Paul Stanley's New Book Looks Like the Most Reliable KISStory to Date

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Photo by Neil Zlozower/Courtesy of HarperOne
KISS in their '70s prime
Face the Music: A Life Exposed
By Paul Stanley
HarperOne, 480 pp., $28.99

With the publication of this glitter-, greasepaint- and leather-slathered tome, all four original members of KISS have now penned their autobiographies.

Not surprisingly, as one astute Web site pointed out recently by comparing the quartet - their memories and opinions of the same shared incidents don't always coincide. Or even come close to similarity.

Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley, aka "The Starchild," always seemed like the most level-headed member of the group. Now he has written the best memoir of the four with the most insightful -- and probably accurate -- reading of KISStory.


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Justin Melkmann's Punk-Rock Comics: Life Irritates Art

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Art by Justin Melkmann/Courtesy of Melkmann Comics
This is a story about the sometimes roundabout ways we encounter new music. It's also about expectations: why we make them and how we adapt, often for the better, when they aren't fully realized. I'll start there.

TMI alert: I like to read in the restroom. I planned to spend a few minutes "reading" one morning, so I grabbed a 'zine one of the kids brought home from a show and was flipping through the pages when I came across some well-drawn, music-related and genuinely funny cartoon art. The artist's name was Justin Melkmann.


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Buck Owens: The Country Cad Who Couldn't Quite Escape Hee Haw

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Buck Owens (left) and the classic lineup of the Buckaroos: Don Rich, Willie Cantu, Tom Brumley and Doyle Holly

Buck 'Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens
By Buck Owens with Randy Poe
Backbeat Books, 360 pp., $29.99

Music legend says that bluesman Robert Johnson made his deal with the Devil at the Crossroads. If that's the case, then country legend Buck Owens must have booked his date with Ol' Scratch in the cornfield.

As Owens (1929-2006) mentions numerous times in this autobiography -- drawn largely verbatim from nearly 100 hours of recently-discovered taped reminisces -- his 17 seasons as co-host of the cornpone country comedy/music show Hee Haw fattened his wallet and made him a household name.


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The Allman Brothers Band's Still-Unfolding Saga Ain't Got But One Way Out

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Ultimate Classic Rock/Polydor Records
The Allman Brothers Band outside the Fillmore East in 1971. From left to right: Dickey Betts, Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Jaimoe Johanson, Berry Oakley, and Butch Trucks
One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band
By Alan Paul
St. Martin's Press, 464 pp., $29.99

Make no mistake. While only two of the six original members of the Allman Brothers Band were actual biological siblings, the fraternal ties of Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe Johanson, went deep. Real deep.

Through their music, their joys, their tragedies, and enough infighting, drugs, boozing, breakups and reunions, and creative differences to do in most lesser bands, the Allmans have somehow kept going. Incredibly, for a group that lost its admitted leader and soul -- Duane -- in a motorcycle accident three albums into their career and then Oakley, almost a year later in nearly the same spot and also on a bike.

Paul is a music journalist and longtime friend of the band, and conducted more than 60 interviews with current and former bandmembers, musical friends, roadies, ex-wives and girlfriends, promoters and other writers. He had the Allmans' authorization, but lets everyone get his or her say (and sometimes contradict each other) in this oral history.


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Popping the Trunk on Houston Rap Tapes

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Photos courtesy of Peter Beste
Pimp C and Bun B of UGK
The shittiest thing about Houston Rap, the big, glossy picture book put out late last year by Sinecure Books, is that it isn't 11 million pages long. A ten-year labor of photographic love by documentarians Peter Beste and Lance Scott Walker, the book is an absolute treasure trove of snapshots capturing H-Town rap culture that instantly became a primary portrait of the city's hip-hop scene. For hardcore music and history buffs, the only disappointing part of the book was reaching the end.

The good news is that Walker has foreseen our frustrations. This week, Sinecure is releasing his 283-page companion piece called Houston Rap Tapes. The new book contains more than 40 interviews that Walker conducted over the past decade with Houston hip-hop movers and shakers large and small. The author will be signing copies at Sig's Lagoon today between 6-9 p.m.

Many small slices of the new book's interviews were woven into the photo narrative of Houston Rap. But Houston Rap Tapes offers up the long-form stories, conversations and musings Walker collected from the likes of K-Rino, Z-Ro, Lil' Troy and Paul Wall that offer a richer, deeper perspective on the city's rap culture and legacy.


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Five Bizarre Titles on Ye Olde Beatles Bookshelf

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Classic Rock Bob in 1999 on a pilgrimage to Abbey Road studios. The black hair is gone, but he can still fit into the shirt.
Hi. My name is Bob, and I am a Beatles fanatic.

