Learning How To Die

I’m half-way through three books right now, and have cracked the spine on two more.

I would tack it up to coincidence, or some sort of Borders/Barnes & Nobles/Amazon harmonic convergence. But you know me: I look for meaning in signs, symbols, and patterns. All of the books are about bands. So it dawned on me quickly; something is afoot.

“Fool The World: An Oral History Of The Pixies” is just as advertised. Key players from the band to management to roadies to sound engineers take us back to the mid-Eighties when Throwing Muses, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr., and Pixies made Boston the place to be (so much so that, some eight years later, my college band and I wanted desperately to move there after graduation), and laid the foundation for what would come to be “alternative rock.”

If you’re a real music geek, you probably already know about Continuum’s “33 1/3” series. They’re brief, little books on the making of various classic albums, like The Replacements’ “Let It Be,” The Rolling Stones’ “Exile On Main Street,” and REM’s “Murmur” — which is the one I’m reading.

I figured I didn’t have the bandwidth (pun intended) to read “Wilco: Learning How To Die” any time soon (given the above, plus the two Douglas Coupland books — “Eleanor Rigby” and “JPod” — which are also on deck), but, being a huge fan of the band, and a nominal fan of the author (Greg Kott), I tossed it into the proverbial shopping cart nonetheless.

All three books are compelling, if breezy reads. “Fool The World” is all first person, which is nice; no editorializing from an author who wasn’t even there. “33 1/3: REM’s Murmur” is actually great, geeky stuff like what sort of guitar Peter Buck was playing on “Shaking Through,” though none of it is essential learning (like, say, “Siddhartha”). And “Learning” reads like standard rock bio (of which I’ve read dozens), though I don’t know much about Wilco save the music (maybe that’s best?).

True: I was expecting to be on the beach in Bonaire this week (we rescheduled on account of Abbi’s sister’s loss), and nothing could be finer than a beach, a beer, and a good book. But why so many books? Why on the same theme? And why now?

(If this is where you expect major revelation, you may choose to stop reading now.)

My life more resembles a media executive’s than a rock star’s. And whatever sort of rock star there is in me is on some kind of musical hiatus: writing and recording but not performing (much). So, what’s a guy to do?


Which may sound stupid, or kinda ‘Duh!’ But the objective is to learn some lessons (what not to do?). The objective is to find some fuel. The objective is get inspired.

I mean, I already know Peter Buck played producer Mitch Easter’s 1956 Gibson LG-1 on “Shaking Through.”

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