What books are on your night stand right now?
Richard Boch’s “The Mudd Club,” and Nick Hornby’s “Funny Girl.”
Your biography of Jerry Nolan seems incredibly thorough—can you tell us something about the process for researching this book?

I tried to speak to everybody that had anything to do with him as well as get my hands on anything written about him. I started just e-mailing people I knew that knew him, like all the Rockats, a band Jerry and I both spent time in, Lesley Vinson, a friend who dated him for a bit, and a few others. Then there were people I had to do some internet sleuthing to find for interviews, like author Nina Antonia, and the late Leee Black Childers, who I hadn’t spoken to in over 20 years. Through the web I was surprised to get responses from Billy Squier and Suzi Quatro. I also searched out his mom and various other girlfriends, plus a number of people already mentioned hooked me up with phone numbers and email addresses of loads of other friends, band mates, and girlfriends. It was off to the races at that point.
I also used libraries, the web and services like rocksbackpages.com to find old articles. Nina, and other writers like Doug Simmons from the Village Voice and Andy Schwartz from the NY Rocker either sent me old articles or discussed whatever they remembered from interviewing him.

I slowly began transcribing the interviews and stringing them together into an oral history, and then filling in the empty portions with archival material. That formed the raw material I wrote the book from.
I also listened to everything I could get my hands on that Jerry had played on, including bootlegs and guest spots with other artists. I also contacted people in unrecorded bands that he’d played with. They were able to tell me what it was like to play and travel with him.

I took a trip to Stockholm and dove through 3 storage units owned by his ex-wife. I spoke a number of times with his biological son, who despite never meeting Jerry, shared many affectations as well as likes and dislikes. I contacted his old school district in Lawton, Oklahoma for photos. I contacted the Veterans’ Administration for information on where his step father was based in Hawaii and Oklahoma. I even poured through old phone books in the NY public library to find out where he lived and when.

And what was it like to dive so intimately into someone else’s life?
It becomes an obsession. I felt like the stalker of a dead person. I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. Like most writers, we’d prefer to work alone, but you need the cooperation of others to get what you need. So, I had to learn to cold call and to “pitch.” You get lots of “no”s. I still hate it, but in actuality, I made some great friends through that process. Ironically, although I like to work alone, I cherish the friendships I made throughout the process. That was one of the most satisfying aspects of it all.
Without spoilers, what's your favorite Jerry Nolan story that we'll get to read in Stranded In The Jungle?
Most of my faves were those poignant moments of vulnerability that tore through the cloak of “cool” that he tried to hide behind. But a funny story came to me via the late Joy Ryder, who put out a record with Avis Davis in the late ’70s called “No More Nukes!” Jerry played with them at a Rock against Racism gig in Ohio. After a day of finding him drums, and a fix, they all sat down for a relaxing cigarette at the end of the night. Jerry had one question for Avis:
“What’s a mook?” Avis was confused and asked him to clarify. Jerry said, “You know, that song of yours ‘No More Mooks!’ What’s a ‘mook?” Avis just found a way to delicately change the subject.
What were some of Jerry Nolan's musical influences and why do you think they made an impression on him?
Besides the earliest rock and roll like Elvis, Frankie Lymon, and Gene Vincent, without a doubt, Jazz legend Gene Krupa was number one for him. Gene transcended drumming. He, probably more than anyone, brought drums to the forefront in popular music. He had his own style, both in look, and sound. And he was an original. Jerry aspired to all those things.
Tell us about your favorite New York story from the late 70's, either that happened to you or by an author who got it right.
The stories about Connie Gripp, Arthur Kane’s girlfriend, and then Dee Dee Ramone’s girlfriend. She was so unhinged and the stories are legendary; trying to cut off Arthur’s thumb; stabbing Dee Dee in the ass; the fights she’d get into with whomever her boyfriend cheated on her with, or dated after trying to dump her; her use of blackberry brandy to tempt Arthur or heroin to tempt Dee Dee. What a team of psychotic screwballs.
What was the last great book you read?
I loved Bob Mehr’s book on the Replacements, “Trouble Boys.” He did his homework, and really did a great job of transmitting to the reader the essence of the band and each individual member. Plus, I was finishing up my book at the time, and I just marveled at each of his sentences. There’s a certain flow and economy to the prose that I admired. It wasn’t pompous or saccharine, but you felt the pathos as well as the humor when reading it. There just didn’t seem to be many wasted words or phrases.
Which book genres are you drawn to?
I’ve always been a bio and non-fiction fan. I’m interested in history and I like real stories about real people. It’s why I like documentaries as well as drama based reality films: the Godfather series, Goodfellas, American Hustle. But I also enjoyed Phillip Roth & Joseph Heller growing up. And Hunter Thompson’s two road books: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and Las Vegas.
What were your favorite books as a child?
As far as I’m concerned “Harry The Dirty Dog” can’t be beat.
You're organizing a literary gathering. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
I think a panel discussion on writing biographies would be interesting. I’d have Bob Mehr, Holly George-Warren (“A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton”), and maybe Clinton Heylin (“Behind the Shades: Bob Dylan). It would be to compare notes…and laugh.
Now you're organizing a private concert. Which artists/bands do you invite?
The original NY Dolls, James Brown and the Famous Flames, and the Beatles. Might as well go for the best.
Whom would you want to write your life story?
That’s too scary to even consider. I think the list of people I DON’T want is easier to develop.
What do you plan to read next?
I have Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” and “M Train” at the ready.
Do you have any readings or events coming up? Where? When?

It’s all on my website curtweiss.com under the “events” link:

 

  • 10/18/17, 6P @ The Girl Can’t Help It , 3806 Grim Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
  • 10/19/17, 7P @ Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069
  • 10/23/17, 7P @ Books Inc. , 1491 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709
  • 10/25/17, 6P @ Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight St. San Francisco, CA 94117
  • 10/28/17, 7P @ Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 Tenth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122
  • 11/5/17, 4:30P @ Som Records, 1843 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
  • 11/6/17, 7P @ Brewery ARS (in partnership w/Sit & Spin Records), 1927-29 W Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19145
  • 11/9/17, 7P @ The Delancey, 168 Delancey St. New York, NY 10002
  • 11/10/17, 7P @ Iris Records, 114 Brunswick Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302
  • 11/11/17, 3P @ Tres Gatos Books, 470 Centre St. Jamaica Plain (Boston), MA 02130
  • 11/12/17, 2:15P @ Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery & More, 541 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
  • 11/16/17, 7:30P @ Powell’s Books on Hawthorne, 3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97214

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