The best rock biographies that go the extra mile

Why am I passionate about this?

After years as a London-based music journalist for publications such as Melody Maker, Q, and The Guardian, I turned to ghostwriting rock autobiographies and discovered how much more satisfying it is to tell someone’s full, unadulterated life story rather than to feed on carefully cultivated scraps gleaned from half-hour interviews. I never imagined anybody would be as lewdly transparent as my first memoir subject, Nikki Sixx, but many others have run him close—not least Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, in 2020’s appositely named Confess. Its follow-up, Biblical, is imminent. Does it go the extra mile? I don’t think it will disappoint…


I wrote...

Book cover of The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star

What is my book about?

The best rock biographies and autobiographies go the extra mile in terms of their authors and subjects being insatiably candid about their lives. None have gone further than Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crüe. In 1987 he was in one of the biggest rock bands in America… and an abject heroin addict. When he first showed me his original diary entries from that desperate year, which we were together to work up into a ground-breaking memoir, I could not believe what I was reading. Fifteen years on, I still can’t. The Heroin Diaries was a long-form suicide note from a man with no right to be alive… not least because he had already died twice. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band

Ian Gittins Why did I love this book?

When I was asked to co-write Nikki Sixx's biography, I was initially nervous about attempting to follow this stone-cold-classic rock autobiography. The Dirt demonstrated that Nikki Sixx was far from the only pathologically confessional member of Mötley Crüe. A masterful chronicle of warped ambition, alcoholism, drug abuse, intra-band friction, and extremely pre-#MeToo behavior, The Dirt was perfectly named: you feel as if you need a shower when you’ve finished reading it. 

By Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil , Nikki Sixx , Neil Strauss

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Dirt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrate thirty years of the world's most notorious rock band with the deluxe collectors' edition of The Dirt-the outrageous, legendary, no-holds-barred autobiography of Motley Crue. Fans have gotten glimpses into the band's crazy world of backstage scandals, celebrity love affairs, rollercoaster drug addictions, and immortal music in Motley Crue books like Tommyland and The Heroin Diaries, but now the full spectrum of sin and success by Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars is an open book in The Dirt. Even fans already familiar with earlier editions of the bestselling expose will treasure this gorgeous deluxe edition. Joe…


Book cover of Feel: Robbie Williams

Ian Gittins Why did I love this book?

Debauch, cathartic music memoirs are not limited to rock and metal stars. Former boy band member Robbie Williams was at the pinnacle of his British-pop imperial period when he gave unlimited access to the peerless Chris Heath to pen this unforgettable biography. Heath spent a full two years with Williams, capturing an impulsive, wayward yet fragile star whose chronically short attention span did not allow him even to rehearse properly for his world tours. You closed Feel feeling that you knew Williams intimately—the litmus test of a biography—and liking him a whole lot more than you had before.

By Chris Heath,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Feel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The publication of Feel: Robbie Williams by Chris Heath in September 2004 caused shockwaves of controversy and delight. Not only was its publication trumpeted in tabloids, on TV and the radio, but it was also critically lauded by the broadsheets. Finally, a book had been written on the subject of celebrity and the modern world which had intelligence, honesty and humour.

Written by Chris Heath, who spent nearly two years working with Robbie on this book, every word is imbued with Robbie's humour, charisma, talent, memories and complexity. But more than ever before, this book tells the truth about his…


Book cover of Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed

Ian Gittins Why did I love this book?

It’s not an easy task to convey the carnal intensity and animal abandon of a performer whose default mode has always been unadulterated excess, but Paul Trynka’s masterful study of Iggy Pop hit the motherlode. Trynka went the extra mile and then some, tracking down hundreds of key witnesses to, and victims of, Pop’s creative chaos, and even attending his high school reunion (which is more than Iggy did). Jaw-dropping anecdotes were legion (taking a mid-gig dump behind the speakers, anyone?) and Trynka captured the driven essence of this brittle soul, perennially fighting the world while never even knowing why.

By Paul Trynka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Iggy Pop as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Fellow rock stars, casual members of the public, lords and media magnates, countless thousands of people will talk of their encounters with this driven, talented, indomitable creature, a man who has plumbed the depths of depravity, yet emerged with an indisputable nobility. Each of them will share an admiration and appreciation of the contradictions and ironies of his incredible life. Even so, they are unlikely to fully comprehend both the heights and the depths of his experience, for the extremes are simply beyond the realms of most people’s understanding.”

—from the Prologue

The first full biography of one of rock…


Book cover of Me: Elton John

Ian Gittins Why did I love this book?

Autobiographies by genuine A-listers can prove disappointing experiences, as the superstars in question tread delicately lest they puncture their carefully cultivated public images. Not so Sir Elton John, who in Me worked closely with Guardian writer Alexis Petridis to deliver a racy, rambunctious, scurrilous account of his serial misdoings. Everyone had always known that Elton John was doing crazy shit. Nobody had grasped that he was doing quite as much as this.

By Elton John,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his first and only official autobiography, music icon Elton John reveals the truth about his extraordinary life. Me is the joyously funny, honest and moving story of the most enduringly successful singer/songwriter of all time.

The Sunday Times bestseller with a new chapter bringing the story up to date.

'The rock memoir of the decade' - Daily Mail
'The rock star's gloriously entertaining and candid memoir is a gift to the reader' - Sunday Times
______________

Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed…


Book cover of Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

Ian Gittins Why did I love this book?

Few musicians are able to pen their own memoir, sans ghostwriter, without toppling into weary self-indulgence. Take a bow, Viv Albertine. Named after a scathing condemnation of her teenage proclivities by her despairing mother, Clothes Clothes Clothes… brilliantly chronicled the groundbreaking all-female UK punk band The Slits’ guitarist’s brittle, self-doubting journey through music and life. Highlights? Joe Strummer’s unstinting attempts to pick her up whenever her boyfriend Mick Jones’s back was turned, and Johnny Rotten’s characteristically sneering dismissal of her failed attempt to give him a blow-job: "Oh, Vivienne, you’re trying too hard!"

By Viv Albertine,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SUNDAY TIMES MUSIC BOOK OF THE YEAR
ROUGH TRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR
MOJO BOOK OF THE YEAR

A new edition as part of the Faber Greatest Hits - books that have taken writing about music in new and exciting directions for the twenty-first century.

In 1975, Viv Albertine was obsessed with music but it never occurred to her she could be in a band as she couldn't play an instrument and she'd never seen a girl play electric guitar.

A year later, she was the guitarist in the hugely influential all-girl band the Slits, who fearlessly took on the…


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Book cover of The Emerald Necklace

Linda Rosen Author Of The Emerald Necklace

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What is my book about?

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The Emerald Necklace

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