By Mike Bax
Da Capo Press
While technically a follow-up to McKagan’s last book It’s So Easy (and other lies), How To Be A Man is more like an accoutrement to his first book. How To Be A Man (and other illusions) is a lighter, easier read. It’s more observational in places (McKagan looking at himself subjectively) and contains much detail about his life with his wife and two daughters.
Where It’s So Easy detailed Duff’s addictions in minute detail, How To Be A Man is a more upbeat and often comedic read. Chapter 10, entitled Make Time For Your Friends, details McKagan’s day off in Madrid with Walking Papers‘ keyboardist Ben Anderson. It’s told in a fashion that depicts how the two of them worked out, shopped and dined, enjoying a fine day together. At some point during the day the pair of them must have realized they could easily look like a gay couple, and the chapter comes off (quite intentionally) as a one day bromance with his band mate. It was quite enjoyable to read.
McKagan explains (often through anecdotes and subtle examples) his dedication to his craft, the struggle he often has leaving his family for weeks at a time, and the difference between touring in support of Loaded as compared to Walking Papers. Fine dining and five star hotels one day, and touring Europe in a crowded tour van looking for a place to shower the next. This chapter, and his time spent with Scottish superstars Biffy Clyro, were quite nicely described, and likely my favourite portion of the book. Walking Papers, McKagan’s latest project with Jeff Angell, Barrett Martin and the aforementioned Benjamin Anderson is a wonderfully under-appreciated rock project, and Biffy is such a phenomenal band (only now picking up some steam in North America), I think it all resonated with me the easiest.
McKagan lovingly recants how he and Alice and Chains’ Jerry Cantrell get together to revel in the Seattle Seahawks. How Perry Farrell joined them on Cantrell’s tour bus during the Uproar tour in 2013, and blew them both away with his NFL knowledge. Cantrell and McKagan are DIE-HARD Hawks fans, and were a little worried that Farrell might not fit into their somewhat ritualized game-viewing session. McKagan’s description of Farrell’s encyclopedic football knowledge during this chapter is also very enjoyable.
How To Be A Man reads like an assembly of journal entries more than anything else. The book retains McKagan’s charming persona throughout: he writes the way he talks, and that’s about the best complimentary descriptor I can put to this book. Some of the chapters, you can almost hear his voice as you read them, and that really worked for me.
Find out why McKagan is a die-hard BlackBerry user. Read about his ongoing comedic exploration of the Bon Jovi lyric “I’ve seen a million faces and I’ve rocked them all” with Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. Both musicians recount looking out into the audiences they play to and seeing the odd face in the crowd that is obviously NOT being rocked. They warmly discuss the prowess of Bon Jovi, and his ability to genuinely rock a million people. Or not. McKagan includes a must-read list of books, along with a list of 100 albums he feels you MUST own, with descriptors for each.
While How To Be A Man has to be described as a light read, it’s also a very good and entertaining read. I finished the book quickly and found myself wanting more. Fortunately, McKagan does contribute regularly to ESPN.com, SeattleWeekely.com and Playboy.com, so you can continue to read some his rumination there once you’ve finished reading How to Be A Man.