book review: How to Be a Man

how to be a man

How to Be a Man By Duff McKagan.
Da Capo Press| May 2015|304 pages |$25.99| ISBN: 978-0-306-82387-9

Rating: ***/5*

–review by Amy Steele

Easy read that I often found tiresome. I get it. You’re a wealthy rock-star with a model wife and enviable life. I never really liked rock bands in the 80s. Sure I liked some of Guns and Roses hits but I wasn’t all into them. I’m an altgirl. Always was. Always will be. I am not the target audience for this book. I’m a single GenX music critic who likes alternative music. Duff McKagan expresses his disdain for music journalists quite a few times. Don’t expect a tell-all filled with rock and roll debauchery. Duff McKagan is now 50, sober and married with two teenage daughters. McKagan writes: “I don’t remember the 80s. I remember being in a band. I remember my family. I remember the friends I lost to addiction. I am fully aware that I am lucky to have emerged.” Now McKagan writes columns for Seattle Weekly, ESPN.com and Playboy.com.

This is the calm family-man rocker advice book. He works out and does yoga. He prefers perusing books stores to heading to a strip club. He likes to take in the culture of a city he’s touring if he’s allowed the time. He uses a Blackberry because he believes in loyalty and probably didn’t want to learn how to use an iPhone because people on iPhones do as much business on their phones as those on Blackberries. It’s true. He provides advice based on his decades of traveling whether in a van and staying in motels or in a streamline tour bus and staying at high-end hotels– don’t roam on your data plan; use conditioner for shaving; be kind.

In a chapter entitled “Don’t Burn Any Bridges,” he writes: “Lazy journalists love to put tags on things to sum up a whole genre or moment with a one- or two-word phrase that will make their job easier. IF the tag can take a little backhanded swipe at a band—even better. We’ve seen this a million times: “stoner rock,” “grunge,” “indie,” “hair metal.” Okay McKagan but when you refer to Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard you call him “one of Seattle’s illustrious and beloved indie-rock front men” Okay. There goes your great advice/theory. In that chapter he was discussing with Gibbard the Bon Jovi song “Wanted Dead or Alive” with the lyric: “I’ve seen a million faces, and I’ve rocked them all.” McKagan doesn’t think you possibly can “rock” or entertain EVERYONE you play for. Gibbard agrees.

He tells you the 100+ albums you need to hear—including Adam and the Ants, Kings of the Wild Frontier; Aerosmith, Aerosmith (only time I saw GNR was opening for Aerosmith in 1987); Alice in Chains, Dirt; The Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique; The Clash, The Clash; Death Cab for Cutie, Something About Airplanes; P.J Harvey, To Bring You My Love; Jimi Hendrix, Axis: Bold as Love; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, I Love Rock and Roll; Joy Division, Closer; Jack White, Blunderbuss; The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell. He also recommends some favorite books including A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan [fantastic read]; Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro [a favorite of mine]; War by Sebastian Unger and Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

McKagan opens up about depression and how he deals with the dark moments. He exercises it out. He pushes it away. “Depression wants you to stay still. It wants you to lie in bed. That’s when you have to get up and run. If I am having black thoughts, I force myself up, and then I go and break a personal best record—or at least try. This has been my secret and savior. I run through it. I hot yoga with weights through it. I jump rope through it and life weights through it. I write when I don’t want to and ask my kids how school was and actually listen back through it. I make love through it and climb steep hills with a pack on my back through it.”

This book isn’t for everyone but many will find something in it that appeals to them.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Da Capo Press.

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purchase at Amazon: How to Be a Man: (and other illusions)

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