Among other things I talk about how Bob Dylan, Captain Beefheart and Diane Arbus changed my life, some of the most difficult artist interviews of my rock journalism career, and how I wrote my latest novel. The Flowers Lied.
Here’s how the interview begins:
From his early rock writing, to a spot as a Rolling Stone mainstay, to a pioneering Web editor/publisher, to rock as literature, Michael Goldberg, founded of the original Addicted To Noise in 1994, keeps moving and keeps his thumb pushed down deep on the blurt.
Goldberg was immersed in the punk scene in the mid-1970’s, interviewing Patti Smith and The Ramones and the Talking Heads for stories that ran in the Berkeley Barb and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The Clash nearly threw him out of a San Francisco recording studio, the Sex Pistols tried to break his tape recorder, and Frank Zappa said if Michael Goldberg was one of his fans he was in big trouble.
Prior to starting ATN, Goldberg was an associate editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications.
Goldberg has recently published The Flowers Lied, the second of three books detailing the life, work, frustrations, and passions of his protagonist, Writerman.
Who were your earliest powerful influences, literary, musical, and otherwise?
It’s rare that something you read or hear has a direct, clear-cut influence…
Those awesome editors at Rock’s Back Pages have featured me and an excerpt from my new rock novel, The Flowers Lied, on the home page of their site.
In the excerpt. which is the third chapter of the book. the narrator, Michael Stein AKA Writerman, meets two of his rock critic heroes for the first time when he visits them at The Pad, the rather decrepit apartment where both critics live and work.
Michael Goldberg’s rock ‘n’ roll coming-of-age novel, The Flowers Lied, has just been published. Richard Meltzer wrote that Goldberg’s first novel, True Love Scars, was “Radioactive as Godzilla.” Goldberg has been called a “21st Century Kerouac” by Kerouac biographer Dennis McNally and compared to Lester Bangs by Rolling Stone. The new novel focuses on Writerman (Michael Stein) a sophomore at The University, which is located in Northern California on hill above a beach town not unlike Santa Cruz. He’s a music freak and wannabe writer – he struggles with a Captain Beefheart album review, and tries and fails to type a single word of the Great American Novel he is so desperate to write. He pursues a hip but traumatized 18-year-old artist named Elise, who introduces him to tequila and Almaden Red. And he becomes best friends with Jim AKA Thee Freakster Bro, the over-the-top, gregarious writer/poet/music obsessive stoner he first meets in True Love Scars.
Today my friends over at the awesome Neil Young site, Thrasher’s Wheat, are helping celebrate the release of my new rock ‘n’ roll coming-of-age novel, The Flowers Lied.
They’ve got a review of the book. Here’s an excerpt:
“Goldberg’s rock ‘n’ roll trilogy is an innovative coming-of-age experience tracing love and music-of-an-era. While nostalgic, it’s a beautiful evocation of a distant soundtrack still reverberating across the moonbeams like a lost Jack Kerouac in a 21st century Twitterverse with a kind of staccato amphetamine grammar that is fractured, deranged, unsettling yet compelling. A Catcher in the Rye 50+ years on, Holden Caulfield is now a hipster-hippie on a trip of misadventures in a counterculture world that’s more counter than culture where the Summer of Love turns into a Winter of War. Our hero “Writerman” careens through the haze and confusion to the true high of finding redemption and transformation.”
Also, an excerpt from a chapter in which the 19-year-old narrator and his college friend Jim attend a Neil Young concert in 1973. The narrator gets caught trying to film the concert with his Super8 camera (no cell phones back then), and they are both thrown out. While trying to find a way back in at the rear of the auditorium, they run into Neil Young as he’s about to board his tour bus. Read the excerpt to find out what happens and to get sense of what the book is like.
And finally, there’s a contest in which five winners will get print copies of the book, and five will get digital copies. The contest ends March 31, 2016 at 5 PM ET.
Remember back when you first wanted to become a rock critic? Or perhaps first started reading rock reviews. Those are the days of The Flowers Lied, my new rock ‘n’ roll coming-of-age novel.
Writerman, the narrator, is a rock critic wannabe obsessed with music – favorites include Captain Beefheart, the Blue Oyster Cult, the 13th Floor Elevators, John Coltrane, Pearls Before Swine, Slim Harpo, Neil Young, Sam Rivers the New York Dolls and, of course, Bob Dylan.
If you grew up in the ‘60s or ‘70s, or ever wondered what it was really like to be a teenager back then, I think you’ll dig this novel.
Witness Writerman fighting his record buying addition at Odyssey Records as store owner Lucky Larry guzzles Green Death and applies the “upsell”, attending a Neil Young concert in 1973 and confronting Neil backstage, pursuing the Visions of Johanna chick of this dreams and ending up naked at the top of a Ferris wheel, alone with his best friend’s girl.
