The Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, whose new collection is The Word on the Street: Rock Lyrics, picks his favorite rock-and-roll books. His band, Wayside Shrines, will be performing the songs on The Word on the Street at Joe's Pub tomorrow, Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m.
Who I Am
By Pete Townshend
The great tilter at, and of, windmills is a wonderfully literate commentator not only on his own turbo-charged band but the generally turbulent milieu of rock and roll. We might not be in the least surprised that he’s been banned for life from Holiday Inns because of leaving a Lincoln Continental in a swimming pool, but we might be ever so slightly surprised that he held the Everly Brothers in such esteem.
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
By Crystal Zevon
While he played piano for those same Everlys, Warren Zevon didn’t live long enough to write about his own “dirty life and times.” That task fell to his wife, Crystal Zevon, whose I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is one of the most harrowing accounts of addiction and recovery out there. One of my favorite details is of Warren’s compulsion to name the fruit flies that sometimes lived within his orbit.
By Keith Richards
In an interview published in Q magazine in 2011, Keith Richards let it be known that the album that “forces [him] to think” is Warren Zevon’s 1978 Excitable Boy. What exactly it might force him to think about is hard to tell, though his Life is a thought-provoking musing on the mysteries of closed ranks and open tunings.
The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ’n’ Roll
By Preston Lauterbach
Among those precursors to whom Keith Richards is deeply indebted are the blues guitarists so memorably summoned up in Preston Lauterbach’s The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock ’n’ Roll, including his near namesake Little Richard.
Chronicles: Volume One
By Bob Dylan
It seems that “to join Little Richard” was the ambition set down by Robert Allen Zimmerman next to his photograph in the Hibbing High School yearbook of 1959. It was an ambition unerringly met by the teenager who would become Bob Dylan, the author not only of so many notable songs but Chronicles: Volume One, the single most significant memoir in rock ’n’ roll.