Friday, February 7, 2014

Spy Rock Memories - Book Review

I got a great Christmas gift this year—a co-worker of mine figured out that I knew how to read, and I was pleasantly surprised to get a book for the holiday season. 

Books make tough Christmas gifts: they are risky.  With something like lipstick, or soap, or a towel, you know that they are going to use it eventually.  But a book?  Hmm.  People go long stretches without ever cracking the spine of some books.  I have been over to people's houses, and they have entire shelves of books.  "Wow," I exclaim, "you are pretty well-read!" Well, not so fast.  They are well-bought.  They proudly proclaim that they own over 100 books, but when I go to pull one off of the shelf, they break down and tearfully admit that they haven't actually read any of them.  I'm still not convinced that Stephen Hawking has even made it to the end of A Brief History of Time—and he wrote the damn thing.

The book that I received at Christmas is called Spy Rock Memories, and is written by Larry Livermore.  My eyes lit up when I unwrapped the book and flipped it over—Larry Livermore is the guy.  More specifically, "The Guy".  My sheer stroke of luck, my co-worker grabbed me a book written by The Guy who distributed Green Days' first couple of albums on Lookout! Records back in the early 1990s. 

I am a huge Green Day fan.  I have every album, including their alter-ego Foxboro Hot Tubs album.  I hunkered down in the cold evenings in January and cracked open the first page of Spy Rock Memories, which is Larry Livermore's Memoir of his days living in a desolate, strange backwoods area known as Spy Rock.

Larry also produced and ran a small newspaper called the Lookout, which angered some of the colourful neighbours on the mountain.  So it was no surprise that the book is tight, well-written, and funny.  I was a little disappointed at first that I was ten page in and there was no Green Day.  After all, Billie Joe Armstrong himself was quoted on the back cover!  However, I quickly began to realize that there was enough drama on Spy Rock—snow drifts that could kill an unprepared resident, stray animals, shotgun-wielding neighbours and all sorts of marijuana growing.  It is a thoroughly entertaining read.  (A very young Tre Cool does make an appearance, although he is more scrawny twelve-year-old than world-class drummer.)

Overall, the book is a great read.  Too often in memoirs, the day-to-day details of people's lives are glossed over.  Punk bands go from unknown kids in a basement to global superstars, and we never get to see any of the actual details about how this transformation happened.  In Spy Rock Memories, we get a first-hand account of the producer and co-founder of Lookout! Records, who signed some successful (and some not-so-successful) punk rock acts.  It's a well-written look at the punk music scene in the late 1980s and 1990s.  But even if that doesn't interest you—well, there's people living on a mountain running generators, shooting bears and growing weed.  So there is definitely something for everyone.