Good books about music

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I'm going to Delaware for spring break to look at colleges, and it's going to be pretty boring. I'm making a run to Best Buy and Barnes and Noble's tomorrow to get stuff, and I was wondering if anyone knew of good books about music. We're going for fun to read here, since I need something that doesn't take too long to get into. I've already read Never Mind the Pollacks (which was great), and my closest Barnes and Noble's has Our Band Could be Your Life and that uncensored oral history of punk book that was on the OC three weeks ago.

WillSommer, Thursday, 17 March 2005 04:18 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Perfect Sound Forever
The Music's All That Matters
What Rock Is All About
Lipstick Traces
Just Kill Me
Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung
The Aesthetics of Rock

little ivan, Thursday, 17 March 2005 04:23 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Get the Lester Bangs books.

The Brainwasher (Twilight), Thursday, 17 March 2005 04:23 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

and Please Kill Me: The Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil

The Brainwasher (Twilight), Thursday, 17 March 2005 04:24 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Please Kill Me was on the OC?

Please kill me.

Oh well. Read it anyway. It's amazing. And Our Band Could Be Your Life. If you're interested in criticism, check out Psychotic Reactions and Carbeurator Dung or anything by Lester Bangs or one or two Greil Marcus books (The Basement Tapes). I'd stay away from Camden Joy, contrary to popular opinion.

I need something that doesn't take too long to get into

But you're going to college, man! Just buy Adorno's Essays on Music and accept that the next 4+ years of your life are going to be like that mwahahaha...

poortheatre (poortheatre), Thursday, 17 March 2005 04:26 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Dave Marsh, The Heart of Rock & Soul (his 1,001 most important singles of the rock era, in bite-size nuggets)

Joseph McCombs (Joseph McCombs), Thursday, 17 March 2005 04:43 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Love Saves the Day and Can't Stop Won't Stop by Tim Lawrence and Jeff Chang, respectively.

I also enjoyed Last Night a DJ Saved My Life and there's the ever-classic Generation Ecstasy.

deej., Thursday, 17 March 2005 04:49 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

conflict of interest, but whatever:
Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music
featuring Eno, Cage, Stockhausen, Merzbow, Reynolds, lots of other luminaries, and some jerk named Sherburne

philip sherburne (philip sherburne), Thursday, 17 March 2005 04:51 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll- Tosches
Faithfull: An Autobiography- Marianne Faithfull
Chronicles v.1- Dylan
Black Monk Time- Eddie Shaw
I, Tina- Tina Turner
Uptight: the VU story,
Transformer- Bockris
Planet Joe- Joe Cole

Elisa (Elisa), Thursday, 17 March 2005 05:09 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

John Cage's Silence is a great book about music and other things.

Mark (MarkR), Thursday, 17 March 2005 05:15 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

All of the above, and Sidney Bechet's autobio (blanking on the title, but he only wrote one); Miles by Miles Davis; Rip It Up: The Black Experience in Rock 'N' Roll (Kandia Crazy Horse, ed.)

don, Thursday, 17 March 2005 05:17 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Also, Robert Palmer (not the singer)'s Deep Blues, Christgau's 70s Consumer Guide (yeah you can look up all the Consumer Guide entries at, 'cept maybe the *most* recent, which are at, but unless you just love typing in Subjects and hitting Enter and know exactly what to look for, the book is a lot more fun). Also most anything by Peter Guralnick (although I woouldn't start with the Elvis stuff)(if you want to get strung out ona good sick Elvis book, try Evis Aron Presley, by Alanna Nash with the Memphis Mafia) Most anything by Frith, Toop; Charles Keil' Uran Blues; Tom T. Hall's The Storyteller's Nashville (one of the funniest books I've read re musos, and good serious stuff too); Nelson Goerge's Seduced: The Life And Times Of A One Hit Wonder; Pamela Des Barres' I'm With The Band; Ruth Brown's Miss Rhythm (an epic!)

don, Thursday, 17 March 2005 05:41 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Ahh yeah Rap Attack by Toop. Does Greg Tate have any books out there worth picking up?

deej., Thursday, 17 March 2005 05:45 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Does Greg Tate have any books out there worth picking up?

I had never heard of Tate until I saw him speak not long ago. He is a BAD. ASS. Does he still write for The Voice? I feel like I never see him in there. Does he have a blog?

poortheatre (poortheatre), Thursday, 17 March 2005 05:56 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

He definitely still writes for the voice, unbelievable writer too, sort of a marxist approach to hip-hop these days (as SFJ pointed out) which seems to distance him from discussing how the music moves him but which does raise significant points regarding hip-hop and the way it is being used both positively and negatively; I got sort of nuts at him during the "great tate debate" when he criticized people for celebrating the 30th anniversary of hip-hop and while I don't share his lack of enthusiasm/engagement with the current music, I do think he's absolutely right about what hip-hop's significance is (paraphrasing, renders African-Americans "all but invisible" in a cultural sense) and that unfortunately the advancement of African-American cultural capital has not resulted in economic justice or any kind of justice, really.

