Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some pretty great rock&roll novels....

Here's 2 mixing genres: If U're a music fan U might really Njoy some of the following rock&roll novels, summa which R among my fave books in the world. Since the list is kinda short, I'll follow it up with other rock-music novels I'm aware of but haven't read or couldn't get thru (tho the reviews were good), & some Xcellent rock&roll short-fiction. & away we go....
* GLIMPSES, Lewis Shiner -- The BEST rock&roll novel EVER. Shiner's hero has the ability 2 hear & create great "lost" pop music that never quite Xisted in reality: The Beach Boys' SMILE, The Doors' CELEBRATION OF THE LIZARD, Jimi Hendrix's FIRST RAYS OF THE NEW RISING SUN. In order 2 create this music on tape, he slips in2 a sorta alternate reality (or is he hallucinating?) where he meets all these great musicians & plays a part in helping them finish their projects. The section on SMILE is especially fine: Shiner knows his stuff & doesn't mess up the Dtails. Meanwhile, the real-life crises Shiner's hero hasta face when he's not searching 4 lost music R real & Blievable (failing marriage, father dying, growing older). Vivid, gripping, moving. Great stuff.
* GOSSAMER AXE, Gael Baudino -- The 2nd-best rock&roll novel ever. When a harper from the land of Faerie is trapped in our reality without the love of her life (who's still on The Other Side), she forms a heavy-metal band as the most direct way 2 blast a hole Btween the realities & get her lost love back. Great in-a-band Dtails, moving stories of both our heroine & the women who join her band, & a marvelous happy Nding. Vivid, involving, Xciting, Mpowering.
+ ZEITGEIST, Bruce Sterling -- Recently reviewed here. A lovable con-artist comes up w/ a musical scam 2 fleece the Moslem world of millions of $$$ just B4 Y2K hits. But the conman loses control of his act & then the girls in his "band" start dying due 2 neglect. Outrageous, cynical, sarcastic -- but there's a happy Nding 4 all the good folks. Even the conman saves his soul. & it's laff-out-loud funny.
= THE ARMAGEDDON RAG, George R.R. Martin -- '60s group The Nazgul reforms but their tour Cms a front 4 all kinds of dark plotting. Some nice nostalgia & good group-rehearsal scenes, but the cloak&dagger/thriller plot lets down Martin (1 of my heroes) & his characters.
= ROCK CRITIC MURDERS, Jesse Sublette -- I've read this 3x & tho there's a good feel 4 Bing in a no-frills blues-rock band & the hot, dry, MT Texas setting is completely Blievable, there R no real suprises in the standard murder/private-investigator plot. It's just not Xciting enuf.
= THE MEMORY OF WHITENESS, Kim Stanley Robinson -- This shoulda bn better. A young Master Musician learns 2 play Holywelkin's Orchestra, a sorta giant keyboard/orchestrion-thing that creates magical music that can unite all peoples.... He goes on 2 tour the Solar System (sorta the Ultimate Tour) ... but gets sucked in2 a cloak&dagger plot involving sun-worshippers on Mercury. Kinda heavy-handed & disappointing, tho Robinson's written some other great stuff: "Green Mars," "Mother Goddess of the World," "Escape from Kathmandu," "Discovering Life," "The Lucky Strike," "The Part of Us That Loves," & the AMAZING "A History of the 20th Century, With Illustrations."

MY GHOD, I 4GOT ALL ABOUT:
+ THE COMMITMENTS, Roddy Doyle -- OK, I think the movie's better, but this is DEFinitely worth taking a look at. Doyle's got an odd writing style (I'M 1 2 talk?): Everything is shorthanded, he never uses quotes 2 show his characters R talking -- but the struggles of a band 4med "2 save Ireland thru R&B" R amusingly & involvingly Dtailed, & it's a quick read. Only a coupla minor complaints: The book Nds JUST AS IT'S GETTING REALLY GOOD (just like the film), & I don't think we ever quite HEAR the music The Commitments per4m. But 4 Ghod's sake, C the movie 2....
+ HIGH FIDELITY, Nick Hornby -- *Grumble, grumble* ... This is a pretty-good "growing-up" novel, centered on a hero who owns his own used-record store & starts recording local bands on his own garage-based record label(!), but still won't accept responsibility, get married & act like "a real grown-up," according 2 his girlfriend. Funny, nicely observed & Xcellently written, very readable -- but I hated the Nding. I would not have married the girlfriend who 4ces the hero 2 grow up -- most guys would likely resent her 4 Bing so pushy. 4 me, the best things in the book R the off-the-wall record-store humor ("You can't possibly be taken seriously as a person without at least 5,000 albums in your collection"), the hero's ongoing Top 5 lists of The Best Rock&Roll Songs Of All Time (4 all possible occasions), & the long reminiscences about his previous girlfriends.

