August 08, 2004
30 Down, 22 To Go

Our Band Could Be Your Life was a fascinating, in-depth biography of both many indie bands of the early 80's, but also an insightful history of the early indie scene and the labels that supported these bands. Michael Azerrad brings the period to life through interviews with band members, label owners, and other musicians. Sonic Youth, the Replacements, Fugazi and others have chapters dedicated to their history, and all were entertaining and informative. If nothing else, this book might prompt you to pick up an extra cd or two at the merchandise booth at the next show you attend, after reading how hard it is for indie musicians to make ends meet.

I'll announce the next book tomorrow, after I have a chance to drop by the bookstore. Does anyone else have other recommendations for music books?

Posted by david on August 08, 2004

Have you read Marc Spitz's "How Soon Is Never?"? Decent read that will definitely make you nostalgic.

Posted by: Jeff on August 8, 2004 12:51 PM

"Lipstick Traces," Griel Marcus' chronicle of the creation, ris eand fall of Sex Pistols and the punk scene is amazing, it gives a great snapshot not only of the music culture, but the shifts in mainstream and popular culture that precipitated the punk movement.

Posted by: leslie on August 8, 2004 01:48 PM

Dave, if you are at all a Wilco / Tupelo fan, Greg Kot's "Learning How To Die" is a facinating, if perhaps a little too worshipful, read. I ditto the comments about Griel Marcus' work, although "Invisible Republic" would be the book I'd urge you to start with, and then you can get as many Basement Tapes boots from me as you like. Finally, check out a little book of essays on jazz called "But Beautiful" by Geoff Dyer, which is short but gorgeously written, or the wonderful bio of Billy Strayhorn called "Lush Life" by David Hajdu.

Posted by: Frank in Atlanta on August 8, 2004 03:45 PM

I'll second Lipstick Traces. It takes a hell of a book to convincingly connect the Sex Pistols with the Situationists.

Marcus does it in his first 50 pages.

Also, have you read Neal Pollack's "Never Mind The Pollacks"?

Spectacular 'biography' of 'the greatest rock critic (n)ever'

Posted by: Keith from TTIKTDA on August 8, 2004 04:39 PM

"Yodel Ay Eee Oo: A secret history of yodeling" by Bart Plantegna is more fascinating that you would think. How did a form that supposedly originate in the Swiss Alps end up in early American C&W music, Australia, Cameroon, electronica, Yahoo! ads ... Plantegna's a pretty engaging writer too. Before this he seems to have written lots of cyber-erotica, not 100% sure though.

Anything by Chuck Klosterman is great too.

I think you might be very disappointed by "Lipstick Traces" (sorry Leslie!): I know I was. As a random walk (not to mention cliff-jump) through avant-history it does have its moments. But it's obvious Greil Marcus never knew what he was doing while writing that book, plus he's a dull writer.

Posted by: desrosiers on August 8, 2004 08:06 PM

oh yeah, I forgot about "Dino" by Nick Tosches, the best music biography I've ever read so far. I never really cared much about Dean Martin before, now I'm obsessed...

I'm definitely gonna check out "Never Mind the Pollacks" now too... this is why book-recommending comments roolz the skool...

Posted by: desrosiers on August 8, 2004 08:10 PM

"Captain Beefheart" by Mike Barnes is one of the finest biographies I've ever read. I really felt like I got to know this unique American genius. The book even helped me learn how to get more out of Beefheart's music. A+.

Posted by: BG on August 8, 2004 08:55 PM

Frank Zappa's "The Real Frank Zappa Book" is the most engaging autobiographical work I've ever read. He's a very witty guy, and it really shines through in this book. It's an easy read even if you aren't very familiar with his body of work.

Posted by: freetobor on August 8, 2004 09:55 PM

I'll second Freetobers nomination. A really excellent book that. I first read it back in 97 and having spent an evening in the wonderfully grumpy company of ex-Mother of Invention Jimmy Carl Black recently (he tooured Ireland with a seriously taleented Liverpool Zappa Tribute act called the Muffin Men), something tweaked in me and I read it again. My knowledge of Zappa really did begin and end with the "popular" records such as "Hot Rats", and even though it hasn't really expanded (musically) this book reallly is an excellent read.

I'm presently half-way through Stoned 2 by Andrew Loog Oldman. Not a bad read, but I left it too long between the first collection of his memoirs and this one so I'm a bit creaky and not as interested in it as I was the first vol.

Posted by: Ronan on August 9, 2004 06:38 AM

Have you read "The Dirt" by Motley Crüe?

Posted by: omit on August 9, 2004 08:39 AM

The Greil Marcus edited collection of Lester Bangs' writing is well worth reading. "Please Kill Me" is an excellent oral history of punk rock, particularly in the way it is completely made up of quotes with no editorial writing involved. It's all in the juxtaposition and organization of the quotes.

Posted by: derik on August 9, 2004 09:28 AM

I really enjoyed Lexicon Devil, a biography of Darby Crash.

