Thanks to the bestselling likes of Keith Richards‘ Life, Tina Turner‘s I, Tina and Bob Dylan‘s Chronicles, Volume One, rock ‘n’ roll has made inroads in the book industry. Artists are receiving multimillion-dollar advances in some cases, with publishers betting that a significant number of fans might be interested in reading about them as well as listening to their music.
Each year brings a steady stream of tomes recounting the lives and times of superstars, journeymen and, seemingly, most anyone who’s been around long enough to have a story to tell. The fourth quarter of 2022 alone included books by Bono (Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story), Rob Halford (Biblical: Rob Halford’s Heavy Metal Scriptures) and Brian Johnson (The Lives of Brian) among others — and that’s not counting unauthorized biographies or thematic pieces like Dylan’s The Philosophy of Modern Song.
But what about the books never got a chance to see? Several works were (and may still be) on the runway but have not made it onto the printed page yet. Here are eight of the most tantalizing titles that have yet to see the light of day.
This American Band — The Story of the Eagles
Ed Sanders made a name in the ’60s counterculture as part of the New York underground band the Fugs, and was also a poet, author and publisher. His widely regarded book The Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack came out in 1971, and by the end of the decade he had a pair of offers: an in-depth look at the 1978 Jonestown massacre or a band-commissioned biography of Eagles, via a friendship with Glenn Frey. Sanders chose the latter then penned the 900-page, four-volume This American Band — The Story of the Eagles, which the author called “an exhaustive account.” His tome was sidelined, however, when the group first broke up in 1980. The parties are legally prohibited from discussing the matter, though rumors of its release occasionally swirl. Sanders is said to be working on a number of Fugs projects.
Mick Jagger, untitled
The Rolling Stones frontman reportedly penned a 75,000-word memoir during the early ’80s that was never published — ostensibly because it was not as awash in the tales of wanton sex and drugs that booksellers wanted. “I think the rock ‘n’ roll memoir is a glutted market,” Jagger told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. “If someone wants to know what I did in 1965, they can look it up on Wikipedia.” A copy of the typescript, however, resides with British publisher John Blake, who told The Spectator that it’s a “a little masterpiece.” While Richards’ Life was a money-making memoir in 2010, Blake said the Stones camp rebuffed his attempts to publish Jagger’s book. Manager Joyce Smyth even told him that Jagger has no memory of writing it. “Mick wanted nothing further to do with this project,” Blake said. “He never wanted to see it published.”
Paul McCartney, Japanese Jailbird
Paul McCartney wrote a 20,000-word account of the experience after spending nine days in a Japanese jail for possession of marijuana while Wings was touring in 1980. “I would have liked to have written about it while I was there. That would have made it much easier,” McCartney told The Telegraph in 2014. He was not allowed writing materials, however, “so I had it all in my brain. My brain was bursting with all these details. So when I got back, each morning I used go and write for a couple of hours. It was good ’cause all the details were fresh.” He printed just one copy for himself, intending to show it to his children whenever they expressed interest. “I thought, one day when we’re all old and my son’s a great big 30-year-old and says, ‘Dad, what about that Japanese thing?’ I’ll be able to say, ‘There you are. Read that,'” he said during the 1989 McCartney on McCartney radio series. McCartney told The Telegraph that he subsequently “gave all my kids a copy,” but didn’t know if they’d read it. He’s since reportedly decreed that Japanese Jailbird is not to be published while he’s alive.
Billy Joel, The Book of Joel
Billy Joel‘s memoir was signed to HarperCollins and set to be delivered in June 2011. Joel canceled publication of the book in March of that year, however, returning his advance. “It took working on writing a book to make me realize that I’m not all that interested in talking about the past,” Joel said in a statement, “and that the best expression of my life and its ups and downs has been and remains my music.” HarperCollins had billed The Book of Joel as an “emotional ride” that detailed his marriages and battles with substance abuse as well as his music career. The publisher had planned an initial run of 250,000 copies.
David Bowie, Bowie: Object
Once dubbed the “big white whale” of the publishing world, David Bowie never released a memoir in his lifetime. He did, however, sign a deal with Penguin circa 2010 for Object. A pictorial book featuring 100 items from the Bowie archive, it was meant to tell his story with “insightful, witty and personal text written by Bowie himself,” according to a post on his website. Bowie died in January 2016, and there’s been no word on whether the Object manuscript was ever delivered.
Sammy Hagar, Red Storm Rising and The Long Road to Cabo
Sammy Hagar authorized his first book shortly after his heated departure from Van Halen in 1996. He ended up going to court to keep it from being published, because Red Storm Rising piled a little too much poundcake on his newly estranged bandmates. Fans were left to comb through a few excerpts that leaked online over the years. In the ’70s, Hagar also worked intermittently on another book that was tentatively titled The Long Road to Cabo. Collaborator Dick Richmond, a journalist based in the Hagar stronghold of St. Louis, later told The Riverfront Times that Hagar’s late manager Ed Leffler put the kibosh on the book when he joined Van Halen. Hagar eventually dished plenty of dirt in his own 2011 memoir, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock.
Kiss, Behind the Mask
David Leaf had gone from Casablanca Records mailroom employee to author of books about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys and the Bee Gees when Kiss tapped him in 1979 to write an authorized biography to be titled Behind the Mask. Leaf recently told the Three Sides of the Coin podcast that he went on the road with the band, doing extensive interviews with all four members as well as manager Bill Aucoin, then completed a manuscript in relatively short order. At the time, however, Aucoin was negotiating for a Saturday morning television cartoon for Kiss and feared that the a forthright book about the group — whose macabre theatrics and sexualized songs were still controversial in some circles — would give groups like Action for Children’s Television ammunition to undermine his plans. Aucoin shelved the book instead, and the manuscript sat in a storage facility until the early 2000s, when Leaf showed it to Kiss biographer Ken Sharp. Blown away by Leaf’s work, Sharp negotiated for the 2005 tome Kiss: Behind the Mask — The Authorized Biography, which used Leaf’s manuscript and updated it with Sharp’s additional work. Leaf, meanwhile, published an updated version of God Only Knows: The Story of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys and the California Myth in 2022.
At the time of his death in 2016, veteran music journalist Ben Edmonds was working on a book about legendary Detroit rockers MC5, whom he’d covered for Creem and other publications. The book was unauthorized, but Edmonds had full cooperation from the band and did extensive interviews with MC5 principals and those around them. Edmonds asked Creem mate Jaan Uhelszki to see the project through, and she and former Guitar World editor Brad Tolinski are turning his notes into a new book that was scheduled to come out in 2024.
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