I'm mostly interested in reading a book of his since his prose is fairly magnificent.

deej., Thursday, 17 March 2005 06:23 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

r. crumb draws the blues - r. crumb
country - nick tosches (his other books too of course, but this is my favorite)
rythm oil and the true adventures of the rolling stones by stanley booth
awopbopaloobop by nik cohn

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 17 March 2005 07:05 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Touching From A Distance
Bass Culture
Songs They Don't Play On The Radio
Revolution In The Head
Rotten: No Dogs, No Blacks , No Irish

wtin, Thursday, 17 March 2005 10:56 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

"Wonderland Avenue" - Danny Sugerman - I can't stand The Doors but I loved this book. Also, "The Dirt", the Motley Crue book. Again, hate the band, but a cracking read.

bg, Thursday, 17 March 2005 11:25 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Tate's 1991 collection Flyboy in the Buttermilk is tremendous. His review/demolition of Bad ("I'm White! What's Wrong with Michael Jackson") is worth the price by itself, especially when he sez that the album's title "accurately describes its contents in standard English."

If you want a cracking funny read on hip-hop, though, pick up The Rough Guide to Hip-Hop by Peter Shapiro, which has just been updated and enlarged (it was a pocket-size the first time, now it's 8 x 10). Best line goes to the Bad Boy Records writeup, when he notes that Puff Daddy, having been responsible for 40% of all 1997's number ones, moved to the Hamptons "so he could live by the sea, just like his magic dragon namesake."

Matos-Webster Dictionary (M Matos), Thursday, 17 March 2005 11:41 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

actually, strike that "though," Toop can be funny and obviously so can Tate.

Matos-Webster Dictionary (M Matos), Thursday, 17 March 2005 11:42 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Neil McCormick's "Killing Bono" was a quick, fun read.

John Fredland (jfredland), Thursday, 17 March 2005 11:44 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

"Wonderland Avenue" - Danny Sugerman - I can't stand The Doors but I loved this book. Also, "The Dirt", the Motley Crue book. Again, hate the band, but a cracking read.

Same here! (Of course there's also the Led Zep bio.)

nathalie barefoot in the head (stevie nixed), Thursday, 17 March 2005 11:46 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

ooh, haven't read that led zep one. I just remembered a book called "Lost in Music" by Giles Smith, which was a hoot.

bg, Thursday, 17 March 2005 11:54 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

chuck berry's autobiog

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 March 2005 12:26 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

George Jones, I Lived To Tell It All
Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography

Next week on "The O.C.": Seth and Ryan get into a fatal disagreement over "James Taylor: Marked For Death," while Summer meets a new hottie who shares her disgust of Nick Hornby.

Keith C (kcraw916), Thursday, 17 March 2005 14:06 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Nelson George's previously mentioned Seduced is said to roman-a-clef of sorts (Russell Simmons, on back cover of early edition, earnestly denies that one of the characters is based on him--that's his whole blurb). Some wicked bits about the early days of hip-hop, and the music biz overall. The sequel, Urban Romance, spotlights a minor Seduced charactor, who writes for Billboard and the Voice. Haven't read it yet, but it's next. Tate's Everything But The Burden, about whites biting black music, is another I've heard good stuff about.

don, Thursday, 17 March 2005 22:09 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

For a good time, read:

Dino by Nick Tosches (about Dean Martin; as deep as Catch a Fire by Timothy White, as entertaining as that Motley Crue book)

Backbeat: Earl Palmer's Story, by Tony Scherman (oral history/autobiography of the New Orleans drummer; had me at "Louis Armstrong was a pimp"...)

We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen (better than Please Kill Me, kind of like L.A. punk itself)

Pete Scholtes, Thursday, 17 March 2005 22:30 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Here's TSOL frontman Jack Grisham in We Got the Neutron Bomb, before he announced his run for governor against Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger (and Gary Coleman, etc.):

I was torturing this guy in the garage of my mom's house in this nice suburban neighborhood with my whole family inside eating Easter dinner... and I'd got this guy tied up in the rafter with a rope around his legs and I'm beating him with a two-by-four. I said, "Hang on a minute," and put the two-by-four down and walked into the house and kissed my aunt and said like, "Oh hi, how you doing?" I grabbed a deviled egg, told them I'd be back in a minute, and I went back out, grabbed the two-by-four, and kept workin' on the guy. I finally had to get out of Vicious Circle 'cause of the violence. There were constant stabbings and beatings and people cruising by my house at night, shooting up the neighborhood....

I did something pretty bad to somebody and they retaliated with guns. It was a big deal, I had to split to Alaska for a while, they cut the lines on my car, blew up my car... fuck...I don't wanna say who they were, but they weren't punks... boy, they were pissed off.

Pete Scholtes, Thursday, 17 March 2005 22:34 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

'Long Time Gone' the David Crosby (auto)biog is definitely the best music book i have ever read. the way he led his life and some of the decisions he made are genuinely stupefying. equal parts genius and retard. extraordinary when set against the soundtrack of the music he was making.

i went on holiday with the Deborah Curtis book and the Nick Drake biography once. happy times, let me tell you.

Lee F# (fsharp), Thursday, 17 March 2005 22:53 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

dino is so good that i've lent and lost TWO copies to (so-called) friends

if you ever find dave rimmer's "once upon a time in the east", abt berlin east and west b4 the fall of the wall, i utterly UTTERLY recommend it: tho it's only somewhat abt music - unlike his earlier (and also good) "like punk never happened"

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 March 2005 22:53 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I've just got "Lost in the Grooves" by the editors of Scram (the same peeps who did "Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth"), a collection of reviews of culty, forgotten or neglected albums. Some very ILM choices in there: Jandek, Poster Children, Bridgette Fontaine etc. If only slsk was working properly...