Posted by: Laurel on August 9, 2004 10:27 AM

I would recommend "England's Dreaming" or "Please Kill Me" for some great history on the birth of punk rock. Both are excellent and fascinating reads. I also enjoyed "American Hardcore", but it's a little too into obscure early 80's hardcore for non-fans of the genre. I second the Motley Crue book- It's pretty trashy but a lot of fun. How about "Lords of Chaos", a really neat look at the satanic black metal phenomenon in Scandinavia. I had no idea it was that out of control!

Posted by: Ryan on August 9, 2004 12:05 PM

How could I forget Lords of Chaos!

That book fucking RULES.

Check out the NY Press's review here:

The humor and empty boasts inherent in Death Metal were lost on Norway’s youth. They took Death Metal literally, and quickly discovered that it wasn’t "evil" or "authentic" enough. There were too many "poseurs." And more important, too few genuine corpses for a scene that claimed to be so obsessed with death and violence. So Black Metal offered up one of its own as its first sacrificial corpse: the lead singer of Mayhem, who ingeniously had changed his name to "Dead," offed himself with a shotgun. His friend and lead guitarist, Euronymous, discovered Dead’s brains splattered all over their apartment. So the first thing Euronymous does is run down to the village store to buy film, run back, snap a whole bunch of photos of Dead’s corpse, boast to all his friends about it, then call the cops. Now that is fuckin’ cool, dude.

You’ve really got to hand it to the Norse for keeping it real. I for one will be scratching them off the "Eurofag" list.

Posted by: Keith TTIKTDA on August 9, 2004 02:45 PM

The Lester Bangs book that Derik is talking about is called "Psychotic Reactions and Carborator Dung" and is a good read if rock criticism is your thing. I also have to second (or third) the Motley Crue book recommendation - it is seriously one of the best rock bios ever written - and the "Lords of Chaos" book.

Posted by: Andrew on August 9, 2004 02:50 PM

"The Dirt" is a great read, though you might walk away knowing a little bit too much about Motley Crue.

"American Hardcore" was fair, if not a little bit weak in its history. I wouldn't recommend any of Legs McNeil's books, but if you want books on punk "We Got the Neutron Bomb" is good, and "Lexicon Devil" is great (if you like Darby Crash and/or The Germs).

My ultimate recommendation, though, would be "We Owe You Nothing, Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews." Awesome book.

And "Lords of Chaos" rules. The beheadings and church burnings have come to an end, but the black metal kids are still crazy--and in corpse paint.

Posted by: Marleigh on August 9, 2004 03:45 PM

"It Came From Memphis" by Robert Gordon is a great history of the Memphis underground. The companion CD is good too if you can find it. Stanley Booth's essay collection Rythm Oil covers some of the same territory from more of an insider's POV (Booth hung out with many of the people Gordon writes about). Ian Mclagan's "All the Rage" is a very entertaining, funny read, especially if you like the Faces and Small Faces. Great anecdotes about the Stones and Dylan, too. Booth's "True Adventures of the Rolling Stones" probably gets my highest recommendation for music-related books, though.

Posted by: Steve on August 9, 2004 04:00 PM

Never Mind the Pollacks is a must-read.

Miles Davis' Autobiography is excellent.

Mojo's The Greatest Albums of All Time . . . essential.

Posted by: reagan on August 9, 2004 07:55 PM

Get 'The Dark Stuff' by Nick Kent. Great writing style. Goes back to the 60s. Has chapters on Lou Reed, Kurt Cobain, Keith Richards, Iggy Pop, The Smiths, NY Dolls, lots more.

Posted by: DaveSplash on August 9, 2004 08:00 PM

maybe Dance of Days by Mark Andersen. Very 80's DC/Dischord-centric, but a good read. Goes into a bit of detail about social issues as well, which are inseparable from the whole Dischord/Fugazi mythology. Just rereleased by Soft Skull in a new edition, which I haven't read, but which is updated a bit from the original, I think. Lipstick Traces is good, but not a lot to do with rawk. A lot of Situationista Greil Marcus wankery (not that there's anything wrong with that . .. )

Posted by: mogroith on August 10, 2004 07:33 AM

Dig up a copy of Lewis Shriner's "Glimpses"...

Posted by: Julie on August 10, 2004 11:14 AM

If you're going to wade into Lester Bangs-ian waters, I would definitely suggest Jim DeRogatis' bio of Lester, "Let It Blurt." It's a fantastic bio of an impassioned man who was often frustrated by the limitations of his chosen genre.

Also worth checking out is "Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste," edited by John Mortland, which contains many Bangs essays neglected by "Psychotic Reactions..."

Posted by: jrmy on August 10, 2004 12:06 PM

"Stairway to Hell" by Chuck Eddy: the 500 greatest metal albums of all time, gonzo style, cool obscure stuff, lots to piss you off too.

Posted by: desrosiers on August 10, 2004 02:50 PM
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