By Jack Sharkey, January 22, 2016.
The eastern third of the country is still sort of digging out from last week Snowgantua, the middle third is expecting some serious snow and other ugly type of weather tomorrow, and no one can really keep track of the weather in the western part of the country during this year's El Nino Grande so assuming most everyone will lose power at some point int he next few days, the only responsible thing for me to write about this week is old-fashioned book reading.
Unless of course you have a single Muo, or a pair of Muo synched in stereo so you can listen to extremely wonderful sounding music for like 10 hours or more, then I apologize for writing about books. But for the rest of you who haven’t gotten your Muo yet, here’s a little something to help you hunker down and enjoy whatever miserable weather is headed your way.
I have carefully selected ten books by looking at my bookshelf and pulling out books that have something to do with music I have personally read at least once. Hopefully, our Music Lover’s Guide to Hunkering Down In A Storm With A Good Book will help you ride out the impending snowmergency in your neighborhood.
These books are listed in no particular order except that’s how I pulled them off the bookshelf.
Life – Keith Richards (2010, Back Bay Books)
Whether you’re a Stones fan or not, if you’re a rock & roll fan this book opens the culture of the 1960s and 1970s wide enough for you to step inside and peek around at a time that will never happen again. Richards style is straight-forward and not as antagonistic as I first imagined, plus he’s funny as hell.
Beatles For Sale – John Blaney (2008 JawBone Press)
I bought this book in a little record store in London and read it pretty much in one sitting. If you can get ahold of a copy and are even a passing Beatles fan, you should pick this book up. This is less about the personalities of the Fab Four and more about the machine that made them huge to the point of relevancy fifty years on.
Respect Yourself – Robert Gordon (2013, Bloomsbury Press)
An unapologetic look at music and race in the 1960s and how the two were inextricably linked, with lots of detail about how some of the most iconic music in American history was made and marketed. A must for Stax Records and old-school R&B fans, and a serious recommendation for everyone else.
Live At the Fillmore East and West – John Glatt (2016, Lyon Press)
Using the Fillmore theaters in San Francisco and New York City as backdrops, Glatt examines the life and drive of rock’s first impresario, Bill Graham, as well as telling the stories of Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Carlos Santana and many more in a succinct and easy narrative.
Ghost Rider – Neil Peart (2002, ECW Press)
Peart, considered by many to be among the greatest drummers of all time and genre, tells his story of the loss of his wife and daughter within months of each other. Left alone with his grief, Peart travels North and South America on his motorcycle searching for solace and meaning. A most decidedly un-rock & roll book turns out to be one of the greatest rock & roll reads I’ve come across.
Skydog: the Duane Allman Story – Randy Poe (2006, Backbeat Books)
Duane Allman lived for just 24 years before a motorcycle crash took his life, but forty-five years later his legacy lives on in his music and the music of those he inspired (which is a lot more people than you think). This is by far the best autobiography on Allman, and the best telling of the Allman Brothers’ story I have read.
Rocks: My Life In And Out of Aerosmith – Joe Perry (2015, Simon & Schuster)
Joe Perry is pretty much the coolest person ever – he makes Elvis circa 1955 look like a mama’s boy, and even at his advanced age he is still the prototype for guitarists everywhere. I read Steven Tyler’s autobiography and it read exactly like I thought it would read – mostly self-indulgent, mostly skewed in point-of-view and a lot of woe-is-me. Perry’s response to Tyler’s book is everything Tyler’s is without the woe-is-me attitude.
Catch A Fire: The Life of Bob Marley – Timothy White (1983, Henry Holt & Co)
It’s not an easy read at first, but once you get into it, Catch A Fire is an extremely detailed and in-depth look at the music and politics surrounding one of the great icons of 20th Century music. You may need several gigantic snowstorms to plow through this tome, but it will be well worth it.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice: My Own Story – Brian Wilson with Todd Gold (1991, Harper-Collins)
As disturbing and chilling as it is riveting, this account of one of the saddest stories in rock and roll history is a must-read for anyone interested in how our music got to where it is today. The psychological damage that ruled Brian Wilson’s life, either self-inflicted or at the hands of his father, serves as a backdrop to the story of Brian Wilson – arguably the most gifted writer and producer in American history.
Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust: Off the Record With the Beatles, Bowie, Elton & So Much More – Ken Scott (2012, Alfred Music Publishing)
Ken Scott has had a singular career in the music industry – starting as a 17 year-old intern at Abbey Road Studio in London on through his work as engineer and producer on some of the most seminal albums in rock and jazz history. With lots of juicy details about the inside of the business and enough techy-stuff to delight even the biggest music nerd, this is one of those books that is truly a must-read for music fans of all level of interest.
So there you have it. Hunker down in your favorite easy chair, pour a drink, light a candle or a fire in the fireplace and listen to some great music – then once the power goes out, immerse yourself in some of the best music books written to date.
The opinions in this article are the author's own and necessarily those of KEF or its employees.