Richard C (avoid80), Thursday, 17 March 2005 23:00 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I wrote a few entries for Lost In The Grooves (Boogie Down Productions, Schoolly D, Sonny Sharrock).

Joe Carducci's Rock and the Pop Narcotic is being reissued sometime this year.

pdf (Phil Freeman), Thursday, 17 March 2005 23:02 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

and how could i forget, the funniest rock-related book ever: the life and times of little richard by charles white.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Thursday, 17 March 2005 23:19 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

xpost the David Crosby book has sections with different versions side by side, like the Synoptic Gospels: the Word according to St. David, his friends and ex-friends. But certainly not Gospel in the I-swung-naked-on-the-chandelier-but-now-I've-found-the-LORDuh (so send your dollars to my new friends today). He's got his regrets, but still the somae ornery critter ("Don't do crack, and also watch out for the CIA/Colobian Cartels, man," is more the POV)

don, Friday, 18 March 2005 00:01 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Bass Culture
Sadly retitled in America as The History of Jamaica's music or something like that, but it's excellent. The only disappointing aspect about it is that Lloyd Bradley doesn't cover any On-U-Sound releases in the book or even take them into account.

Quit glaring at Ian Riese-Moraine! He's mentally fraught! (Eastern Mantra), Friday, 18 March 2005 00:23 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I'm just finishing this, I like it, but it could have used a little bit more demographic and geographic background info on Jamaica and Kingston in particular.

JoB (JoB), Friday, 18 March 2005 01:32 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Nick Kent's "The Dark Stuff"
"Alt-Rock-o-Rama" (great on car trips!)
Brian Eno's "More Dark than Shark"
Motley Crue's "The Dirt" (well, not about music, per se)

Josh in Chicago (Josh in Chicago), Friday, 18 March 2005 01:54 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Blissed Out is still my favorite Simon Reynolds book. Jon Savage's England's Dreaming (see recent thread on him); Chuck Eddy's Stairway To Hell and Accidental Evolution; a couple of good anthologies: ROck She Wrote and Trouble Girls.

don, Friday, 18 March 2005 06:37 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

that book "Hip: A History" isn't strictly about music but it's also very good. I think the author's name is John Leland.

Ashandeej, Friday, 18 March 2005 06:41 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Audio Culture (edited cox / warner) seconded, and limiting myself to the books next to my desk (library's in the hallway)

Electronic and Experimental Music by Thom Holmes
also; Wireless Imagination (d kahn / g whitehead)
Paul Griffiths - A Concise History of Avant-Garde Music
Paul Griffiths - Modern Music And Beyond
Curtis Roads
William Duckworth : Talking Music
Cage: Silence / A Year From Monday
Cage / Feldman: Conversations
James Tenney : Meta / Hodos
Karlheinz Stockhausen - Stockhausen on Music (Compiled by R Maconie)
Sound By Artists (ed. Dan Lander)
Chris Cutler - File Under Popular
Attali - Noise
Russolo - The Art of Noises (get a hold of a copy any way you can)
Trevor Wishart - On Sonic Art
Douglas Kahn - Noise Water Meat

milton parker (Jon L), Friday, 18 March 2005 07:13 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

milton, has "modern music and beyond" been updated at all?: when i first read it (= in like 1977), i remember thinking "waddya mean beyond"!! it stops in 1968 with a sad thud!!

i think the attali book is lousy at book length—it's a good short polemic idea bulked out to a contradictory nonsense schema—and wireless imagination is patchy (which is a pity, cz it's a great idea for an essay collection)

mark s (mark s), Friday, 18 March 2005 09:11 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

really good things I've read over the last few months were adorno's bk on mahler and morton feldman's 'give my regards to 8th street' essay comp.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Friday, 18 March 2005 09:55 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

weird, I stopped reading Neutron Bomb halfway through--bored me for some reason, though the stories weren't in themselves boring. hmmm. (though it may be because I've never been all that into L.A. punk and like NYC punk way more.)

Matos-Webster Dictionary (M Matos), Friday, 18 March 2005 10:27 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

"Bass Culture" seconded - terminally readable, even if you don't much care about the stuff (which I do); as much of a cultural history as anything else. There's a certain integrity to his (not total, by any means, but pronounced) dismissal of Dancehall (and I do sometimes hear, say, Bounty Killer a bit differently now that I've read about the jamaican warlords and can't just pretend it's all fun "hey let's pretend we're Al Pacino" wackyness), but I do sorta wish he had just stopped when "his" age was over.

The Elvis Guralnick books - again, you don't have to care about the subject matter to enjoy them (personally, I was so-so on Elvis before readin' 'em, am now an unabashed fan), and the second one is one hell of a car wreck: the descent starts like twenty pages into it, and by the end of the book you can't even feel sorry for the guy anymore, you just wonder why he hasn't kicked the bucket already.

"Where Did Our Love Go?" by Nelson George has some nice anecdotes, and is probably the best book on Motown around, tho to be frank I didn't learn all that much from it.

"The Heart Of Rock & Soul" seconded, and throw in the "New Book Of Rock Lists" too, if only for the sheer joy of reading the sentence "Tragedy The Intelligent Hoodlum Lists..." over and over again (not that book of rock jokes, tho, that was awful.) And also "Fortunate Son: The Best Of Dave Marsh", great stuff on Elvis, Muddy Waters, latino rock, etc.