What the critics say about my novels:
“If Lester Bangs had ever published a novel it might have read like this frothing debut…” – Rolling Stone
“Radioactive as Godzilla!” – Richard Meltzer
“Kerouac in the 21st Century.” – Dennis McNally
“Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar…” – Simon Warner
“Holden Caulfield meets Lord Buckley?” – Paul Krassner
I’ll be reading from my new novel, The Flowers Lied, and the Grammy-winning experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser will be improvising when we do “a post-beat happening – words + music” on May 6, 2016 at The Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland, CA.
And please let your Bay Area friends know about this.
Here’s more info:
Celebrating ex-Rolling Stone Senior Writer Michael Goldberg’s new rock ‘n’ roll novel, The Flowers Lied, Goldberg and Grammy winning experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser will collaborate on “a post-beat happening” at The Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland, CA on Saturday, May 7, 2016. Goldberg will read from his new novel while Kaiser improvises on electric guitar. Plus a solo set by Kaiser. Note that no meat will be served during this event! Free.
What the critics say about Goldberg’s novels:
“Radioactive as Godzilla!” – Richard Meltzer
“Kerouac in the 21st Century.” – Dennis McNally
“Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar…” – Simon Warner
“Holden Caulfield meets Lord Buckley?” – Paul Krassner
“Our hero drinks and drugs and dances to the nightingale tune while birds fly high by the light of the moon.” – Larry Ratso Sloman
“Reads like a fever dream from the dying days of the Summer of Love.” – Alina Simone
“If Lester Bangs had ever published a novel it might read something like this frothing debut by longtime music journalist Michael Goldberg.” – Colin Fleming, Rolling Stone
Michael Goldberg was a senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for a decade. He has interviewed Jerry Garcia, Patti Smith, George Harrison, Captain Beefheart, Stevie Wonder, Sleater-Kinney, James Brown, Frank Zappa, Berry Gordy Jr., John Fogerty, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Black Flag, The Replacements, Flipper, Robbie Robertson, Sonic Youth and many more. In 1994 Goldberg launched the first Web music magazine, Addicted To Noise, and “invented music journalism on the web,” as journalist Denise Sullivan put it. Goldberg currently writes a column, The Drama You’ve Been Craving,” for Addicted To Noise and feature stories for the online animal rights magazine, The Daily Pitchfork.
“The Flowers Lied,” the second of the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy, is a story of love, friendship and the search for identity, set in the early ‘70s. Although it takes place in the past, themes running through the book — trying to live an authentic life, struggling against the powers that be, navigating the terrain between love and lust, loyalty and betrayal — are as relevant today as ever. Goldberg’s first novel, True Love Scars, was published in 2014.
Grammy winner Henry Kaiser is widely recognized as one of the most creative and innovative guitarists, improvisers, and producers in the fields of rock, jazz, world, and contemporary experimental musics. The California-based musician is one of the most extensively recorded as well, having appeared on more than 250 different albums and contributed to countless television and film soundtracks.
A restless collaborator who constantly seeks the most diverse and personally challenging contexts for his music, Mr. Kaiser not only produces and contributes to a staggering number of recorded projects, he performs frequently throughout the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan, with several regular groupings as well as solo guitar concerts and concerts of freely improvised music with a host of diverse instrumentalists. Among the numerous artists Kaiser has recorded or performed with are Herbie Hancock, Richard Thompson, David Lindley, Jerry Garcia, Steve Lacy, Fred Frith, Terry Riley, Negativland, Michael Stipe, Jim O’Rourke, Victoria Williams, Diamanda Galas and Cecil Taylor. Kaiser’s latest album, The Celestial Squid, was released last year.
The Octopus Literary Salon is located at 2101 Webster St #170, Oakland, CA 94612
Just wanted to offer a preview of the cover art from my upcoming novel, The Flowers Lied.
The book, a rock ‘n’ roll coming-of-age novel, will be available in October.
If you are interested in reviewing it, let me know and I’ll get you an advance copy. Post a comment letting me know and I’ll be in touch.
