Blame it on Keith Richards and the inexorable passage of time.
Since the Rolling Stone's memoir Life became a million-selling sensation in 2010, book publishers have been keen to get music celebrities to bare their souls and tell lewd and licentious tales about their creative heydays.
The outpouring of rock-and-roll memoirs spurred by Life, as well as Patti Smith's National Book Award-winning Just Kids (2010), is reaching critical mass.
Artists of a younger vintage than the septuagenarian Stone have grown long enough in the tooth to look back, with a particular concentration by acts that came of age in the punk-New Wave-disco 1970s.
That period is also the focus of City on Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg's 900-page music-saturated, hotly hyped novel, whose spine I have yet to crack.
Many of the 2015 music memoirs of note are by women of that era who fought the testosterone tide in a gender-imbalanced industry. Three-quarters of the books examined here fit that description: Reckless: My Life As a Pretender, by Chrissie Hynde; I'll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones; and M Train, the follow-up by Germantown- and Deptford Township-raised rock poet Smith. The fourth, and the longest, is Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, the sprawling 670-page volume by Elvis Costello.
The femme-rock trend continues with Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Sleater-Kinney guitarist and Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein, whose Oct. 29 appearance at the Merriam Theater comes with a $60 price tag that includes a signed book.
And there are more: Warren Zanes' Petty: The Biography arrives on Nov. 10, the same day Pulitzer Prize-winning Elvis Presley biographer Peter Guralnick's Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll goes on sale. Already in stores is Ray Benson and David Menconi's tale of a Philadelphia kid turned Texas cowboy: Comin' Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel.
But back to the New Wave-era memoirs at hand. Readers of rock books have a jones for juicy tidbits but also seek authentic authorial voices. The Hynde, Smith, and Costello books meet the latter criteria.
Reckless is the most straightforward, starting with Hynde's childhood in Akron, Ohio, and following her to the 1970s London-rock demimonde, ending abruptly with the deaths of two bandmates just two albums into the Pretenders' career.
M Train takes a different approach. It's a series of jewel-box essays without the continuous narrative - or heartbreaking denouement - of Just Kids, about Smith's relationship with the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. And Unfaithful Music is what you'd expect of Costello: a bursting-at-the-seams history that takes in his upbringing as the son of a singer and trumpet player through collaborations with Paul McCartney, Anne-Sophie Mutter, and the Roots.
Surprisingly, Jones' I'll Never Write My Memoirs - the title refers to a lyric whose promise the book breaks - is the most conventional bio of the bunch, written with Paul Morley. Which is not to say the life of the Jamaican-born, 67-year-old supermodel, disco diva, and gay icon is the slightest bit dull.
Memoirs is honest and smart about the music business, and it shows how Jones brought fresh attitude to the fashion world. The book also has a highly entertaining pre-Studio 54 interlude in Philadelphia. A college professor urges Jones to join a summer stock theater adaptation of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales being performed on campus at St. Joseph's University. Grace Jones and Middle English literature - made for each other!
"It was my first real big-city experience. Once I had a taste of it, I was hooked," she writes of her Philadelphia years. She gets arrested by police, who assume she's a prostitute because she has a white boyfriend; she works as a Playboy bunny and is secretary and social companion to "well-known libertine, bon vivant and man about town" Harry Jay Katz.
At certain points, the memoirs intersect. Jones lives as a nudist and drops acid in Philly and becomes friends with Timothy Leary. Hynde goes to a party in L.A. and runs into a nude, acid-dropping Leary, and while she's recording a cover of future boyfriend Ray Davies' "Stop Your Sobbing" with producer Nick Lowe, Costello turns up to add vocals.
Reckless is great fun at points, and also a disappointment. It's filled with incident - while still a teenager in Ohio, Hynde gives David Bowie a postconcert ride in her mother's Oldsmobile - but she tells her story in a hurry, without pausing for much reflection. Her reaction to signing a long-awaited record deal is typical: "I just wanted to get on with it, bypassing any fuss."
Hynde has taken heat for the book's depiction of an incident in Ohio when she was 21 in which she was forced to have sex with a group of "heavy bikers" under threat of violence. The rocker's stance - "If I'm walking around in my underwear and I'm drunk, whose fault can it be?" she told the Times of London - has angered many who rightly consider her a feminist pioneer. But saying she takes full responsibility for her actions is in keeping with the I-look-out-for-myself attitude throughout Reckless, in which she also refuses to be bossed around by men she dismisses with a "sorry, buddy boy" disdain.
Those hoping for dirty rock-and-roll dealings from M Train are reading the wrong book. The slim volume is more of a literary exercise of dreamlike musings fueled by coffee and intellectual curiosity, dotted with references to French and Japanese literature and Smith's favorite TV cop shows. Some, like one in which she sings Buddy Holly songs in Iceland with Bobby Fischer, drift amiably. Others, such as an account of traveling to French Guiana with late husband Fred "Sonic" Smith on a Jean Genet pilgrimage, are expertly executed. Smith will read from M Train at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Nov. 6.
The Costello book is capacious, clever, and full of heart and soul. It has a bit of everything, from backstories behind previously puzzling song lyrics to controversy regarding a 1979 drunken brawl in which he referred to Ray Charles using a racial slur. He's still obviously deeply ashamed and rightly says there are no excuses.
What comes across most of all in Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink - which, in true Costello fashion, even has a title that's a little too much - and what makes it so engaging is Costello's omnivorous appetite for music in all forms. Making sense of his ecumenical affection for jazz and show tunes and rock-and-roll and country music, he writes: "There is no high and low. The beautiful thing is, you don't have to choose, you can love it all."