A rockin' and a readin'...
February 3, 2010 8:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some good rock 'n' roll fiction.

Not biographies about real bands, some of which admittedly can sound like fiction! I'm looking for novels in which the characters are involved in the grind and /or glamour of gigging, life on the road, etc. Internet searches have brought up some short lists, but I'm interested in hearing some recommendations.
posted by Wylie Kyoto to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Jonathan Letham's You Don't Love Me Yet. I liked it.
posted by Perplexity at 8:46 AM on February 3, 2010

I don't know that this quite fits the bill, but I really loved Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet. It's sort of fantastical but satisfying.
posted by fiery.hogue at 8:56 AM on February 3, 2010

It's been a few years, but I remember liking The Armageddon Rag by George RR Martin.
posted by rfs at 9:02 AM on February 3, 2010

The Wishbones, by Tom Perrotta (1998):

From Library Journal
Dave works as a courier during the week, but his real passion is playing guitar on weekends with a pretty good New Jersey wedding band. They play in places that sport "the unmistakable odor of mediocrity." Their repertoire includes "a ten-minute medley [of] 'I Will Survive,' 'Boogie-Oogie-Oogie'...capped by a full-length version of 'Y.M.C.A.,' a song that had returned with a vengeance from the land of musical oblivion." For 15 years, Dave has drifted through an on-and-off relationship with the same girl, Julie. Then one night he witnesses the on-stage death of an older lead singer with another band. Shaken, he returns home and without blinking says to Julie, "Let's get married." Then panic sets in. He gets involved with a sexy bohemian poet even as Julie begs him to give up the band, something he had never even remotely considered. At times hilariously funny, at others times wonderfully lyrical, and filled with subtle as well as obvious pleasures, this is an awfully good novel about a young man's reluctance to grow up.
posted by 5Q7 at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2010

The Psycho Ex Game by Merrill Markoe is about two people exchanging emails during the making of a rock and roll musical, who eventually get together. It's mainly about how they almost don't, then eventually do get together, but the rock musical is a big part of the plot. I liked it for the high level of emotional honesty and introspection; some online reviewers found it too much so.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:18 AM on February 3, 2010

Espedair Street is a great novel about a man in a band that "makes it".
posted by shownomercy at 9:32 AM on February 3, 2010

The Exes: A Novel, by Pagan Kennedy.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:38 AM on February 3, 2010

Espedair Street by Iain Banks might suit. And years ago I read Chartbreak by Gillian Cross--this is billed as teen fiction, so there aren't any drugs in it, for example, and it tends to get printed with dreadful covers. But it does have psychological intensity in its description of relations between band members on tour, and how being in the band takes over their lives, and how they go about getting good. I mean, I remember it pretty clearly although I read it once about fifteen years ago.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 9:40 AM on February 3, 2010

Nevermind the Pollacks is a fictionalized account of a rock journalist interacting with various figures throughout the history of popular music as he spirals further into depravity and questions the inherently paradoxical nature of rock criticism. It was pretty awesome.

Geniuses of Crack is perhaps the worst novel I have ever read. I would not recommend it to anyone except perhaps as a cautionary tale of how bad rock and roll fiction can be. I am baffled by the fact that it's apparently going for $28 (though you may note that used copies are available for one red cent, which is still more than the book is worth).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:43 AM on February 3, 2010

Thomas McGuane's Panama is about a washed up rock star and his misadventures in Key West.
posted by dortmunder at 9:43 AM on February 3, 2010

Don Delillo's Great Jones Street is the novel about rock and roll.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:49 AM on February 3, 2010

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, by Stephanie Kuehnert. It's a YA about a teenage girl who loves music and makes it big.
posted by sugarfish at 10:00 AM on February 3, 2010

Born to Rock by Gordon Korman ...High school senior Leo Caraway, a conservative Republican, learns that his biological father is a punk rock legend...

