The best biographies of musicians are, traditionally, the warts and all ones – full of salacious gossip and no holds barred detail about the subject and anyone (un)fortunate to cross their path.
Of course, Amy Rigby is no rock superstar – rather, a highly-regarded singer/songwriter within her own musical sphere – but this memoir still contains, to paraphrase Nikki Sixx’s own title, ‘The Dirt’ – an honest, unflinchingly personal tale of the early life of the Pittsburgh-born musician’s journey to New York.
Although covering Rigby’s childhood in Pennsylvania, ‘Girl To City’ mostly covers her teens / early adulthood, and her time in NYC with brother Michael, a vital influence.
That’s where Rigby found her direction in life and made her first steps into the world of music – her descriptive prose capturing the scene of the mid-late 1970s perfectly – well, it certainly goes beyond CBGBs’ legendary toilets, spilling into the streets and squats of Manhattan.
It’s not all rock’n’roll, spanning her Catholic upbringing, her mother’s car crash (their relationship covered genuinely and emotively), and the birth of her own daughter, and it’s these passages that mean this memoir will be an appealing read even for those with little interest in the scene in which she becomes immersed.
Rigby also spends time in the UK, with a character referred to as ‘The Manager’ (a paramour and the bête noire of the book) while her obsession with Elton John is a surprising and welcome contrast to the rather more punk rock UK stars she eventually reconnects with back home in the US.
But anyone looking for the inside track on any of the big names of that era will not be disappointed – if expectations are reined in. There are accounts of early shows by the likes of the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie, but despite eventually playing the legendary venue (as support to The Go Betweens), the book’s 320 pages trace the life of a musician who’s didn’t quite make it as big as her idols, despite early hopes. It is, therefore, a story which will ring true to many who have aspired to great things and eventually, like Rigby, found happiness and settled for a more ‘normal’ existence – albeit with a fellow musician, ‘Wreckless’ Eric Goulden – as she gives up the bohemian lifestyle and returns to downbeat Williamsburgh. (She would then release the aptly-titled debut album, ‘Diary of a Mod Housewife’, which made her name).
‘Girl to City’ ends in the late 1990s, but to this day, Rigby continues as a talented singer-songwriter as well as raconteur as evinced by this debut, and with her musical career still on the up there’s clearly room for another volume in the future – one which is sure to be as entertaining as the first.
‘Girl to City’ is available now as a paperback or eBook, as well as as a series of podcasts – see www.amyrigby.com/girl-to-city-a-memoir.