Tunes, tickets and T-shirts aren't the only staples clogging the rock 'n' roll assembly line. Autobiographies, on the rise since Keith Richards' hot-selling Life, have become an essential for fans seeking a back-page pass to the private lives of their musical heroes. USA TODAY shares details from eight of this fall's many rock tell-alls.
Who I Am: A Memoir
By Pete Townshend
Harper, 544 pp., $32.50
The Who guitarist and chief composer of such classics as My Generation and Won't Get Fooled Again chronicles the triumphs and stumbles of his creative and spiritual journey.
Start me up: His parents sent him to live with a cruel grandmother, who often left him alone and victim to the drunken whims of her lovers. "Her favorite punishment was denying me food. She granted me affection only when I was silent, perfectly behaved, utterly compliant and freshly washed, which is to say, never. She was a perfect wicked witch."
Stayin' alive: A sex abuse victim himself, Townshend was stunned and even suicidal when police investigated him in 2003 for visiting a child porn site. All 11 computers taken from him were clean, save the photos of his toddler daughters running naked on a beach. "The grease pencil circles over their bodies made me weep." He accepted a "caution" rather than endure a trial and further tabloid harassment.
It's only rock 'n' roll: Townshend and Keith Moon got drunk while staying at a Holiday Inn and, while strolling down a second-floor balcony, the drummer leapt over the railing into the pool. "I followed but miscalculated managing to just scrape into the pool, badly grazing my back and one arm. I might have broken my neck or my back. I should have known better than to emulate Keith's antics." The band was banned from Holiday Inns for life after Moon drove a car into a pool.
The name game: Townshend found Mick Jagger irresistible, admitting the "clearly very well-endowed" singer was the only man he ever wanted to bed. After seeing the Rolling Stones perform for the first time in 1963, Townshend became "an instant and lifelong fan. Mick was mysteriously attractive and sexually provocative, possibly the first such talisman since Elvis."
Rockin' my life away: Writing Pinball Wizard for rock opera Tommy, "I made a huge leap into the absurd when I decided that the hero would play pinball while still deaf, dumb and blind. It was daft, flawed and muddled, but also insolent, liberated and adventurous. If I had failed to deliver The Who an operatic masterpiece that would change people's lives, I was giving them something almost as good: a hit." — Gundersen
Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll
By Ann and Nancy Wilson with Charles R. Cross
!t, 279 pp., $27.99
Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson — better known as the faces and voices of Heart — look back on the personal and professional struggles and triumphs that define their legacy as one of rock's pioneering female-fronted, creatively autonomous acts.
Start me up: Ann reveals that "the first nude man" she ever saw was guitarist Roger Fisher — a colleague in one of her earlier bands, Hocus Pocus, and later in Heart — walking unabashedly around a motel room. (Roger later became Nancy's boyfriend, while Ann had a long relationship with his older brother, Michael, Heart's sound man, who inspired the hits Magic Man and Crazy On You.)
Stayin' alive: Both sisters describe their challenges in trying to have children. Ann wound up adopting two babies as a single mom, while Nancy grappled with infertility for years before she and then-husband Cameron Crowe had twin sons through a surrogate in 2000. Nancy recalls in one entry that "most of 1997 was consumed, as was every year that decade, by trying to get pregnant," and that she "spent more than a hundred thousand dollars" on doctors and fertility treatments.
It's only rock 'n' roll: Nancy remembers attending Elton John's swank 33rd birthday party in West Hollywood, where John's songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, "repeatedly pulled me into the bathroom" and offered her cocaine. "Bernie was convinced that getting me high was the key to seducing me."
The name game: Nancy recalls meeting Eddie and Alex Van Halen at a hotel, where the brothers had a "Kamikaze-drinking contest, followed by a cocaine-snorting fest." They also expressed interest in sleeping with both Wilsons, and "wanted us in one bed. It wasn't the first time we had that offer, and as with every other request, we turned it down."
