Our Favorite Music Books (Wristbands Not Required)

Someone (Frank Zappa, perhaps?) said that reading about music is like killing for peace. We, the humble proprietors of BookPeople’s music book club This Could Be Your Life, beg to differ. We find that reading about what Bowie was really up to when he recorded Station To Station or about Hank’s fateful last ride only serves to enhance our love of the music itself. So take a break from the jungle hordes and spilt beer of SXSW and peruse our list of our favorite music books:

*Just Kids by Patti Smith- What Kerouac’s On The Road was to my adolescence, Just Kids is to my adulthood. I was amazed how deeply moved I was by this book and how it seemed to effect every aspect of my life. Patti’s amazing and literary memoir chronicles her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in heady, bohemian New York City in the early 1970’s. This book is so full of love, magic and heartbreak that I dare you to remain unmoved by its quiet elegance. PS- Just Kids won the National Book Award in 2010.  And rightly so! (Stephana)

*England’s Dreaming by Jon Savage- This is the best punk rock book ever written. The go-to for the first wave UK explosion that arguably launched a musical revolution. (Bosco)

*And The Ass Saw The Angel by Nick Cave- This novel by music’s dark prince of fire & brimstone, love & death, violence & tenderness is a Southern Gothic masterpiece. Full of hulking mutes, religious fanaticism, ominous portents and moon-shine, the novel reads like an extended Bad Seeds song. I recommend pouring a generous tumbler-full of whiskey, putting your Tender Prey LP on the turn-table and digging in to this fantastic novel post-haste. (Stephana)

*In Heaven Everything Is Fine by Josh Frank- My favorite music book of all time. It’s part true crime and part biography of Peter Ivers, host of New Wave Theater. He was a genius you probably never heard of and that’s the true tragedy of his story. (Bosco)

*The Story of Island Records: Keep On Running edited by Suzette Newman and Chris Salewicz- This big, beautiful book is enough to start any true music lover salivating. Full of gorgeous photographs and album art, this book thoroughly chronicles Chris Blackwell’s Island Records from its inception in 1959 to the present day. Flipping through this book, I was astounded to discover how many of my favorite records were put out on Island: Sparks’ Kimono My House, Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets, Max Romeo’s War Ina Babylon. Any fan of glitter rock, roots reggae, British psychedelic folk or a hundred other styles of music are sure to find much
to love in this book. (Stephana)

*Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick is the story of Southern soul music. It’s an amazingly well written history of a uniquely southern music genre. It’s required reading for anyone interested in the roots of American music. (Bosco)

*Shakey by Jimmy McDonough- Whoa, Nellie. Care to know what Neil Young had for breakfast on April 25th 1975? Chances are Jimmy McDonough knows and will tell you all about it in this hefty tome. A ridiculously thorough biography of one of rock’s most innovative and uncompromising artists, Shakey offers lucid insight into the notoriously private and reticent Mr Young. A favorite of This Book Could Be Your Life book-club! (Stephana)

*Hank Williams by Colin Escott- Hank Williams is the most important artist in country music but his personal life was largely unknown. It’s totally fascinating. (Bosco)

*Max’s Kansas City edited by Steven Kasher – Another big, beautiful book of photographs! Max’s, the infamous NYC club, played host to a roll-call of musical trailblazers and style-makers: New York Dolls, Tom Waits, Klaus Nomi, Suicide, the Velvets, Patti Smith and even Waylon Jennings. The club closed in 1981, but its denizens, famous and infamous, live on in this fabulous book. (Stephana)

*Get In The Van by Henry Rollins- The American music underground was built on the backs of punk rock bands like Black Flag. Their contributions can’t be overstated. Rollins’ tour diaries give us an inside view. You won’t believe what they did or how they got there. (Bosco)

(Stephanya Tyler and Bosco Farr run BookPeople’s music book club, This Book Could Be Your Life. The club meets the third Sunday of every month at 5 pm and music lovers of all stripes are welcome.)

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