10 Best Memoirs by Rock Stars

These people have seen it all.

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10 Best Memoirs by Rock Stars
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10. Patti Smith: 'Just Kids' (2010)

An incredibly romantic portrait of two young hustlers in the big city: Patti Smith and her best friend, artist Robert Mapplethorpe, have to keep telling each other how great they are, because nobody else will believe it. The most amazing thing about this book is the warmth, the lack of bitterness – what Patti Smith seems to remember most about New York bohemia in the 1960s is all the moments of awkward kindness.

9. Anthony Kiedis: 'Scar Tissue' (2004)

The Red Hot Chili Pepper tells a quintessential made-in-L.A. rise-and-fall-and-rise story, complete with all the californicatory details. Kiedis muses about his childhood, his band and his many, many, many ex-girlfriends, most of whom inspire him to share a kind word, a nude photo or both. Scar Tissue might have the best final sentence of any book on this list, starring Kiedis' lovable pooch Buster: "And when I do think, 'Man, a fucking motel room with a couple of thousand dollars' worth of narcotics would do me right,' I just look over at my dog and remember that Buster's never seen me high." Let's hope Buster gets his own book someday.

8. John Lydon: 'Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs' (1993)

The former Johnny Rotten has all the dirt about how the Sex Pistols pissed off the world. But he's also got poignant details about his hardscrabble youth in London's Irish-immigrant squalor, raised by a mother even more badass than he was. He also shares his deep hatred for religion, the Queen, the other Sex Pistols, hippies, rich people, racists, sexists, the English political system, Malcolm McLaren and of course, Pink Floyd. "A lot of people feel the Sex Pistols were just negative," he says. "I agree, and what the fuck is wrong with that? Sometimes the absolute most positive thing you can be in a boring society is completely negative."

7. Paul McCartney: 'Many Years From Now' (1997)

This 600-page biography written by Barry Miles after hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews undertaken over a period of five years" can surely be considered a memoir. The majority of Many Years from Now covers the Lennon–McCartney songwriting partnership, the rise and fall of the Beatles, and McCartney's immersion in the vibrant arts scene of 1960s London.

6. David Bowie: 'Moonage Daydream: The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust' (2002)

While not exactly a full-scale autobiography, this book is still fun to read as David Bowie's music influenced almost every decade he lived in. Telling funny stories like shopping for shoes with Cyrinda Foxe or sipping tea with Elton John ("We didn't exactly become pals, not really having that much in common, especially musically") or partying it up with Mick Jagger ("I have absolutely no recollections of this party at all").

5. Johnny Cash: 'Cash' (1997)

In this book, Johnny Cash looks back on a long career with humility and gratitude, its author writing frankly about his addictions, failures and disappointments along the way. There are the expected stories of Elvis and Sun Records, Waylon, June and his Tennessee farm, but what sticks around after the final page is the heartening impression that although the Man in Black was a one-of-a-kind legend, he never thought of himself as larger than life.

4. Chuck Berry: The Autobiography (1989)

Chuck Berry's autobiography is a story of rock ’n’ roll genesis, from a St. Louis reformatory for juveniles to Chess Records and “Johnny B. Goode.” It contains detailed histories of its author’s classic compositions as well some great fish-out-of-water moments, like the time he infuriated Dick Clark by botching a lip-sync on American Bandstand.

3. Keith Richards: 'Life' (2010)

It's a miracle that Keith Richards has lived that long, considering all the drugs he has taken. A living rock & roll legend, Keith Richards sure has a lot of stories to tell.

2. Slash: 'Slash' (2007)

Though there are other memoirs from GNR members (Steven Adler's My Appetite for Destruction and Duff McKagan's It's So Easy), Slash's book is one of a kind, surprisingly reflective and wise yet hilariously blasé about all his decadence.

1. Bob Dylan: 'Chronicles, Volume One' (2004)

Well, it is to be expected from a Nobel Prize winner to have a great autobiography. It is filled with eccentric characters and weird scenes (like his passion for wrestling in boyhood.) He tells how he hates to be labeled as a voice of his generation and describes of his Eighties bottoming-out phase. All in all, the story of is certainly a story worth reading.

 

