My Damage does a terrific job of describing the setting for which some of the most memorable American punk rock would be created. These books make the reader feel like they were at classic punk landmarks like the Oki Dog, the Masque, or the Strand. You can practically smell the sweat when Morris describes the violent mosh pits that took place at Circle Jerks shows.
But just like with any tell-all memoir, My Damage isn't full of good times and "bet you wish you were there" anecdotes. Morris talks openly about his addiction to both alcohol and drugs, how those addictions shaped things in his life for better or for worse, and how he probably shouldn't be alive to tell the tale. There's also some pretty big let downs, including Greg Ginn (the lead guitarist of Black Flag) being way too involved with the nu metal travesty known as Korn. Let that sink in for a moment. As a Black Flag/Circle Jerks super fan, the book is a must. As someone who has little interest in what Morris did post Circle Jerks, the last third of the book is pretty hit or miss.