Veteran pop-culture journalist Strauss (Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, 2009, etc.) offers an eclectic collection of interviews with the “artists, celebrities, and crazy people of the world.”
By his own count, the author has conducted some 3,000 interviews with the famous, not-so-famous, used-to-be-famous and ought-to-be-famous denizens of popular culture. Here he brings together the best of these interviews in loosely and at times bizarrely connected chapters. All the well-knowns are here, including Madonna, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, The Who, Kenny G, Led Zeppelin, Puffy Combs and Bo Diddley. The author also includes many lesser-known artists, such as the master mandolin player Johnny Staats, who still drives a UPS truck, and the pioneering electronic-music artist Patrick Miller, who was taken early by drugs—as are too many of the subjects here. Known or unknown, they all have something to say. The subject is not always clear, as Strauss often introduces an interview, drops it and returns to it many pages later, but that is part of the fun of his anarchic presentation. Bruce Springsteen is typically modest, noting that one of the main motivations of his music is “to try to be useful.” Chuck Berry is open, funny and scatological. Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn are achingly poignant as they speak of death and courage. Mötley Crüe gets arrested. And so it goes with hundreds of other interviews. In a concluding tribute to the late critic Paul Nelson, Strauss wonders if such obsession with pop culture is worth it. He concludes that it is, if only to allow us to reflect on our own faults and follies and on what we have and think we want.
Gonzo interviewing at its best.