View Full Version : Music books

The Grand Wazoo
07-12-2008, 00:10
I've been away working away from home quite a bit over the last 6 months or so, & therefore reading a lot. I've found myself reading mostly biographies & autobiographies of musicians - things I've stumbled across in charity shops or stuff I've had for years & meant to read or reread because I enjoyed it so much before. What is (are)the best book(books) about music you've ever read?

....and why?

Was there ever a book that you read, before you knew anything or much about the subject that made you go & discover more? Did it change your listening habits?

The best, I think for me was perhaps:

Head-on: Memories of the Liverpool Punk-scene, & the Story of the Teardrop Explodes (1976-82) By Julian CopePublished by Head Heritage, 1994
ISBN 0952671905, 9780952671909

I also enjoyed, but don't necessarily think the author is a particularly good human being (or musician for that matter):

Give The Anarchist a Cigarette by Mick Farren.

Turned me off the idea of ever getting seriously into drugs. Fascinating, harrowing and utterly compelling:

Long Time Gone by David Crosby

The list is pretty long, I could go on...........

The Grand Wazoo
07-12-2008, 00:11
......and in fact I may later (and at some length)!!!!

07-12-2008, 00:37
'Cor Baby, Is That Me' by John Otway is a great book, very funny as you might imagine. 'Wreckers Of Civilisation' about Throbbing Gristle is very good for an insight into the pre-punk experimental / performance art / collectivist / situationist scene in the 70's, and 'The Story Of Crass' is likewise excellent about the start of the Stonehenge Free Festival, Crass, obviously, and the influence they've had on political and musical counterculture since. Which is massive, far more than their musical success would suggest.

07-12-2008, 13:21
John Culshaw's " Ring Resounding " is an absolute must not only for Wagner enthusiasts but in fact for anyone interested in recording.
It's nicely supplemented by an article by Angus McKenzie in HiFi for Pleasure 1985 where he reveals many of the things Gordon Parry, the recording engineer told him about the quality of the various tapes used etc

The Grand Wazoo
10-10-2009, 23:20
Thought I'd revisit this thread because I'm always on the lookout for a good book........

Well worth reading if you're even slightly interested in the Beatles:
'Revolution in the Head: The Beatles Records & the Sixties' - Ian McDonald

A fascinating insight into each track they recorded: ordered chronologically by recording date. It lets you know about the techniques used, how the tracks were written, what they're about and how they fit into the social context of thetime. There's the assessment of a musicologist. Criticism is there when justified.
A fantastic read or just great to dip into.
I'm on my second copy!

10-10-2009, 23:43
Haven't read too many books about musicians. However those that I have read and enjoyed are:

'Daybreak', biography about Joan Baez, can't remember the author's name;

Charles Mingus, 'Beneath the Underdog', a rather fanciful autobiography (Penguin 1975);

Brain Priestley, 'Mingus - A critical biography' (Paladin 1982, ISBN 0-586-08478-9);

Lucian Randall and Chris Welch, 'Ginger Geezer - The life of Vivian Stanshall' (Fourth Estate 2001, ISBN 1-84115-678-7);

Frank Zappa, 'The Real frank Zappa Book', again a rather fanciful autobiography;

Barry Miles, 'Frank Zappa', a much more authoritative biography, but no hagiography - a warts and all exposition.

A few books on various jazz musicians, but I can't remember their titles or authors.


11-10-2009, 15:20
Really enjoyed Marilyn Manson's Autobiography, would recommend that to anyone, regardless of whether you like him.

Redemption Song - The Definitive Biography of Joe Strummer - Chris Salewicz... Again, a well written, moving biography with genuinely fascinating aspects of his public and private life.

Not a musician, but on a related note, enjoyed John Peel's autobigraphy (finished off by his wife) Margrave of the Marshes

11-10-2009, 16:46
The best book on rock music is 'Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung' by Lester Bangs.

There's also 'Mystery Train' by Greil Marcus

'The Dark Stuff' by Nick Kent

'Shout! The True Story of the Beatles' by Philip Norman

and the strangely wonderful 'The Aesthetics of Rock' by Richard Meltzer.

The Grand Wazoo
11-10-2009, 16:54
The best book on rock music is 'Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung' by Lester Bangs.

There's also 'Mystery Train' by Greil Marcus

'The Dark Stuff' by Nick Kent

'Shout! The True Story of the Beatles' by Philip Norman

and the strangely wonderful 'The Aesthetics of Rock' by Richard Meltzer.

Enjoyed the Lester Bangs a lot - his writing style is a little hard to get to grips with at first- a bit Hunter S. Thompon. Mystery Train was good too as are all of Greil Marcus' books I've read.

Never had a chance to read the Nick Kent or the Philip Norman - I must seek them out.

11-10-2009, 21:11
And I forgot: 'Awopbopaloobop: Pop From The Beginning' by Nik Cohn; the first book about pop I bought, and one of the best.

12-10-2009, 15:33
I’ve just remembered this;


'The History of the Blues The Roots, The Music, The People From Charley Patton to Robert Cray'
by Francis Davis, Secker and Warburg, London ISBN 0 436 20375 8.

This is a difficult book to start: the author seems to have an 'attitude' as to what is meant by the blues; his perceived opinion that books by other author on this subject are incorrect and questions what is expected by listeners to the ‘blues’. However once one has got through the introduction, the rest of this 300 page book do make for some very interesting reading.

If you can’t get hold of anything written by Sam Charters or by Paul Oliver, then this is not a bad book to read.