Everyone loves a good comeback, or a story about the kid who got pushed around when he was younger but eventually gets his revenge, or the cautionary tale about the guy who lost it all to drugs and drink and somehow turned it around. Lucky for us, with My Damage, the autobiography of Keith Morris, we get all three.
Anyone who knows the history of Black Flag knows about Spot. The legendary South Bay lensman had a brief tenure as bass player in the band but went on to produce most of their earlier E.P.s and helped build the legendary Media Arts studio where most of their seminal tracks were put to tape. He then began taking photos professionally of the local surf, skate and music scene in the late 70s and early 80s for beach newspaper the Easy Reader. His photo collection, Sounds of Two Eyes Opening – Southern California Life: Skate/Beach/Punk 1969-1982 displays his considerable talents with convincing proof.
My favorite type of non-fiction books are of the ‘Why do us crazy humans do the things we do?’ variety. Any time I go on tour there’s usually a stack of them in my bunk. Some of the best in this genre are Driven: How Nature Shapes Our Choices, by Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria, The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan, and Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor E. Frankl, among countless others. Greg Graffin, Bad Religion frontman and college professor has been asking and answering that question on stage and in classrooms for better than 30 years.
It’s hard not to imagine Tom Wolfe or Phillip Roth rolling their eyes in disgust when they learn that 90s skate punk bands are getting book deals, presumably to recount enthralling tales of the one time on tour when they duct taped the drummers butt cheeks together, or the bass player downed a bottle of Jamo and woke up spooning a tranny. Fine literature is for educated intellectuals, not bros with guitars and wallet chains. So what to make of NOFX’s book, The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories landing near the top of the New York Times bestsellers list?
The first time I heard Bad Brains was when I bought the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation. The comp had great bands like FLIPPER, D.O.A., Black Flag and Dead Kennedy’s, but when the Bad Brains song Pay to Cum came on it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. First of all, the song was played ridiculously fast. I still don’t think there’s a song that’s been released anywhere that even comes close in sheer velocity. And then there’s H.R.’s vocals, a blistering stream of consonants and syllables so ferociously jammed together it sounded like auctioneer at cattle sale hopped up on enough speed to power an 18 wheeler cross country. Twice.
Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari is the kind of book that helps me sleep better at night for two reasons. One, unlike horror stories or true crime novels, the subject matter is studious enough that after twenty minutes of reading or so I’m ready to doze off. Two, because when Harari helps explain to us all why the world is as messed up as it is, at least I can stop staring at the ceiling wondering why all night.