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Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 13, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his grumpy but informative memoir, Wareham, the lead guitarist and vocalist for seminal independent rock bands Galaxie 500 and Luna, recounts the highs and lows of his life as a musician. While Wareham's narrative voice is not particularly warm, he is refreshingly frank (though quite defensive) about the personal conflicts that broke up Galaxie 500, as well as about his later, somewhat more conventional rock and roll antics, which included drug use and infidelity. For most readers, the heart of the book will come in the first hundred odd pages, which focus on the financially difficult but artistically fruitful run of Galaxie 500, featuring Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, in the late 1980s and early '90s. The stories of nights spent on the floors of college radio station managers and recording classic albums in three days are the stuff of do-it-yourself legend, and at its best, the book serves as a clear narrative of the travails of independent musicians in the days before mp3s and Pitchfork Media (which gets a snarky shout-out). Wareham gets a lot of mileage out of frustration with booking agents, band mates and radio stations, and over the course of the book, one gets a prevailing sense of how truly difficult it can be for some great musicians to break through the mass media wall. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Wareham and Britta Phillips, his wife and musical collaborator, were generally thought the two best-looking members of the defunct band Luna, and one critic compliments their album Black Postcards for consisting of “lovingly crafted cocktail hour visions.” New Zealander Wareham, rather an indie-rock legend if hardly a pop-music household name, was a guiding force in Galaxie 500 before forming Luna; meeting, collaborating with, and marrying Phillips; and embarking on their career as a duet. After 19 albums by his various acts, he’s well entrenched as a respected crafter of songs in a dazzling array of styles. Here, he offers a candid life story replete with the usual indie-rock attributes of bitter self-awareness, regret, and wickedly insightful humor. More of the same indie-rock stuff to many readers, perhaps, but a well-told tale that may prove to be the year’s best book about a prolific pop musician few readers will have heard of until now. --Mike Tribby --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (March 13, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 1594201552
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,087,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Walenta on June 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Andy Warhol said that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. If one is lucky enough to land a recording contract with a name record company, write brilliantly crafted rock songs, and tour endlessly, then one might get to be 'almost famous' for 15 years. Such is the story that Dean Wareham, who was the lead singer songwriter of the alternative/indie rock bands Galaxie 500 and Luna, tells in his hilariously satirical, meticulously detailed and occasionally disturbing semi-autobiographical tome, "Black Postcards: A Rock Roll Romance" (The Penguin Press, New York, 2008). This is an essential read for anyone who loves rock music, as it is one of the most well written and insightful accounts from the trenches of the often seamy and occasionally glorious scene that was the alternative rock music business.

Drawing his reminiscences from a diary that his father, a successful management consultant suggested he keep, Wareham chronicles his middle class childhood in New Zealand and later in New York City. It was in New York where Dean came of age in the late 1970's during the halcyon days of punk and new wave. Like a sponge, Wareham absorbed the music, the style and the ethos of punk and new wave rock. Ever opinionated, Wareham quickly draws sharp lines of demarcation between "good" and "bad" music. The Clash, Joy Division, Talking Heads, and The Feelies fell into Dean's category of "good" music. U2, Metallica, The Cure and other big name bands who received extensive radio airplay, were not especially 'cool'.
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Format: Hardcover
A decent memoir by an indie rock icon. Undoubtedly it helps to be a fan of either Galaxie 500 or Luna, the cult bands Wareham fronted in the 80s and 90s. Wareham's no hack, but the book lacks narrative shape. A good writer on a small scale, the endless anecdotes flatten out as tour after tour is related in inconsequential detail. This approach does manage to convey the tedium of life on the road in an almost famous band: the crappy hotels, squalid clubs, long drives. We don't get much insight into the creative process, except the negotiations of recording an album in a democratic ensemble. Nor do we get much in the way of celebrity name dropping, though Luna opened for Lou Reed (one of the two times I saw them), who appears in a photo op and contributes a dustjacket blurb. Wareham is in fact, pretty discreet, handling the climax of the book, his infidelity and divorce from his first wife, with kid gloves. A salacious tell-all this is not.

What he does talk about is food: paella in Spain, barbecue in Texas, brisket on Houston Street. He also has the sniffy attitude of a fanboy music nerd of a particularly 80s ilk, catty about bands he doesn't like. Favorite road game: "Who wouldn't you open for?"

But Wareham's a smart guy who doesn't wear his Harvard education on his sleeve. There are a fair number of wry asides and one liners. Though some of these stories fall flat, I guess you had to be there.

There are also some genuinely poignant moments, like when he catches sight of his toddler son across the avenue the day he walked out on his first marriage.

All in all this is a respectable book for fans and those interested in the nuts and bolts of being in a minor league rock band. Still, better worth waiting for the paperback.
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Dean Wareham is a musical icon, and this book, while sparse, is very charming in a lot of ways. If you have any interest in Galaxy 500 or Luna, then you'll likely find this book interesting. The Galaxy 500 stuff feels a little more personal, or immediate - I don't know the best word to describe it. The fact that the band famously had an acrimonious split makes his history of how it went down pretty interesting. He doesn't go out of his way to find blame, but explains his feelings and why it needed to end, as far as he was concerned.

The Luna chapters - a much longer period of time - blend together a little bit, but I think it portrays the tedium of low-level rock "stardom" very well. His music career is the framework, and as that goes along we get surface level details about his personal life, band and record label conflicts, dealings with other musicians, etc. Wareham gives you a pretty good insight into what kind of person he is, but you only get the barest of inkling regarding bandmates, family members, love interests, etc. Which is fine - he's revealing things about himself and respecting (mostly) the privacy of those around him. I think it's important to point out that Wareham doesn't try to paint himself in any particular light. He's not trying to play the musical genius, the misunderstood artist, the ladies man, the wild rock musician, etc. He presents himself, warts and all, without concern for showing himself , which happens from time to time. He seems like a pretty normal guy from a fairly privileged upbringing who got involved in the music scene, formed an iconic indie band (Galaxie 500) and a much-less-lauded follow up (Luna - who I actually like much better). You learn how much the music industry sucks, and apparently how little money is made - if any is to be had at all - by bands at this level. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Definitely worth reading if you're a fan.
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