76 comments sorted by best / new / date

    digital11
    What about I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne - Really good book, and Ronnie by Ronnie Wood.
    jpguitar34
    I was gonna suggest I am Ozzy, it's a fun read with some pretty funny stories in it.
    The_Crank3
    And also if you guys are into sabbath check out iron man (about tony iommi) or symptom of the universe(about sabbath in general). Both are great reads.
    Metal Militia
    I'm not a huge Motley Crue fan, but The Dirt is a great read. As is The Heroin Diaries. 
    Drapion69
    scar tissue was really interesting 
    Napalm7
    Yes. Very interesting. But I did get a bit tired of the "We made an album, I got lots of money and nearly killed myself with heroin" over and over. Should have maybe just had a chapter exclusively for that.
    WillUG31
    I know what you mean but in the same point I think it show how hard it could be to get out of heroin and how he kept repeating the same mistakes again and again.
    jddthomas
    NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories This book is awesome : an autobiography by 4 members (with delicious anecdotes) Even if you're not a NOFX fan, read on, it's worth it ! 
    Daysleeper76
    Lemmy's autobiography was one of the most entertaining and certainly the funniest that I've ever read. Also the pair of books on Elvis that were written by Peter Guralnick. Such a good read. Miles Davis' autobiography was real good also.
    AlexToodooloo
    Yeah, Chuck Berry has seen it all... through a video camera installed in the women's toilets in his restaurant The Southern Air in Missouri...
    Daysleeper76
    Yeah. And yet without Chuck Berry, NOBODY here would even know what the fuck a guitar is.
    AlexToodooloo
    Yes they would.
    ScottStewart1
    Agreed, guys like Robert Johnson and Howlin Wolf were already writing precursors to metal while later on Little Richard would make some fun swinging rock n roll. I like Chuck, but he's not the genesis of rock and roll. Same with Sabbath, they made metal popular but bands like Lucifers Friend were pretty much doing something similar a little before them.
    The_Crank3
    I'm a big slash fan, but I would never rank his book that high. Some parts were interesting, but as it went on it became a boring read. A lot of it repeated itself and the heroin and alcohol stories got old after a while. I personally would never recommend that book to anyone unless they were a huge fan. Most other rock books I read are way better.
    scoobybass
    Duff's book is incredible. I like it more than the Slash one. I didn't know the Steven had one TBH. 
    AndersVonBlack
    stevens is worth a read, its not as funny as great as the other two but its cool to see the other side of the story
    Slackerbitch
    I was hoping for Dylan's Chronicles to be on this list, as it is a great book. Another good one would be Who I Am by Pete Townshend.
    GR84
    "Chronicles" is such a fascinating and unique book, its great because it kind of puts you in Dylan's head so to speak, and anyone who listens or is a fan should already know ahead of time it's not going to be a straight forward read and certainly not going to follow any basic autobiography formulas. I found it void of ego, surprisingly candid, and at times meandering in the best way, it's written like a stream of consciousness - one idea and memory floats to the next and before you know it the book is done, at least volume one is done, and in true Dylan fashion who knows if that even means there is a volume 2
    DWB
    Who I Am is by far my favorite. It was such a real, personal and open look into one of my absolute heroes. He's just completely himself.
    twiggy3634
    Marilyn Manson - Long, Hard Road Out of Hell is a great read. 
    zalant
    I'd really like to see another one from him, as that was many years ago, and his career & personal life have definitely had a few twists and turns since then.
    dennis.1960
    I would add, Frank Zappa's, "The Real Frank Zappa Book" and "Bill Bruford:  The Autobiography".  Both stories of 2 of the greatest musicians of the modern day  
    ShredderMan1
    Frank zappas book is crazy. I thought he was intelligent before that book. That dude is interesting and funny. I think a must read for anyone interested in the music industry
    dennis.1960
    Ya, it's rather eye-opening and detailed on how the labels (and in FZ's case, the orchestras he attempted to get to perform his modern day classical music) have come up with every conceivable way possible to screw the composer/songwriter out of their rightful royalties and compensation  
    Blew1
    White Line Fever - Lemmy or A Life in Metal - Dave Mustaine would be my top picks! Excellent reading!
    sean_getchapu
    Where the fuck is Motley Crues 'Dirt'? Seriously this list is bs without that. Staggering account of what it was like in the 80s.
    CoyT
    Nikki Sixx's Heroin Diaries book was really good, I thought. Very raw, graphic look into the mind of a paranoid addict. The insight from other musicians and whatnot is pretty interesting as well.
    Guitarus Rex
    Gotta throw a few of my recent favorites out there: Paul Stanley: "Face the Music - A Life Exposed" I grew up a huge KISS fan in the 70s. I had no idea of the insecurities that Paul faced, even as the band was at the height of their success. An amazing life story of highs and lows. Poke fun at the band all you want, Paul's journey through it all is a fascinating read and remains tied with Sammy Hagar's "Red" as my all-time favorite rock memoirs books.  Sammy Hagar's "Red" feels like the most honest narrative on the whole VH soap opera so far. I see Sammy in an entirely different light after reading his perspective. I suppose that's the idea though... I was a mild fan of his before reading this, but it has since encouraged me to find out more about him. He seems like the kind of guy I'd want for a friend or neighbor. It blows my mind that his 70th birthday is this October.   