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Which musicians are the baddest of the bad boys? Several new biographies give us a clue. By Jenna Schnuer


THERE’S NO DOUBT THAT MUSIC FANS enjoy telling tales of their favorite rock gods’ outrageous behavior as much as they love listening to those artists’ tunes. But flip open to almost any page of Lost Genius, a biography by Kevin Bazzana (recently released in paperback) about twentieth-century piano prodigy Ervin Nyiregyházi, and you’ll find that rockers didn’t invent the bad-boy thing. We take a look at Lost Genius as well as three other recent memoirs and biographies to see which musicians have really earned their reputations.

 

(BOOK)
Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran (Grand Central Publishing, $27)Lost Genius: The Curious and Tragic Story of an Extraordinary Musical Prodigy (Da Capo, $18)Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N’ Roses (Gotham Books, $28)
He Is … I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond (Da Capo, $25)
 (AUTHOR)
Andy TaylorKevin BazzanaStephen DavisDavid Wild
(SUBJECT)
Himself, a member of Duran DuranErvin NyiregyháziGuns N’ RosesNeil Diamond
(GENRE)
’80s rockClassical pianoHard rockPop
(PUBLIC PERCEPTION)
Though it took some time for diehards to get over Taylor’s exit from Duran Duran in 1986 (and then his re-exit during the band’s 2006 reunion tour), once they watched The Reflex video, all was forgiven.There isn’t one, really. Most music fans (classical or otherwise) probably hadn’t heard of Nyiregyházi, who lived from 1903 to 1987, until now.They rocked hard. They lived hard. They courted controversy like nobody’s business. And if you loved them, you loved all of it.Even people who claim they don’t dig Diamond can’t help but sing along when “Sweet Caroline” comes on the radio. Grumbling about his tunes is about as far as the trash talking goes.
(WORST BEHAVIOR)
A typical rock star with a typical rock-star story, Taylor admits to partaking of quite a good deal of illegal substances. “It’s not something that I am proud of, but nor am I going to pretend that it didn’t happen,” he writes. And, yes, there was a whole bunch of, shall we say, amore with adoring female fans as well. Come on, you didn’t think Simon Le Bon got all the love, did you?We know what you’re thinking: A classical pianist? But when it comes to failed marriages, Nyiregyházi beats pretty much any musician you can think of. He said “I do” 10 times. “Sex became a consuming passion in his life … a quotidian need like food or drink,” Bazzana describes. Add some heavy drinking in with that endless carnal appetite and it’s amazing that he had time to tickle the ivories at all.Davis’s description of the band’s antics during the summer of 1986 may be the most PG way to sum up the musicians’ thorough devotion to the rock-and-roll life: “Guns was on a band-wide bender, staggering through a noisy and drug-addled public binge. … None of the key record producers of the day was anxious to spend the next year in an airless studio babysitting five degenerates.”No matter how far you dig into He Is … I Say, Diamond glitters. “In all the times that I have ever spoken with Neil Diamond over the years,” Wild writes, “I have never heard him say a bad word about either of the two women he married [and later divorced] or, really, anyone else, for that matter. Other than self-deprecation ... Diamond tends to keep things very positive.”
(BAD-BOY RATING)
Three smashed guitarsFive smashed guitarsOff. The. ChartsOne smashed guitar