When Can I Fly?: The Sleepers, Tuxedomoon and Beyond, By Michael Belfer, 224 pgs.

Mar 17, 2021

The Sleepers are one of those acts I know of more than I actually know, one of the first wave of San Francisco punk bands, so I was psyched to check this one out. Michael Belfer spins tale after tale of adventure herein, as he moves between the Sleepers and Tuxedomoon, a stranger, experimental San Francisco act. The stories here are fairly unbelievable, as Belfer reaches the end of one permutation of a group, travels to a new town with no plan, and bumbles into chance meetings with people who provide him opportunities to keep playing in other bands, kinda like one of those old Tintin cartoons.

But When Can I Fly? gets bogged down with drug talk as it gets closer to the end. Maybe if I knew the band a little better I would have been more interested in this, but let’s face it, there are so many books that rely on excess, you know? So many. And fans of the rock bio genre tend to read a lot of them, so piling on the heroin tales makes me wonder who the imagined audience is for this one. Is it people in recovery? Fans of the first wave who somehow haven’t already heard these kinds of stories a zillion times? Is there an imagined audience? I don’t know. To be fair, Belfer’s tone in fairly neutral throughout—he’s not glorifying as much as reporting. But still. I hate to be a “for fans of ____________” guy, the most mundane kind of endorsement there is, but there you go. –Michael T. Fournier (Hozac, hozacrecords.com/books)

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