I remember reading Maryiln Manson's "The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell" in my early teens and being surprised by how good it was (I'd always loathed the guy's music.) Dunno if it holds up.

"Sweet Soul Music", hell yeah.

I've read the entirety of Christgau's consumer guide online, and there's some great, great stuff there. So the books are recommended, too.

Daniel_Rf (Daniel_Rf), Friday, 18 March 2005 11:12 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Brother Ray by Ray Charles with David Ritz is fantastic and amazingly blunt and candid.

shookout (shookout), Friday, 18 March 2005 11:14 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

'Joe Carducci's Rock and the Pop Narcotic is being reissued sometime this year.'

yay I've been wanting to read that one for a while!

adding to my prev post here leroi jones 'blues people' which I just finished this morning: most gd bks on music accept that they aren't just abt notes and chords.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Friday, 18 March 2005 12:53 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i think the attali book is lousy at book length"

You mean it's not long enough? I loved the book. Should re-read it...

I also loved the Lexicon Devil (bio on Darby Crash) though it's certainly not essential...

nathalie barefoot in the head (stevie nixed), Friday, 18 March 2005 12:54 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

All my obvious suggestions are covered here, so let me just say: even if you're a die-hard, passionate, blacked-out-yr-own-teeth Joe Strummer/Clash fan, AVOID AT ALL COSTS the pile of dung known as "Let Fury Have the Hour: the Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer." The superficial "analysis," the copious mistakes (London Calling wasn't recorded in New York, dumbshit!), the TYPOS (?!?)'s a massacree!

Jason Toon, Friday, 18 March 2005 16:41 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

African Rhythm and African Sensibility by John Miller Chernoff

the ONLY thing wrong with JMC's line is that he somewhat slightly seems to accept the assumption that the social dimension—the "dance"—isn’t also always part of all music in the West (though he does this in the context of getting ppl to see/hear/look for the fuller sense of the meaning of music): taking his insights abt Africa (Ghana, to be more accurate) and applying them everywhere else is revelatory

Most of it is a charming telling of him learning African drumming in Ghana

mark s (mark s), Friday, 18 March 2005 18:23 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

The only two lengthy reads on Led Zep - Stephen Davis' Hammer of the Gods and roadie Richard Cole's 'Stairway to Heaven,' are both pulpy and full of dirt and invented mythology. Not to say I don't recommend them though.

And I hope someone someday undertakes a lengthy Sabbath bio.

57 7th (calstars), Friday, 18 March 2005 19:01 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Has anyone read David Weigel's The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock? Wondering about asking for it for Christmas.

the word dog doesn't bark (anagram), Tuesday, 27 November 2018 08:12 (four months ago) Permalink

Yeah, it’s good.

grawlix (unperson), Tuesday, 27 November 2018 10:10 (four months ago) Permalink

if crimson's your favorite prog band you should totally ask for it. fripp comes off as the central figure in the whole scene

reggie (qualmsley), Tuesday, 27 November 2018 13:13 (four months ago) Permalink

TBF, he also comes off as a gaping asshole, though.

grawlix (unperson), Tuesday, 27 November 2018 13:22 (four months ago) Permalink

"Led Zeppelin All The Songs The Story Behind Every Track". Just WOW. Amidst the usual band history stuff and occasional dopey sidebars there is a feast of nerdy studio facts ( instruments and effects, mixing boards, studio engineer and Page anecdotes on mic placements et al) and great photos. I love this shit. Probably my favorite Zep book after "Trampled Underfoot".

― An Uphill Battle For Legumes (Capitaine Jay Vee), Wednesday, November 21, 2018 4:14 PM (six days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I flipped through this at a bookstore the other day and it looked awesome, but didn't have a good chance to really look at though as my daughter has no interest in reading up on Zep with me ("yeah hold on sweetie Dada is reading about how many takes of "Stairway" they did"), but if it is in league with the Hoskyns book that is high praise indeed.

chr1sb3singer, Tuesday, 27 November 2018 18:25 (four months ago) Permalink

There's a few books like that about. The Grateful Dead one isn't bad. That is song by song, album by album.

Stevolende, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 00:30 (four months ago) Permalink

two months pass...

I enjoyed Jeff Tweedy's memoir though it's more about him than music.

in twelve parts (lamonti), Friday, 8 February 2019 16:45 (two months ago) Permalink

xp — that must be one long Dead book!!

yuh yuh (morrisp), Friday, 8 February 2019 16:47 (two months ago) Permalink

Speaking of Robertson, I still haven't read his autobio, but a couple of friends tell me that it's well-described by this appealing WSJ review:

