Spy Rock Memories

August 29, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

spySpy Rock Memories by Larry Livermore

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After reading Punk USA, the story of Lookout! Records, I figured I needed to get the complete picture of the label by reading Larry Livermore’s take on it, too. The thing is, when I went to find his book, I saw that he had another book, one he wrote about his time living on a mountain in a house that had running water thanks to the creek near his cabin, and electricity thanks to its solar panels. That time predated (and overlapped) Livermore’s time with Lookout!, so I figured I should start with this book before moving on to How to Ru(i)n a Record Label, even if I wasn’t all that interested in reading about living off the grid.

In my review of Punk USA, though, I noted that a well-written book about a topic in which the reader may not have a lot of interest will still be engaging, and Spy Rock Memories is one of those books. Livermore tells his tale with a kind of self-awareness that shows us both sides of a story, even though it’s written by just one person. He’s quick to show us his successes (he even admits that he is his own favorite topic), but he also easily admits his failings.

Though Livermore touches on his dealings with Lookout!, the story is really a memoir of his life on the mountain. He talks about how he came to buy his home there, how he survived the brutal winters, the repairs and additions he had to make to his home (which, based on the way Livermore tells it, he had to do constantly), and his run-ins with the local wildlife. He writes about being a hippie, about being into punk, about making friends and enemies on the mountain due to his beliefs, and tying all of his ideals together into a self-published newspaper/newsletter called The Lookout. He writes about starting a band with some of the kids of his neighbors, of his forays into San Francisco and Berkeley both before and after the label began, and his presence in the local town and what it meant to his life on the mountain.

He also writes about the heartache of broken relationships, of finding, raising, and losing pets, of achievements and losses, and disilluisonment, not just with his label, but also with how to live life and the idea of living on the mountain. It’s a very human story, with a sharp focus. Sometimes, Livermore comes off as being self-important, enough so that it’s difficult to know if what he’s telling us is the truth as it actually happened, or is the truth as he wants it to be, but his self-effacing manner through the memoir suggest more of the former over the latter. It still comes through on occasion, though.

Spy Rock Memories is a fascinating read, and one that preps me for How to Ru(i)n a Record Label. It’s good to know that Livermore can write about more than just the facts, and can pull real emotion into his story, because it means the next book will be a perfect complement to Punk USA, where it felt more factual than emotional. That’s probably the difference between a memoir and a biography, to be honest — one is told by the person, while another is told about a person. Regardless, I look forward to seeing Livermore’s take on his involvement with Lookout!

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