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Dean Wareham's Rock 'n' Roll Romance

If rock bands are like love affairs, then Dean Wareham knows a thing or two about broken hearts.

The songwriter experienced his share of highs and lows with two influential groups. The slow, moody trio Galaxie 500 released three influential albums before imploding in 1990. Then he led Luna for the next decade, releasing seven guitar-pop albums before calling it quits.

Currently, he helps lead the project Dean & Britta with his wife, former Luna bassist Britta Phillips. Wareham has now chronicled his life in music -– warts and all -– in a new book titled Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance. He joins host John Schaefer to discuss his memoir.

"When Luna broke up, I finally had time to sit down and tell this story," Wareham says. "The personal stuff was more difficult — I was pushed by my editor after handing him the first draft to come back and tell more of the personal stuff. And I think that if there's a strength to the book, it's the extent to which I'm prepared to go into that."

The subtitle "A Rock & Roll Romance" makes explicit the comparison between playing in rock bands and having a love affair — both of which Wareham does in Black Postcards.

"I've read a number of rock bios, and I didn't feel like I had read one that accurately portrayed what it's like to be in a band," Wareham says. "Other than Spinal Tap, which actually in many ways is a very accurate look [at] what it's like to be in a band. Anyone who's been in a band will say that.

"I didn't want it to just be a puff piece — I wanted to actually include some of the humiliating moments, as well as some of the great ones."

Wareham pieced the book together from notes, diaries, and itineraries he had kept from tours gone by. He begins by telling the story of friendships dissolving, opening with an unflattering story about himself told by former Galaxie 500 bandmate Damon Krukowski.

"It's a narrative device, I think, to start with the end," Wareham says. "And I guess part of my point is: You start a band with your friends, and if it's at all successful it becomes a business, as well. And it's a challenge to remain friends."

Black Postcards details the breakup of two bands and one marriage. Wareham says that it wasn't always pleasant to write about his life in music — but it was therapeutic.

"It was much like attending therapy, only I was there all alone for about a year and a half, writing the book," he says. "Yeah, because sometimes you don't quite know what you think 'til either a) you're in the shrink's office and you have to talk, so something has to come out of your mouth, or you're sitting down to write, and you're like, 'Well, here's what I think about this.'"

Now well over 40 and still making music, Wareham sounds optimistic again. Performing with his wife, he says, has brought structure to his life.

"It's an easier way, I think, for me to organize my life now," Wareham says. "Once you hit 40, being in a band — a committee voting constantly on what you're going to be doing next month — it's more of a challenge. And when you have a kid, as well."

For Wareham, it's a new way to live with the vicissitudes of being a rock musician.

"The first thing you learn about the music business is that it changes very quickly," he says. "You come into it at a certain point and you think you have a handle on it. ... And then, three years later, the whole thing has been turned upside-down."

Copyright 2008 WNYC Radio

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