Music is no longer just for the ears.
Books about music, from heavy memoirs to big coffee table photo tomes, continue to proliferate, with the past few months bringing in a plethora of intriguing volumes. As Christmas approaches, when you might have time to read and you’re still searching for gift ideas, here are two dozen of the most notable titles.
Paul McCartney’s “Lyrics: 1956 to the Present Day” (Liveright / WW Norton): The closest McCartney says he’ll ever get to a memoir is, well… fabulous. Throughout this beautiful and heavy package, he tells his story through the lyrics of 154 of his Beatles and solo songs, adding commentaries, illustrations and other complementary memorabilia that illuminate and justify their place in the poetry and the literature as well as popular music.
“Band of Gold: A Memoir” by Freda Payne with Mark Bego (Yorkshire Publishing): If you only know Payne through the tube that gives this book its title, you will learn a lot from its 372 pages. The Detroit-born singer has had a Forrest Gump-like life in music and entertainment, up to and including a brief affair with Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., and experiences with some of her greatest musicians. time – all this makes for a golden memory lane.
“The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music” by Dave Grohl (Dey St.): Speaking of Forrest Gumps, few musicians are more ubiquitous than Dave Grohl. Being in Fear, Nirvana, and Foo Fighters would be more than enough, but he’s cultivated friendships and collaborations (casual dinners with Paul McCartney, you say?) That make you laugh and shake your head with every turn of the page.
“Unrequited enthusiasm” by Stevie Van Zant (Hachette): Van Zandt is another one of those characters who was there, did it and, by his own words, was responsible for it as well. It fills these pages with a series of wonderful adventures, even beyond Bruce Springsteen and “The Sopranos,” and the dizzying parade of encounters leaves the reader in disbelief and immensely entertained.
Bob Spitz’s “Led Zeppelin: The Biography” (Penguin Press); “Beast: John Bonham and the Rise of Led Zeppelin” by CM Kushins (Hachette): Led Zeppelin hasn’t quite been exhausted as a book subject, it seems. Spitz’s latest is perhaps the most definitive of the group’s biographies, exhaustively researched and researched to present a wealth of research that always reads with the group’s energy in mid-flight. “Beast”, meanwhile, is a welcome dive into the complicated life of the band’s drummer, a Mount Rushmore figure as a rock’n’roll player and personality.
“Eruptions: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen” by Brad Tolinski and Chris Gill (Hachette); “Unchained: The Eddie Van Halen Story” by Paul Brannigan (Permuted Press): A year after his death, we get two in-depth and illuminating versions of what made Eddie Van Halen such a legendary figure. Guitar virtuosos Tolinski and Gill converse not only with him, but also with those around him for an in-depth three-dimensional portrait, while Brannigan’s British perspective offers different perspectives on the playing of the stature of Van Halen.
“The Beatles: Get Back” by The Beatles (Callaway Arts & Entertainment): Companion to the Peter Jackson docuseries and the recent re-release of the “Let It Be” album, a wealth of photos of Ethan Russell and transcriptions of key moments from the film, a precious memory of an essential project.
“Renegades Born in the USA: Dreams, Myths Music” by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen (Crown Books): It’s more fun listening to the podcast than reading the transcripts, but the wisdom and wit, and not a little music, of those conversations always translate well on the page.
“Set the Night On Fire: Living, Dying, and Playing Guitar with the Doors”, by Robbie Krieger with Jeff Alulis (Little, Brown): The youngest member of The Doors does something his band mates haven’t done in their previous memoir – make it feel like it was fun to be in the band. Krieger doesn’t skip the dark side, but he balances that with the joy of The Doors’ accomplishments and a few revealing glimpses into the group’s musical and personal inner workings.
“The first 21: how I became Nikki Sixx” by Nikki Sixx (Hachette): Prior to “The Dirt” and “The Heroin Diaries” Frank Feranna Jr. was a stray youngster in search of identity and community – whom he eventually found as a rock ‘n’ roller and co-founder of Motley. Flood. This is the origin story of Sixx, filled with adventure and misadventure as well as a surprising amount of warmth that puts flesh and heart into the disbelieving image it cultivates.
