In brief: The story of New York and the growing rock and roll scene from 2001 to 2011. Think The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and all their contemporaries.
The good: Loved reading about bands I like and being reminded of others.
The not-so-good: Bought quite a few CDs and vinyl while reading this book.
Why I chose it: To read about The Killers, The Strokes, Interpol and Franz Ferdinand – but I got a whole lot more.
Publisher: Dey Street Books (Harper Collins)
Setting: New York (Manhattan and Brooklyn)
Rating: 10 out of 10
Meet Me in the Bathroom has appeared on many band forums since its release, especially those bands who are currently working on new albums. (We fans need something to tide us over while we wait not-so-patiently). I first heard of this book via The Killers subreddit but it’s appeared on others since (a bit of a chicken versus egg story as I’ve discovered/rediscovered many bands since starting this book). Essentially, this is the story of the revival of rock and roll in the noughties from the viewpoint of New York City.
Why NYC? Well, NYC was undergoing something of a revolution of sorts with a new mayor with new ideas, followed by 9/11. All that plus people being over grunge/trance/dance/techno/pop brought forward a new sound. (Perhaps not new exactly, but something that jaded fans could get behind). The most well-known band to rise in New York was The Strokes. A group of mates got together, formed a band and became the new cool that set forth in motion a number of great bands. (For example, The Killers who were a fledging Las Vegas band at the time ditched all their songs except Mr Brightside after hearing The Strokes’ debut album, Is This It. Arctic Monkeys are big fans of The Strokes, with Alex Turner opening with , ‘I just wanted to be one of The Strokes‘ in Star Treatment from their latest album Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino.) But this isn’t all about The Strokes. It’s about other bands, some of which aren’t remembered as well (Fischerspooner, Jonathan Fire*Eater) and some that are still part of a worldwide conversation (Interpol, Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend). Others have fallen off my radar but are now firmly back on (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The White Stripes, The National).
What makes Meet Me in the Bathroom extraordinary is the way the story is told. It’s a collection of interviews with people who were there – the artists, the record company people, journalists, bloggers, DJs, producers…the whole works. (If you’ve read Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, this is the non-fiction equivalent in style.) What Lizzy Goodman has done is compile those hundreds of interviews and put them together in a chronological fashion charting the rise of rock and roll coming out of New York City, hitting a peak and moving across to Brooklyn. It’s addictive reading as you watch The Strokes going from shows of 30 people to world wide tours. Interpol move from being a band practising in a dodgy loft space to being courted by mainstream record labels. Most of the bands mentioned are American (Franz Ferdinand, The Vines and The Hives are all mentioned) and this is understandable as this rise came out of America.
There are also no holds barred in these interviews. There are plenty of drugs. Business partnerships become friendships which breakdown to the point of no return. Dreams are achieved and then dashed. Some people in hindsight, are tools. But overall, the story is one of success, friendships, good times and bloody good music. The book also charts the rise of the blogger and the internet as the main medium to get music heard and listened to. (Napster, Limewire, CD burning…all a time of discovery as music became accessible to everyone and you didn’t need to scout the overseas magazines in record stores for info). It was also a time of breaking down barriers, that it was OK to like rock and dance music.;
This book is so detailed and gives an insider’s view of what it was like to be part of that scene. But the best thing is – it’s not too late to go out and catch some of these fine bands live.