I have just finished reading Joe Satriani’s “Strange Beautiful Music a musical memoir” and, as expected, thoroughly enjoyed the book and couldn’t put it down. Joe Satriani is the most influential musician in my life, hearing Dreaming #11 on cassette completely changed the way I thought about guitar and music, it made me want to study music, BE a musician. When I heard Surfing With The Alien and then Flying In a Blue Dream my head nearly exploded, that was 1989 and I have bought every album Joe has released since and seen him play in England and Australia many times. So yes you could say I am a big fan but if you are borderline about buying this book just let me explain why you should read it.
I love reading biographies, especially guitarist biographies but this book is very different to some that I have read in the past such as Keith Richards, Tony Iommi, Yngwie Malmsteen or Slash. This book is different because Joe Satriani is different, there are no tales of debauchery because Joe has never lived that kind of rock ‘n roll lifestyle, but also because “Strange Beautiful Music A Musical Memoir” chronicles Joe’s life album by album. The fact that this biography was released at the same time as his complete studio recordings (which include remastered work) makes total sense to me now and considering that Joe has released new music almost continuously as a solo artist since 1985 and more recently as a member of Chickenfoot, Joe has plenty to write about. As an added bonus for me as I read each chapter about the writing and recording process, which goes into quite technical detail at times which I found fascinating, it made me want to listen again to that album knowing the full story behind the tracks and what it took to get the album into my hands in the first place.
Of course no memoir would be complete without an introduction to the early years which start with Joe’s obsession with Jimi Hendrix, his early band experiences through high school and his move from New York to the west coast where he taught guitar to the likes of Alex Skolnick and Kirk Hammett in order to pay the bills while he tried to get a recording contract. But the book really starts getting interesting when Joe launches his solo career. Co-author Jake Brown has managed to collate quotes from Joe’s producers and the plethora of amazing musicians who have played with him on his albums and live over the past 30 years such as John Cuniberti, Andy Johns, Steve Vai, Jeff Campitelli and Joe’s long time manager Mick Brigden. These quotes are in some cases an entire page long, so I should have probably called them something more descriptive , and include some great background stories which help fill in some of the gaps seeing as Satch has always led quite a private life. Aside from a couple, every chapter from Not Of This Earth onwards covers each release up to and including Satch’s latest solo album “Unstoppable Momentum”, which by the time you read this book you really understand how prolific Joe is as a composer and that the title sums up his life as a musician perfectly.
If you are a fan of Joe Satriani then “Strange Beautiful Music A Musical Memoir” is obviously a no-brainer, also if you are a guitarist there is a great list at the end of the book which documents all of the guitars, amps and effects that were used on all of Joe’s recordings. It makes a nice change to read a guitarist biography that concentrates almost 100% on the Music and the composition process and this is an extension of Joe’s utter devotion to guitar and intense focus throughout his career. A great read that I highly recommend you check out.