Updated Nov. 11, 2016 6:08 p.m. ET
Robbie Robertson, the lead guitarist and main songwriter of the Band, is in the unenviable position of never having been much of a singer. (He posits asthma as a factor.) Luckily, the Band was blessed with three of the greatest vocalists of the rock era (Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm), who were able to give his beautiful melodies and lyrics their fullest possible emotional expression. In “Testimony,” however, the “voice” is not in question. Robust, wry, gritty and wise to the vicissitudes of a career in rock ’n’ roll, it is just what the reader wants, marred only occasionally by stiff dialogue.
By Robbie Robertson
Opening with a train ride, Mr. Robertson captures the rhythm of rock’s mystery train, even its final lurch into the terminal. In this memoir named for a song from his solo debut, Mr. Robertson bears witness to his life in music, from his precocious success in Ronnie Hawkins’s “raging rockabilly” Hawks to that band’s historic involvement in Bob Dylan’s mid-1960s “explosive electric sacrilege”; the subsequent retreat to Woodstock, N.Y., for the “loose as a goose” sessions with Mr. Dylan that became known as “The Basement Tapes” to the group’s rebranding as the Band, whose career climaxed, as this book wisely does, with “The Last Waltz,” a 1976 concert in San Francisco that was filmed by Martin Waltz,” a 1976 concert in San Francisco that was filmed by Martin Scorsese.
“Testimony” comes 23 years after drummer Levon Helm’s memoir “This Wheel’s on Fire,” notable partly for its extremely negative portrayal of Mr. Robertson. Of that book, Mr. Dylan enthused: “You’ve got to read this!” The blurbs here are by Mr. Scorsese and David Geffen, neatly delineating the great divide in the Band. But after the deaths of Manuel (suicide, 1986), Danko (heart failure, 1999) and Helm (throat cancer, 2012)—which triumvirate he often pits himself against in his memoir—Robertson is one of the two men left standing (along with keyboardist Garth Hudson). His may be the last word.
Helm took to the grave. Resentments had long simmered: The film “The Last Waltz” seemed contrived to put Mr. Robertson center-stage, as the genius Mr. Scorsese clearly believed him to be, yet he was the only member of the Band who actually wanted that Waltz to be the Last. His Band-mates were happy to play on, and this was by no means the final Band concert, though it was the last to feature Mr. Robertson. If you saw a later incarnation of the group, you heard precisely what you would have wanted to hear: the singers singing their beloved songbook accompanied by a great rhythm section. If anything, one later felt the lack of Manuel more than of Mr. Robertson.
Half-Jewish, half-Mohawk, Jaime Royal Robertson was brought up on the streets of Toronto and on the Six Nations Indian Reserve, where he was “introduced to serious storytelling. . . . The oral history, the legends, the fables, and the great holy mystery of life.” The reader might suppress a groan, but add to the mix a steel-trap memory and a muddled childhood—featuring two fathers, numerous gangsters, alcoholism and some diamond smuggling—and you have the makings of a Dickensian bildungsroman.
“Testimony” next becomes a bible of road lore, a lurid coming-of-age story that veers wildly between the sweet and the brutal and a how-not-to guide to running a band. The Hawks, formed at the whim of Arkansawyer Ronnie Hawkins, who enjoyed regular residencies in Toronto, take off on the road, and the craziness of these early days is presented in brilliant Technicolor, with Helm cast as blood brother and Hawkins as amoral Virgil. A 16-year-old Mr. Robertson, too young to frequent any of the joints he’s playing, descends into an underworld of torched nightclubs (the arsonists thoughtfully remove Leon Russell’s band’s equipment before they light the match), bitten-off nipples (word to the wise: Don’t “taste her milkshake” while traversing bumpy terrain in the back seat of a car) and a vast choice of artificial stimulation.
As for Mr. Dylan, a key attraction, the book offers a refreshing account all the better for starting no earlier than the recording of “Like a Rolling Stone,” to which Mr. Robertson was escorted by producer John Hammond Jr. in 1965. Here is by far the fullest first-person account of the early electric tours of Mr. Dylan, not to mention an astonishing tale of a “passed out sitting up” Mr. Dylan, “deliriously exhausted” after the final date of the emotionally and physically exhausting 1966 tour, whom Robbie and Mr. Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, try to revive him in a bathtub (returning once to find him submerged) while four Beatles await an audience in the adjacent hotel room. The account of Mr. Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle accident is refreshingly lucid, as is that of the subsequent making of “The Basement Tapes,” as the Band improvises around Bob’s “vibing vocables.”
The Nobel Prize winner himself will probably not opine on Mr. Robertson’s livelier claims, among which is that he clothed Mr. Dylan (the classic ’66 houndstooth tweed: “Bob didn’t seem like much of a suit guy, but Lou [the designer] was on top of his game”); suggested the iconoclastic cover design of “Blonde on Blonde”; gave Mr. Dylan’s song “Obviously Five Believers” its title, adding that witty adverb—both positively (4th Street) and absolutely (Sweet Marie) something Mr. Dylan might have come up with himself; finished the editing of Mr. Dylan’s film “Eat the Document”; taught the neophyte rocker how to stretch guitar strings to keep them in tune; and saved Mr. Dylan from his musical self (by refusing to clutter the sparse perfection of “John Wesley Harding” with the requested overdubs). And of course he is responsible for creating the circumstances, and ambience, that brought the “The Basement
Tapes” into existence. I am not suggesting that these claims aren’t true, merely that the abundance of them becomes slightly comical.
Occasionally one has the impression that Mr. Robertson is tiptoeing around awkward issues, always to the detriment of the book: Helm’s 1993 account of the various delegations sent in to get Mr. Dylan onstage at “The Last Waltz” is agonizing (the singer didn’t like it assumed that he had given his consent to being filmed, fearing a conflict with a forthcoming movie of his own, “Renaldo and Clara,” shot the previous year). But Mr. Robertson barely scratches the surface, preferring to deal with the technical problems involved in creating the movie.
Mr. Robertson’s writing about music, either from inside looking out or simply from the point of view of an audience member at a Bo Diddley or Velvet Underground concert, can be beautiful, as when, in the closing pages, he pays full tribute to each Band member and their role within the overall sound, repeating, as if in litany, “God only made one of those.” Here “Testimony” becomes a testimonial, and the effect is redemptive. Generosity suits him, and whatever the truth, “Testimony” is a graceful epitaph.​

dow, Friday, 8 February 2019 17:19 (two months ago) Permalink

the rest is noise is fuckin' phenomenal btw

jolene club remix (BradNelson), Friday, 8 February 2019 17:19 (two months ago) Permalink