Rockin' my life away: Ann initially "hated" the Mutt Lange-penned All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You, a No. 2 hit for Heart in 1990. "She did sing it, and we begrudgingly turned it into a Heart song," Nancy writes. "It ended up being one of our most controversial songs, even getting banned in Ireland and a few other countries." — Gardner
Waging Heavy Peace
By Neil Young
Blue Rider Press, 497 pp., $30
The always unpredictable folkie/rock guitar hero/grunge godfather, whose solo and supergroup careers have spanned a half-century, finally reveals — sort of — the way that quirky and highly creative mind works.
Start me up: Growing up in Ontario, Young frequently suffered from serious health problems, including polio and diphtheria. Later, he and his older brother Bob both were diagnosed with epilepsy.
Stayin' alive: Young, 66, reveals that after some 50 years of drinking and smoking marijuana, he's finally quit those habits. He's following the advice of his doctor, who recently saw "a sign of something developing in my brain." He notes that his father Scott, a writer, developed dementia at age 75.
It's only rock 'n' roll: In order to get to Woodstock, Young says he met Jimi Hendrix in a small airport and they rode to the concert in a pickup truck with the noted lawyer Melvin Belli. But his performance with Crosby, Stills & Nash "was one of the worst-feeling gigs I can ever remember. What a monster cocaine-fueled ego trip! The music really sucked air."
The name game: Though Young's mercurial relationships with his early girlfriends and superstar peers are well-known, he's mostly discreet in Peace. He describes Stephen Stills, whose epic guitar battles and personal rivalry with Young fueled Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, as "a genius" and "my brother."
Rockin' my life away: Throughout his career, Young never has stuck for too long with a musical genre, even if it has brought him great success. He followed up his 1972 quadruple-platinum folkie gem Harvest with Time Fades Away, a stark and ragged live album of unfamiliar material. He insists that his zigzagging is not by design. "Sometimes I am in a groove and everything is going great," he writes, "and then I wake up one morning and it's over. I can't say why, but it is definitely time for change." — Shriver
Rod: The Autobiography
By Rod Stewart
Crown, 365 pp., $27 (out Oct. 23)
Rod the Mod lays out his journey from son of a north London plumber and would-be pro soccer player to one of rock's most distinctive singers, renowned for his bevy of blond wives.
Start me up: Even early in his career, success meant one thing — buying a nice car. In the early '70s, flush with solo success cash, he spent nearly $10,000 on a Lamborghini Miura, more than his new house. "I kept it covered in plastic and even went so far as to put little red cones around it." If it rained, the car wouldn't get taken out. "It was far too expensive for that."
Stayin' alive: In the late '80s, Stewart's signature rasp was giving out on him. He was soon addicted to steroids, graduating to "a cocktail of drugs in a syringe" consisting of antibiotics, steroids and vitamin B. Soon, Stewart grew "aggressive and impatient" and gained weight. The turnaround? "It's no exaggeration to say that I owe my career (longevity) to the invention of the in-ear monitor."
It's only rock 'n' roll: "The night when I opened the door to my hotel suite and found a bass player stark naked and gaffer-taped to the bed was well, it was pretty typical," writes Stewart in a chapter about the Sex Police, a "loose affiliation of band members and tour crew whose intention was to stamp out sex on the road." There was "a lot of sex on tour," so the playful game became trying to disrupt this rock pastime.
The name game: Stewart and guitarist Jeff Beck have an enduring if fraught relationship, dating to the late '60s Jeff Beck Group. Fans are still waiting for a reunion. The men swapped demos last year, but Stewart wasn't keen on them and "Jeff felt he'd wasted his time. We haven't spoke since," Stewart writes, adding that a Christmas greeting e-mail went unanswered. "A shame, because there's nothing like it — Beck's guitar and my voice."
