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The 25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time

Awesome rock & roll reads, from Keith Richards and Patti Smith to Slash and Nikki Sixx

25 best rock memoirs

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Funny thing about rock memoirs: They tend to have the same plot. Our heroes always begin with big dreams about making it as rock stars. There’s the sleazy bars, the cheap motels, the shady managers. Then they get a taste of the big time: hit records, limos, drug orgies, groupies, diseases, the works. What could go wrong? Craaaash! But hey, Elizabethan revenge tragedies all have the same plot too, and nobody complains when the royal family gets butchered in the final scene. Great rock memoirs don’t always come from great artists: sometimes it takes one-hit wonders, losers, hacks, junkies, crooks. Every rock & roll character has a story to tell. Here are 25 of our favorites.

Kristin Hersh: Rat Girl (2010)
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Kristin Hersh: ‘Rat Girl’ (2010)

Even if you know nothing about Hersh's band – the 1980s Rhode Island art-punks Throwing Muses – her story is an essential first-hand account of the indie rock uprising. Her narrative voice is warm, friendly and surprisingly funny. When Hersh gets pregnant and decides to have the kid, without giving up her band, she shrugs, "I'll cross the living-in-a-van-is-probably-child-abuse bridge when I come to it." Deep down it's a story about messed-up kids finding one other, starting a band, and accidentally scrounging up an audience of similarly messed-up kids. It belongs on the shelf next to Michael Azerrad's classic Our Band Could Be Your Life.

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Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now (1997)
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Paul McCartney: ‘Many Years From Now’ (1997)

Officially this is an "authorized biography," by longtime Beatle hagiographer Barry Miles. But that's just a front, because the book really exists as a vehicle for McCartney to tell his story in his own words. Some fans were understandably put off by the way he squabbles over credits, even breaking down songwriting credits by percentages. (To pick one controversial example, he calculates "Norwegian Wood" as 40 percent his and 60 percent John's.) But on the page, as well as in song, his voice overflows with wit and affection. And he did less to fuck up his good luck than any rock star who ever existed, which might be why his memories make such marvelous company.

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Paul McCartney: Yesterday & Today
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