June 28, 2005
Killing Yourself To Live is a chronicle of Chuck Klosterman's epic road trip to visit rock and roll death sites. Like every good road book, along the journey he learns as much about rock and roll as he does about himself. Klosterman's pointed music references and pop culture insights make the book a quick, but fulfilling read.
Here is Chuck Klosterman's "Book Notes" selection for Killing Yourself To Live, in his own words:
"Pretty Vacant," the Sex Pistols
"Jolene," Dolly Parton
"Desert Moon," Great White
"Crazy in Love," Beyonce
"I’m a Cuckoo," Belle and Sebastian
"Downtown," Petula Clark
"The National Anthem," Radiohead
"Gimme Three Steps," Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Truck On (Tyke)," T. Rex
"Layla," Derek and the Dominos
"I Don’t Want To Know," Fleetwood Mac
"I’m Always in Love," Wilco
"Italian Girls," Rod Stewart
"You Can’t Fool Old Friends with Limousines," The Thrills
"Custard Pie," Led Zeppelin
"New York Groove," Ace Frehley/KISS
"About a Girl," Nirvana
"Killing Yourself to Live," Black Sabbath
This mix tape would be (more or less) the entire book: Killing Yourself to Live starts at the Hotel Chelsea (to investigate the death of Sex Pistol bassist Sid Vicious), and then I immediately start talking about women I’ve dated (one of which is like the girl described in "Jolene"). I proceed to drive a rental car to the spot in Rhode Island where 100 people died in the 2003 Great White club disaster; it so happens that the fire started while they were playing "Desert Moon" (which I realize is a terrible song, but that’s life). "Crazy in Love" was all over the radio while I was driving across the country that particular summer, so I needed to include that single. One of the book’s chapters is subtitled Dear Catastrophe Waitress, which I why I incorporated Belle & Sebastian (and I picked "I'm a Cuckoo" because it’s an homage to Thin Lizzy). "Downtown" has a specific significance to one of the female characters in this story, and "The National Anthem" relates to a section that outlines how (and why) Radiohead’s Kid A can be experienced as the soundtrack to 9/11. I visited the location of the Skynyrd plane crash, so that’s what they’re integrated here; I threw in a T. Rex song just because Marc Bolan is dead. "Layla" plays a central role for in a dream sequence near the middle of the narrative. Fleetwood Mac is awesome. The Wilco song is metaphoric of the book’s premise, and I also discuss a conversation I once had with Jeff Tweedy about Rumours, so those two tracks fit together nicely. This whole manuscript is kind of about my (mostly unspoken) relationship to Rod Stewart, so I included his most underrated song. The Thrills number makes me think about returning to rural North Dakota, which is something else I did. I could probably have picked any Zeppelin tune, but I really love the core riff on "Custard Pie." There is a long passage in the book where I analyze girls I’ve slept via the context of the 1978 KISS solo albums, and the highest-charting single from those albums was Ace’s disco metal effort "New York Groove." The story ends in Kurt Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, Wash., hence "About a Girl" (which, I suppose, could be said about this entire narrative). And – obviously – the book is titled Killing Yourself to Live, which I lifted from Sabbath's always excellent "Killing Yourself to Live."
This would actually be a killer f*cking album, now that I think about it. Except for that Great White song.