I am the author of seven books. The latest and greatest: Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind. It’s a biography of the late, great actor River Phoenix, and a cultural history of Hollywood in the 1980s and 1990s. According to Rob Sheffield, “Twenty years after his death, River Phoenix remains as enigmatic and elusive as ever. Last Night at the Viper Room tells the heart-shredding story of how this haunted actor left such a big impression in such a brief time.” You can order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, or your local bookstore.
Prior to that, I had the pleasure of collaborating with original MTV VJs Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn on VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave. The book told the stories of their lives, of the early days of MTV (when it still played music videos), and of a ten-thousand dollar haircut. Rolling Stone said it was a “highly entertaining snapshot of a wild-frontier moment in pop culture,” while the Associated Press review deemed it “Nirvana for pop culture fans… a totally tubular testament to the excess of the ’80s.” It hit the New York Times bestseller list; you can order a copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, or your local bookstore.
Back in 2006, Three Rivers Press printed a collection of my Rolling Stone columns where I answered reader questions about obscure factual corners of rock history, titled Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed. Again, you can order a copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, or your local bookstore. Or you can check out most of its contents here.
My first four books were collections of misheard lyrics, a.k.a. mondegreens. (For more information on mondegreens, click here. For some particularly egregious practioners of the art, click here.) Rosie O’Donnell, speaking of the second one on her show (she also sang some excerpts), said “This is a funny, funny, funny, funny, funny book.” I culled the funniest mishearings from reader submissions, and the degree to which people misinterpet lyrics boggles the mind. (I never made any up–I got too much great mail to do that.) They have now all fallen out of print, but it’s not hard to track down used copies.
The first was ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy and Other Misheard Lyrics. It was illustrated by the enormously talented Chris Kalb.
The second was He’s Got the Whole World in His Pants and More Misheard Lyrics. It was illustrated by the gifted Canadian cartoonist Seth; my favorite of his many books is It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken.
The third was When a Man Loves a Walnut and Even More Misheard Lyrics. It was illustrated by Shary Flenniken, who is a national treasure and was the author of the “Trots and Bonnie” comic strip in National Lampoon’s heyday.
The fourth was Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly and Other Misheard Christmas Lyrics. It was illustrated by the extremely funny Ted Stearn, the author of a comic book from Fantagraphics called Fuzz and Pluck.
For a decade, there was also an ongoing series of ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy calendars, for people who preferred to get their mondegreens while finding out what day of the week it is. Those have come to an end, but not before teaching me more than I ever planned on knowing about when various rock stars’ birthdays are.