“When I do an interview and the writer apologized for not knowing anything about Soul Coughing other than Circles, I thank her or him exuberantly.”
This sums up the book. Mike Doughty hates a lot of things, but nothing as much as his first band and his most successful venture. Doughty rarely uses names in his memoir. The members of Soul Coughing are referred to as bass player, drummer and sampler player.
If you read this blog, you know that I love musician memoirs. The Book of Drugs is the first one I’ve encountered where the music takes a back seat. It’s so far back that it’s the last row of the bus. It’s not until about 50 pages before the books ends that he actually talks about liking music and his songwriting. Page 198: “I make exactly the kind of songs I love. So when I listen to them, I dig the hell out of them.” Thank God (with a capital G, Doughty used the lower case g which comes with an explanation) he is finally able to celebrate his music.
If you’re a Soul Coughing fan, don’t read this book. You will be chastised for believing in the band.
Doughty is probably his own worst enemy. I’ve worked with many musicians who had everything going for them: talent, creativity, people that believed in them and yet sabotaged their career. Jen Trynin is the first one who comes to mind. (Her book, Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be is a ‘everyone is wrong but me’ tome).
He’s not a team player. He doesn’t own up to his word. While on the road with Soul Coughing on a package tour, Redman left to be replaced by the Black Eyed Peas, who were unknown at the time. Excerpt: He describes them as “supergeeky and wanted every member of every other band they could round up to join them for a big jam at the end of their set. I’d say ‘sure’ and then would find someplace else to be when the time rolled around. These guys are going nowhere I thought.”
He has a very high opinion of himself. Excerpt: “We were a relatively successful cult band, but I think that had my bandmates chosen to let me be a bandleader, we could’ve been Led Zeppelin.” Is there irony here? If so, I didn’t catch it on paper.
There were a few moments of levity. This was a favorite line from the book. Excerpt: “I spent one night in Bangkok before a holiday in Cambodia.”
The memoir was interesting when he was talking about others such as the thinly disguised David Johansen who he meets through a twelve-step program. David has been known to stream the consciousness. He ends one conversation with “Did I ever tell you about the time I made Buddy Hackett cry?” I love Johansen.
The book is appropriately named. It’s what’s inside. If you’re looking for stories of scoring drugs, living while on drugs and making yourself and others miserable because you are taking drugs, this is your book. Its not called The Book Of Music so maybe I’m misguided in thinking it would have been about the music.