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Whiskey Bottles and Brand-New Cars: The Fast Life and Sudden Death of Lynyrd Skynyrd

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  183 ratings  ·  40 reviews
This book tells the intimate story of how a band of lost souls and self-destructive misfits with uncertain artistic objectives clawed their way to the very top of the rock ’n’ roll peak, writing and performing as if beneficiaries of a deal with the devil—a deal fulfilled by a tragic fall from the sky. The rudderless genius behind their ascent was a man named Ronnie Van Zan ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 1st 2015 by Chicago Review Press
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Start your review of Whiskey Bottles and Brand-New Cars: The Fast Life and Sudden Death of Lynyrd Skynyrd
*NetGalley book review*

...And this bird you can not change...

What an awesome book about one of my most all time favorite bands. My parents use to listen to their music all the time so naturally I fell in love with their songs. I even have the above lyric tattooed on my left forearm. Anyways, this was a action packed, tons of information about the band, storied of their on the road tours and so much more packed into this great book. So tune into some Skynyrd tunes and kick back with this book
Jun 17, 2015 rated it did not like it
There is a good (maybe even great) Skynyrd story to be told, but this isn't it. When the author quotes "Sabbath guitarist" Zakk Wylde about an incident that occurred in the mid-70s, and says Zeppelin IV is the "biggest selling album in history", you can't be sure that he got anything right. Zakk Wylde was born in 1967, and while he could have heard the story second-hand from Ozzy when he was his guitarist, or from the surviving members of Skynyrd, this whole book is full of, at best, inconsisten ...more
Alex Bledsoe
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
In Lynyrd Skynyrd's heyday, before the advent of rigorous image control, you could get away with being assholes on an almost Wagnerian scale while still selling millions of records. That's what comes across most clearly in this well-written account of their tragic history. And yet, "tragic" may not be the right word, for while tragedies did occur (most famously the plane crash), the majority of their troubles came out of the reality that they--especially Ronnie Van Zant--were just assholes. And ...more
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books, music
I so wanted to like this book - I really did. I'm a Jacksonville native who has listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd for most of his life, but only recently have I started to learn their backstory. I was six when the plane crashed, so I have no memory of them before then, and in fact I wasn't even really exposed to their music until my teenage years. There is so much to be learned about this fascinating group's meteoric rise to fame, but unfortunately Ribowsky's book is so full of errors and his own polit ...more
Alysa H.
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads. (Yep, a while ago, back before that program changed to Goodreads Giveaways!)

While I cannot speak to the factual accuracy of this book -- and neither, apparently, can most of its subjects, living or dead -- I can say that it's a fun dive into 1970s Southern Rock. I enjoyed it, and it made me rethink Skynyrd and their music in a much broader context. The writing sometimes seems to be trying to hard for poignancy, but then, hey, that's to be expec
Don D'Elia
Sep 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
book is nonsense,,,,funny how zakk wylde was able to comment on the fist fights between rossington and van zant,,,zak was 9 years old.doubt he was in England playing guitar for black Sabbath(?????).zakk didn't hook up with ozzy until he was 20...10 years after the plane crash. ...more
patrick Lorelli
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an in depth look at the rise and tragic crash of the Band Lnyrnd Skynyrd. This book starts with Ronnie Von Zant, and how he went from a rowdy kid to a rock musician who still fought but could write music, sing and play guitar. This band lived life liked they played music loud wild and free. There are fights, yelling and with fists. There are deals made and deals broken. Goes into how much they drank, took drugs, how long they were on the road and how much money other people made off of h ...more
May 22, 2016 rated it did not like it
I appreciate Southern Rock/Country Rock and thought this would be a great read. Quite wrong.
The content is certainly interesting. I learned things about Skynyrd that I hadn't known before. But the writing (and editing) is awful. Ribowsky mangles common idioms (I don't think Damocles would have worried if it were just a flag above his head) and tries to sound "highfalutin" when it just causes confusion ("amercement"? Really? 95% of lawyers have to look that word up yet Ribowsky think it works in
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Most people think “Southern Rock” when they hear the name Lynryd Skynrd and it’s a label the band would awkwardly embrace, although it’s fair to say it was more aggressively foisted on them by management and label marketing people.You can read my review in its' entirety at allmusicbooksdotcom. The band’s story is fascinating and tragic, which helps to make Ribowsky’s account worth a look, but unfortunately the storyteller insists on trite writing, and recycled clichés, which undermine the fascin ...more
Brian Morgan
May 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Book tells the story of the destructive lifestyles that doomed this band - the plane crash may have killed them, but they were speeding toward death thru the wild life that they led. Good book, and tells a lot of behind the scenes stories.
Lane Hewitt
Jun 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Comprehensive history of the band that inspires an informed re-appraisal of their music. Reads like a long Mojo article.
Kazia Trujillo
Jul 26, 2015 rated it liked it
"They put a million dollar band in a $1.98 airplane." ...more
Tom Kavanagh
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
ok book.dopey author has to inject racial politics of course.
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am not a die hard Skynyrd fan, but I am a fan and do enjoy their music. It gets you moving and more people than not can sing the words to many of their songs. Because of this, I enjoyed the book.
It tells the Lynyrd Skynyrd story from beginning to end and also the continuing legal battles that occurred after the infamous plane crash. The book is focused on Ronnie Van Zandt, the leader and lead singer of the band. However, you do learn some about the other band members as well as the many agen
Mike Augustine
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book met my expectations. The prologue was a bit overblown, but the rhetoric settled down enough in the rest of book to keep me engaged. The author assembled, what appears to be, a fairly comprehensive coverage of the good, bad, and seriously f’d up situation that was this band. I’ve admired quite a number of their songs for years, and although that remains true, beyond the music, this book shows little reason to admire other aspects of this group.
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Skynyrd's In-depth Hystyry -A Must Read

A real good account of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. The author does not sugarcoat anything. One of the best books I've read on the subject and I've read them all.