It's a YA book but it has the aspects you're looking for.
posted by morganannie at 10:09 AM on February 3, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks a lot! Most of these did not turn up in my searches.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 10:14 AM on February 3, 2010

Evening's Empire just came out last month, but I heard an interview with the author (who worked in the rock world for many years), and sounds really great. It's on my "to read" list.
posted by kimdog at 10:14 AM on February 3, 2010

How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo

Don't Sleep With Your Drummer by Jen Sincero

Girl by Blake Nelson
posted by brina at 10:24 AM on February 3, 2010

If you are insterested in the recording studio side of things, The Daily Adventures Of Mixerman is a very entertaining read.
posted by markblasco at 10:37 AM on February 3, 2010

Anti-recommendation. Don't bother with the following:

- Kill Your Friends by John Niven
- Powder by Kevin Sampson
posted by elsietheeel at 10:52 AM on February 3, 2010

Eddie and the Cruisers by P. F. Kluge.
posted by bjgeiger at 11:02 AM on February 3, 2010

Say Goodbye by Lewis Shiner
posted by fogovonslack at 11:38 AM on February 3, 2010

Laurie Colwin's Goodbye Without Leaving. Fantastic, as all her novels are.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:53 AM on February 3, 2010

Kiss the Sky by Farai Chideya. Here's a Google Books preview.
posted by fuse theorem at 12:25 PM on February 3, 2010

Wrack and Roll by Bradley Denton would fit the bill nicely. It is out of print, however so will probably be hard to find.
(Another book by him that doesn't fit the criteria specifically but is still a good read is Buddy Holly Is Alive And Well On Ganymede)
posted by Brody's chum at 12:42 PM on February 3, 2010

Dreams of Sex and Stagediving by Martin Millar

The Commitments?

and not fiction but reads like it and is excellent: Showbusiness by Mark Radcliffe (ex Radio One)
posted by runincircles at 12:52 PM on February 3, 2010

Check out the writings of Jesse Sublett. He's an Austin musician who first made his name in the Austin punk/new wave scene of the late 70's. He's written several murder mystery novels that are steeped in rock and roll culture.
posted by ericthegardener at 12:56 PM on February 3, 2010

I can't recommend highly enough Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues.
posted by threeants at 2:16 PM on February 3, 2010

A big part of War for the Oaks involves rock musicians doing their band thing.
posted by Caduceus at 4:52 PM on February 3, 2010

It's science fiction and at the time bore no resemblance to the actual business of making music (it's closer now), but Little Heroes by Norman Spinrad.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:08 PM on February 3, 2010

Seconding Girl. I loved it!

If you want something trashy, Rock Star by Jackie Collins is a good guilty pleasure.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:06 PM on February 3, 2010

Wrack and Roll by Bradley Denton: (from Denton's website): When Franklin Roosevelt choked to death on a chicken bone in 1933, it signaled the start of a brave new world -- a world in which America would ally with the USSR against the threat of the Anglo-Chinese alliance . . . a world where the death on the Moon of superstar Bitch Alice would spark riots that would obliterate America's space program and leave the nation at the mercy of its enemies' nuclear bomb-loaded space station.

Now, years after the deaths that forever changed the course of history, Earth's future is about to be altered again: Bitch Alice's daughter, the Bastard Child, and her band Blunt Instrument are about to start a tour that will literally rock the world -- either along the path to sanity, or over the brink to apocalypse . . .

And peripherally, in that a rock 'n' roller appears in it:
Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede also by Denton
(also from Denton's site):
Oliver Vale was conceived in the back seat of a car on the day Buddy Holly died. He was raised to fervently believe in personal freedom, UFOs, higher consciousness, and rock-and-roll.

Then one day he turns on the TV to find Buddy Holly on every channel -- broadcasting nonstop from a moon of Jupiter . . . and telling the world that Oliver Vale knows the reason why.

Suddenly Oliver is on the run -- trying to put some serious distance between himself and a bloodthirsty pursuing mob of religious fanatics, disguised Kansas aliens, a Doberman pinscher cyborg, a CIA assassin . . . and desperate couch potatoes who want their soap operas back.

Try him. Denton's just plain good, anyway.
posted by Francis7 at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2010

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