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An old saying goes: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Here are 50 reasons why that statement is wrong.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman offers a very stark depiction of his struggles with heroin addiction. It's like Under The Bridge in book form. It starts with Kiedis's dad giving him coke and a night with his girlfriend... and degenerates from there.
Moz decreed that his life story was an instant "Penguin Classic", but the rest of the world wasn't so sure. His Autobiography wasn't too revealing, but we has higher hopes for the new novel he's threatening to pen. In summary: worth it, but hard work.
The bassist with not one, but two, legendary Manchester bands spills the beans on what it was like behind the scenes. Hook reveals not only his never-ending guilt about the suicide of singer Ian Curtis and his ambivalent feelings about his other bandmates, but also the time he was questioned about the Yorkshire Ripper murders. True story!
After Peter Hook's version, here's the other side. For the first time, the Joy Div/New Order guitarist details the horrible childhood that spawned much of the gloomy music he created, before blossoming into a hedonistic recounting of the Madchester days. Sumner is very frank about the Hook/New Order split, but there are some laughs to be had, most notably when he and Johnny Marr attempt to do interviews for their Electronic project while chronically hungover.
Harris was editor of Select magazine at the height of Britpop, so had a ringside seat as the genre reached its bloated apex at the Oasis show at Knebworth in 1996. He cites the Britpop endorsement of the Blair government as the dying gasp of rock and roll and it's a persuasive argument.
One of rock's most intelligent characters produces a worthy, but readable tome on the nature of tuneage. The former Talking Heads frontman covers everything from the prehistory of music, through to how contracts are written, how to set up your own nightclub and how to use MIDI.There are some juicy biographical notes, too.
The man himself penned the first part of his trilogy of memoirs in 2004 and we're still waiting on the second part. The initial volume looks at his arrival in New York in 1961 and offers up some excellent detail on his key albums of the period.
Morrissey wasn't happy with this detailed look at his work with Johnny Marr and The Smiths, hoping that author Rogan would "end his days very soon in an M3 pile-up". But this is a fine account of the childhoods of the two main Smiths, their long struggle to success and their ignominious split in 1987.
The nearest thing we'll get to an "official" Nirvana biography, Azerrad was in the thick of it during the heady years of 1992/93, gaining access to all the major players in the story. While he inevitably misses out on any perspective gained following the death of Kurt Cobain, Azerrad's book is very much of the moment and untouched by rose-tinted hindsight.
If you've still not had enough Joy Division, here are the original notes, prose and working lyrics from the late singer with the band. Edited by Curtis's widow Deborah and author Jon Savage, it's a fascinating look into the psyche of one of post-punk's most memorable frontmen.
The "second drunkest member of Britain's drunkest band" tells his story from middle class suburbia to hanging out with Damien Hirst and Tony Blair. In the process, he spends about £1 million on cocaine and alcohol and notches up many an anecdote. Things find an even keel when he sobers up and gets into producing cheese, but it's an enjoyable ride.
MacDonald dissects every song by The Beatles, putting them into their cultural and artistic context, with a liberal sprinkling of musicology. Sounds like a snoozefest? Certainly not. Some of the entries can get very verbose, but for a lot of Fabs fans, this is a valuable insight into the group's music and will send you scurrying back to your records for another listen.
Flanagan was present at U2's rebirth in 1989 as they dropped the big hats and The Joshua Tree and embraced the new sounds of Achtung Baby. What sounds like a very self-indulgent biography is actually a great human story, as the band experience doubts while working in Berlin with Brian Eno, but pull the whole thing around and produce their biggest album yet.
Price is a HUGE Manics fan and this tribute to the lives and work of the Welsh band demonstrates that.
You had the Alex James version, now here's the female perspective on the Britpop years. Wener, who was the lead singer in Sleeper, forged a separate career as a novelist, so this is an expertly written account of her time as a pop star.
Haines was the singer and songwriter in early 90s quartet The Auteurs and found himself inadvertently part of the Britpop hype. He wasn't having any of it and this book wryly details his heroic underachievement, from missing out on the Mercury Music Prize to splitting the band in favour of the impenetrable Baader Meinhof, who flirted with terrorist imagery. A cautionary, yet hilarious tale.
One of the most eagerly-awaited autobiographies of all time, Keef's book did not disappoint. The opening chapters are a but unremarkable, depicting post-war life in Kent, but once Keef and Anita are in the back of a Bentley driving to Morocco, leaving the drug addled Brian Jones behind, the psycho-drama of the Stones ramps up. Soon, our hero is living the outlaw life of a drug addict and things take a darker turn. But - incredibly - Keef lives to tell the tale. Full of quotable homilies and advice for any would-be hell-raisers out there.
