Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band Ever (of Authors) Tells All, by Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr., Mitch Albom, James McBride, Ridley Pearson, Matt Groening, Greg Iles, Sam Barry, and Roger McGuinn has been unleashed upon the world.
Hard Listening is an interactive e-book that is dedicated to my late wife, Kathi Kamen Goldmark. It is a tribute to her from the members of the Rock Bottom Remainders, the strange rock band of authors she created on a lark 21-years ago. It is a memoir about the fun we’ve all had making fools of ourselves while putting on shows that raised money for non-profits organizations.
Hard Listening will not change the world. The Rock Bottom Remainders did not change the world. But we have had a hell of a good time pretending to be rock stars, mostly by wearing wigs, ridiculous costumes, and striking a pose vaguely reminiscent of Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, or Jimi Hendrix in performance. Only without the same skill set.
The odd thing is, the Remainders are stars—star authors. Of course, writing books and playing rock and roll are entirely different art forms, but that minor distinction never stopped the Remainders from getting up and making fools of themselves.
This willingness to do something we weren’t really supposed to be doing (according to the normal rules) started with Kathi. Kathi’s theory was that everybody had a song in them. The less musical a person was, the more Kathi wanted to come up with a song they could perform. The Remainders were a product of this dream, which may have been a little delusional—but in a good way, like someone believing world peace is possible.
Kathi also liked to break down the barrier between performers and audience. Remainders shows, at their best, were a giant party dedicated to books, bookstores, publishing people, librarians, authors, readers, and having fun, usually ending in free kazoos being tossed to everyone.
Over time the Remainders started to sound pretty good. This was never the intent of the band, but if you rehearse once a year for enough years, you will eventually learn how to play a song or two. Also, there are some fairly accomplished musicians in the band, even if the purpose was never to create a high quality band. Here we are on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
That’s Janine Albom singing lead with Ridley Pearson. I’m the guy playing the harmonica alongside sax players James McBride and Erasmo Paolo. Dancing around in front of us are Matt Groening, Amy Tan, Scott Turow. Greg Iles and Stephen King are strumming guitars side by side, and brother Dave Barry is on guitar, next to Mitch Albom on keyboard. Josh Kelly is playing drums, and yes, that is rock legend Roger McGuinn (wearing the black fedora) on guitar. We almost have enough guitar players to put together a basketball team.
Hard Listening is published by Coliloquy, a digital publisher that is producing groundbreaking new types of books and new forms of author-reader engagement. Kathi would have liked that, too. Hard Listening combines essays, fiction, musings, candid email exchanges and conversations, compromising photographs, audio and video clips, and interactive quizzes for a trailblazing e-book experience. Unlike the Remainders’ music, which is not trailblazing.
Buy Hard Listening. Tell everyone to buy Hard Listening. You’ll enjoy it. And you’ll be helping me. It’s available everywhere e-books are sold. Who knows—with enough encouragement, maybe the Remainders will rise again, this time with five guitar players.