Amen to that!
xpost Sorry for the typos, which are from my hasty paste, although the reviewer and/or his copy editor are responsible for conflation of John Hammond Sr., who signed nerdy little against-the-grain Bobby D. (AKA "Hammond's Folly") to prestigious Columbia, with blues-singin' Jr.(some of the Hawks, inc. Robertson, played on some of his tracks).

dow, Friday, 8 February 2019 17:31 (two months ago) Permalink

Wondering about this---anybody read it?

Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, Vol. 1: 1957 - 73
Clinton Heylin

A leading expert on the life and work of Nobel laureate Bob Dylan—most notably the author of the often-updated Dylan biography Behind the Shades—British music writer Clinton Heylin here begins his two-volume analysis of Dylan's songs. We learn that the middle verse of "Blowin' in the Wind" was written much later than the first and third verses, "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" was based on a complete distortion of the facts of the case, and "Fourth Time Around" was a direct response to John Lennon's "Norwegian Wood."

"Prolific Dylanologist Heylin makes his arguably greatest contribution with a painstakingly researched consideration of every song Dylan is known to have written. Drawing from manuscripts, studio logs, concert recordings, and other sources, Heylin traces Dylan's career by listing the songs in order of writing rather than public presentation. This first of two volumes collects everything from juvenilia predating his 1961 arrival in New York to his 1974 comeback album, Planet Waves. Even songs that were never recorded or performed are noted, but the major ones receive multipage write-ups that are, in essence, insightful, revelatory mini-essays. Documenting the mercurial performer's transitions from Guthrie-influenced folkie to raging rocker to laid-back country singer, Heylin, who appears to have heard virtually all of the concerts Dylan has performed during the past 20 years of what has come to be known as the 'Neverending Tour,' reveals how vintage songs take on new meanings as they're recast by their author on stage decades later."—Booklist

dow, Friday, 8 February 2019 17:47 (two months ago) Permalink

Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise? That one IS very good. Haven't read Listen to This yet. For a somewhat more academic look at modern compositional music, Joseph Auner's Music in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries is excellent imo. I used it as a textbook.

silent as a seashell Julia (Sund4r), Friday, 8 February 2019 17:57 (two months ago) Permalink

yes! i've been moving through it very slowly bc i often want to stop and familiarize myself with some of the more major pieces he talks about, but the quality and depth of the writing never flags and it's a million pages long, what an achievement

jolene club remix (BradNelson), Friday, 8 February 2019 18:00 (two months ago) Permalink

Recently bought a couple of others, Music After the Fall: Modern Composition and Culture Since 1989 by Tim Rutherford-Johnson and Musical Modernism at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century by David Metzer, but haven't done much more than leafing yet*. I have Listen to This and erm think I've read it, but don't get much recollection -- was that more of a loose essay collection than The Rest Is Noise or something?

*) oh and The Spectral Piano: From Liszt, Scriabin, and Debussy to the Digital Age by Marilyn Nonken, but there I'll really have to do some active immersion work to get anywhere I guess; I find the premise fascinating but am not an extremely big fan of piano music per se (which in this case may possibly not be a bad thing).

anatol_merklich, Friday, 8 February 2019 18:05 (two months ago) Permalink

bitten-off nipples (word to the wise: Don’t “taste her milkshake” while traversing bumpy terrain in the back seat of a car)

why include this

budo jeru, Friday, 8 February 2019 18:24 (two months ago) Permalink

lamonti, thanks for the reminder on the Tweedy memoir, been meaning to read it. how much is Jim O'Rourke in it?

flappy bird, Friday, 8 February 2019 18:54 (two months ago) Permalink

The book on bad taste/celine dion by wilson was written for me. Resonates so deeply.

nathom, Friday, 8 February 2019 20:22 (two months ago) Permalink

Attali's Noise was amazing as well. Read that over a decade ago.

nathom, Friday, 8 February 2019 20:24 (two months ago) Permalink

tweedy's book was entertaining — he pretty much covers everything a fan would be interested in. a fair amount of o'rourke!

tylerw, Friday, 8 February 2019 20:36 (two months ago) Permalink

I have that book on the spectral piano, have not read it yet. Title was designed to grab me though, I eat an drink solo piano stuff.

