Steve Almond would like to make a few revisions to “Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life,” released earlier this month on Random House. The first change involves re-titling a chapter to emphasize how his wife once aroused a certain ballet-kicking ’80s hair metal icon, and the second involves a disclaimer.
“I wish the book came with a legal proviso,” he says. “It would say, ‘The author is not responsible for the fact that “All Out of Love” is playing on constant repeat in your head and slowly driving you insane.’”
“Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life” mines much of its charm from Almond’s hilarious meditations upon the works of bygone bands like Air Supply and Toto.
“A good melody can dignify the baldest cliche and almost annihilate your critical facility,” says Almond in a rapid-fire delivery befitting of his writing style. “Melody and rhythm are so instinctual that you go, ‘Yeah, I am blessing the rains down in Africa,’ despite the fact that I hate the song and I hate myself for loving it, I’m still blessing those rains.”
But a layer beneath these unconventional observations is the flood of prose that could only be written by the type of music fan that he dubs a “Drooling Fanatic.” Many of the chapters are devoted to obscure artists he hopes to turn readers onto like Nil Lara, Ike Reilly and Joe Henry. Many are musicians he got close to, in hopes of figuring out exactly what their unique energy was, and it is this quest that moves “Rock and Roll” forward, with a longing and frustration to which any Drooling Fanatic can relate.
“There is this central regret of, ‘I wish I could do this other thing. I wanted to be the rock star,’ and instead I become a very emotional writer,” he says, shaking his head wistfully. “But dude, there’s really no comparison.”