In early October I was interviewed about my novel, True Love Scars, on this cool punk radio show, Cheap Hooch, that’s broadcast online every Sunday from 4 pm ’til 6 pm.
I talk about some of the themes in the book and more. Plus you’ll get to hear “Hey Bartender,” one of the songs that shows up early in the book, as well as artists referenced in the book including The Stooges and Mott The Hoople. Holly Hooch, the DJ, also plays some great songs by David Bowie, the Flamin’ Groovies and much more.
The show begins with Holly Hooch talking about how she messed up and didn’t get directions to the studio to me in time, but then I end up calling in Holly and her friends in the studio interview me on the phone. It’s a good interview and theres good music too. I’ve become a big fan of Cheap Hooch Radio.
Fantastic review by Simon Warner, author of “Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture.”
TRUE LOVE SCARS
Michael Goldberg (Neumu Press)
Review by Simon Warner
The great rock novel? The pursuit of that ultimate piece of fiction that distils the primal energy, the ecstatic power, the neurotic craziness, of popular music has been something of a holy grail in recent decades and, in True Love Scars – a deeply ironic nod to Buddy Holly’s ‘True Love Ways’ – one-time Rolling Stone journalist Michael Goldberg is the latest contender for this Lonsdale Belt of rock‘n’roll writing.
His protagonist Michael Stein is a Californian teenager in the later 1960s, tangled to distraction in the sound and image of his hero Bob Dylan, a paradoxical blend of cocksure kid and deluded hipster, bruising his fragile ego in the choppy shallows of high school romance, then sabotaging his increasingly complicated love tangles in a haze of drug indulgence and casual disloyalty, and all to a backbeat of Highway 61 Revisited, the Stones and the Doors.
It’s the story of a disaffected geek and self-imagined king of cool who turns out to be much more naïve nerd, as his promising upward trajectory hurtles into reverse. But True Love Scars, the first part of Goldberg’s ‘Freak Scene Dream Trilogy’, is as much about style – the way he tells the tale – as it is about content. 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, from erection to dejection, an only child battling the wills of his domineering father and interfering mom in the anonymous, suburban fringes of Marin County.
Goldberg’s work recalls a number of those post-war stylists who have tried to capture the uncertainties of adolescence into adulthood, the lure of escape and the quest for forbidden fruit. It has elements of Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, a flavour of Richard Fariña and his smart college satire Been Down So Long It Seems Like Up to Me, and more than a dash of that frenetic gonzo gabble that Hunter S. Thompson utilised to frame the madness of the modern world as the American dream unravelled, around the very time that Stein is doing his incompetent best to grow up. The great rock novel? Perhaps we still await it but, for sure, this writer has made a creditworthy tilt at this literary crown, and produced a very good one.
Simon Warner is the author of Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture. He’s a lecturer, Popular Music Studies, School of Music, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
[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.]
In a review of my novel, True Love Scars, in the new Rolling Stone (Taylor Swift on the cover), reviewer Colin Fleming compares me to Lester Bangs!
Here’s the review:
Getting Lost in the ‘Real’ Sixties
A veteran rock writer explores the crazy side of Sixties nostalgia
True Love Scars
Michael Goldberg Neumu
If Lester Bangs had ever published a novel, it might have read something like this frothing debut by longtime music journalist Michael Goldberg. (It’s part one of a series called The Freak Scene Dream Trilogy.)
The year is 1972, and the book’s chatterbox narrator, 19-year-old Michael Stein, is the kind of Sixties-besotted college kid who shaves his hair off because John Lennon and Yoko Ono did it. His quandary: trying to figure out how to reclaim the “authentic real” spirit of the 1960s as the decade fades into memory. Stein spends most of the book flashing back to one sex-and-drugs-steeped Sixties misadventure after another.
If you’ve ever obsessed over bootlegs or argued with your friends late into the night about which Beatles or Bob Dylan album is the best, True Love Scars will hit home.
Goldberg’s style recalls the rush of the earliest rock criticism. He was a senior writer at ROLLING STONE during the Eighties, and he founded Addicted to Noise, an important online music publication, in 1994. His intimacy with the classic records Stein fetishizes comes through again and again. Yet, unlike his protagonist, Goldberg doesn’t idealize the Sixties. Instead, he’s fascinated by the ways in which we crave authenticity.
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
I’ve learned quite a few things from the critic and cultural historian Greil Marcus over the years, but maybe the first – and the one I keep coming back to — is that when listening to music, the artist’s intention isn’t so important. What really matters is what you and I, as listeners, hear.
You know, what we get from the music.
“I was never interested in figuring out what the songs meant,” Marcus wrote in the prologue to his book, “Bob Dylan, Writings 1968 – 2010.” “I was interested in figuring out my response to them, and other people’s responses. I wanted to get closer to the music than I could by listening to it – I wanted to get inside of it, behind it, and writing about it, through it, inside of it, behind it was my way of doing that.”
Marcus has been sharing his response to the music since the late ‘60s. In “Mystery Train” and “Lipstick Traces,” “The Old, Weird America: The World Of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes” and other books he uses art as a doorway, and steps through it to find vast secret histories, histories of America and Europe that mostly hadn’t made it into the history books – at least not in the way Marcus writes.
After reading “Lipstick Traces,” which starts with Johnny Rotten and then proceeds to spin into a history of anarchistic rebellion going back long before Johnny Rotten was born – I haven’t been able to listen to a Sex Pistols or Public Image Ltd. song without thinking of Dada and the Situationists and the May ’68 protests in France and so many other things that Marcus wrote about in that book.