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Saturday, 9 February 2019 22:45 (two months ago) Permalink

haven't read it but this sounds interesting:

tylerw, Saturday, 9 February 2019 23:18 (two months ago) Permalink

Page not found

Only a Factory URL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 10 February 2019 00:02 (two months ago) Permalink

That sounds really interesting. Just requested a review copy.

grawlix (unperson), Sunday, 10 February 2019 00:10 (two months ago) Permalink

Okay, now I see

Only a Factory URL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 10 February 2019 00:15 (two months ago) Permalink

That looks awesome

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Sunday, 10 February 2019 14:18 (two months ago) Permalink

Oh yeah, I need to find some recordings of James Europe's orchestra (for instance!)
Here's one I read last year:
Edd Hurt aside, I mostly occasionally skim country music writing for info these days---but did fairly recently read Southwest Shuffle: Pioneers of Honky-Tonk, Western Swing, and Country Jazz (handsome trade pb w good pix, Routledge, 2003), by Rick Kienzle, who also contributed to the useful Country Music Magazine (RIP). Apparently 0 copy editing in early chapters, but then it's smooth or smoother sailing.
He doesn't just enthuse, he describes what made and still makes the heyday of Western Swing so musically gratifying, and isn't shy about detailing how and when and sometimes why (increasingly desperate attempts to biz-adapt) the recorded offerings of his protagonists, incl. heroes, turned to shit.
It's kind of Four Lives In The Be-Bop Business in reverse, with questing young musos from hither and yon peaking early in California, then scuffling, going back to the boonies and/or hitting a wall re The Nashville Sound and Countrypolitan.
Although there are exceptions! To any predictable arc, anyway--for instance, one of these guys got to play on Frank Sinatra & The Red Norvo Quintet: Live In Australia, 1959, which deftly demonstrates how to perform depresso classics when you're happy and you know it, without lapsing into cheesy Rat Pack mannerisms. On another curveball, Ray Price went to honky tonk with a strong beat, drawing the livelier geezers and some youngsters, without actually playing that rock&roll stuff---then he decided he *did* want to do the genteel Nashville thing, not only on record but replicated live, challenging his carefully established audiences and hardened swing-to-tonk road dawg band---never mind we don't have no orkystraw or choir, just do it. And you out there, you better like it.
And the saga of impressionable former teen swing fan Willie Nelson, whose vocal timing (also some of his lyrics) broke the tried & true Hit Factory assembly line, as far as the suits and producer Chet Atkins was concerned--well, you've heard about that, but maybe not in such telling detail (come to think of it, maybe he was influenced by the tenacity of Price, an early employer).
Very handy discography of reissues too.

dow, Sunday, 10 February 2019 18:56 (two months ago) Permalink

*were* concerned dang it

dow, Sunday, 10 February 2019 18:58 (two months ago) Permalink

To any predictable arc, anyway--for instance, one of these guys got to play on Frank Sinatra & The Red Norvo Quintet: Live In Australia, 1959

I met this guy the year before he died. He was really liked by all the guitar players that knew him and my neighbor was one of his students. I wrote a long post about him somewhere which I will dig up and probably have a few more stories about him that didn’t make it into that post.

Only a Factory URL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 11 February 2019 15:55 (two months ago) Permalink

haven't read it but this sounds interesting:

― tylerw, Saturday, 9 February 2019 23:18 (two days ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Thanks for the heads-up, this is of interest.

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, 11 February 2019 16:25 (two months ago) Permalink

Jazz GUITAR poll

Only a Factory URL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 11 February 2019 16:38 (two months ago) Permalink

Wow, great post on a great thread that I'd never seen---thanks, James! Please do write more about him whenever so inclined. I'll prob comment there on Dennis Coffey when Live At Baker's comes out March 1.
Despite the sharp profiles of ornery individualists, My favorite parts of Michael Streissguth's Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville are the aerial views, especially the intriguing 60s mix of Vanderbilt's periphery dwellers with increasingly restive Music Rowers, especially after Mr. D. kicks off his Nashville visits with Blonde On Blonde. The saga of Exit Inn, a musical convergence point for various mainstream and counter-cultural and other factions (somewhut like Austin's Armadillo World Headquarters) is illuminating---I've got tapes from there, incl. one-night-stands of knowns and unknowns, but here we also get bands I'd never heard of, appealingly described as they live out most if not all of their lifespans together at this joint.
He briefly mentions star studio rats/Nashville Cats-as-Outcats who got to make their own albums, mainly Barefoot Jerry and the sometimes audacious Area Code 615. But I want a lot more of this, like we get re Memphis, in's Insect Trust archives and Robert Gordon's books.
Anyway, he makes good use of Kristofferson as tracking device through this era, and further inspiration to it, as Willie already is, going from suits-persecuted studio hopeful to the Entity sometimes descending from his Bus in a cloud of green smoke and adoring songwriters.
Kristofferson comes off as the L. Cohen of Nashville, with an even/much more limited voice, as he knew, and colors himself astonished, if not appalled, when Fred Foster insists on signing him to a performing contact and a writing contract. Foster evidently knew that instant cornball classic "Help Me Make It Through the Night" was an anomaly, and that the growly epics Foster favored were unlikely to be covered (this was before K came up with "Sunday Morning Coming Down," I think and def. before "Me and Bobbie McGee," which would be inspired by La Strada and the name of one of Foster's other employees, it says here.)
We also get the influence of fuckin'-finally affordable and widely available cocaine (esp. after the War on Drugs made it more practical than bulky etc. ol' maryjane). Influence incl. on Waylon, who was already driven and drivin', with much more of the earlier zig-zag career than I'd realized (had the big country version of "MacArthur Park"!) Also quite the appetite for pinball and good cover material, which he could find even or especially on the shittiest-sounding demo tapes. Thought, as the author depicts, that the Outlaw hype was a crock, and of course he did sound more like a big ol' teddy bear, even then.
A bunch more characters I'd heard much less or nothing about; it's pretty good overall. (Although, come to think of it, he completely leaves out the alkyhaul factor re KK's showbiz trajectory, despite the star's own candor elsewhere, starting way back.)

dow, Monday, 11 February 2019 19:43 (two months ago) Permalink's *Insect Trust* archives, of course, sorry.

dow, Monday, 11 February 2019 19:47 (two months ago) Permalink

Has anyone read "this is your brain on music?"

nathom, Monday, 11 February 2019 20:31 (two months ago) Permalink

I did. It ended up annoying me for some reason, can’t remember exactly why.

