A review of the best rock biographies with insights and warnings

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All rock and roll stars are happy/unhappy/happy again in their own way. That is assuming they do not end up dead or broke. Who ever said do not meet your heroes, could have added or read their biography. You will only despair at the depravity, the vices, the personality faults, and just maybe some shafts of light will shine through.

I have done the hard yards and read over one hundred and twenty of their lives and tribulations as documented in various texts for you. It is not pretty reading. A soon sameness theme emerges of youthful joy, mate-ship, musical…


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A garage band starting out in the garage needs some content. The Replacements were famous for their give up and play covers shows. Jimi Hendrix took a Dylan lyric and a few chords and took a song to another planet. Leonard Cohen said about Jeff Buckley, it’s his song now, he deserves it, the song deserves it. Picture ‘Twist and Shout’ and it’s Paul McCartney’s sideways head shake that comes to mind.

This is the weird and wonderful world of cover versions. Here are just a few of the gems I have uncovered over the years.

Firstly, a top ten of all time. I contend no one can argue with no. 1. The rest …

1) Jimi Hendrix, ‘All…


The Replacements (affectionately known as ‘the Mats’ hereafter) are a band with followers like no other. On one of the Facebook pages, followers actively report on hearing a Mats song randomly on the radio, or during a Netflix show, and immediately make a post of the moment. Like a butterfly collector curating their specimens from the field, the enthusiasm is both infectious and curious. This is long after their 80's heyday but social media is full of posts of devoted fans who have found the still active bass player Tommy at a gig, or just acquired a ‘Tommy …’ tee…


Five Live 1986 University of Otago

Straitjacket Fits: A Life in Three Gigs

One New Zealand band could burn up a stage like no other — ‘Straitjacket Fits’. Starting in 1986, the time of their early pomp, and into their 1990’s heyday; then the reunion tours of 2005 and 2018, it has been a blast. Here is how I lived it, black jersey attired, arms folded, black boots toe tapping a shuffle to the beat, ensconced somewhere at the back, once a Speight’s ale now a crafty one, in hand. While I have many favourite New Zealand bands that I have seen play live on stage…


Moon Over Wellington (JS Mowat 2020)

An Appointment With The Waterboys and Mr Yeats

The stars aligned, there may have been a crescent moon that night. The Waterboys were in town for the first time in Aotearoa New Zealand. You can wait a long time out here in the Southern Pacific to see a favorite overseas act.

This was one chance/one gig only/one night only. Come the date 21 January 2013, we were just down the road a piece to the big city gig, with Auckland a short car trip away. That afternoon we coasted the Kaimai’s, motored on through Matamata, and arrived in Auckland as…


You mention the Clash and their cover i Fought the Law, they just seem to nail this genge. A quick relook reminds me of: 'White Riot' Joe and Paul joining in with rastafarian protesters, their cover of 'Police and Thieves', 'Stay Free' about Mick's mate mess up and jail time, 'Jimmy Jazz' with the police looking for him, From Sandinista another great cover: 'Police on my Back' and then of course there was the sublime dub of 'Bankrobber' (My Daddy Was). Great topic, thoroughly enjoyed the read.


That is a marvellous list and write up. Can never have enough angles on the Clash. A few new ones to me, the Afghan Whigs double up with Train in Vain drum beat to Lost in the Supermarket, the Magnificent Seven definitely gets an upswing. I am a big fan of the Lily Allen Straight to Hell and Rachid Taha does a claim back on Rock El Casbah. Lynal Golding from the Specials recently did a collaboration with Contra Coup do redfine Know Your Rights reggae style. For understated versions there is Nouvelle Vogue on Guns of Brixton and Indigo Girls on Clampdown. Finally just checking you know Police on my Back is a Clash cover from multi racial London band the Equals, in the 60's, lead singer/composer Eddy Grant of later Electric Avenue fame ....


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‘The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.’ Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (1532). That was and is still good advice, and since then a lot of work has been added to the leadership literature canon.

Leadership is the subject of much debate, difficult to get right, and there is a lot of advice both good and bad in the area. This is my Leadership foundational. I have done the hard yards for you. I have done the reading…


Andrea Fehsenfeld

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Writing a novel in a rock music setting is a place of high stakes for an author. The real-life counterparts are hard to compete with in terms of extraordinary highs and lows. The narrative arc is well known to all readers with a musical interest. Very few have successfully pulled it off.

I am delighted to find that Andrea Fehsenfeld has married literature to rock music and delivered a stunningly insightful and page turning novel. A rock singer is alone in his tour bus sanctuary, mentally bruised and battered by fame and touring. The intervention of a sick young child…


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The stabbing pain in your gut, your clothes swimming in sweat, the sleepless night before. You are about to speak in public. You are petrified. You are not alone in this fear.

Mark Twain said it best: ‘There are only two types of public speakers: Nervous and Liars’. I respect the former, for I am one, and I worry about the latter, for the lies they tell and the snake oil they sell. I finally stared down my own fear in 2008 and embraced the finer arts of speaking in public. …

Jim Mowat

Writes about rock and indie music. Long term music lover and follower of Indie-Alternative sounds, rock with an edge and a good lyric.

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