One correction for future versions would be to fix the parts where Zakk Wylde is mentioned as the guitar player for Black Sabbath instead of Tony Iommi. But that was the only inaccuracy I found.
Todd Martin
May 09, 2022 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
I think Mark Ribowsky basically cribbed Gene Odom's book Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock when he wrote Whiskey Bottles and Brand-New Cars: The Fast Life and Sudden Death of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Few new facts are presented. About the only thing he did was attempt to place the band within the context of the times (and that was done in a long-winded and superficial manner). ...more
Marcus W
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was ok
A book that praises Ronnie Van Zant! Thats pretty much it...

A good recap of the bands brief history but idolizes RVZ more than anything else - I'm not even sure if it mentioned the names of every single band member until the end. A lot of alleged second hand stories, but still fairly interesting. Not one of the better music biographies I've read
Jun 03, 2021 rated it did not like it
Hard to read. The author's use of vocabulary here is suspect-I needed a dictionary for some of them! Not easy and not entirely accurate. It's almost like he pieced together pieces of Skynyrd's history and didn't actually fact check. ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I learned a ton, but thought it could be a bit more exciting.
Mary Ellen
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Got to be kind of the same old same old.
Apr 04, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I'd like to thank Chicago Review Press and author Mark Ribowsky for a copy of this book. I also thank goodreads for this opportunity through their First Reads program.

I enjoyed the book. I think it was well written, researched and documented (there were little more than a handful of editing issues - misspelling, etc.), and enjoyed getting an idea of the life and times of the Lynyrd Skynyrd group and those around them. The band did have a few good sounding songs (I listened to everything
David Ward
Whiskey Bottles and Brand-New Cars: The Fast Life and Sudden Death of Lynyrd Skynyrd by Mark Ribowsky (Chicago Review Press 2015) (780.92). This is the story of the rise and fall of the 1970's Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Make no mistake about it: this was a redneck band from the wrong side of the tracks in Jacksonville, Florida. They set out to emulate the legendary Southern rock band The Allman Brothers; in many ways, the boys from Jacksonville surpassed those legends.
The band's name,
May 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are many conflicting stories from people in the Skynyrd inner-circle. The trauma of the event and the time that has passed has generated multiple narratives from the plane crash alone. Add in the struggle to control the band, the booze & drugs ingested during their history, and the fading memories and there's no surprise different people have completely different stories and perspectives.

This is an objective and comprehensive look at the rise and fall of southern rock's greatest band. The
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Listening to this book was like visiting an old friend that you haven't seen in a long time. Memories tend to be of the good kind, and we gloss over the bad things. My love of Lynyrd Skynyrd as a young man was strong, but faded in the years since the plane crash. I was fortunate to see the 'real' Skynyrd lineup play 3 times, and they never disappointed.
All that said, this story really uncovered the raw and sometimes ugly past of the old band, starting with their early formation and following th
C.J. Ruby
Jul 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, culture, music
I like Mark Ribowsky, but this barely got 3 stars from me (it kept me reading and it was pretty short. If it had been much longer I'd skipped to the plane crash and got to the 'good' parts), it was just too sparse on info and rather boring. Maybe the subject just wasn't that rich and there's not much left that's interesting to mine out of it. The most engrossing thing about Lynyrd Skynyrd is that the heart of the band was killed in a tragic plane crash and there were survivors to bear witness, a ...more
Robin Umbley
Aug 11, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is clearly well-researched. However, Mr. Ribowsky's writing style is pretentious and he tries too hard to be clever with words and phrasing. He has an annoying way of mixing what he thinks is the Southern vernacular with something that sounds like an academic thesis. It's as if he is trying to write an academic paper that got mixed up with a Rolling Stone article. It's a technique that worked for Mark Twain; it does, however, not work for Mr. Ribowsky.

The main issue I have with this b
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I liked the book but expected much more. there have been several oral histories about the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. Most of these focus on the "good" aspects and leave out the negatives. The book is easy to read but falls along the same lines mostly. the most interesting parts are the plane crash and time after with the reunion tours and fighting for control and money that is not covered in the other books. ...more
Marilyn Stanley
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
The author obviously did a lot of research before and/or during the writing of this book. I am sure that it is typical of a lot of rock bands - first unknown, then fame and fortune, booze, drugs, etc. and people taking advantage them. I enjoyed the book for the most part there were a few spots that kind of 'bogged down' but it picked back up and I was able to get through the whole book. ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it
I am amazed the original band members lived as long as they did, with the destructive life styles.

A fascinating read. I wanted to see the story behind the band and the accusation of Sweet Home Alabama being racist. I think the band is mildly racist and I hate that I still like their music despite it.
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Mark Ribowsky is the author of seven books, including the New York Times Notable Book Don't Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball. He lives in Plainview, New York. ...more

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