The Handbook
The Handbook

Delve deep into the debauched world of trashed hotel rooms, orgies, drug addictions, narcissism, fall outs, life on the road and all the other rockstar stereotypes you can think of with our pick of the best music autobiographies.

From Bob Dylan’s critically-acclaimed Chronicles to Elton John’s recent tell-all and Patti Smith’s stunning Just Kids, raucous and wild much of the content might be but it’s the tender and candid moments that make these books so special.

Take a look at our list of favourites – it was no easy task picking the best – and live vicariously through some of the world’s biggest music icons, if just for an afternoon at least.

Scar Tissue, Anthony Kiedis (2005)

Said to be one of the best music autobiographies of all time, Red Hot Chilli Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue recounts a charismatic and articulate look back at one of America’s biggest bands.

It has all the ingredients of a true junkie rockstar story but told candidly and compellingly, and most of all, written beautifully.

Expect names checks, life on the road, addiction, overdose, debauchery and some tales that will leave your jaw on the floor.

Coal Black Mornings (2018) and Afternoons with the Blinds Drawn (2019), Brett Anderson

Willowy Suede frontman never set out to write the proverbial rock star memoir and he didn’t. His first book, Coal Black Mornings, only looks back up until Suede were on the cusp of making it, when they became the band often referred to as “the birth of Britpop,” – a statement Anderson fervently denies.

Britpop wars aside, Anderson’s writing is stunning. In fact, if you’ve never even heard of Suede or its frontman, you’d still find the book compelling, as it takes him from greasy haired teenager from the Home Counties to skinny, squat-living Brett Anderson on the cusp of success, about to taste rock stardom for the first time with all its beautiful highs and desperate lows.

So well received was Coal Black Mornings that Anderson penned its follow up just a year later. Afternoon with the Blinds drawn was the book he never wanted to write but the fans near begged for. It delved deep into a reflective and brutally honest look at his time in one of the biggest British bands of the 90s – the drugs, the tours, the fallouts, the tunes.

Anderson’s follow up book is a music memoir dream for 90s indie kids, and I can’t help but think it was a very cathartic experience for him to write.

Life, Keith Richards (2010)

This tome of a music memoir is a must-read for any diehard rock ‘n’ roll fan. Written by Rolling Stones’ guitarist and the only human with nine lives (probably more), it delves deep into the history of the boys who hailed from Richmond and became the most famous grandpas of rock. Two queries however: how did Keith live through the sheer hedonism of it all and survive? And, how did he remember enough of it to fill 564 pages’ worth?

Just Kids, Patti Smith (2010)

Pattie’s remembering of her time in 1960s New York is romantic, beautiful and bohemian despite the fact that she was a desperately poor poet who once had to be bought a sandwich by a young Allen Ginsberg – he actually offered to buy her the sandwich thinking she was a poor pretty boy.

But it’s her look back at the unconventional relationship she shared with artist Robert Mapplethorpe that makes this book spellbinding. You won’t be able to put it down and you’ll be reassured you’re never going to be as cool as Patti.

Slash: The Autobiography, Slash (2007)

If you’re after a seriously debauched autobiography get stuck into Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash’s memoir. Que all the rock ‘n’ roll clichés in the book, from trashed hotel rooms to groupies, drug abuse to superstardom.

As well as the usual tales of sex, drugs rock ‘n’ roll, the top hat wearing, cigarette dangling guitarist also recalls a seriously showbiz childhood, thanks to his designer and stylist mother who would have everyone from Bowie to Iggy, Joni to Ronnie visiting their LA home.

And of course, his fateful meeting with Axl Rose.

Face It, Debbie Harry (2019)

Queen of Cool, Debbie Harry launched her much-anticipated autobiography last year to rapturous applause. The Blondie singer who changed the way we thought about female frontwomen and women in rock full stop, delves into a revealing look back at her life and career.

A must-read if you’ve ever been fascinated by the seedy, dirty punk culture of 70s New York. Plus, a rare occurrence to see it from a very different, female perspective.

Chronicles: Volume One, Bob Dylan (2005)

From his wiry hair to his penchant for a pair of Ray-Bans and his endless discology that’s been covered and referenced by so many, Bob Dylan is undoubtedly one of the biggest music and pop culture icons of the last century.

His spellbinding memoir is part one of what is set to be a three-book series, but fans of the folk icon are still waiting on the edge of their seats for the follow ups.

Volume One is sure to whet your appetite however, as it looks back at his early career arriving in a revolutionising New York City, his motivations, frustrations and remarkable creativity.

Me: Elton John (2019)

As he enters his sixth decade in the spotlight and prepares for retirement, which he’s teased for years, Elton, because he’s the kind of star who only needs a first name, released his memoir just last year.

It’s full of drama, well you wouldn’t expect any less from the man who supposedly spends £10k on flowers every week – but joyous, colourful, funny and, at times, deeply sad too. Few lives come close to being as extraordinary as this. If you watched Rocketman and loved it, add this to your bedside table pile.

The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, Gucci Mane (2016)

This New York Times Bestseller wowed audiences when released in 2016, showing a more sensitive and redemptive side to the iconic rapper.

The stories are as wild as you’d expect – he even started writing it in a federal maximum security prison – from a difficult upbringing to drug dealing, prison time to life as an eccentric rap star. But it ends with you totally falling in love with Gucci, understanding his flaws and having faith that people really can change.

Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon, (2015)

Think girl power pre-Spice Girls with more integrity and better style, founding member of Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon’s, coming of age story documents becoming an icon of the 80s and 90s New York music and art scene.

It leads into marriage, motherhood and growing up.

Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen (2016)

With one of the most devoted fan bases of all time, The Boss’s autobiography was like gold when he released it in 2016.

It is Bruce’s honest telling of his long standing battle with depression that is most humbling, bringing the multi-winning, most famous denim-wearing artist who usually sells out stadiums into a very down to earth light.

“Writing about yourself is a funny business…But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I’ve tried to do this,” Bruce said of the book.

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