OTHERS I'M AWARE OF:
LITTLE HEROES, Norman Spinrad -- Something about "the old lady of rock and roll" helping 2 create an act that'll unite the country & possibly the world. Tried 2 read this fat novel a coupla x & couldn't get very far, but Spinrad knows his stuff & is almost always suprising 2 read.
SAY GOODBYE: THE LAURIE MOSS STORY, Lewis Shiner -- Based on GLIMPSES, this should also B great, but I've never Cn a copy 4 sale NEwhere. Supposedly this is about a fictional singer-songwriter who Didn't Quite Make It. Worth tracking down, I'm sure....
WRACK AND ROLL, Bradley Denton -- Gotta copy on my bookshelf & when I get 2 it I'll let U know. Looks a little like LITTLE HEROES. Some of Denton's short stories R outrageous & funny....
ECLIPSE, John Shirley -- A trilogy, something like a punk-rock apocalypse....
THE KILL RIFF, David J. Schow -- This is less a rock&roll story & more a horror novel. A father goes out 4 revenge against a heavy-metal band after his daughter dies at 1a the band's concerts. Schow was a talented & funny short-story writer, but tho the reviews of this novel were good, I couldn't get past the grim 1st chapter.
THE TEXTS OF FESTIVAL, Mick Farren -- An apocalyptic pulp-science-fiction novel, psychedelic & etc. Farren was a member of The Deviants & the Pink Fairies, was a rock critic, & co-wrote a song or 2 w/ Hawkwind.
TIME OF THE HAWKLORDS, Michael Moorcock & Michael Butterworth -- Speaking of Hawkwind, this book turns that British heavy-space-rock band of the '70s in2 heroes in their own adventure. If it captures the atmosphere of their albums it might B pretty cool. Moorcock co-wrote some songs w/ them & did a coupla guest vocals.
(+) THE BEAR, Rafi Zabor -- Is jazz OK in this list? Zabor's novel is about a saxophone-playing bear who practically turns in2 Charlie Parker when he hits the stage at New York jazz clubs. The 1st 1/2 of the book is pretty great, vivid & funny & involving, but when The Bear started onna long nationwide tour I just sorta drifted away, like I do w/ a lotta jazz....
...I've read reviews 4 rock novels Ntitled SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING and JAMBEAUX, but I have no idea who the authors R....

