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BETTER TO BURN OUT by Dave Thompson


The Cult of Death in Rock 'n' Roll

by Dave Thompson

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-56025-190-5

Thompson, a prominent music critic and author of Never Fade Away (not reviewed), an autopsy of Nirvana front man and suicide Kurt Cobain (and his phenomenon), returns again to the crypt to unearth dozens of sad, lurid, and occasionally cautionary tales. Rather than dwell primarily on the deaths of rock superstars, Thompson instead probes the ends of musicians either not well known or at least not big in America. The author covers nearly 40 years of rock ‘n’ roll fatalities, from the British promoter/producer, Joe Meek, who offed himself (but not before he took someone out with him), to T-Rex front man and faded teen idol Marc Bolan, who perished in a motor wreck, to the death from heart failure of Fred “Sonic” Smith, founder of the seminal proto-punk band MC5 and husband of punk goddess Patti Smith, to the drug-hastened demises of the Dead Boys/Lords of the New Church founder Stiv Bators and the Smashing Pumpkins’ keyboardist, Jonathan Melvoin. While many of the stories are told with baleful foreboding or chin-wagging melancholy, the author can’t seem to help but allow the more salacious elements to come bubbling up to the surface. Thus, for every tale of woe, such as Joy Division singer Ian Curtis’s failed bout with epilepsy, or the death from cancer of the French pop legend Jacques Brel, there are tales of the near-slapstick sign-offs of Sid Vicious and GG Allin, the pathetic story of the former Velvet Underground “chanteuse” and international glam gal Nico, or details of the sordid speculation that surrounded the suicide of INXS singer Michael Hutchence. What does this all add up to? A perfect antidote to the familiar parental catcall, “turn off that racket and pick up a book.” (50 photos, not seen)