Read any good music books lately? Or some all-time favorites?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Tim Wilson, Sep 2, 2014.

  1. Tim Wilson

    Tim Wilson Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Palm Springs, CA
    I know this is somewhat off-topic, but more on topic than what I've seen in the Off-Topic forum....but I really love good music books, and am always looking for more. I've been on something of buying binge this summer, and have come up with some real gems.

    Kooks, Queen Bitches and Andy Warhol: The Making of David Bowie's Hunky Dory I first heard about it in this very forum, and wrote some notes about it on one of those threads, here. It's a super-fast read (only 100 pages), but packed with stuff I've never heard before, from interviews with pretty much anyone connected to the album, sans Dave, who's included via archival interviews. I just finished it, and am already dipping back in.

    David Bowie: Any Day Now by Kevin Cann. I got this just before the one above, covering his years in London (basically up through 1974). He has worked with Bowie a couple of times over the years, and this is a really engaging, lushly illustrated book that's both a fantastic read and visually compelling, large-ish format book that'd look dandy on a lot of coffee tables.

    (There are two other Bowie books coming in the next two months, including one focused solely on the 70s, which is where I'd most want any Bowie centered. How can that not have happened before? And who knows? That might wind up on this list too.)

    This Ain't the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk by Steve Waksman. As you might guess from the title, it's a scholarly work, built around a striking premise: some of the most popular rock of the sixties also came to be highly regarded by the end of the decade, including in scholarly circles, but in the early 70s, much of the most popular music was critically reviled. Despite some strong antipathies between punk and heavy metal musicians and fans, Waksman looks specifically at the ways that both genres were "OUR music," and actively embraced their rejection by the critical establishment. It's incredibly well-documented, even for a scholarly work, and really, really fun to read.

    Autobiography, by Morrissey. Yeah, he's full of himself, and nothing is ever his fault...but dang, can he write! Just as a literary experience, it's magnificent. But it's also hilarious and moving, and hey, one of things we love about him is that he's a blowhard too, right? :uhhuh: Not quite done yet, but this is one that I'm re-reading parts of as I go, just because it's so beautiful.

    I haven't finished this one either, but Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk, 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds is shaping up to be one of my very favorites, maybe ever. The link is to the UK paperback, which you can get in the US for $12-ish, and this is definitely the one to get. The American publisher ripped out 200 pages, reorganized it in goofy ways, and generally mucked it up. I love this period in music, and I really enjoy Reynold's style and approach.

    I've actually bought some others this summer that I haven't gotten to at all yet, including some new Dylan titles...but no kidding, I'm on a music book bender, and will happily take more recommendations....with a note that as the discussion shifts to all-time favorites, I have plenty more recommendations to add too. :laugh:
    zphage and Orthogonian Blues like this.
  2. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    The two music books I read this summer were Greg Kot's book on the Staple Singers published this past January -- I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom's Highway. Short but a good read with stories even a Staple aficionado such as myself hadn't heard.

    Also I read an advance copy of George Clinton's memoir, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You? which is due out in October. The stuff on the early years and the development of the P.Funk sound and style is really fascinating, and full of Clinton's keen insight about music, the later chapters get kind of bogged down in multiple rehashings of some of Clinton's legal battles. Also unfortunately co-author Ben Greenman, while he really captured Clinton's sharp thinking about the way music was changing in the '60s and '70s and then again with hip hop and sampling, fails to capture George's speaking and storytelling voice (something James Fox did brilliantly with Keith Richards' voice in Life).