SHORT STORIES:
* "Stone," Edward Bryant -- An electronic-feedback technician in the stage crew 4 a future singer (a Janis Joplin-type) helps her commit suicide -- in the most public way possible. Intense & moving. Bryant's other music-related fiction that I've read ("Armageddon Between Sets," "Drummer's Star") is OK but a little thin, not up 2 the high standards of "Stone" or some of his other stories like the brilliant "Strata."
* "A Little Night Music," Lucius Shepard -- Xcellent. Shepard reviews a per4mance by a zombie rock&roll band. Cold & creepy.
* "Dead Air," Greg Egan -- Scary! Haunted goings-on atta late-nite rock&roll radio station. That'll teach the heroine 2 play such possessed old rock&roll songs as "Hands of Jack the Ripper"!
* "Preflash," John M. Ford -- A photographer can C people's futures, & 1a the jobs he does is shoot a video 4 an up&coming singer. Amazingly vivid & cinematic, the whole thing reads like a really good music video....
* "The Winter Market," William Gibson -- The hero of this also shoots a video, sorta, centering on the driven heroine who thinks she's not much longer 4 this world. MayB this doesn't qualify as a music story really, but I can't C the video Bing done w/o music....
+ "The Music of the Spheres," Bradley Denton -- Turns out some rock&roll (Specially the REALLY addictive stuff) is a plot by aliens 2 take over the Earth.... Hilarious!
+ "Jeff Beck," Lewis Shiner -- An avg. everyday guy gets the chance 2 play guitar just as good as the legendary Jeff Beck ... but his new power does not make him happy....
+ "All the Way Up, All the Way Down," Robert Silverberg, part of his novel THE WORLD INSIDE -- Silverberg has a great vision of a future rock band, the instruments they'd play, what it'd B like 2 C them per4m. That's sorta background 2 the actual story, but it's worth reading just 4 what Silverbob does w/ the band. The rest of the story shows Silverberg's overcrowded urban world of 2281, & like the rest of the book the vivid setting sorta overwhems the events of the story.
+ "The Feast of St. Janis," Michael Swanwick -- Another Janis Joplin story. A future traveler visits the annual Feast, the climax of which is the sacrifice 2 the crowd of "this year's" Janis. Impressive, Dtailed, kinda shocking. Swanwick's 1st published story (1980). His only other solo "music fiction" story I've found, "In Concert," is 4gettable. But some of his other stories R great, like the brilliant "The Dragon Line" (an updating of Merlin, Arthur, etc.), mystical & moving "The Edge of the World," hilarious "Ginungagap."
+ "The Big Flash," Norman Spinrad -- A rock band Cms 2 B pointing the way toward nuclear Armageddon. The story has some intensity, & the Nding is grimly inevitable. But there R no real suprises here. When this was published in '69 it probly was a little shocking....
+ "The Song the Zombie Sang," Harlan Ellison & Robert Silverberg -- Classical music OK? The zombie only awakens 2 play keyboards in something like a classical production. Bn yrs since I read this, but Ellison & Silverberg's talents meshed well.
= "Touring," Gardner Dozois, Jack Dann & Michael Swanwick -- Spooky horror story, about how Buddy Holly, Richie Valens & The Big Bopper havta keep playing the same concert at Clear Lake, Iowa, over & over & over. & of course their audience R all dead 2....
...If NEbody has some suggestions, I'm always intrested in reading more good rock&roll fiction....

5 comments:

Gardenhead said...

I really like the sound of glimpses from that description Tad. Gonna buy some books this weekend. Is it the sorta book that's widely available or will i have to root around online for it?

tad said...

G: Well, I found MY copy in a Waldenbooks store about 7 yrs ago, but I Xpect at this point yr gonna havta go thru some1 like Amazon.com or whatever yr equivalent is over there. But it'll B worth it.... I've read it 3x & it's pretty amazing.... -- TAD.

Matt said...

Wow, I'm definitely going to pick up those first two novels. Hard to think of a better premise than a fairy starting a heavy metal band to blast a hole back to her dimension.
Stephen King has a short story called "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band," I feel like you may have mentioned it in this blog before, maybe a review for Nightsmares & Dreamscapes.

Great blog, glad to see it back! I couldn't really get into Caravan's "In the Land of the Grey and Pink" so I might have never heard "For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night" (Which I love) if not for your review. Keep up the good work!

tad said...

Thanx! I actually read King's "Hell of a Band" almost 20 yrs ago -- think it 1st appeared in an anthology of zombie stories, something like THE BOOK OF THE DEAD or something(?) NEway, not bad ... but I'm not suprised I 4got it -- U have NO IDEA how much stuff I've gone back & ADDED since 1st writing this post....
Which reminds me, if U can FIND it, U should all check-out Graham Masterton's vivid & intense short story "Voodoo Child," which is about Jimi Hendrix & was in some horror/rock short story collection that came out around '91-'92 -- KILLER ROCK? Why can't I remember the title? Alice Cooper wrote the intro 2 the book.... There was another pretty-good story about a guitar that posesses its owner.... NEway, worth getting just 4 the Masterton story, if U can find it.... & thanx 4 commenting! -- TAD.

tad said...

Update: The rock/horror anthology I was thinking of was actually called SHOCK ROCK (only took about 8 hrs 4 this title 2 FINALLY pop in2 my head) & was (at least co-) edited by Jeff Gelb. Pocket Books published it around '91/'92. It includes that Graham Masterton story I mentioned, + a few other goodies. The tale about the guitar that possesses people was called "The Red '56" (or something like that) & was co-written by Bill Mumy, "Will Robinson" of '60s series LOST IN SPACE fame; I can't remember who his collaborator was. ...& I have no brain left.... -- TAD.