It takes a real knack to retell a story that many have likely heard many times before and still manage to make it compelling. As listeners of the popular podcast Disgraceland have already figured out, Jake Brenan is that rare narrator who can.
The true crime podcast focuses on musicians and those connected to them and the darkness that follows them usually connected to fame, drugs and sexual appetite, (but mostly drugs). The book, appropriately enough sharing the name of the podcast, uses the same concept and it is equally addictive. Brennan bookends this collection of stories with a focus on Elvis – fat and skinny/Elvis on the rise and on his way out. The most complex story of the bunch, it mixes a fair amount of reality – his corrupt Con Man manager, his ballooning weight and reliance on drugs and his obsession with guns – alongside a fantastical, but wildly entertaining sequence where over the hill Elvis is talking with a svelte, cool Rockabilly version of what he could have been.
In between, Brennan recounts true stories about Sid Vicious in his last days, Gram Parsons corpse theft and Phil Spector’s bizarre relationships and the murder of one of his guests, among many other true tales.
For anyone even remotely interested in the more macabre side of rock, most if not all of these stories are likely familiar. But it’s Brenan’s flair for telling them that makes this book so captivating.
Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away With Murder and Behaving Very Badly By Jake Brennan/Hardcover, 288 pages/Grand Central Publishing/2019