Anthony Bozza’s work covers the gamut of writing styles and content. From humor to heavy-duty criticism, his books elevate the music writing genre. A big fan of fiction writers ranging from Charles Dickens, James Joyce, and Vladimir Nabokov to Chuck Palahniuk, Katherine Dunn, and Amy Hempel, Bozza’s work has a literary quality to it that a lot of journalism lacks.
Here is a quick roundup of Bozza’s three books plus a bit of news on his progress that is currently in the works.
Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem
–Published in 1998
Intelligent, sophisticated, and downright scholarly, Whatever You Say I Am is a welcome respite during a time when too much music journalism is reduced to gossip headlines and fifty-word album reviews. In this book, Bozza examines one of our most controversial artists through the microscope of society. Not content to just review the music, Bozza looks through both ends of the lens by commenting upon our culture and Eminem’s place within it, as well as his influence upon it. And Bozza’s unprecedented access to the rapper ensures the reader a look at Eminem that goes far deeper the tabloid headlines.
It is March 1999, and it is cold in Detroit, the kind of cold that freeze-dries sound. Snow piled in banks frames the sides of the road and grows higher the farther the avenues ripple out from the center of the city. The roads here are small highways, just two lanes each way. Far from downtown, off the interstate, the roads narrow. The lights are fewer and the trees taller. Standing not far from one of these byways, ankle deep in snow, I hear the woosh of a lone passing car. Behind me, the trailer park is silent and as still as a morgue. It is two in the morning. In front of me, a blond guy in baggy clothes trudges up the stairs of a trailer and reads the eviction notice on his front door…
…I look around at the brand-new television, the VCR, and the couch we are sitting on, all obviously bought in the past six months, and I realize that Marshall already lives the entertainer’s life. He won’t feel afloat existing in hotels and out of suitcases from now on. He has known only flux for the past twenty years, moving from home to home, living in different cities, changing schools, and working more than he didn’t, at one job or another, since he was fifteen. His anchors in this world are here in his mother’s double-wide: his daughter, Detroit, Kim, and the pen and the pad on the counter. There are no mementos of Marshall’s childhood here; they exist in his mind, caught in the chaos he churns into words. Thos mental pictures have sold 500,000 albums in just two weeks.
It is later than late now and time for me to go. Kim gets up drowsily and Marshall puts his arm around her. I look around the trailer once more, knowing I’ll never see it again. Soon enough, neither will they. A few weeks later, they will move in with Kim’s mother; some of her neighbors, excited to see Eminem on their block, won’t realize he is actually Marshall, Kim’s boyfriend, the one who has been stopping by off and on since he was sixteen. Just two weeks after the release of a debut that will go on to sell three million copies in one year, garner two Grammys, and inspire a call to censorship by the editor in chief of Billboard, that Marshall, the one who cooked and cleaned at Gilbert’s Lodge for his minimum wage, is already gone.
The cold air wakes me as I crunch through the snow on the stairs. Marshall stands in the doorway, Kim at his side, one of Hallie’s blankets in his hand. He nods a good-bye. Standing there, the next rap superstar doesn’t look dazzling. He looks weary, wary, and content. He’s as home as he can be.
–Published in 2004
—New York Times Bestseller
Frenetic, humorous, and chaotic, Tommyland is a roller coaster look inside Tommy Lee’s hyperactive world. Containing narration from Lee, sticky notes from the editor, footnotes from Bozza, interviews with Lee’s high school music teacher as well as ex-wife Pamela Anderson, and even some chapters from Lee’s famous appendage, the book is also surprisingly heartfelt and sincere in some sections. Sure, there are plenty of discussions of sex, porn stars, and tattoos, but there are also moving passages about the love Lee has for his family.