Here’s some advance praise:
“There was a time when (rock) music was the living pulse of a generation, when wanting to be a rock critic was a credible dream. That is the era of the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy, an ambitious and ultimately successful attempt at recasting the coming-of-age-in-the-wake-of-the-sixties-experience in innovative but authentic language, Kerouac in the 21st century. It jitters around in ever-accumulating fine detail that traces young love and desire and the pure true heart of the era, the music. It was a pivotal time, and Volume II, ‘The Flowers Lied,’ captures it.” — DENNIS MCNALLY, author of “A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead” and “Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, The Beat Generation & America”
“Goldberg presents us with a beautiful evocation of the Seventies where the music wasn’t just the soundtrack to our lives but the auteur of them. Writerman, our hero, drinks and drugs and dances to the nightingale tune while birds fly high by the light of the moon. Oh, oh, oh, oh Writerman!” — LARRY RATSO SLOMAN, author of “On the Road with Bob Dylan”
“Aspiring rock journalist Michael Stein (aka Writerman) returns in the second installment of Goldberg’s Freak Scene Dream Trilogy, picking up the narrative where he left off and fumbling his way across the countercultural landscape of the early Seventies like some less jaded, wannabe-hippie version of Holden Caulfield. This slightly-older-but-not-necessarily-wiser Stein, along with his inner circle of equally confused post-adolescents, is more fleshed-out as a character than in the previous (though superb) ‘True Love Scars.’ As a result the scenarios he finds himself thrust into, not to mention the occasional disaster of his own making, ring with an additional authenticity that will leave anyone who lived through the same era nodding with recognition. Some will even fidget uncomfortably in their seats, as I did—credit to Goldberg’s keen ability to channel his/our own misspent youth while sketching a series of remarkably believable portraits.
“Among the more memorable scenes: a hamfisted attempt to get his rock journalism published in the college newspaper, even more awkward attempts to get laid (that include at least one success, with his best friend’s girlfriend, no less, in a gondola at the top of a Ferris wheel), getting thrown out of a Neil Young concert by one of Bill Graham’s goons, navigating a surreal Halloween party while peaking on LSD, and kibitzing with a popular Lester Bangs-esque rock-crit. Along the way we get cameos from Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, the New York Dolls, Slim Harpo, James Brown, John Fowles, Sartre, Dostoyevsky and Godard. Settle in, crack open a bottle and/or spark a doob, and get ready for an emotional rollercoaster ride. Oh, and don’t touch the Thorens.” — FRED MILLS, editor, Blurt magazine
And a few excerpts from reviews of my previous novel, True Love Scars:
“If Lester Bangs had ever published a novel it might have read something like this frothing debut by longtime music journalist Michael Goldberg… Readers from any musical era will come away with a deeper appreciation of how nostalgia can shape our lives, for better and for worse.” — COLIN FLEMING, Rolling Stone
“Michael Goldberg is comparable to Kerouac in a 21st century way, someone trying to use that language and energy and find a new way of doing it.” — MARK MORDUE, author of “Dastgah: Diary of a Head Trip”
“Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar, its narrative is fractured and deranged, often unsettling but frequently compelling, an unsparing portrait of the teen condition: assured then despairing, would-be sex god then impotent has-been, an only child battling the wills of his domineering father and interfering mom in the anonymous, suburban fringes of Marin County.” — SIMON WARNER, author of “Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture”
“Just call it a portrait of the rock critic as a young freakster bro, coming of age in the glorious peace-and-love innocence of the Sixties dream, only to crash precipitously, post-Altamont into the drug-ridden paranoia of the Seventies, characterized by the doom and gloom of the Stones’ sinister “Sister Morphine” and the apocalyptic caw-caw-caw of a pair of ubiquitous crows.” — ROY TRAKIN, Trakin Care of Business column
This article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel about my novel, True Love Scars, was published recently.
I think the article does a great job of conveying some of what the book is about.
Writes journalist Wallace Baine:
The period of the early 1970s isn’t just a setting for Michael Goldberg’s new novel “True Love Scars.” It’s the orientation for everything in the book, the language, the tone, the references, the narrative.
“I was trying to get at the experience of being young in that time period,” said UC Santa Cruz grad Goldberg, a long-time writer for Rolling Stone. “Not just the drugs and the sex, but the deeper stuff, trying to figure out who you are in the world. I was trying to take the rock & roll of that time and get it on the page.”
The result is an unusual story, fueled by a prose designed to evoke the rambunctious, radical music of the era, with a rhythm and poetic sensibility much more like the rock records of the time than many other novels.
And at the end of the story:
[Goldberg] talks about one scene in the book taking place on the houseboats of Sausalito. “I was listening to the Stones’ (1971 album) ‘Sticky Fingers’ over and over again while I was writing that, really trying to get the mood of that album on the page. I wanted the chapter to feel like what it was like to listen to some of those songs in that period.
“Frankly, I think the ‘sound’ of the narration is quite original. The big idea that I kept in mind as I wrote was that anything goes, that this was as if a 24-year-old and his friend went to a bar in 1975, had a few drinks and then the 24-year-old turned to his friend and said, ‘Let me tell you how my heart was broken…’”
Yesterday the pop culture site PopMatters, posted a terrific review of my novel “True Love Scars.”
PopMatters contributing editor Greg M. Schwartz writes:
…the novel is a whirlwind tale of a young music fanatic’s quest for true love, high times and “the authentic real” (not necessarily in that order).
