Git R. Done

A wet and not-so-wild June has allowed me to catch up on reading, and dream of the book I’ll never write. 

By Brian McManus  
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jun. 23, 2009

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The good books: Reading about Tom Waits, Willie Nelson and Sting have been part of my rainy-days regimen.

Photo by Brian McMANUS

Every once in a long while, usually after a few too many drinks, I’ll call R. Kelly’s publicist. I got her number a few years back for a story I was working on for a newspaper in Houston, and haven’t been able to bring myself to erase it from my phone. 

Astute listeners of Kelly’s music recognize her name, Regina Daniels, because—in Kelly’s version of “turn my music up in the headphones”—he’s shouted it out on “Step in the Name of Love” and a few other songs in his long, weird catalogue over the years. 

Only that’s not exactly right, because Regina Daniels is no longer R. Kelly’s publicist. She left his employ of 14 years two summers back when it was revealed, very publicly, that Kelly had crossed a line and was—you guessed it—sleeping with Daniels’ stepdaughter. The whole thing got very ugly, and R. Kelly was forced to respond, saying Daniels knew of his relationship with her stepdaughter, then 21, and had, in fact, given him her number herself. 

“It was only after Ms. Daniels resigned her position to avoid being fired for incompetence that her stepdaughter’s relationship suddenly became an issue for her,” Kelly wrote in an official statement.

Oh, dear. Daniels still works in publicity, and when I (drunk) dial her, her voicemail—“Thank you for calling Daniels’ Entertainment Group. We are unable to answer the phone at this time ... ”—still picks up. There are lots of hard feelings here, I imagine, and maybe Daniels would like to spill them to me in the book I dream frequently of writing, R. Kelly: Feel This Man . (Still working on the title.)

Over the wet and not-so-wild month of June I’ve done lots of research on this book I’ll never write. Not by digging up facts or unearthing sources, but by reading other music books and bios that have found their way to the office in the last few months. Call it “template study.”

Here, dear reader, is a handy guide of new music books/procrastination tools.

Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits 

By Barney Hoskyns

For fans of Waits’ image—razor-blade gargling, turpentine running through his veins, sailing drunkenly on seas of bourbon en route to becoming America’s poet of lost causes—but not necessarily his Joe Cocker-gone-palsy act or how-low-can-you-go voice, Lowside is a prize. British journalist Barney Hoskyns, after much prying, is given unprecedented access to Waits and the friends and family that surround him and dives deep in this engrossing, comprehensive (609 pages!) portrait of the tormented tramp. Along the way we find Waits is every bit the riddle wrapped in an enigma we’ve always suspected, both refreshingly frank and full of shit. We also find that it was Waits’ wife, Kathleen Brennan, who was largely responsible for his transformation from sentimental ’70s crooner to wily ’80s junkyard dog. She introduced him to the music of Captain Beefheart, who Trout Mask Replica ’d all over Waits’ battered soul, changing him forever. 

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life

By Joe Nick Patoski 

Oh, you didn’t know? Willie Nelson is my grandfather. Not really. But I’m from Texas, and this is generally how we all feel. Joe Nick Patoski’s book, for that reason, reads like a Christmas card, and good vibes ooze off every page, even the ones describing the crippling poverty Nelson grew up in. Also: lots of weed. 

Lyrics By Sting

By Sting

Not exactly new, no, but this old chestnut has been on the bookshelf at Casa de McManus for a minute, and the wife I dusted it off recently to put it on the side table of our guest bed as a practical joke, to raise eyebrows. In visits past we’ve used The Adventurous Couples Guide to Strap-on Sex or multiple copies of different variations of A Complete Idiot’s Guide to ... but it’s always Lyrics By Sting that turns out to be the conversation starter, and most of those conversations start with three words: 1) Fuck 2) Is 3) This ? 

So a couple rainy, drunken weekends ago, after calling Regina Daniels, I dove in. The book features lyrics to more than 100 of Sting’s songs, presented in chronological order from the first Police album Outlandos D’Amour to Sting’s most recent solo rock album Sacred Love , which, apparently, exists. “I had a set of descending chords starting in G minor and a melancholy frame of mind. Inspired by the romance and sadness of Edmond Rostrand’s great play Cyrano de Bergerac and the prostitutes on the street below my window, ‘Roxanne’ came to life,” he writes of the song he wrote in Paris in 1977, almost daring you to still like it. 

Start & Run Your Own Record Label

By Daylle Deanna Schwartz

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