Admit it—you’ve got shame in your musical closet, too.
Journalist Sellers, born in 1970 in Grand Rapids, Mich. (where “most everybody listened to Journey. Including me.”), chronicles his lifelong obsession with rock music in this entertaining work. Sellers’ dad was a Bob Dylan fanatic and tried unsuccessfully to turn his three sons into Dylan converts. “We were force-fed Dylan at breakfast, lunch and dinner,” writes Sellers. “There was a lot of ‘Listen to this next song—I think you’ll like it.’ We never did.”
In 1981, Sellers’ world changed when MTV first appeared on the family’s television screen. Sellers grudgingly admits to a now-humiliating youthful devotion to Duran Duran and Wham!, and he spends several pages describing his fascination with early MTV videos of world-historical cheesiness, such as Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” “How embarrassing,” bemoans Sellers, “that a band as breezy and candy-coated as Duran Duran was once so important to me!” At his lowest point, Sellers sang Lionel Richie’s “Hello” at a karaoke bar because “that one girl” told him to.
Sellers’ musical tastes improved in 1985 when he discovered U2, his “alternative-rock gateway drug,” which led to New Order, The Smiths and Morrissey. With U2, Sellers began a pattern with bands he loved—as soon as they’d become too popular, as U2 did after the Joshua Tree album, he’d become disenchanted and move on to a lesser-known (and thus hipper) band.
During his freshman year at Michigan State University, Sellers hung out with a group of friends equally obsessed with The Smiths and Morrissey, listening for hours to music “that seemed tailor-made to awkward, sensitive, spineless guys such as I unfortunately was at that time.” During a 1990 pilgrimage to Manchester, England, Sellers witnessed “the squalor from which my favorite depressing musicians had sprung.”
Sellers lovingly details the crazy rites of musical obsession. “You let it dip into every facet of your life: your wardrobe, your hairstyle, the foods you eat, the drugs you take, the naming of your pets. … You will almost certainly blog about it. Tattoos are possibly involved.” Sellers describes himself rocking out in cars (“If traffic cops ticketed for DWR—driving while rocking—my license would have been revoked long ago”) and obsessively crafting musical lists (He includes dozens of them in the book. For example, his’ “five Songs I Am Most Annoyed By In All The World” includes Aerosmith’s “Rag Doll” at #3 and James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” at #5).
Sellers concludes his funny, self-effacing musical memoir with his most recent monomania, for Dayton-based band Guided by Voices. One of the reasons he loves Guided by Voices, and its booze-soaked frontman Bob Pollard, is the band’s relative obscurity. Sellers feels a highly personal connection to the band and its music. By book’s end, he fulfills two dreams when he makes a 2004 musical pilgrimage to Dayton, where he parties with Pollard, and is then invited onstage to sing with him during the band’s farewell tour. John Sellers has come a long way from “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.”