    Some all time favorites -- Greil Marcus' Mystery Train, Christoph Wolff's Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician, John Szwed's Space Is The Place: The Lives And Times Of Sun Ra, Bill C. Malone's Country Music U.S.A.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014
  3. I recently read Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich. It's a decent yarn about 78's and the sorts of folks who collect them, along with info on the history of 78 collecting, Paramount Records, and the appeal of the old-timey music that's in those grooves. I enjoyed the book and Petrusich writes engagingly well overall, but I've a few gripes that will be familiar to anyone who's read the sort of feature writing that turns up in Esquire and other mags of its ilk: Petrusich sometimes with too much colour, like she's adding metaphorical descriptive detail to up the word count, and she inserts herself into the narrative too much. That's fine to a degree, since her learning about the 78 collecting scene is part of the story, but sometimes she goes overboard into the frivolous: like, we didn't need 10 pages on her learning to scuba-dive so she could go trolling for dumped Paramount sides at the bottom of the Milwaukee River, and we didn't need two or three pages on the journey to and from Joe Bussard's hometown, pages that could've been used for one or two more of the old coot's anecdotes.

    Nevertheless, well worth reading for anyone who enjoys books like Vinyl Junkies or the Desperate Man Blues documentary, just don't pay full list price. :)
    CrombyMouse likes this.
  4. Rick H.

    Rick H. Raised on AM Radio

    Tommy James Bio....Me, The Mob and The Music.
    Hot Ptah, jricc and Bobby Boogaloo like this.
  5. Orthogonian Blues

    Orthogonian Blues Forum Resident

    London, UK
    Oh yes, this one is a cracker. I bought it on the strength of Reynolds' other books, even though I wasn't that interested in post punk (but I am now) - so good is his writing.

    Readers of this forum will no doubt have something to way about his most recent masterwork - 'Retromania' - which demolishes music and pop culture's apparent obsession with it's past at the expense of musical innovation..
    Wordnat and Gavinyl like this.
  6. Danby Delight

    Danby Delight Forum Resident

    Tracey Thorn -- Bedsit Disco Queen, a memoir from the former frontwoman of Everything but the Girl. Incidentally, the most recent book by her husband and musical partner Ben Watt, Romany and Tom, was just long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize!
    Gavinyl likes this.
  7. CliffL

    CliffL Forum Resident

    Sacramento CA USA
    I just finished the Staples Singers book myself, it was excellent. I'm currently reading Queens of Noise-the Real Story of the Runaways by Evelyn McDonnell and Love Goes to Buildings on Fire by Will Hermes, about the New York City music scene
    circa 1973-1977.

    One book I have mixed reviews on is "There Goes Gravity" by Lisa Robinson-too much name-dropping and way too much
    talk about her making the scene with the big stars...the same problem I had with her writing back in the Seventies.
    CrombyMouse likes this.
  8. Durhambird

    Durhambird Member

    I read Buddy Guy's, When I Left Home: My Story, back in the spring. A great read about Buddy, the blues and Chess records. Highly recommended.
    johnaltman, Ephi82, Agent57 and 2 others like this.
  9. AlBowly

    AlBowly Member

    Anchorage, Alaska
    Just finished the Hermes book, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire. Great read about all the great music that came out of NYC in the mid-70's. Punk, Salsa, Jazz, Disco, Bruce, Phillip Glass, etc.
    CrombyMouse and inaptitude like this.
  10. Frippwire

    Frippwire Well-Known Member

    Dearborn, MI USA
    I am presently reading On The Periphery David Sylvian: A Biography The Solo Years. Up next is either Bathed In Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60's and the Emerald Beyond or Raisin' Cain: The Wild and Raucus Story of Johnny Winter.
    bluejimbop, CrombyMouse and Gavinyl like this.
  11. analogy

    analogy Active Member

    Nice topic, as I was just thinking I would like to read about music more (pref. while listening to music ;) ). Have read a lot of books about The Doors and The Doors On The Road by Greg Shaw comes to mind. Great book for bootleg collectors and Doors enthousiasts.

