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The 50 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time

25 best rock memoirs

So many CBGB-era punk memoirs out there, but Richard Hell’s is unique — poetic yet never pompous, bemused without corny punch lines. As a 17-year-old Kentucky kid, he runs off to NYC to be a poet, but ends up a rock & roller. “‘Sacred monster’ is definitely the job description,” Hell writes. “Being a pop star, a front person, takes indestructible certainty of one’s own irresistibility. That’s the monster part.” He depicts his music comrades — Tom Verlaine, Robert Quine, Patti Smith, Lester Bangs—and all the girls he’s loved before. (Hell was the punk Leonard Cohen in that department.) He quips about his popularity with critics, “because they were predisposed to favor noise, intellect, and failure.” In the final scene, he runs into his old nemesis Verlaine for the first time in years — flipping through the dollar bins outside the Strand Bookstore — and walks away in tears, musing, “We were like two monsters confiding.”

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