A Love Affair, With Music
By Helene Stapinski (Villard Books)
by Brian Varney
If I’m being honest, my initial reaction to this book was to wonder why it was published. I’m a fella who likes to read rock books, but generally the impetus for reading such a book is to glean additional behind-the-scenes knowledge on an artist whose work you already know and admire, right? So why in tarnation, I wondered, would a reputable publishing house release a book written by a drummer about her experiences in a band that nobody ever heard of, that never played an out-of-town gig, and never released a proper record?
With such questions in mind, I began reading, more out of curiosity than anything. Though the book starts with the usual childhood rock and roll epiphanies – hers mostly having to do with her brother’s drum set, which she would play when he wasn’t home – it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t really a rock book. Sure, rock music is always near the surface – Stapinski is a music fiend and a freelance journalist who frequently writes about rock music but has never actually mustered the guts to join a band. Eventually, through a friend of a friend, she learned of a band that needed a drummer and joins, which sounds like the beginning of damn near every rock bio you’ve ever read, right? However, this book is not so much about the band’s music as it is about the experience of being a married adult with a normal job who decides to fulfill a very teenage dream by joining a band.
Once I began to view the book as a story and not a typical rock book (i.e. not a book about rock itself, but a book about the love of rock), my initial question was answered. Stapinski may not be a rock star, but she’s a terrific, funny writer, and a good storyteller. As her marriage begins to fall apart and we see her take deeper solace in the music of both the band and her heroes, anyone who’s ever had his or her life saved by rock and roll can’t help but connect. And before you know it, you’re as deeply involved in Stapinski’s story as any rock star’s. You may not glean new information about your favorite musician from Baby Plays Around, but you’ll discover a kindred rock geek who articulates the experience far better than you or I could.