If you’re a music fan of a certain age, you know the feeling: that moment you realize one of your favorite bands is coming to town and the show starts too late for you to go. What to do?
Five years ago, Deejay Mark Dantzer found himself wondering about this.
“How can I be a music fan who’s not 22? I’m not going to be at the bar seeing the newest band until 2 a.m. on a Thursday, so how are you a dad music lover who doesn’t want to listen to his Led Zeppelin album for the millionth time?”
He thought he had an answer: if you can’t see all the bands anymore—read about them.
And treat the books like you treat your favorite bands, that is, get your friends excited about them too. Dantzer reached out to musician Pat Buzzard about starting a music-themed book club, who quickly agreed to do it only on the condition their first book could be Motley Crue’s The Dirt. Musicians Ryan Smith and Chuck Johnson joined the group, and the Rock and Roll Book Club was born.
Initially, the it was an excuse to meet monthly with music buddies.
“Honestly my thought was, maybe we’ll even read the book,” Dantzer said. “And then, lo and behold, we got together the first time and everyone had read the book!” A few months later, they tried recording their conversation and liked what they heard. “I worked in radio where they would spend six figures trying to put shows together with three people who have the right chemistry. It’s really hard to do. And I feel like we lucked out there somehow.”
The Rock and Roll Book Club’s first podcast came out in 2014, and they’ve released one monthly ever since. Any book about music is fair game: in addition to rock, they’ve covered genres from jazz to skiffle, and artists from Portishead to Cyndi Lauper to David Bowie. Still, “we haven’t even scratched the surface,” Dantzer said.
Putting the podcast together requires more than just reading the book. Johnson said he watches “…documentaries, interviews, You Tube clips, I go real deep with it… I feel like we owe our listeners something,” adding that he also reads other books and listens to bands that influenced the subject. They also ask a monthly Facebook question related to the book, and anyone who’s response is read on-air receives a Rock and Roll Book Club T-shirt. Each episode comes out with an accompanying Spotify playlist, with every member contributing three songs inspired by the reading.
At the end of each episode, members take turns rating the book either shelf (meaning they recommend adding it to your bookshelf), borrow, or skip.
“We’re not like a book review show,” Smith said. “I hope no author ever hears our ratings and is like ‘I’m terribly offended because they just gave us a ‘borrow.’”
Though the guys in the Rock and Roll Book Club may be going to fewer shows these days, the podcast connects them to music in other ways.
“This reminds me of my first band,” Buzzard said. “There’s no money in it, there’s no accolades… it’s not like we get recognized walking down the street. We do this show purely for the love of it, you know, and it’s been nothing but 100 percent received [with] joy.”
Shelf” these Rock and Roll Book Club favorites:
Mark Dantzer: Life by Keith Richards and James Fox. “It’s kind of universally considered one of the best [music books ever written]. I agree with that assessment. It was the life that he has lived… These guys [the Rolling Stones] lived some pretty interesting lives and he’s got the most interesting… He’s my favorite, so that’s a home run.”
Pat Buzzard: Whores: An Oral Biography of Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction by Brendan Mullen. “It’s the first oral history I’ve ever read, which is all in quotes, and it was fantastically done. Like, now that we’ve read a few, I realize how good that was. At the time I thought it was incredible, and now that we’ve read other oral histories… that book is strong. It was fun to go back and listen to all the music again.”
Johnson: Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman. “I really enjoyed the way he kept time by using the albums he was listening to that year. At the end of each chapter, he lists his playlists of the era, and they are dope!”
Smith: The Trouble Boys, the True Story of the Replacements by Bob Mehr. “[It’s] really good… it’s only 400 pages so it’s long enough to be a proper book but not so long that [there’s an unnecessary level of detail]… it’s a story, and you can read it and not care about the Replacements, I think, and like it.”
The Rock and Roll Book Club will host a live recording and discussion of Waiting to Derail: Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown, Alt-Country’s Brilliant Wreck by Thomas O’Keefe and (Columbus native) Joe Oestreich June 19 at Gramercy Books in Bexley. For more, visit rnrbookclub.com.