Best rock reference books?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Country Rocker, Nov 24, 2021 at 8:18 AM.

  1. Country Rocker

    Country Rocker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I've been collecting these for years, and think I've covered all the major ones. Here's just five titles that are amongst my favourites:

    Robert Christgau's record guides (70's/80's/90's)
    All Music Guide to Rock
    Rolling Stone Album Guide (all four editions, the first being by far the best)
    MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide
    American Singer-Songwriters, A Guide by Mike Swann

    People out there still keen on these? As I still refer to them on a regular basis. What are your recommendations and most treasured rock reference books?
  2. IanM007

    IanM007 Give me CDs or give me death...!

    Shrewsbury, UK
    Not sure if it's the sort of thing you mean but I go back to 'The Complete David Bowie' by Nicholas Pegg often.
  3. tim_neely

    tim_neely Forum Hall Of Fame

    Central VA
    Joel Whitburn's Record Research books, chronicling mostly the Billboard charts, but in recent years, he's done references for Cash Box, Record World, and Radio & Records. Expensive, but essential.
  4. PepiJean

    PepiJean Forum Resident

  5. zphage

    zphage genre fluid

    You need Trouser Press’ 80s and 90s editions

    Spin’s Alternative Guide

    Blackwell Soul Guides

    There also the Vernon Joynson guides, very expensive: Fuzz, Acid, and Flowers, etc,

    The Richard Jack Morton Guides: Galactic Ramble, Endless Trip, and Psychedelia 101


    Patrick Lundeborg’s Acid Archives covers many of the independent releases of the60s and 70s.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021 at 9:09 AM
  6. zphage

    zphage genre fluid

  7. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    Greil Marcus' discography in Stranded
  8. egebamyasi

    egebamyasi Forum Resident

    Worcester, MA
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  9. Aftermath

    Aftermath Senior Member

    I like the Rough Guide series for individual groups (Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, etc$
  10. Turnaround

    Turnaround Member your mama warned you about

    New York
    I have some of the OP's reference books, from the days before the Internet. I don't really use them anymore, as most information I need these days about an artist can be found on the Internet now.

    Some of these books are also highly opinionated. Like the Rolling Stone guides will just give one star (or lower) ratings across certain popular artist's catalogue, because the writer really, really hates that artist. If I'm looking into a new artist I'm not familiar with, I mostly want a roadmap to which era or albums to start at, for someone who likes or may like that artist. Allmusic's website tries to be more evenhanded in their album ratings (although their website is so full of malware ads, I rarely use it anymore).

    Any music reference books I have picked up in the past couple decades tend to be focused on niche genres, specific eras or a specific artist, where it's not possible to find as much information on the Internet as in the reference book. A couple decent niche genre reference books I have and like, which the OP may not have, are:

    The Da Capo Book of American Singing Groups (Jay Warner)
    The Complete Book of Doo-Wop (Anthony Gribin and Matthew Schiff)
  11. juss100

    juss100 Forum Resident

    This, by far.

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  12. unclecuddles

    unclecuddles Forum Resident

    In the early 90s I bought a book called something like the A-Z of Rock & Pop Stars which I loved. Basically a brief Wikipedia type overview of every band or artist that ever had a hit record, including band members, hits, albums, other groups or solo links, and other general information/news/scandals. Now I just follow the links in Wikipedia!
  13. Ignatius

    Ignatius Forum Resident

    I liked the New Musical Express Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock. The first edition was published on the cusp of Punk and later editions eliminated older obscure bands.
    Mr. D, sharedon and Grootna like this.
  14. Sebastian saglimbenI

    Sebastian saglimbenI Forum Resident

    New york
    Not strictly based on "fact" by I love the themes in greil marcus-"Lipstick traces"......Sex pistols.....French revolutionary's......and the politics of it include a cool list of reccomendation's.
  15. mschrist

    mschrist Forum Resident

    Madison, WI
    I will never stop revisiting that first Rolling Stone Record Guide. It's so perfectly timed, just as the classic-rock era was winding down. Late enough for something like a canon to have emerged but not so late that everything in it had become unassailable. Serious engagement of (and love for) pre-Beatles rock-and-roll, which tends to get overlooked today. Plus a necessarily incomplete but wildly entertaining section for blues, jazz, and gospel.

    (Edited to add: plus, the quaint nerdity of including the catalog numbers of every album listed!)
  16. Kingsley Fats

    Kingsley Fats Forum Resident

    These types of books were the essential central core to my music discovery pathway.
    Then along came the internet & I haven't opened one for years.
  17. Started buying Rolling Stone in 1970, my first issue had a grinning David Crosby on the cover.
    I don't remember what records were reviewed in that particular issue but I was glad to 'discover' this magazine as I needed some kind of guidance/ assistance in buying albums .
    About a year or so later though I saw a paperback book at the drugstore called ' The Rolling Stone Record Review' . I couldn't believe my eyes. This book had hundreds of reviews from the magazine since it started. To say this was invaluable to me is understating the matter. It was just what I needed. I think it cost a dollar.
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  18. Scroller

    Scroller Senior Member

    Yep. All the classics and tons of obscurities to be discovered.
  19. Kelby A. Thomas

    Kelby A. Thomas Forum Resident

    My dog-eared, sun bleached, water damaged, highlighted, margin-noted copies of things like Christgau's Records Guides & the Grateful Dead Taping Compendiums are sacred stuff that I never go long without opening, so I was thrilled to discover the Trouser Press books courtesy of @zphage . Just picked up affordable "good" copies of the original & new guides + the 90s' review off ebay. Unfortunately, the New Wave edition is prohibitively pricey. Great thread!
  20. Panther

    Panther Forum Resident

    Tokyo, Japan
    The two major ones I 'grew up on', so to speak, and probably learned the most from (one American, one UK), were:
    Fred Bronson's The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (I had the 1988 edition). Each page of this (long) book details each #1 pop hit in the USA from mid-1955 to 1988. I read this when I was 12, and it was really great to give me an overview of the mainstream American music scene.

    NME's Rock'n'Roll Years (my edition had a red hardcover, and I think it was from 1992).

    Each page of this book details one month in the history of the UK music scene from the mid-50s through early-90s. There are several photos on each page, which is laid out like a newspaper. It also details the chart-topping singles and albums for each week in the UK's history.
  21. Country Rocker

    Country Rocker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The only issue with the first edition, is that any albums that were out of print in 1979 are often not listed at all. Also, the albums aren't listed in chronological order for some reason. But it's the best written out of the four editions. Whether people like Dave Marsh or not is another thing altogether.
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  22. juss100

    juss100 Forum Resident

    It's the only survey of rock music I've come across that's completely thorough in what it covers, has well written and very personal feeling reviews (yeah, he knows you disagree with a lot of his opinions) and tons of lists to trawl through. The 80s and 90s ones are probably even more brilliant, but the 70s volume in all its proto-metalness is a more complete survey of "rock music" of the period, I think.

    Any lover of hard rock or metal should have these imo because there's nothing else quite like it - and no internet resource that I know of.
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  23. Kingsley Fats

    Kingsley Fats Forum Resident

    Martin Popoff has written a decent number of books that mostly cover hard rock/metal artists & shows a great appreciation for a style of music that he loves.
    juss100 likes this.
  24. Country Rocker

    Country Rocker Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm missing this one. Every time I see it, it's very expensive or totally battered with the pages falling out.

  25. Paul Lee

    Paul Lee Forum Resident

    This is probably the best book. Marcus is a great writer and fully understands music and the evolution of Rock.
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