My dad died of multiple myeloma, cellular cancer that invades your red and white blood cells. It’s treatable, but it’s not curable. I spent a lot of time with him when he was sick and I’m glad I was able to. I couldn’t stand seeing him spend his last days in a hospital bed at home surrounded by four stupid walls, so I rented a houseboat where he could wake up in nature on the water every day. I wanted him to wake up and not see walls–just water, mountains, and blue sky. He deserved to smell the barbecue and have a fishing pole in his hands one last time, because fishing was my dad’s favorite pastime. My assistant Viggy and I lifted him out of his bed and into his wheelchair, and rolled him out to the deck. We put his cowboy hat and some shades on him and there we were, fishing together one last time. He had the biggest smile on his face and I did too, even though inside I was crying because I knew, and so did he, that this was it. I felt lucky to have this time with him because I really didn’t see him enough when I was younger. I really didn’t see anybody but my bandmates from the time I was seventeen until I was thirty-eight. It was a gift to share my dad’s last days with him and tell each other all those things we didn’t say earlier in our lives.
Just before he died, I was with him, and tears start coming out of his eyes when he looks at me and says, “I’m not scared.” I start crying too, and he says, “I’ve got amazing kids. I’ve had an amazing life. I’m ready. Don’t worry about me, it’s okay. This is okay, I’m ready to go now. I love your mother and I’ve loved my life. I’m ready now.” We were crying together and I’ve never felt closer to someone and more heartbroken at the same time. He was also hallucinating from the medication he was on, so he was also talking to other people whom he was seeing. It was the most intense moment of my life.
My dad died at home, during the week of September 11, 2001. I’m sitting there in his room with him, just watching him die. On the television in the corner, I see the most insane act of terrorism in the history of mankind. I really wasn’t sure what was real anymore. How do you prepare to lose your only role model? How do you do it while the world is exploding?
INXS: Story to Story: The Official Autobiography
–Published in 2005
The most straightforward of Bozza’s books, INXS: Story to Story is the official biography of the influential Australian band. Covering more than forty years of history, the book includes information on each band member’s childhood, continues through their early days playing together in the Australian countryside, and culminates in the dark days of Michael Hutchence’s death.
The true test of their mettle awaited the young bards inland some two thousand miles north of Perth, amid the most barren landscape on earth. At one of their increasingly rare Perth gigs, they met a man named Bob Matthews, who managed a strip mine in a desert expanse where the average temperature clocked in at around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). At the mines, driving trucks (whose tires were approximately fifteen feet high) down steep slopes of loose gravel was considered women’s work: the men spent their days in the sun hacking at the earth with picks, shovels, and drills. Mine workers were one part mental patient and two parts outlaw, and to a crew of young band boys, they were altogether insane. The only civilization for hundreds of miles was the mining town–and like any human society on the edge of nowhere, it was utterly Lord of the Flies. It was entirely Australian, and far too Mad Max…
…The band visited the two outland outposts twice, but they were smart enough to make the second trip by plane. They were grateful for the experience and for the chance to meet people the average human being wouldn’t believe existed. “There was this one guy in Shay Gap who collected spiders,” Jon says. “His room was full of them. Australia is home to many very large and very dangerous spider, and this guy had some of the most venomous ones as pets. He’d always have one or two of them with him, too. I remember I was doing pull-ups on the diving board of the pool in the camp and a piece of fiberglass fell into my eye and I was blinded for a moment. This guy reached out his hand to help me and when I looked at him there on the end of it was a huge wolf spider, as big as his fist. I tried to stay calm, but when he opened his mouth and showed me the pet spider he had in there, I really lost it.”
Signature: A Photographic Retrospective of the Platinum Era of Hip Hop 1996-2006
–Scheduled for publication in Fall 2007 by Atria/Simon and Schuster
For his next book, Bozza is teaming up with legendary photographer and video director Jonathan Mannion. The photographer has worked with Lebron James, David Beckham, Kobe Bryant, Lance Armstrong, Bernie Mac, and Jon Favreau, among many others. But he is most famous for his hip hop photography of icons such as The Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre, Eminem, Diddy, Jam Master Jay, L.L. Cool J., Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and Mos Def. Signature will feature Mannion’s photography combined with Bozza’s new interviews with the artists. The photos, along with the rappers’ intimate recollections, provide a revealing look at the music that defined a decade.
To learn more about Mannion’s work, check out his website.