Vicarious Music & Media

Book recommendations: Fargo Rock City


What is it about getting older that makes you (read: me) want to listen to more and more music from your past? Is it a lazy thing? Maybe it’s a hearkening to better days or whatever? Possibly even possessing something so pedestrian as the idea of ‘comfort’ and making us (me again) totally boring and lame? Surely it can’t be that today’s music (or tomorrow’s!) isn’t as good as those time-honored gems from yester-decade. But what, then, is it about listening to Appetite for Destruction that just feels so good for all of us thirtysomethings out there? Why, no matter how hard we try or how far our eyes roll back into our head when it comes on the radio, are we unable to NOT sing or at least hum along to ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’? It’s awful. Right?

Regardless of your feelings about Joe Elliot and his tattered jeans, there is absolutely a strain of our collective DNA that traces back to the glam 80s. It was a world happening. Hell, as a midrange Gen-X baby (born after Star Wars but before Empire, natch) I was relatively late to the game, and yet I still can’t shake the part of my psyche that’s narrated by Adam Curry and has ‘Unskinny Bop’ as background music.

Sound at all familiar? Interested in plumbing the depths of your musical past? Wondering who Chuck Palahniuk would have to have retarded, grammarless kids with in order to replicate the writing style of one Yours Truly? Look No Further, friend.

Fargo Rock City (A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota), by Chuck Klosterman is the funnest and most age-appropriate book on music and music ‘history’ a child of the 80s could hope to find. For me, Klosterman is absolutely required reading, and I thoroughly enjoy his essay/article work, but if you only read one thing of his, you should definitely start here. The book starts in 1983 with the release of Motley Crue’s ‘Shout at the Devil’, and ends in 1997 with that same band’s reunion performance at the American Music Awards. In between are some landmark (and not-so-landmark) dates in 80s music history, along with some of the best-written, most personal, and self-deprecatingly funny anecdotes from the author’s life.

I originally read this masterpiece a couple years ago and picked it up yesterday for a refresher in preparation for this review. I have now read it twice. Some highlight chapters. To Wit:

Summer, 1986: Poison.

October 15, 1998: Heavy Metal’s finest hour: The three best-selling albums on the planet are Bon Jovi’s New Jersey, Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction, and Def Leppard’s Hysteria.

September 10, 1990: Warrant releases Cherry Pie. In a CD review for my college newspaper, I call this record ’stellar’. It is three years before I am allowed to review another album.

**Also, pay special attention to Klosterman’s patented ‘Jack Factor’ where he rates albums by how much you’d have to pay him to never listen to them again, as well as his deep thoughts on Slayer.

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