“My Life in Dire Straits” by John Illsley (Diversion): The inner story of the bassist and co-founder of the band, and the only one besides frontman Mark Knopfler (who wrote the front) to be with the band his entire life. Because little reliable substance has been written about Dire Straits, Illsley’s clear tome is revealing from start to finish – up to and including the group’s seemingly random and offhand ending.
“Nothing But Good Times: The Uncensored Story of the 80s Hard Rock Explosion” by Tom Beajour and Richard Bienstock (St. Martin’s Press): The title comes from a song by Poison, but fits the book perfectly, a 560-page oral history of what happened in Los Angeles from the late ’70s to the’ 80s, until the Spirit teenagers are starting to feel the grunge. A treasure trove of anecdotes, presented in an energetic clip that reflects the scene in question.
“Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: My Life in the Music Business” by Miles A. Copeland III (Jawbone Press): A talent manager (including brother Stewart Copeland’s band, The Police) and record company manager, Copeland has been instrumental in bringing a great deal of good music to the world. He has stories, and he tells them here, blending deserved pride and self-mockery as he takes us from the British pubs to the Hollywood Hills.
“It Ain’t Retro: Daptone Records and the 21st Century Soul Revolution” by Jessica Lipsky (Jawbone Press): There are artists on the Daptone label, like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, who deserve their own books. Lipsky is weaving the story of a small business that could – and did – and brought us essential music that otherwise couldn’t have gone through the machine.
“Rock concert” by Marc Myers (Grove Press): Mark Myers attempts to build an oral history of the concert industry, and he gets fond memories of an assortment of performers, agents, promoters, and others. Long passages from the same person make this more of a chore than a frequent point stream, but the subject matter is strong enough that it’s worth pushing to find the gems.
“A Life in Brief: The Photograph of Graham Nash” by Graham Nash (Insight Editions): The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame took photos as a child, before making music, and his keenly developed eye is evident in this collection, which features invaluable and often candid images of fellow musicians and dancers. friends he has made throughout his long career.
“Made in Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s” by Gina Schock (Black Dog and Leventhal): A coffee table photo book more than a memoir, it doesn’t probe as deeply as Kathy Valentine’s “All I Ever Wanted”, but her candid images taken by the threshing machine herself, along with her memories, tell their own story. and take us behind the scenes and behind closed doors of the group’s historic career.
“I’m talking to myself” from Chris Jagger (BMG): Mick’s little brother doesn’t trade vulgar secrets in these memoirs and, in fact, establishes that he had his own life as a musician, actor and journalist. The book was released in tandem with a new album, “Mixing Up the Medicine,” for Jagger’s simultaneous ear and eye.
“Immortal Axes: Guitars That Rock” by Lynn S. Johnson (Princeton Architectural Press): Guitar porn is the best line for this photographer’s gripping dives into 160 instruments, complemented by text from former Guitar World editor (and Eddie Van Halen biographer) Brad Tolinski.
“Six-String Stories” by Eric Clapton (Genesis Press): The veteran guitar hero has become a polarizing figure in recent times, but reading stories about his instruments, many of which are auctioned off to benefit his Crossroads Center rehab center in Antigua, allows us to pinpoint other issues. aside and appreciate a man’s passion for the pursuit he has chosen. .
“Fender 75 Years “by Dave Hunter (Motorobooks): This sanctioned and lavishly-wrapped tome offers a comprehensive history of a company that changed the face of music, from its first lap steel guitars in 1946 to guitars, bassists, amplifiers and other industry standard devices.
“Twisted Business: Lessons From My Life in Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Jay Jay French and Jim Farber (Rosetta Books): The Twisted Sister guitarist is now a business columnist and motivational speaker, but he spices this book up with enough anecdotes to keep it from becoming a mere academic exercise.