Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Killing Yourself to Live

Killing Yourself to Live, which prides itself as 85% of a true story, by Chuck Klosterman impressed me yet again with how much he can say in just one book. I really enjoyed the first book I read by him, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, but this one would appeal to people who prefer to read a story or book versus a series of unrelated essays.

This book was very interesting, especially if you really enjoy rock and roll and would like to know random facts about bands and musicians. He really does have an extensive amount of information about artists that astounds me. I feel like I'm in the middle of the coolest lesson I've ever been in on, and he tells them in such a way that you're sucked right into the middle of it. It's a fascinating experience.

Killing Yourself to Live is about Klosterman's journey across the country to visit locations where famous musicians passed away for an article he wrote for his magazine, Spin. He takes a rented car from New York to Rhode Island to Georgia to Mississippi to Iowa to Fargo to Seattle where his journey ends. This is how he spends his summer. Can you imagine such an experience? A cross country road trip stopping to discover information about dead musicians first-hand? I'm jealous.

Klosterman visits dead sites of Kurt Cobain, Duane Allman, a member of Def Leppard, the site of the Connecticut club fire, and the "day the music died plane crash" site which included Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Those are the memorable ones he went to. There were others.

What I enjoy about Klosterman's writing must be his rants about music and pop culture. He provides very interesting and different insights into music and pop culture:

-KISS's lack of success with solo albums for more profit
-Fleetwood Mac's intense breakups and how it effected Rumours and "Go Your Own Way"
-Nirvana's downward spiral and Kurt Cobain's death as a revival
-How concert go-ers either want to rant about two things: 1. concerts sucked or 2. concerts rocked -- not necessarily just to enjoy the show but to say they saw it and offered their two cents
-Elizabeth Wurtzel of Prozac Nation and how she's really nuts-o
-How people from LA are self-absorbed and focused on fame only
-Rock journalism isn't really that cool like from Almost Famous
-Ten rock and roll casulaties that nobody talks about (page 104+)
-"Layla" and how it's written to George Harrison's wife...
-The songs "Free Ride" vs. "Slow Ride"
-Radiohead's Kid A and how it seems to be the soundtrack for 9/11 (try it out, pages 85+)

The book also chrinocles how Klosterman ends three relationships over the course of this road trip. He goes into detail discussing these women and the complications of the relationships. I understood why it was included, but I enjoyed more his journey and music inferences more than these longings and rants.

I think the most interesting train of thought has to be dedicated to the idea of the dead musician. Does it revive your career? Do you still just disappear without anyone knowing or realizing it? Is it cool to die? How will you be remembered? Does your death impact how people see you--legendary and going out with a bang while you're still on top or fizzling out slowly when no one cares anymore?

Some deaths have definitely revived careers and made people legendary: Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix (Forever 27 group), Biggie, Tupac, Elvis, John Lennon, Lane Staley, etc. Others can just fizzle out... No one remembers anymore...

I think that some people are still alive and will have a huge impact on music and will become legendary when they die. It just won't be as tragic or legendary as the aforementioned because they died while they were still on top. Those still alive and that live longer still had time to produce all the music that they could, so they might not be seen in that same light as the others. When Ray Charles and James Brown recently died, they were commemorated and honored as new music "legends" even though they died well past their prime.

I shudder thinking about the day Bob Dylan dies. I imagine a worse outpouring of fans and devastating feelings more than Kurt Cobain's death because Dylan has touched so many people, so very young and so very old. The world will mourn for him.

The idea of death and rock and how they work together is still an interesting topic of conversation. Use it if you need to when there's a good lull in conversation.

So, what do you think of any of these concepts or Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live?

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