Author:Steve Gorman +Stephen Hyden
I stopped reading rock star memoirs a few years ago, having taken a view of what more could they offer. This probably arose when I read Motley Crue’s The Dirt and the Warren Zevon biography in quick succession; no one’s walking away from those two clean. Those books show envelopes being well and truly pushed no matter what one may think of the music and as years pass what may in teenage years have seemed like high spirits seems through a middle aged rearview mirror as arrested development and started to detract from the music.
However If any band were to draw me back in for the ride then its The Black Crowes and I’ve been looking forward to this book by their ex drummer since hearing that it was being written last year.
Initially derided by some as Stones / Faces copyists The Crowes have been for the best part of 30 years one of ‘my touchstone bands’ and IMHO their mid 90’s output ( Sothern Harmony, Amorica, 3 Snakes) stands comparison against anyones. Which probably just means that I was the right age for them when they came along. In many ways they seemed poised to be the last big rock band over before times and fashions changed an honor that seems to have fallen to the Foo Fighters. But for a variety of reasons, mostly self inflicted this proved to be beyond their reach and this book details all the ways in which despite good fortune and good advice they managed to keep making the wrong choices.
Drumming for pretty much all of this time was Steve Gorman who was with the band from inception until the break-up before the latest re-group. Whilst the Robinsons were the face of the band he was for the most part a fully fledged member of the Black Crowes inc. The Charlie to the brothers Mick and Keef if you will.
Jumping straight in with a phone call that leads to dropping out of college, heading to Atlanta and the pre fame bands Mary My Hope and Mr Crowes Garden. It’s not long until the Black Crowes are forming, seeking a direction, then being picked up by heavyweight management and scoring a massively successful debut album. This does not take a long time.
It all seems to come very easily, a fact that Gorman acknowledges more than once. In fact at one point he states that the band weren’t like the Replacements or Big Star I.e cult favourites who couldn’t get a break. They were given multiple opportunities with the world and career paths plus pension plans laid at their feet but just wouldn’t or couldn’t make the right decisions.
In no small part this boils down to Chris and Rich the siblings in the band who like the Gallagher brothers in Oasis share a relationship that is at best strained. The two bands go on tour together at one point dubbed inevitably as “The Brotherly Love” tour.
It’s an interesting career arc, great immediate success followed by artistic blossoming but diminishing commercial and financial returns compounded by perverse ‘band’ decisions. Blow the best part of a million on a self produced and unreleased album check; make quality album that everyone likes then chose bikini pube album cover that largest retailer wont stock and insult buyer check, lead singer gets estranged from band and wants to pursue a different direction, check.Then an unexpected renaissance when they are championed by Jimmy Page who takes them under his wing, tours with them and seeks to further endorse them by producing / co-writing / performing on at least one track from the next album tour plans are being set years in advance for joint Page / Crowes tours and a place at rocks top table seemingly awaits.It’s at this point that one has to marvel at how anyone could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory but again they do so.
The later years seem to be skipped over somewhat, possibly because it would have been repeating the same cycle of dysfunctional arguments and odd decisions or possibly just because it was running long. The two authors have posted some of the cut material on their twitter feeds and the passage where all band members hear ok computer should imho have been kept in.
I found this to be a real page turner though and blasted through the entire book in only a few late night reads. If theres one criticism then perhaps I could wish for more insight into the writing and recording process but this is a minor gripe.
it’s a very enjoyable read.
If you are interested enough to read this far then can I also point you towards The Srate of Amorica podcast which had Steve Gorman on recently talking about the book and the recently announced BC reunion tour which he isn’t part of. He comes across as an excellent guest – he’s has a post Crowes career as a sports radio show host so is comfortable talking and seems pretty relaxed about where he now finds himself. He has a new band Trigger Hippy to promote and seems at peace with no longer being a Black Crowe.
Oh and The State of Amorica seem very active on twitter and are not adverse to sharing things that they have access to with followers.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
My life in a band books
One thing you’ve learned
The author taught Jimmy Page to nap before a show.
Johnny Colt won the Black Crowes