For anyone who has spent any time listening to Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave, or any of Ms Hersh’s 9 solo albums over the past 25 years (and if you haven’t, you should, she is – as cheesy as it sounds – a real American treasure, one of the greatest, unique songwriters we have), you will have probably noticed she is a vivid lyricist. Surreal, abstract, beautiful – take your pick. With that in mind, luck would have it that when she first started out in the music business back in 1985 she was writing a diary of sorts, and now she has expanded that diary into a memoir that covers one year of her life – from 1985 to 1986 – including her battles with bi-polar disease, trying to make it in the music business, and becoming a new Mom. I’ve personally only just started the book, but so far her writing is as wonderful, funny and bizarre as her lyrics have always been, and I can’t recommend it enough. Neither can the …
“At the Catholic university where her father teaches, Hersh befriends a student who turns out to be the old-time Hollywood star Betty Hutton, long past the glitter days of “Annie Get Your Gun.” In one of the book’s oddest moments, Hutton comes to see Hersh’s band in a sleazy club, bringing her priest along. She gives her protégée show-biz tips she claims to have received firsthand from Al Jolson. But her advice (don’t just sing, “fall in love”) falls on seriously deaf ears. “Betty sings about starlight and Champagne,” Hersh writes. “I sing about dead rabbits.”
Excerpt from Chapter 2:
“Before I disappeared into the Doghouse, the songs I heard were not devils, they were floaty angels. Gentle and meandering, interesting if you took the time to pay attention, but they wouldn’t necessarily stop you in your tracks. Now the songs I bring to my band are essential, bursting: harsh black-and-white sketches that my bandmates color in with their own personal noise. These songs grab your face and shout at it.
Do you want your face grabbed and shouted at? Probably not; at the very least, it’s irritating. But now that it’s happened to me, I know that music is as close to religion as I’ll ever get. It’s a spiritually and biologically sound endeavor – it’s healthy.
Some music is healthy, anyway. I know a lot of bands who’re candy. Or Beer. Fun and bad for you in a way that make you feel good. For a minute. My band is … spinach, I guess. We’re ragged and bitter. But I swear to god, we’re good for you.”
The paperback is out now in the States with Penguin Boons under the title Rat Girl, and in January it will be released in the UK as a hardcover with the title Paradoxical Undressing. Both of the beautiful covers are below – both by long time Hersh collaborators.
Andrew W. Bush
43rd President of the United States of America
This Week’s Box Office Top Ten (circa 25 years ago)
Weekend of October 18-20, 1985