Rockin' my life away: Stewart's signature song from his early years is Maggie May, a retelling of his "blink and you'll miss it" loss-of-virginity encounter with a woman at a jazz festival. But "actually, I even wondered for a while about leaving it off the album. It didn't have a chorus. It just had those rambling verses. (But) maybe I should have known from listening to Bob Dylan that a song didn't have to have a catchy phrase in the middle to be popular." — della Cava
Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir
By Cyndi Lauper with Jancee Dunn
Atria, 352 pp., $26
The eccentric singer/songwriter famed for Girls Just Want to Have Fun and True Colors wittily expounds on her hardscrabble climb to become a global pop star, outspoken feminist and champion of gay rights.
Start me up: Lauper left home and her sexually abusive stepfather at 17, flunked out of arts high school and supported herself as an IHOP waitress, topless dancer, nanny, shoe store clerk and racetrack hot walker before getting her break. Label executives initially wanted to shape her as the next Barbra Streisand. Her response: "I can't take enough medication to stand still that long, OK?"
Stayin' alive: Deeply depressed after a breakup and career setback, she considered killing herself and spent hours drinking vodka alone in her hotel. She recalls, "The only thing that always prevented me from suicide is that I never wanted a headline to read, 'Girl who wanted to have fun just didn't.'"
It's only rock 'n' roll: The press and even Madonna's label tried to stir a rivalry between the singers. Lauper refused the bait. "You don't (expletive) knock another sister, ever," she writes. "Our music wasn't even similar." However, she adds, "if you ask me, her voice was sped up in Like A Virgin to make it sound high like mine."
The name game: Lauper describes Jeff Goldblum, her co-star in 1988's Vibes, as "awful," "upsetting" and "a strange fellow." "We did a love scene and suddenly he put his big fat hands all over my face. So I pulled them down and he got all upset." His habit of distracting the cast with faux nervous breakdowns before scenes prompted Lauper to snap, "If you keep doing this, this movie won't be a murder mystery anymore, because I'll kill you right here in front of everybody."
Rockin' my life away: Signature hit Girls Just Want to Have Fun, with its pronounced hiccup and Queens accent, was crafted as "a combination of a Bob Marley blues approach to reggae, some Elvis Costello, a little Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Frankie Lymon, some Ronnie Spector. John Lennon's picture was in the studio, too. And like all good pictures, eventually the eyes move, so he was kind of there in spirit." — Gundersen
Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss
By Peter Criss with Larry "Ratso" Sloman
Scribner, 384 pp., $26 (out Oct. 23)
Kiss' Catman drummer charts his course from gritty New York upbringing to the heights of global fame — and back down to a suicidal moment after Los Angeles' Northridge earthquake.
Start me up: Inspired by the kabuki-style androgyny of David Bowie, Kiss chose alter egos. Criss' character was his wife's black cat, Mateus, because "we were both wild, independent." Gene Simmons (who "loved horror films") chose the Demon, Paul Stanley was Starchild, while Ace Frehley, Spaceman, was actually convinced that extraterrestrials had colonized this planet ("He was working on a radio to communicate with them").
Stayin' alive: In 1994, battered by drug abuse and two broken marriages, Criss surveyed the wreckage of his life after L.A.'s big earthquake ("The whole room stank from death and the debris of my former exalted life") and quietly slipped a .357 Magnum in his mouth. "Then I thought of my (late) mother. We had a very strange, deep relationship." He pulled the barrel out: "I woke up the next morning and got on with my life."
It's only rock 'n' roll: "We found out from day one that sex was a part of rock 'n' roll," Criss writes in the book's biggest understatement. Criss says Frehley and Stanley were intrigued by both sexes, while Simmons kept a running tally of his female conquests in Polaroid pictures, "carefully pasted into bound volumes, each dated." Criss once tried to make love to a groupie who had dressed in his cat costume, but, weirded out, claimed he "had a headache."
The name game: After Alive! put the band on the cultural map, Criss' newfound celebrity found him befriending John Belushi. "He wanted to be a rock star," Criss writes. And party like one. "He would scoop (cocaine) up in his palm."