A fascinating account of how life in the UK changed immeasurably in the late 80s and early 90s thanks to the influence of MDMA on the clubbing scene and how it was absorbed into mainstream culture.
The filthiest, sleaziest rock biography ever written is a masterclass in hedonistic excess, coupled with downright misogyny and a few genuinely tragic moments. Still not a major movie!
This is essentially the tale of Alan McGee and his label Creation, from the Primal Scream days, via the glory years of The House Of Love, Ride, My Bloody Valentine and finally the world-conquering Oasis. But it's more than that - Cavanagh plots the heyday of British indie, back when it truly was independent and its rise and fall during the Britpop years. Some amazing tales and a reminder of some great, underrated bands.
The Kinks frontman wrote his autobiography in the third person as a colourful piece of semi-fact, semi-fiction. You get some degree of the personal experience of being in the band, but the rest is a bizarre and entertaining extended Davies song.
Goldman was pilloried when this biography hit the shelves: the book depicts John Lennon as a narcissistic, wife-beating, child-neglecting heroin addict with anger issues and ruthless ambition. But, once you realise that Lennon basically admitted to all of the above when he was alive anyway, this huge work pays off with some incredible research and detail, even though Goldman pitches everything towards showing John in the worst light possible. Things actually hit their stride once The Beatles are history - the chapters on Yoko's bid for solo stardom, the radical New York years and Lennon's final days in the Dakota are priceless, but take them with a pinch of salt.
The best book on Bowie's life, career and art, with analysis and insight.
Not that Factory Records ever published any sleeve notes, of course. Ostensibly the book of Michael Winterbottom's 2000 film about the rise and fall of Manchester's most famous label, this spirals into a colourful, idiosyncratic and eloquent autobiography of Wilson, adding many more layers to the tale. Find out more about Tony's years in crap local TV, his aborted attempt to become a "serious" journalist, his tribulations with bands like A Certain Ratio and The Durutti Column, and the financial car crash that was The Hacienda. Wilson is sorely missed, but this is his definitive statement. "This is not a book about me. I'm a minor character in my own story. This is about the music and the people who made the music."
The dark side of rock, as written by Motley Crue's bassist. As an appendix to The Dirt, this is pretty bleak stuff, but you have to admire Nikki's honesty. Still not a Broadway musical.
Or, The Gospel According To Gene. How to live your life the KISS way, ie all about the commercial opportunities available in music.
The tale of how recorded music went from wax cylinders to the MP3 may sound like a dry read, but if you're interested in how the songs get from the musicians' brains to your earholes, this is a surprisingly accessible account. Milner looks at the hype involved with the launch of the CD, the format wars between 33 and 45 speeds and how Phil Collins got that In The Air Tonight drum sound. It's also a reminder of how nothing has really changed an enormous amount in terms of how the music biz works in the past 100 years.
How does Brian Warner become Marilyn Manson? This autobiography tells you how suburban alienation can make millions. Along the way, there are hideous anecdotes of debauchery, all rendered in Manson's wry style.
Young journalist Booth weaselled his way onto the crew of the Stones' big comeback tour of the States in 1969 and inadvertently found himself present at one of the most terrifying rock shows of all time: Altamont. The road to the infamous open air show in December 1969 (in which a fan was stabbed to death by Hell's Angels) is paved with the Stones getting used to playing live again after a two year hiatus. As reportage goes, it's one of the best.
Lewisohn is the undisputed king of Beatles research and his latest project is set to supersede all his previous books on the band. This first instalment looks at the Fab Four's formative years in Liverpool and Hamburg and includes a whole stack of new information. This is set to be the definitive word on the subject. The extended version is hundreds of thousands of words longer and still only gets up to their first single! Now THAT'S detailed.
Bangs was a rock journo from the old school, writing for NME and Creem and this is a collection of some of his most incisive essays, published five years after his death.. Subjects include The Clash, Kraftwerk, Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and John Lennon. Influential in many ways.
The bassmeister tells his story of working with disco legends Chic, plus all the Studio 54 hedonism that brought along (although it didn't stop him getting turned away from the super club one time). With a CV that includes Madonna, Prince and David Bowie, this is a glittering memoir.
The definitive book on the whole punk phenomenon, Savage plots the history of the movement via the central protagonist Malcolm McLaren, from his time as an art student in the late-1960s, briefly managing the New York Dolls in the early 1970s to mashing together fetish clothing with 50s-styled garage rock in the shape of the Sex Pistols. The book dips into all the offshoots and spin offs, and winds up as the 1980s dawn with Sid Vicious dead, the crappy movie The Great Rock And Roll Swindle in the cinemas and McLaren trying to manage Boy George. Some of the chapters are artfully obtuse, but the central story is gripping.
