the girl in the red beret.

"I can make my own thing and be queen of it, instead of running after Joni Mitchell."

the girl in the red beret.
“Of course I remain the unseen image at the Last Supper. Was I ever there? Scholars disagree. Do women have an impact on men or is it only the other way around? Well, depending on which men you read, I suppose the answer is no, men alone influence women. What a crock of shit.”

--Rickie Lee Jones, Last Chance Texaco

My favorite book so far this year is Rickie Lee Jones’ autobiography, Last Chance Texaco. I moved it up my “to be read” list because my friend and colleague Alison Fensterstock was interviewing Rickie Lee for the May issue of MOJO and couldn’t stop talking about how great it, and Rickie Lee, was. I am sorry I did not read it the minute I got it. It was like falling into a warm bath. It is emotional and immersive and if I had read it in my Twenties it might have been dangerous.

I think about how Rickie Lee followed her muse and her faith in herself and some undefined cosmic belief in music and art and life, and let her heart be broken and her spirit almost destroyed, and yet along the way she picked up bits and pieces, tiny jewels, crumbs no one else saw, and then saved them up to build her songs. No one else saw the way she did. The lyricism in the writing of this book is breathtaking.

Those two still exist as ghosts of that witching hour, the echoes of their heartbeats, the infinite wrangling of lovers, frenzied and smooth, then exhausted, they recover as the sun rises on the freeways, to dream and head west. My ghost, always driving west.

It took me so long to read because I had to keep putting it down after passages like that one and just...breathe.

We do not hear enough of the stories and the lives of women, especially as told by themselves, or other women. I am still angry that I did not know enough about Janis Joplin until last year when I got to read Holly-George Warren on her. To have the privilege to learn about a tremendous artist’s life outside the male gaze was revolutionary and transformative. But I am already old and I should not have had to wait this long for these stories. Don’t tell me that there were other books; I read those books, I read everything, or at least try to.

Another unique element of Last Chance Texaco is that Rickie Lee is not mincing words. There are few things I hate more than when someone says, “Tell me how you really feel” when I have already been doing that, because it is offered as a thing that women should not be doing, that we should somehow not be clear and direct, that it is deeply offensive when we don’t wrap our words in flowers and ribbon and when our physical appearances are insufficiently pleasing to exist, much less demand attention, much less make art.

The violence and self-destruction among male musicians was a badge of manliness. Keith Richards and Ginger baker are winked at, even admired for their longevity in drug use.

It seemed to me that people really wanted me to be perfect. Rock women were being shamed for the same behavior men were being hailed for.

But it is also full of stories of hitchhiking, living in communes, falling in love, meeting leprechauns, Van Morrison, and, of course, everything you ever wanted to read about her and Tom Waits. (Of course you want to read about that. I wanted to read about that. But I liked everything on either side of that part just as much.)

Also, I have been re-listening to her records again and again, and they still hold up sonically, emotionally, lyrically. My god. I am now angry that she was under-sold and under-appreciated.

My friend and colleague Annie Zaleski has written a 33 ⅓ book about Duran Duran’s Rio and you should pre-order it. She had full band cooperation and they are excited for its release. She is also leading up to the book’s release with D2 trivia on Instagram and Twitter.

LAND OF HOPE AND DREAMS is the name of a virtual conference being organized to discuss and celebrate the work and vision of Dave Marsh. The conference begins this weekend and is free to attend, but you do need to register in advance; talks will be archived on YouTube at a later date.

Dave was a personal hero of mine as a teenage (and later) music writer, so I am thrilled to be participating in this event. It’s been a joy to jump back into reading his work as part of my preparation for the discussions.

APRIL 30, 8:30pm ET

I am delighted to be speaking with retired rock critic Mr. Jon Landau for the opening Spotlight Conversation. Register here.

MAY 15, 11:00AM ET

The Legacies of Dave Marsh: Collaboration, Empathy, Mentorship

I’m looking forward to joining with the panel to discuss Dave’s support for musicians addressing social issues; Dave as a collaborator and network building; the importance of empathy.

Register here.

Stay safe & be well.