Top 10 Books About Rock and Roll


Rock ‘n’ Roll has traditionally been a minefield of wild stories about sex and drugs. In this list we will discover the real men behind these dense stories; we will get introduced to their more human side and we will get to know better the hidden parts and notable people of their lives. In the process we will have to go through some really “raw” stories, so you better be ready for big doses of sex, drugs, alcohol and most importantly Rock ‘n’ Roll!

10. The Dirt – Motley Crue


We all know that Motley Crue is one of the craziest, meanest and baddest bands to ever walk the face of the earth. There are endless “X-Rated” stories about them dating playmates and porn-stars, them going crazy with Ozzy Osbourne and Sebastian Bach among others, and of course them doing the most drugs of any other other band in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll. In The Dirt, you will get all the fun, nasty and raw information you are probably looking for, while the book also covers a lot of unheard stories that have been buried behind doors, from the shocking stories of Vince Neil’s childhood adventures in Compton, to his very bizarre and difficult youth. The book covers most of the band’s early days of partying and it’s a safe bet that you will most likely get amazed, entertained, disgusted and freaked out, all at the same time. There will be moments that you will find yourself desiring to be one of these guys so much, but then again you will read about all the pain and craziness these guys have gone through in life and you will probably regret it. And it’s not only the problems they had to go through with the law, alcoholism and the heavy drug use, but these guys have lost a lot of friends, money and family too. At the end of the book it’s very possible that you will find it hard to believe that the band members have lived through it all and are still around to talk about it, but after all that’s what makes Motley Crue so special: they survived.

9. Life – Keith Richards


There’s a joke about the end of the world and how there will only be cockroaches and Keith and it might not be that far from the truth after all.  We all know that Keith Richards‘ life is a glorious mess and this book couldn’t be an exception to the holy rules of Rock that Keith has served for the biggest part of his life. This is a very honest confession, a little scattered in places, but you can tell it’s from him. His descriptions of his musical influences are impressive since it seems like Keith has been a sponge of all different types of music. Even though this book opens a window into a lifestyle and era that many of us younger folks have heard about but can’t relate to really, it still manages to fascinate and impress; this is what art and literature should be all about. The only negative thing you might find with this book is that as with the Stones’ recording career, the book trails off after about 1980. As for the very best parts of the book are when Richards speaks about his relationship to the fans, which are two fairly brief but very poignant passages. The only sure thing is that Keith is one of rock n’ roll’s true originals, who has lived life to the fullest and he has some crazy stories to tell you.

8. It’s So Easy: and other lies – Duff McKagan


If you have read Slash’s book first, you probably think that this one was much better. If you haven’t read any yet and you are having a hard time deciding which of the three Guns N’ Roses’ book to read between Duff, Slash, and Adler, this is it. At least from a writer’s point of view. Duff is an excellent writer, and the chapters flowed like a regular novel. In reality it’s an intriguing story of an amazing battle with alcoholism and narcotics all while being a fundamental member of the world’s biggest rock band. An eye opener on the depilating affects of alcohol and a great case study on someone conquering their demons and coming out to see the other end. The safe bet after finishing this book is that you will want to read the books of the other two former Guns N’ Roses legends; it’s really interesting to read the same story from different perspectives. I would recommend all three books, especially to Guns’ fans, but this is for anyone who wants the version of the story from a guy who seems to be a class act and good family man nowadays.

7. The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star  – Nikki Sixx


If there’s one book only that can top The Dirt by Motley Crue, then that is it; ironically it is written by the founder and main figure of Motley Crue. From the very first page of this book you get hooked. This book will probably help you to understand addiction and sympathize with anyone who has gone through this. It is written in a way that can bring on a lot of strong emotions and explains things that most of us (the naïve ones) won’t notice or know, simply because we probably have never dealt with someone addicted to opiates before. Reading this book makes you realize that when they say never judge a book by the cover they are usually right. Most would never guess that Nikki Sixx could be such a deep thinker about a series of things. It’s like reading a story about two different people. Nikki who writes in the diary is deep thinking and lucid, Nikki the person of action is insane and desperate. This book is truly an inspiration. To know that someone can get so low and come out on the other side is encouraging.

6. White Line Fever: The Autobiography – Lemmy Kilmister


Lemmy is an ultimate legend and most tend to know that, but what many of us before we read this book probably ignored, is how Lemmy is also a very funny man with a special sense of humor. Lemmy doesn’t sugar coat much in this book, which is the main reason why this book is pure joy for the reader. Motorhead’s fans will enjoy the sarcastic sense of humor all the way through, whilst your “ordinary” Rock fans will find enough information and shocking stories about sex, drugs and Rock n’ Roll to stay satisfied. Lemmy covers almost everything regarding his career. This book  is  Lemmy’s story told in his own words. It reads like Lemmy is actually talking to you, and you’re hanging out like best friends. Insightful, funny, tragic at moments, and honest. Very much like the man. If you are a rock and roll follower you have probably heard of Lemmy and Motorhead, and this is probably the best way to connect legend and reality.

