It's tough to novelize rock n' roll. Great music, even when rehearsed and stylized, hits with an unrelenting immediacy of volume and tempo that the carefully considered words of fiction struggle to re-create. (I know it all too well, my own novel, What Went Wrong, the story of a struggling manager who tries to help a disintegrating feminist folk-punk band through their first tour, remains one draft away from completion...)
While no one book has, or likely will, completely capture rock's visceral power, much excellent literature has been written in the attempt. This massive-yet-missing list covers ones I've meant to read like Don DeLillo's Great Jones Street and Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet, ones I've loved like Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, Frank Portman's King Dork and Roddy Doyle's The Commitments, dozens I've never heard of and manages to miss the very-recently-departed Paul Quarrington's Whale Music, which is a brutal omission. It also leaves off, as it must due to it's jazz-era origins, Catcher in the Rye by the even-more-recently-departed J.D. Salinger, even though that book influenced more musicians than The Velvet Underground and Nico.
Thankfully, the list does not neglect the other Canadian addition to the rock literature canon, Michael Turner's Hardcore Logo. By telling the story via set lists, phone interviews, lyrics, poems etc. Turner sets a furious tempo but his characters still ring true. The book was turned into a good, if not a truly great movie by script-writer Noel Baker and director Bruce McDonald. For an art-house movie (even a Quentin Tarrantino approved one) HCL had a lot of tie-ins including a comic book, a screenwriter's diary and two soundtrack albums. The first one is a mock-tribute album featuring The Pursuit of Happiness, Fishbone, The Doughboys (see here), Chris Spedding, Cub (soon!) and, oddly, Canada's De La Soul, The Dream Warriors and others adapting Turner's words in their own way, unrelated to the versions heard in the movie.
All lyrics by Michael Turner, music by the credited bands.
1. The Headstones, "Son of a Bitch to the Core"
2. The Pursuit of Happiness, "Edmonton Block Heater"
3. Rusty, "Let's Break Robert Out of Jail"
4. Dream Warriors, "Edmonton Block Heater"
5. Fishbone, "Words and Music"
6. The Super Friendz, "Blue Tattoo"
7. The Lugen Brothers, "Son of a Bitch to the Core"
8. 54-40, "Rock and Roll is Fat and Ugly"
9. Sol, "Blue Tattoo"
10. Doughboys, "Something's Gonna Die Tonight"
11. Chris Spedding, "China White"
12. Kinnie Starr, "Canadian Bush Party"
13. Odds, "Pipefitter's Clubhouse"
14. cub, "Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?"
15. Son, "Blue Tattoo"
A Tribute to Hardcore Logo CD