Rockin' my life away: Criss' ballad Beth was the big hit off Destroyer (1976). Manager Bill Aucoin came by Criss' New York brownstone to toast the drummer and offer a prediction. "You saved the album, Peter," he told him. 'But (the band) is going to hate you for it." The high of that hit came with the crushing lows of cocaine abuse that led to primal scream therapy. "I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown." — della Cava
In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death & Duran Duran
By John Taylor
Dutton, 387 pp., $27.95
The Duran Duran bassist recounts his roller-coaster ride from nerdy boy with glasses to big-haired, eyeliner-loving '80s sex god.
Start me up: Born Nigel Taylor in a quiet suburb of Birmingham, England, the star went to church five days a week with his mother. "Church just was. Like electricity, heat, or black-and-white TV — something that just existed."
Stayin' alive: During one of the countless dawns Taylor saw while drunk and high on cocaine, he tried to call his mother's priest, Father Cassidy, to tell him that he wanted to write a song for him and perform at the church. Father Cassidy didn't answer. "Thanks be to God."
It's only rock 'n' roll: On the last day of tour rehearsals, itineraries were handed out. On Taylor's itineraries were the numbers 18, 20 or 21. They referred to the legal age for sexual intercourse in whichever state the band was in at the time.
The name game: At 17, Taylor snuck a tape recorder into a show by a group he liked, New York Doll Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers. A little band called The Police was the opening act, and when Sting made a joke about the Heartbreakers, Taylor cursed the singer, an exchange captured on tape. Years later, Taylor was standing next to Sting while filming a performance of Ordinary World for BBC's Top of the Pops. Before Taylor had a chance to tell Sting about that night, The Police frontman announced, "I wish I'd written that song." Taylor decided to "leave it at that then."
Rockin' my life away: Taylor recalls the creative tautness of 1982's Rio, before the infighting and rifts, before the megalomania set in. "Every one of us is performing on the Rio album at the absolute peak of our talents. That is what makes it so exciting. That doesn't mean that everyone is playing as many notes as they possibly can. There is no showboating. Every part is a thoughtful, considered part of a greater whole." — Lopez
Sinner's Creed: A Memoir
By Scott Stapp with David Ritz
Tyndale, 294 pp., $24.99
The frontman for the oft-maligned '90s-rock headliner, known for Higher and the Grammy-winning With Arms Wide Open, recounts his rise and fall from a spiritual perspective.
Start me up: Despite receiving athletic-scholarship offers from top universities, Stapp's stepfather insisted that he attend a church-based Tennessee college, where he got kicked out for smoking pot with a dean's son (the son stayed in school). Later, he waited on the family while working at a T.G.I. Friday's in Chattanooga. "I went back to bus the table, where under the dean's coffee cup was a one-hundred-dollar bill," he writes.
Stayin' alive: Contemplating suicide with two fully automatic tactical assault rifles, Stapp changes his mind after seeing a photograph of son Jagger. Instead, he shot up the room: "Screaming like Rambo, I unloaded thirty-six rounds of bullets on every award and achievement I had won with Creed."
It's only rock 'n' roll: While performing Who's Got My Back? during a 2002 Chicago concert, Stapp said of his bandmates, "I don't think these guys have got mine." He proceeded to sing the song flat on his back. Some fans sued for ticket refunds, claiming Stapp passed out drunk on the stage. "That wasn't the case, but I was definitely inebriated," Stapp writes.
The name game: Eddie Van Halen offered advice when Creed opened for Van Halen at Madison Square Garden in 1998, including "Write your room number on your (hotel) key; that way when you pass out, they'll throw you in the right bed" and "Never let anything come between you guys." (The band ignored the last suggestion.)
Rockin' my life away: Following a childhood with a biological father who abandoned his family and a stepfather who abused them, Stapp wrote the lyrics to With Arms Wide Open, about the birth of his own son, from a desire to break "a generational curse." "I wanted to stop the spiritual bullying in a system that pitted a hellfire-and-brimstone God against His archnemesis, Satan." — Mansfield