Rollins is a seasoned practitioner of the spoken word, but his memoir of his days as the singer in hardcore punk pioneers Black Flag is a compelling read. It takes in Rollins' induction into the righteous band under the watchful eye of leader Greg Ginn and their constant battle with the police, plus their horrendous tour of the UK in 1982. Not glamorous at all, but fascinating. Also available as a talking book.
Monk was fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your point of view) to be part of the crew that took the Sex Pistols on their one and only tour of the US in January 1978. Teenage punks from London and Southern cowboys inevitably don't mix peacefully and the resulting aggravation is a major part of this grimly hilarious account.
Teenage Sugerman was on the LA scene in the late 1960s and ended up being mentored by none other than Jim Morrison. He wrote the original Doors book (No One Here Gets Out Alive), but this is a more personal journey. After Morrison dies, Sugerman ends up living with Iggy Pop, who is NOT a good housemate. Danny comes home one afternoon to find the Igster unconscious with the fridge on top of him. Sugerman's answer is to drive Iggy into the desert and leave him there. True story.
Arch pranksters The KLF wrote this book after scoring a No 1 hit with the daft Doctorin' The TARDIS. It's a slightly cynical, yet humorous look at how to sell out in the most calculated way possible and actually worked for one band: Swiss Europopsters Edelweiss.
Kent was one of the star writers of the NME in the 1970s and offers some unique analysis into the work of many of rock's major artists: Brian Wilson, Iggy Pop, Neil Young, Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious and more.
The Blink-182 drummer’s memoir is a soul-baring dip into the harrowing plane crash that nearly killed him and his long road to recovery.
One of the most notorious rock biographies ever written, the band themselves were taken aback by the tales of hedonism and debauchery, claiming all the stories came from a resentful ex-tour manager, Richard Cole. Nevertheless, this set the template for the outrageous rock biog: full of stories of ambition, success and sleaze, particularly the incident with the groupie and the "red snapper" fish. We're not saying any more.
The journalist, producer and Saint Etienne man has scripted a thorough telling of the tale of pop music as we know (or knew) it, from the very first stirrings of the Top 40 in the 1950s, through the Beatle era to the digital dawn in 2000. Full of delicious details and eloquently describes the pure joy of reading the NME or Smash Hits, listening to the chart countdown or watching Top Of The Pops.
Azerrad powers through 13 brief but informative biographies of some of the key bands in US indie following the explosive arrival of the Sex Pistols on American shores in 1978. Kicking off with the punk uberlords Black Flag, he takes in cult heroes (Mission Of Burma, Big Black), the pioneers who moved to major labels (Husker Du, The Replacements) and some of the "lifers" who are still working at it to this day (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr). Inspirational and full of great anecdotes, dysfunctional behaviour and genuine punk rock, it will make you want to form your own band.
From the very first days of people playing records on the radio to the rise of the Super Club, this exhaustive social history of the DJ takes in Northern Soul, disco, hip hop, house, acid, rave and tales of the Paradise Garage, Studio 54, The Hacienda and more. Full of incredible anecdotes from all the major players in the club scene, the authors conjure up the joyous feeling of either playing records or dancing to them. Essential reading for anyone who has ever DJed… or wants to.
As guitarist with the all-girl punk band The Slits, Albertine gives a unique look at the punk explosion of the late 1970s from a female perspective. Incredibly revealing stuff.
An inside look at the history of the weekly paper from its inception as a comic for jazz enthusiasts through to the days of Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill posing around the office in the punk days. Contains Danny Baker.
Subtitled How Thirty-Five Years of John Peel Helped to Shape Modern Life, this is a delve into the daily diary of Peel’s trail-blazing show between 1967 and 2004, with background and context on how he changed the way we listen to and discover music.
The ideal follow-up to England's Dreaming, Reynolds follows John Lydon's progress after the Sex Pistols implode, with the foundation of Public Image Ltd and all the other bands that followed in their wake. The story looks at the work of bands like Joy Division, Echo And The Bunnymen and U2, plus electronica (The Human League), industrial (Throbbing Gristle) and stadium rock (Simple Minds) before winding up in 1984 with the advent of cheesy synthetic pop in the shape of Duran Duran and Boy George. An excellent reader.
Cope was the wild child of Liverpool's answer to punk and had a brief flash of fame with The Teardrop Explodes before forging an erratic solo career. The latter half of the story gets very messy, but Cope's naive arrogance is kind of endearing.
The punk poet tells her story of the artists and musicians at a time of incredible creativity, namely New York in the mid-1970s. Her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe forms the backbone of the tale and is told in prose that's like one of Smith's songs.
A witty memoir from behind the scenes in Britpop, which even takes in the band’s 2011 reunion tour. Essential if you’re at all interested in the band, or just the period in general.