    Also, only mildy related, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby is a great read.
    CrombyMouse likes this.
  12. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Ian McDonalds ' Revolution In The Head ' and Nick Kent's ' Dark Stuff' are always worth a read.
    Solace likes this.
  13. Django

    Django Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    Would reccommend The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock by John Harris
    CrombyMouse likes this.
  14. Picca

    Picca Forum Resident

    Modena, Italy
    My favorite:
    I'll Sleep When I'm Dead - Warren Zevon bio
    Shakey - Neil Young bio
    Buddy Guy's autobio
    The Man Who Led Zeppelin - Peter Grant bio
    Trampled Underfoot - Led Zep oral (...) history
    This Wheel's On Fire - Levon Helm & The Band bio
    Bill Graham bio
    Turn Off Your Mind - the mystic sixties and the dark side of the age of aquarius
    The Last Sultan - Ahmet Ertegun bio
    Mansion On The Hill - Dylan Young Geffen Springsteen and the head-on collision of rock and commerce
    Bob Dylan - Chronicles

    I didn't like at all:
    Pete Townshend - Who am I
    Clapton's auto bio
    Graham Nash - Wild Tales
    Neil Young - Waving heavy peace
    Willin' - Little Feat bio
  15. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    NS, Canada
    Just read TRUE NORTH RECORDS - a Life in the Music Business, by Bernie Finkelstein. For those completely unaware of him, he was Bruce Cockburn's manager, but got his start in the 60s Yorkville scene.

    A major figure on the Canadian music scene. Seems to be a very nice guy, who operated by the seat of his pants.
  16. Right now, I'm reading Big Star: The Story Of Rock's Forgotten Band.
  17. sathvyre

    sathvyre formerly known as ABBAmaniac

    At the time I am reading CLIFF BURTON - TO LIVE IS TO DIE and SLAYER - SHOW NO MERCY. Both books are very good.
    One of my favourite books is the biography of Keith Richards...great book !!!
  18. stollar

    stollar Forum Resident

    Bærum Norway
    Motley Crue - The Dirt
    RelayerNJ likes this.
  19. aussievinyl

    aussievinyl Forum Resident

    I'm reading YEAH YEAH YEAH - THE STORY OF MODERN POP by Bob Stanley. It gets a bit depressing around the 80's and you can well imagine why. Great writing from a passionate person who is also a musician. ONE TRAIN LATER by Andy Summers is well worth a read too. Then there's SINATRA! THE SONG IS YOU by Will Friedwald, but you have to be a BIG Sinatra fan to like that one (luckily I am). And KEITH RICHARDS - LIFE has given much reading pleasure.
    CrombyMouse likes this.
  20. Stuggy

    Stuggy Forum Resident

    Enjoyed the David Stubbs Krautrock tome Future days even if I didn't totally agree with all of it.
    Hope somebody else writes something on Krautrock before long, could do with a reliable encyclopaedia that wsn't either too inclusive or exclusive.

    Want to read the Bob Stanley
    CrombyMouse likes this.
  21. Tristero

    Tristero A muted trumpeter swan

    I'm nearly done with Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, a pretty fascinating overview of their career. What with the shifting power dynamics and inter-band struggles, we're lucky to have gotten so much great music out of these guys over the years. Yeah, Roger comes off like a petty dictator at times, but he was still often the "big picture" guy who was driving the band forward to greater heights.
    CrombyMouse likes this.
  22. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Scranton, PA
    I just read Peter Hook's The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club which was as good as his book about Joy Division.
    CrombyMouse likes this.
  23. inaptitude

    inaptitude Forum Resident

    England's Dreaming by Jon Savage is probably my favourite music book of all time. The focus is mostly on the 1976-1979 English punk scene. The discography in the back was my internet before the internet existed.

    If you like jazz you can't do much better than Thelonious Monk: The Life And Times of an American Original. Covers Monk's life and career in stunning detail but what I took away more than anything was a fuller picture on what the jazz world was like for these guys in those days.
    johnnypaddock likes this.
  24. eeglug

    eeglug Forum Resident

    Chicago, IL, USA
    Thanks for alerting me to the McLaughlin book - will grab the ebook later when I get home! :righton:
    Frippwire likes this.
  25. Complier

    Complier Forum Resident

    Harrisburg, PA
    Raisin' Cain: The Wild and Raucus Story of Johnny Winter.

    I just started part 2. It's ok. You don't really get a feel for anyone on an individual basis. I've read worse but also much better.

Share This Page