I love reading autobiographies and memoirs of musicians. I find that people who can express themselves lyrically can generally tell their story in a unique and meaningful way. Plus, it’s nice to read about their creative journey, their childhood, their band-mates. Some of the best of this genre have been written by artists I'd already been a fan of before reading their books - Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello. But Mikel Jollett? Who the heck was he? I thought I’d heard of his band, the California-based The Airborne Toxic Event, but if you’d ask me to name one of their songs, I couldn’t. Nevertheless, the book sounded interesting so I started listening to the music and read the book. Turns out, Hollywood Park is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. And unlike any other.
You may have heard of the Synanon cult. It gained notoriety in the early 1960’s as a community where drug addicts went to be rehabilitated. By the 1970’s it had turned into something sinister. One of the more bizarre and cruel aspects was that children were separated from their parents at the age of six months and raised separately, rarely seeing them. At some point, pregnant women were forced to have abortions. Welcome to the early childhood of Mikel Jollett and his brother Tony. Their mother eventually took the boys and escaped to Oregon. What follows is a remarkable story of an extremely smart and understandably damaged boy trying to survive life with a mother also suffering from her own personal hell who brings into the household troubled men who are far from father figures. Mikel eventually moves to California and develops a close relationship with his newly clean and straight father and his extended family.
It’s a tragic yet hopeful story. It is impossible to imagine what it was like to go through what the author experienced and to have the courage to tell his story. In a recent interview Jollett said, “I want this to be a thing that lives in the world because then it doesn’t just have to live in me.”
In addition to the book, Jollett and The Airborne Toxic Event just released their sixth studio album also named Hollywood Park. “The record is a soundtrack to the book, an hour-long concept record taken from scenes from the book, from my attempt to make sense of the forces which have touched my life,” notes Jollett. Like the book, the album is great.
I highly recommend the beautifully written Hollywood Park. And be sure to check out The Airborne Toxic Event.
5 out of 5 stars.
Nonfiction: Autobiography / Memoir.
Publication Date: May 26, 2020.
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