Staying on the Sammy bandwagon, "Are We Having Any Fun Yet?" was a surprise hit for me. Imagine all of those rock and roll stories of debauchery, complemented by food and drink recipes handed down from his family, friends and featured in his restaurants! I liked it so much, I bought the hard cover version and have gifted copies to friends.  I really liked that all three of these were written in a conversational tone and it genuinely felt like you were sitting there with Paul and Sammy, hearing the stories firsthand. We all get to see the "frontman" swagger and polished imagery, but beneath it all lie two very interesting men. They both have an air of a "wise village elder" that comes from having traveled the earth while interacting with so many characters in crazy situations - and surviving. Actually, MORE than merely surviving - learning a lesson or having a "take-away" experience.  My own take-away from this article and the comments above are: I need to read "I Am Ozzy" and "Scar Tissue."  I read Slash's book already; it was really good, but I thought it could have been so much more than "I did drugs and had a lot of sex." Maybe he was a little too young still. The book came out in 2008, Slash was still in his early 40s. He's still navigating Planet Hedonism, whereas Paul and Sammy conquered that world already and have since written about it from an "older & wiser for the experience" perspective. That's no knock on Slash, but not many have the same view on life at 70 as they did at 43. 
    theoliraptor
    I finished Eric Clapton's book last week, that's a good book. I've heard Bruce Springsteen's is very good too, need to get my hands on that one soon.
    estranged_2003
    Really no doubt that number 1 was going to be Dylan the section about Sun Pie is like reading one of his songs (desolation row - all these people ive mentioned i had to re-arrange their faces and give them all another name) you have wonder if bob laughed at that and even mentioning the beatles song  "Do you want to know a secret?" in that part couldnt be more obvious. 
    LEHJOHND
    interesting list, I'd recommend people read David ellefsons book, good read and also a fairly positive book.
    Anjohl
    They forgot THE R&R Biography, "Dirt" by Motley Crue! Also, "Slash" was great. Duff's book too.
    OriginOfFeces
    One of the best reads I had were Save Me From Myself by Brian "Head"Welch (Korn) together with Scar Tissue (made me understand RHCP a lot better) and White Line Fever (Lemmy)
    AndersVonBlack
    how the fuck is the Dirt not on this list?! Lemmys 'white line fever' is also awesome on the other hand, Tommy Lee's 'Tommyland' and Vince Neils 'tattoos & tequila' are probably two of the worst books I have ever read haha, Vince's is basically just a hardbacked 'look how awesone i think i am' with a ham fisted plug for his tequila at every oppertunity. Tommys is just a bit predictable unless of course you like sections 'written' by someones dick ..which to be honest are kinda funny...maybe Tommyland isnt so bad
    ScottStewart1
    I like the ones about Nergal and Blythe. Both were such great reads. Not a 'rockstar bbiography' per se, but 'this monster lives' was a cool book about the filming of "some kind of monster'.
    SleepFan
    Scott Ian's I'm the Man & Tony Iommi's Iron Man are must reads. Really honest and interesting auto-biographies.
    SlipOfTheLip
    Iggy Pop's "Open Up and Bleed" (especially the first half, because it's pre-Bowie...it's all about the years with The Stooges), David Lee Roth's "Crazy From the Heat", Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" and Motley Crue's "The Dirt" are my favourites. Densmore and Manzarek both have great books about the Doors, too.
    ImagineTheThorn
    To this day, I still believe that "To Live Is To Die," the Cliff Burton biography, is still one of the absolute best biographies out there.
    austhrax
    I enjoyed Adler and duff book as well but slash was great read,not a rhcp fan but scar tissue was an outstanding read
    anders.jorgense
    As for Mustaine's book it's not totally true on at least 2 accounts. The reason for getting Mike Albert to replace Chris had nothing to do with drugs. Poland has said the real reason in an interview which can be found in a search on Google. The other is the paranoia freebase caused and the Jeff Young pretty boy caused Dave to think he was taking over girlfriend, writing 2 good songs. Jeff was straight versus the other 3 in that line-up. At rehab Dave wanted the band to deliver some drugs to him. They refused and got fired. Then rehired but Jeff left.
    AlexGreat123
    It's more of a compilation but 'Everyone Loves Our Town: A History Of Grunge' was very good.  Don't know if it's only autobiographies or not but I would have thought the Kurt Cobain one would have been on here
    Rockul
    Neal Morse book is really touching. Al Jourgensen book is fucking nuts.
    Northernmight
    check out Marilyn Manson's "Long Hard Road out of Hell" it's fairly old, so it doesn't go up to current events at all, but it's brilliant. So frickin' interesting.
    apgapgxii
    Here are my candidates, in no particular order: One Train Later - Andy Summers Grumpy Old Rock Star (And Other Wonderous Stories) - Rick Wakeman Who I Am - Pete Townshend I Am Ozzy - Ozzy Osbourne Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell With Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi The Real Frank Zappa Book - Frank Zappa Inside Out: A Personal History Of Pink Floyd - Nick Mason
    SWIFTERS
    The best one I've read about Britain's 60s scene is by Dick Heckstall-Smith "Blowing the Blues", besides being very interesting, it's also hilarious.
    dolson128
    Are all your articles ripped off from other lists? You copied these verbatim from the Rolling Stone article "25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time." Shame. Bet you'll delete this comment too. 
    Eifler121
    I'll never forget looking at Anthony Keidis' memoir in a Books.A.Million in Charlotte. Flipping through the pictures of his exes, one of the captions read: She was Gwen Stefani before anyone ever Gwen Stefanied. Or something like that.