This new one, “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs” (Yale University Press, 320 pages), is all about what Marcus hears when he listens to ten songs, and what he hears is unexpected and sometimes revelatory. It’s not any kind of history of rock that you or I have ever read before, because Marcus sees no point in revisiting the same old story that we’ve read numerous versions of since the ‘60s.
“Shake Some Action” is one of ten songs Marcus writes about in the book.
One of the big ideas in the book is that the chronological history of rock ‘n’ roll – that blues and country begat Chuck Berry and Elvis begat Dylan and the Beatles and so on and so on, is, if not irrelevant, beside the point. Or if not beside the point, well, we’ve been there. We all know, or think we know, the contours of that story. Marcus has a different story to tell.
“Whole intellectual industries are devoted to proving that there is nothing new under the sun, that everything comes from something else – and to such a degree that one can never tell when one thing turns into something else,” Marcus writes in the introduction to his book. “But it is the moment when something appears as if out of nowhere, when a work of art carries within itself the thrill of invention, or discovery, that is worth listening for. It’s that moment when a song or a performance is its own manifesto, issuing its own demands on life in its own, new language – which though the charge of novelty is its essence, is immediately grasped by any number of people who will swear they never heard anything like it before – that speaks. In rock ‘n’ roll, this is a moment that, in historical time, is repeated again and again, until, as culture, it defines the art itself.”
“’It’s like saying, “Get all the pop music, put it into a cartridge, put the cap on it and fire the gun,’ Pete Townshend of the Who said in 1968. ‘Whether those ten or 15 numbers sound roughly the same. You don’t care what period they were written in, what they’re all about. It’s the bloody explosion that they create when you let the gun off. It’s the event. That’s what rock and roll is.’ Any pop record made at any time can contain Pete Townshend’s argument. … which is to say that this book could have comprised solely records issued by the Sun label in Memphis in the 1950s, only records made by female punk bands in the 1990s, or nothing but soul records made in Detroit, Memphis, New York City, San Antonio, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Chicago in 1963.”
“From that perspective, there is no reason to be responsible to chronology, to account for all the innovation, to follow the supposed progression of the form. The Maytals’ ‘Funky Kingston’ is not a step forward from the Drifters’ ‘Money Honey,’ or Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ a step forward from ‘Funky Kingston.’ They are rediscoveries of a certain spirit, a leap into style, a step out of time. One can dive into a vault as filled with songs as Uncle Scrooge’s was filled with money and come out with a few prizes that at once raise the question of what rock ‘n’ roll is and answer it.”
I’ve been reading reviews and books by Marcus since the late ‘60s, and he’s dead serious about what he puts on the page. And about what he discovers when he listens to and then writes about rock ‘n’ roll. This is serious stuff, life or death, and if you think music is nothing more than entertainment, well this book is probably not for you.
Reading Marcus is hard work because you have to think when you read his sentences. He takes for granted that you know a hell of a lot about music and art and film and literature. He’s not into coddling the reader. So when he calls his book “The History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll In Ten Songs,” it’s not that you’re going to get the literal history of the music, what you’re going to get is a theory about rock ‘n’ roll, and then ten examples that, in different ways, back up that theory.
So Marcus takes his ten songs and writes an essay about each. He works hard to tell us why these songs matter so much to him, why each in its own way contains the history of rock ‘n’ roll, and why they should matter to us too. And after you read this book, they likely will.
Read the rest of this column at Addicted To Noise, and dig many other great music features, news and reviews.
Recently I was interviewed at length by Triple R radio’s Brian Wise, who DJ’s a three-hour show every week called “Off the Record.”
Last Saturday the first of four or five segments from the interview aired on “Off the Record.” That segment focused on Bob Dylan and included some discussion of why Dylan is so important to the narrator of my novel, True Love Scars.
As part of his show, Wise also interviewed David Kinney, author of The Dylanologists, and music critic Bill Wyman talking about Dylan.
I was also recorded reading from my True Love Scars, and two sections about Dylan are part of the first segment.
Today the British music site, Rock’s Back Pages, features “In The Dylan Zone,” a long excerpt from my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.
The excerpt is all about what it’s like to hear Bob Dylan for the first time, how it changed the narrator’s life, and the life of the girl he is dating. It’s powerful stuff and if you’re a Dylan fan, I think you’ll be able to relate.
So I have a favor to ask of any of you who have enjoyed posts at this Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog during the near-year that I’ve been posting here. I’m asking for your support, and the way you can support me is to buy a copy of my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars. The Kindle version is cheap — $2.99 — which is less than a penny a day. And if you do buy a copy, please leave a comment on this post so I can thank you. And if you read the book and like it, please post a short review at Amazon.
Introducing the excerpt, Perfect Sound Forever founder/editor Jason Gross writes:
“Writer/editor Michael Goldberg has had a pretty storied career. After working as an editor at Rolling Stone for 10 years, he went on to found the first online music magazine, called Addicted To Noise, and later became an editor and VP at another pioneering music site SonicNet (which would later fall under MTV’s umbrella).
“Goldberg is now turning his attention to fiction, coming up with the first book of a projected trilogy – True Love Scars, a stream of conscious coming-of-age story of a 19-year-old California kid who crawls through the refuse of the early ‘70s with an obsession for music, writing and women.”
Perfect Sound Forever has been covering great music since the mid-‘90s.
Gross has also been involved in getting some great compilation reissues released including two Kill Rock Star albums; one for Kleenex and one for Essential Logic.