5. The Long Hard Road Out of Hell – Marilyn Manson


Before you read this book you might not think the very best for this guy, but this however might change if you give it a shot. The Long Hard Road Out of Hell gives an insight into the man known as Marilyn Manson. He describes his childhood as being somewhat oppressive and guided by fear; fear of God, fear of eternal suffering, fear of rock and roll, or so his Catholic teachers taught him to believe. As he was growing up he discovered that all the things they had taught him to consider evil and bad, he actually found fascinating. And thus began his life as we know it. It is a must read for anyone, fan or not of Manson’s personality or music, as he dispels many of the rumors that have circulated about him. This book is an honest journey of a man searching for his own soul like we all do. I was surprised by Manson’s candor and humor and found many of the issues he deals with, relevant to most ordinary people’s lives. As you are reading this book you get the clear impression that Manson is a very intelligent and sophisticated individual. We really hope he will surprise us in the future with a new project based on literature, instead of wasting himself in scandals or with narcotic self destruction. Last, but not least, you will get a chance to know the real name of the man behind the Marilyn Manson persona, it’s Brian Warner.

4. Crazy from the Heat – David Lee Roth


OK, we must admit that while reading this, you will probably realize that you were expecting a little different book. A little more sex, drugs and rock-n-roll is usually the norm for these kinds of books. You will still however, find the story telling to be very intriguing. This is a must read for any classic Van Halen fan, but that’s also the main problem of this book; if you are not a fan it makes no sense to you. Another negative thing about this book is that it reads like the journal entries of an insane person, literally. The prose and chronology are almost too incoherent to follow. On a more positive note, if you loved David as an artist, you will love this book too. This is David Lee Roth undressed, unrehearsed, and unpredictable. Filled with wit, humor, and narcissism, it surprises you with some very crazy stories, while David will always go out of his way to make that short story long and entertaining for the reader.

3. No One Here Gets Out Alive –  Jim Morrison


Jim Morrison was a very interesting man; there’s no doubt about that. In this book you get introduced to Jim Morrison in all his complexity: singer, philosopher, poet, a charismatic handsome boy, but also an obsessed seeker who rejected any form of authority. If you love the Doors and Jim Morrison in particular, this book is a must read without a doubt, since it is a good look inside the making, continuation and fall of the Doors. A very positive bonus of this book is that there are plenty of cool pictures to go along with the slices of life of the four guys. Once you have finished reading this book you realize once again how deep, intelligent but also a little bit mad Jim really was.

2. Scar Tissue – Anthony Kiedis


Before picking up this book, my knowledge of Red Hot Chili Peppers was pretty minimal. I had heard maybe a couple of their songs, but I was nowhere near a fan of the band. Regardless of my own preferences, Scar Tissue is a really good book, especially if you’re interested in any kind of rock banks and the rock lifestyle in general. The adventures described here are extremely crazy and dangerous but fascinating. No matter how selfish Anthony is sometimes, you know you can’t help but love him for his lust for life and his love for the people around him. Anthony Kiedis was also really great at telling his life story with vivid detail and wonderful description. Although this book is not really for delicate or sensitive eyes, Scar Tissue is highly recommended to anyone who wants a wild, jaw dropping Rock n’ Roll story of real life.

1. Slash – Slash


If you’re a Guns N’ Roses fan this book will be hard to put down. All throughout, Slash tells you the little stories and random events that made him the person he is today. Lots of pertinent information as to the life and death of Guns N’ Roses. Slash by Slash is really in essence opening the pages to someone’s diary. I was amused, shocked, surprised, and amazed how this guy survived all the things he went through. He really opens up about his earliest beginnings as a kid and his childhood leading into joining and becoming one of the greatest rock stars in the world. Great book and an easy read. Highly recommended for any Guns N’ Roses fan.

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  1. If the list was the most disturbing Rock & Roll book, it would have to include Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan. (Norwegian Death Metal scene)

  2. Missing good ones from Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs, John Lydon, and my personal favorite, Full Moon, an hilarious account of Keith Moon’s life as told by his valet.

    • Edit: Missing good ones from Greil Marcus (Mystery Train, Lipstick Traces), Lester Bangs (Psychotic Reactions…), John Lydon (No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs), Jon Savage (England’s Dreaming) Henry Rollins (Get in the Van) and my personal favorite, Full Moon, an hilarious account of Keith Moon’s life as told by his valet.

    • I could only go by what I have read. I have also heard that John Lydon’s “Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” is a true gem when it comes to Rock n’ Roll autobiographies, but I only bought it 2 days ago. It would be truly hypocritical to include books that I don’t have a personal opinion about. Maybe one day we could do a sequel list or something, with 10 more awesome Rock n’ Roll books 😉

      • A sequel would be nice. I’ve got a few more suggestions: “Hellfire” by Nick Tosches (it’s about Jerry Lee Lewis), “AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll” by Murray Engleheart, “Sun Records” by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man – The Life And Hard Times Of Chuck Berry” by Bruce Pegg.

  3. As an honorable mention, I’d like to list Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad.

    Also any collection of reviews or stories written by Lester Bangs.

  4. I would’ve included “The Song Remains the Same” about Led Zeppelin and Sammy Hagar’s “Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock”, but otherwise, good list, if a little heavy on the late 80’s metal scene.

  5. As they say: sex, drugs and rock and roll! Great list and so interesting books, well done!!!