Twenty-two stark, darkly tinted snapshots of life on the road, and occasionally at home, for small-time rock ’n’ roll musicians, singers, and hangers-on.
Marquart, who has toured with heavy metal bands, knows her territory and writes convincingly. The second story here, the brief, apocryphal “Dylan’s Lost Years,” sets the mood of hard-eyed romanticism, telling how the master was fired from a gig playing Holiday Inns because he “just could not sing.” Both Dylan and Holiday Inns appear from time to time in other pieces, Dylan as an ideal, the motel chain as a musical hell to be avoided at all costs, as if the musicians’ lives were not already hellish enough. Throughout, we’re treated to a litany of touring mishaps: vans break down en route to shows, equipment is ruined or lost, fires break out. Meanwhile, the disastrous inner lives of Marquart’s people get no relief from large quantities of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Although tales like “The Movie of the World,” in which a soundman may or may not blow his big chance when the drummer quits, are powerful individually, monotony sets in midway through. The names may change from story to story, but the characters don’t: the tough and lonely girl singer, the charismatic musician she and the audience can’t resist, the stoned loser who doesn’t have the necessary talent (sometimes doubling as the charismatic love object). Fortunately, Marquart reaches beyond the insular rock ’n’ roll world in the title story, which follows a young man named Sal in his dual careers as guitarist and cemetery monument salesman. Increasingly disillusioned yet enlightened, Sal evolves into the volume’s most fully realized character, and his sorrow lingers in the mind longer than every drug high and disaster.
Despite a certain repetitiveness, Marquart brings the rock ’n’ roll subculture to intense if desperate life.