Title: Hit So Hard
Author: Patty Schemel
My Rating: ★★★★
Summary: “A stunningly candid portrait of the Seattle grunge scene of the ’90s and a memoir of an addict during the last great era of rock ‘n’ roll excess, by Hole drummer Patty Schemel.
Patty Schemel’s story begins with a childhood surrounded by the AA meetings her parents hosted in the family living room. Their divorce triggered her first forays into drinking at age twelve and dovetailed with her passion for punk rock and playing the drums. Patty’s struggles with her sexuality further drove her notoriously hard playing, and by the late ’80s she had focused that anger, confusion, and drive into regular gigs with well-regarded bands in Tacoma, Seattle, and Olympia, Washington. She met a pre-Nirvana Kurt Cobain at a Melvins show, and less than five years later, was living with him and his wife, Hole front-woman Courtney Love, at the height of his fame and on the cusp of hers. As the platinum-selling band’s new drummer, Schemel contributed memorable, driving beats to hits like “Beautiful Son,” “Violet,” “Doll Parts,” and “Miss World.” But the band was plagued by tragedy and heroin addiction, and by the time Hole went on tour in support of their ironically titled and critically-acclaimed album Live Through This in 1994, both Cobain and Hole bassist Kristin Pfaff had died at the age of 27.
With surprising candor and wit, Schemel intimately documents the events surrounding her dramatic exit from the band in 1998 that led to a dark descent into a life of homelessness and crime on the streets of Los Angeles, and the difficult but rewarding path to lasting sobriety after more than twenty serious attempts to get clean. Hit So Hard is a testament not only to the enduring power of the music Schemel helped create but an important document of the drug culture that threatened to destroy it.”
In Hit So Hard, Schemel did a very good job of adding humor to her stories. Throughout the difficult subjects she talks about, like drugs, death and being homeless, she makes the reader laugh. It always felt well timed and provided relief for the times the reader was left to sit with the pain Schemel endured. As I have read and watched a few documentaries about rock stardom, which often end in death, it was refreshing to have someone live through it (this…I had to) and be able to make jokes about it. Here are some examples:
“Adolescence. Oh God, red hair, and glasses. That was me in a nutshell, the dark side of a John Hughes movie. Also: GAY.”
Another, on heroin addiction:
“There was nothing like a free expensive candle and a shot of heroin to make my life complete.”
Along with the humor, Hit So Hard is very honest. Schemel is being brutally truthful about everything she experienced and felt during her life. As someone who went through so much, it would have been easy to sugarcoat how difficult things were or not include certain experiences. The fact that she puts it all out there makes this book so clearly honest and brave. It really helps to see just how strong Schemel is to have lived through (…this) all she did. And because of how honest she is, Hit So Hard can be heartbreaking and I found parts difficult to read.
After reading this book, I felt even more respect for someone I already had a lot of respect for as a musician and from watching the documentary Hit So Hard. It makes me really admire her strength.
Lastly, I think Hit So Hard and books like it are very important, because it really helps people see (and helped me see more clearly) that addiction is truly an illness and should be treated as such. Often people have very little sympathy for addicts and act like they want to be addicted or don’t look very deep into why they have drug or alcohol problems. Schemel’s book promotes empathy and compassion.
Also, obviously I think you should read this book, but if you like movies better and want to watch instead of read about Schemel’s life, you can watch the documentary Hit So Hard.
This playlist is some of my favorite Hole songs, not including Nobody’s Daughter, because that album didn’t have any original Hole members other than Courtney Love. Although I really like it, I don’t consider it a real Hole album because of that reason. I also included only one Celebrity Skin song because even though I love that album, it seemed unfair to include much from it as it was recorded without Schemel.
- Hit So Hard
- She Walks on Me
- Pretty on the Inside
- I Think That I Would Die
- Miss World
- Teenage Whore
- Jennifer’s Body
You can find the playlist here. Click on the songs to see great live performances 🙂
Comment Below: What good books have you read recently?