Only a Factory URL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 11 February 2019 20:33 (two months ago) Permalink

Will give it a try. (It was mentioned in Carl Wilson's book on bad taste.)

nathom, Monday, 11 February 2019 21:05 (two months ago) Permalink

Has anyone read "this is your brain on music?"

― nathom

yes, it's fucking awful. author lost me forever when he bald-facedly asserted that van halen's "you really got me" made an uncool song cool.

the scientology of mountains (rushomancy), Monday, 11 February 2019 21:57 (two months ago) Permalink

Argh. Good god. Think I'll skip.

nathom, Tuesday, 12 February 2019 07:19 (two months ago) Permalink

xp @flappy bird, tweedy doesn't bother with an entire chronology but like someone said above he hits all the bits you'd ant to read about. i thought the bits about his health and his parents were moving. i haven stopped listening to wilco since either after a few years off

in twelve parts (lamonti), Sunday, 17 February 2019 17:58 (two months ago) Permalink

i would say there's some o'rourke in it, nota huge amount. some on the start of YHF era Wilco/Loose Fur/Kotche/Bad Timing's influence.

in twelve parts (lamonti), Sunday, 17 February 2019 18:00 (two months ago) Permalink

nice, i keep forgetting to check the book out, thanks for the reminder

flappy bird, Monday, 18 February 2019 18:13 (two months ago) Permalink

Aaron Copland's 1939 book, What To Listen For In Music is a really good all-round read concerned with breaking down/listening to modern classical music.

MaresNest, Monday, 18 February 2019 18:45 (two months ago) Permalink

Just got first few chapters into the Sylvain Sylvain memoir There's No Bones iN Ice Cream. Seems pretty great so far & ghe's still a kid in Paris.

Jesse Locke's Heavy Metalloid Music is really great on Simply Saucer

Stevolende, Monday, 18 February 2019 21:30 (two months ago) Permalink

I am about one third of the way through Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD. Enjoying it very much, but it's pretty much for completists like me who bought every release back in the day. Lots about Vaughan Oliver and the artwork. Lots of input from a very forthright Robin Guthrie. Loved the label at the time, but never knew this stuff.

Twee.TV (I M Losted), Thursday, 21 February 2019 02:55 (two months ago) Permalink

i also read this is your brain on music. it was a long time ago but i nearly threw it across the room when i was done. the author is really a pompous asshat and can't seem to resist the temptation to drop anecdotes about how he's friends with and/or respected by well-regarded musicians and scientists

i also read that copland book! it was enjoyable tho certainly not earth-shattering.

dyl, Thursday, 21 February 2019 03:38 (two months ago) Permalink

Facing The Wrong Way was a great read. It was around as a 2 for £5 in FOPP for a while

Stevolende, Thursday, 21 February 2019 10:03 (two months ago) Permalink

Can't praise 'Facing the Wrong Way' enough, really eye opening about the 4AD family. Conversely I was disappointed about his history of LGBTQ music 'Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache', felt just a bit too episodic.

Dan Worsley, Thursday, 21 February 2019 12:13 (two months ago) Permalink

The music writing of Ted Gioia has been vigorously criticized on this board, but I'm 1/3 into his new book Love Songs: The Hidden History and it's loaded with info and ideas to grapple with. As the title suggests it purports to be a history of the "love song" form since the earliest traces of it in antiquity. Clearly a ton of research went into this, although it's cut with a hell of a lot of speculation too. There's a basic underlying thesis, which is that the innovations in the form have tended to come from women or marginalized groups, the names of these innovators often not recorded. Fwiw Gioia claims he didn't set out to write a book with a pc/revisionist angle, but the research led him there.

Josefa, Saturday, 23 February 2019 16:22 (one month ago) Permalink

Thanks for the 4AD history headsup, I had no idea this existed! The writing annoyed me very occasionally, especially when committing classic music-crit sins such as propagating stock phrases inappropriately (no, the video for "Dig for Fire" cannot have been "prohibitively expensive"; if it were, it would not have existed), but the research, scope, depth and detail are astonishing, and the enthusiasm both of author and quoted subjects has set me on an extended retro bender on Spotify here. (Damn, how insanely solid is the 1986 chapter of the catalogue?)

anatol_merklich, Thursday, 28 February 2019 22:31 (one month ago) Permalink

Ha, I found Donald Fagan's Eminent Hipsters at Dollar Tree! What the fuck, it was a buck, it's short so I bought it. I do see music books there from time to time - especially memoirs, so check the shelves.

Twee.TV (I M Losted), Wednesday, 13 March 2019 21:34 (one month ago) Permalink

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