This won't come as any surprise to my friends and family, for whom I am a very, very easy mark for a Christmas or birthday gift: "Just get him something Beatles-related." The first 33 rpm LP I ever bought in 1978 was -- I'm pretty sure -- Meet the Beatles. Though it may have also been Shaun Cassidy; hey, I was a big "Hardy Boys" admirer.

For years, I wore a black armband to school on December 8, the day John Lennon was shot. As a young teen, I once wrote Yoko Ono a letter telling her I didn't think she was responsible for breaking up the band. She must have been very, very relieved by this bit of information, as she responded with a real hand-signed Christmas card.


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Beatles, books

The Shakespearean Story of Soulsville, U.S.A. Focus of New Book

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wattstax.com
Jesse Jackson introduces Isaac Hayes - "Black Moses" - at the 1972 Wattstax concert.

Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion
By Robert Gordon
384 pp.
$30
Bloomsbury

It's a story that any novelist or screenwriter would find fantastical. A white, middle-aged banker and part time country music fiddler with a hankering to get into the music business convinces his older sister (and her skeptical husband) to mortgage their house so he can open a recording studio.

Then, the pair buy an abandoned movie theater in a downtrodden area of blacker-than-black Memphis, build said studio, and also an in-house record shop. And from that studio come some of the most treasured music of the '60s and '70s, heard around the world.

Stax Records (from the names of the banker/fiddler Jim STewart and sister Estelle AXton) would ultimlately put its name on some 800 singles and 300 albums from 1960-1975, launching the careers of dozens of performers including Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Booker T. and the MG's, Isaac Hayes, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Sam and Dave, Luther Ingram, Albert King, The Staples Singers, the Bar-Kays, and many, many more.

The more polished and palpable Motown may have called itself "Hitsville, U.S.A.," but there was no mistaking the meaning when Stax put up the proclamation "Soulsville, U.S.A." right on the old theater's marquee.


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How Little Feat Savored the Flavors of the "Houston Welcoming Committee"

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Warner Bros. Records
Little Feat in 1975
Willin': The Story of Little Feat
By Ben Fong-Torres
Da Capo Press, 296 pp., $26.99.

As a band, their music was beloved and respected by a wide array of artists from Eric Clapton, Robert Plant and Linda Ronstadt to the Marshall Tucker Band, Bonnie Raitt and Jimmy Buffett.

But the musical mad doctors in Little Feat, supposedly named for founder/singer/guitarist's Lowell George's own smallish appendages, never saw that critical acclaim translate into commercial success. The band never had a hit single, and the peak of their vinyl notoriety came with the 1978 live (but mostly overdubbed) double record Waiting for Columbus

And even then, that effort was released as the band was disintegrating and a year before from George's death from a heart attack, likely brought on by a combination of obesity and rampant substance abuse.


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27: The Musical Club With a Grim Entry Fee

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Photo by Anton Corbijn/Courtesy of Nasty Little Man
Nirvana
27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse
By Howard Sounes
Da Capo Press, 360 pp., $26.99

When reached for comment shortly after the world found out that Nirvana singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain had committed suicide, his mother, Wendy O'Connor, was succinct. "Now he's gone and joined that stupid club," she offered. "I told him not to."

The "Club" she refers to is the possibly acrophycal "27 Club" whose members are musicians that die of tragic circumstances (often the result of their own doing) at that age. Journalists and fans started commenting on it shortly after the bang-bang-bang deaths of Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison, who all went in short succession of one another.


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Going Deep Underground With Houston Rap

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Photos courtesy of Peter Beste
The Terrorists' Dope-E, foreground, with K-Rino
For all but the hardest of hardcore local hip-hop adherents, there are going to be a few unfamiliar faces in Sinecure Books' new Houston Rap chronicle. When photographer Peter Beste and writer Lance Scott Walker began the project nearly ten years ago, they set out to document not just the most famous rappers in H-Town, but the underground innovators and originators who have been the backbone of the local scene for the past two decades.

That's not to say the book skimps on the all-stars, mind you. Scarface, Bun B, Paul Wall and other Houston emcees known far and wide are all present and accounted for in the new book, and often captured in ways fans have never seen before. But as we've discussed before on this blog, Beste and Walker weren't interested in simply shooting the big moneymakers. They made a concerted effort to delve far deeper into Houston's hip-hop culture than that, photographing and interviewing many of the old heads who laid the groundwork for the city's slowed-and-throwed sound and image.

It wasn't always an easy world to break into. But the pair had some help early on that paid big dividends in establishing cred with the locals they most wanted to meet with.


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