Patti Smith's M Train And Other Essential Lady Rock Star Memoirs
Patti Smith is half rockstar and half cool librarian. At last weekend’s New Yorker Festival, she revealed that she would be releasing an entire library of new books, including a detective novel, a book of poems, a YA novel, and the follow up to her widely acclaimed memoir Just Kids, the recently released M Train. Much like that one rapper on the corner pushing “Rhymes from the Crypt Vol. X,” Patti Smith has a lot to say.
But she isn’t the only one to drop a fire memoir. As of late, many of music’s most iconic rockers have released amazing memoirs. But while we’ve always been drawn to the inner lives of the rock’s best and baddest, we’re only just now getting the female perspective. Now more than ever, more and more female musicians are giving us a detailed look into girl group stardom, divahood, and what its like to dominate in a male run industry. Here’s a list of memoirs to check out now that Patti Smith’s newest book has dropped, written by some of the baddest bitches in the land.
In 1981, androgyne disco queen Grace Jones let the world know that she would never write her memoirs. We weren’t alive at the time, but even whilst floating around in someone’s cells or sperm or whatever it is non-human beings do (the US education system has obviously failed us), we felt a pang of disappointment. We would never know what it was like to live with Jessica Lange and party with Andy Warhol on the weekends. The joys of being the most iconic Bond girl of all time would be forever lost on us.
At least, that’s what we thought. But we must’ve been particularly good this year, kids. Grace Jones released I’ll Never Write My Memoirs last week. In true diva fashion, she dishes on what it was like having her baby shower at a famous disco club, shits on Lady Gaga, and talks about the best way to do coke (up the ass). And because Grace really does love us, she included a copy of her tour rider. Such highlights include a demand for 6 Bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne, as well as 2 Dozen Findeclare or Colchester Oysters on ice and unopened, because “Grace does her own shucking.”
At the very least, we’ll all learn what it was like to slap Russell Harty’s soft, shitty face.
Kim Gordon is the epitome of chill. Not that the former frontwoman of Sonic Youth could be anything but; she’s had to put up with decades of people ogling at the fact that she is indeed a girl, and yes, she’s in a band. But the haters could only bear witness to her ascension into alt rock godhood… where critics were still amazed that a female could be in a highly successful, game-changing rock band, because, y’know, god forbid.
Hence the tongue in cheek name of her memoir, Girl in a Band. It dropped earlier this year, and has already proven itself to be just as funny and full of heart as Gordon herself. Arriving on the heels on the band’s split as well as her own messy divorce from Thurston Moore, the book is an observation of partnerships, big breaks, and what it means to move on.
When she’s not off compiling art essays for her book, she’s off standing in for Kurt in Nirvana or acting on Girls. She’s the cool aunt we’ve always wanted instead of the one we deserve — or like, actually have.
Before she was the lead guitarist of her own widely acclaimed punk band or one half of a comedy duo, Carrie Brownstein was just a fangirl like the rest of us. Far removed from the glamour of Grace Jones or the wisdom of Patti Smith, this is a memoir about someone who found herself through music.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl traces Carrie Brownstein’s dysfunctional upbringing in the Pacific Northwest, where rock music was rapidly changing and the magic of live performance was fully realized. In a turbulent household, punk music would be her means of her escape. She and the members of Sleater-Kinney would go on to become key players in the feminist-punk movement, and would be cited by The New Yorker’s Greil Marcus as “America’s best rock band.” And this is where it all began.
It doesn’t come out until October 27th, but the book has already been endorsed by Kim Gordon herself as a “candid, funny, deeply personal look at making a life– and finding yourself –in music.”
Viv Albertine prefaced her autobiography by noting that anyone who writes their memoirs is “either a twat or broke” (“I’m a bit of both”). She then delves into all the reasons why she’s never masturbated, although she does have some interesting fantasies.
Nothing could be more fitting of the former Slits guitarist. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys is equal parts punk rock and cotton candy girlhood. It recounts her time as a fifteen year-old rocker with a few pounds in her pocket and an extreme love for the Sex Pistols. Her own band, made up of a handful of teenage girls who barely knew how to write music or play an instrument, was a show in what exactly can be done with just a bit of girl power.
She dedicates this to all the teen girls who are afraid of making mistakes. She notes that while men are allowed to, and even to some extent encouraged, to fail, girls like Viv’s own daughter are afraid of the embarrassment. It’s considered “unfeminine.”
But fighting against typical notions of femininity are these women’s jobs. These books are important not just because we love to see a glamorous portrayal of rocker life; while it’s fun to read about all the salacious details, we know that rock stars live to fuck things up. But in their own way, each of these memoirs paints a humanistic look at these untouchable women. These sorts of books are needed to show that every girl who ever went anywhere started off kicking rocks in her hometown, wondering what might lay around the corner.
Images via Seattle Music Insider, V Magazine, Tumblr, Rolling Stone, and Flickr.