Teenage protagonist Michael Stein, aka “Writerman”, lives in Marin County and longs to be a musician, or at least a music writer. He’s into almost all of the musical icons of the era, especially Bob Dylan. Writerman is obsessed with finding his “Visions of Johanna” chick, who eventually appears in the form of Sweet Sarah. But conflict is ordained from the start. Chapter One begins with Writerman speaking in a sort of fever dream about how he betrayed and lost Sarah and has been on a quest to redeem his crushed soul ever since.
And later in the review, talking about the narrator’s obsession with Bob Dylan, Schwartz writes:
He can analyze those Dylan lyrics all day. He and a girl who’s charmingly fond of speaking in Dylan lyrics pore over Dylan’s albums in a scene from 1965, going over his evolution as an artist. “First time I heard that Dylan song it saved my life,” Writerman says of “Like a Rolling Stone”. It’s a sentiment that speaks for several generations of rock ‘n’ rollers, from those who came of age in Goldberg’s era to the present. They get deep into Dylanology in the scene as Writerman speaks of how Dylan opened his eyes to “how almost nothing is what it appears to be and I think that’s when I got it in my head I got to figure out the authentic real, see the world for what it is and not the facade of delusional humans erect in front of the truth.”
That’s what great rock ‘n’ roll can do, and True Love Scars is deeply dialed in to rock’s dichotomy of enlightening powers versus stonered party time.
Kim Gordon, formerly a key member of Sonic Youth and now half of Body/Head, will have her memoir, “Girl in a Band,” published on February 24, 2015.
From the press release:
Often described as aloof, Kim Gordon truly opens up in Girl in a Band. Telling the story of her childhood, her life in art, her move to New York City, her love affairs, her marriage, her relationship with her daughter, and her band, this is a rich and beautifully written memoir. At the heart of the book is the examination of what partnership means—and what happens when it dissolves. An atmospheric look at the New York of the 80s and 90s that gave rise to Sonic Youth, as well as the Alternative revolution in popular music that Sonic Youth helped usher in, paving the way for Nirvana, Hole, Smashing Pumpkins and many other acts. One of the most revered people in modern rock and roll, Kim Gordon is also a highly regarded fashion icon, visual artist, and the source of much fascination.
On October 28, 2014 the first complete book of Bob Dylan’s lyrics will be published in a limited edition of 3500 copies. Priced at $200 for the 960 page, 13.3 pound book, Amazon is currently taking advance orders for the book at a discounted price of $126.74.
The songs are presented chronologically, including alternative versions released as part of Mr. Dylan’s archival “Bootleg Series.” The album covers, front and back, are reproduced.
The way the songs are laid out is meant “to help the eye see what the ear hears,” Mr. Ricks said. “If you print the songs flush left,” he added, “it doesn’t represent, visually, the audible experience.” So refrains, choruses and bridges are indented. And where Mr. Dylan intended a line, however long, to be unbroken, it sprawls across the 13-inch-wide page.
How did the editors know which lines were meant to be unbroken? Did Mr. Dylan provide feedback or comments? Mr. Karp said he had heard that Mr. Dylan provided notebooks and manuscripts. Mr. Ricks refused to elaborate.
“I think the right thing for us,” he said, “is not to go into the question of the particular kinds of help and assistance and advice that we were in a position to receive.”
“The Lyrics: Since 1962” (Hardcover – October 28, 2014)
by Bob Dylan (Author), Christopher Ricks (Editor), Lisa Nemrow (Editor), Julie Nemrow (Editor)
Hardcover: 960 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 28, 2014)
Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 12.4 x 2.8 inches
Shipping Weight: 13.3 pounds
A major publishing event—a beautiful, comprehensive collection of the lyrics of Bob Dylan with artwork from thirty-three albums, edited and with an introduction by Christopher Ricks.
As it was well put by Al Kooper (the man behind the organ on “Like a Rolling Stone”), “Bob is the equivalent of William Shakespeare. What Shakespeare did in his time, Bob does in his time.” Christopher Ricks, editor of T. S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, Tennyson, and The Oxford Book of English Verse, has no argument with Mr. Kooper’s assessment, and Dylan is attended to accordingly in this authoritative edition of his lyrics.
In the words of Ricks: “For fifty years, all the world has delighted in Bob Dylan’s books of words and more than words: provocative, mysterious, touching, baffling, not-to-be-pinned-down, intriguing, and a reminder that genius is free to do as it chooses. And, again and again, these are not the words that he sings on the initially released albums.”
This edition changes things, giving us the words from officially released studio and live recordings, as well as selected variant lyrics and revisions to these, recent revisions and retrospective ones; and, from the archives, words that, till now, have not been published.
The Lyrics, edited with diligence by Christopher Ricks, Lisa Nemrow, and Julie Nemrow. As set down, as sung, and as sung again.
While you wait, here’s Dylan, Ry Cooder and Van Dyke Parks performing Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi” at the Malibu Performing Arts Center in January 2009:
[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in the new issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]