Thursday, May 21, 2009

Everyday I Write The Book

Just had a bit of a garage clear-out at the Castel Balearica and found this amongst Mrs BB's stash of books. Wasn't expecting much, but it's the one of the best books I've ever read about music. Incredibly funny and well-written, it charts the period of Nico's time in Manchester and the ramshackle, smack-heavy "world tour", in the eyes of her keyboardist, that they attempted to undertake before her death in 1988.

It prompted me to ask the question: what are your favourite books about (or related to) music?

Off the top of my head, mine would be...

Deborah Curtis: Touching From A Distance

Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton: Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

Jon Savage: England's Dreaming

Paul Morley: Nothing

Kris Needs: Needs Must

John Lydon: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

Greil Marcus: Lipstick Traces

And you...?


Mnemonic said...

Our Band Could Be Your Life - Michael Azwrrad
Blues Fell This Morning - Paul Oliver
Bessie Smith - Chris Albertson
Chronicles - Bob Dylan

Exodus said...

Recently saw 'Nico: Icon play' at the Lowry, largely based on this book. See it if you get a chance.

Chris said...

'Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon', by Richard Witts, is the account of the rest of her extreme life. That's a page-turner, too.

There is a huge book by Dennis McNally documenting the full Grateful Dead history; probably only for people with my addiction. But Steve Parish was Jerry Garcia's roadie and his book, 'Home Before Daylight' is a very personal account of another set of strange lives, making it possibly more interesting to others.

goneforeign said...

I've been doing this a lot longer than most of you so there's more to show, I've got a short shelf devoted to just that subject, here's some of 'em. Anybody else got any of 'em?

The Rough Guide to World Music.
Tango, the story of Astor Piazzolla
Gustav Mahler - Memoirs and letters
Blues People - Leroy Jones
Milestones - Chambers
Chasin' the Trane - Thomas
Catch a Fire; Bob Marley - White
Marley - Davis
Jazz Masters of the 30's - Stewart
Mande Music - Charry
Reggae - Thompson
Reggae, Pop and Hot sauce - Bergman
Blackheart Man - Bishton
Jazz Photos - Wm. Claxton
Joni Mitchell - Hinton
Bob Dylan - Kramer
Charles Mingus - Autobiography
Second Chorus - Humphrey Lyttleton
I Play as I please - ditto
In Griot Time - Eyre
Jazz Masters of the 40's - Gitler
A life in Jazz - Danny Barker
Lee Tanner's jazz Photos
The Pleasures of Jazz - Feather
Jazz Singing - Friedwald
Oscar Peterson - Lees
The great jazz pianists - Lyons
Riding on a Blue Note - Giddins
Reggae, the story of JA music - Bradley/Morris
David Bowie - Cann
Jazz - Goffin
Celebrating the Duke - Gleason
Genesis - Gallo
Rhythms of the World - BBC
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz - Case/Britt
The Eye of Jazz - Herman Leonard
Black Music
One Love - BMW - Jaffe
Dizzy the Duke & the Count - Lyons
Reggae International - Davis/Simon
Reggae Bloodlines - Davis/Simon
Louis Armstrong - U.Washington Press
Jah Revenge - Thomas/Boot
All you need is love - Palmer
Rasta and Resistance - Campbell
Dread - Owens
The Reggae Rough Guide
A jazz retrospective - Harrison
Chronicles - Dylan.
There's also about half a dozen devoted to Duke plus similar to BMW.
Hard to pick favorites, they've all got something to offer.

ejaydee said...

Donds to Bob DYlan;s Chronicles, and Miles Davis' autobiography comes to mind. Can Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists count?

sourpus said...

BalearicBeat, I have this book (James Young) with me in Budapest because I too think its one of the all time greats. I really do think its a 'must read' for anyone, music fan or no, because its SO fricking funny and well written. Also love England's Dreaming and Lipstick Traces in particular. I know its not 'about' music, but Chronicles would have to be up there too, as would Hi-Fidelity by Nick Hornby and Nick Kent's The Dark Stuff. But 'Song they never play..' is damn near my favorite of the lot

Japanther said...

@GF - that's a mighty impressive list, i'd like to read 'em all!

I too love "England's Dreaming" which I remember referencing at length for my final dissertation at University (can't remember the exact title, but something about youth, subcultures and social class. Complete with "case studies" - i.e. me going to gigs!)

Will also add and recommend:

"Lords of Chaos - The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground" - the incredible story of (mostly) Norwegian black metal. Murder, mayhem, arson, devil worshipping and make-up!

"Dance of Days" - the story of Washington DC hardcore punk mixed with the political goings on of the reagan era and beyond.

"Wouldn't It Be Nice" - Brian Wilson's self-help therapy project disguised as a rock autobiography is amazingly honest and extremely sad.

Abahachi said...

England's Dreaming; Mingus' Beneath the Underdog; Cambridge Companion to Jazz; Christopher Ricks' Bob Dylan's Visions of Sin; brilliant book by Scott DeVeaux on The Birth of Bebop; Paul Berliner's Thinking in Jazz.

Currently two-thirds of the way through Alex Ross' The Rest is Noise, a fascinating history of C20 classical musical, full of atonality, 12-tone scale etc. (sorry, GF); only trouble is, it opens up a new vast amount of music that I need to listen to (until last week I was a Schoenberg virgin, for example), just when I was busy discovering Mogwai.

Not only my favourite book related to music, but one of my favourite books tout court: Thomas Mann, Doktor Faustus.

Blimpy said...

Beating Darce to it, the Diamond Dave book is probably the best music tome ever written, with England's Dreaming coming in a close second!!

Third would be "Oh, is that your knee? A guide to sucessful exploitation in the music business" by Brian Speng

saneshane said...

BEZ 'Freaky Dancin'
top banana

BalearicBeat said...

Haha! Top one, sorted, our shane. 'Tis a work of genius that, written in its very own language of Bez.

Just been having another think and two other excellent books come to mind, Dave Haslam's very fine Manchester, England and Bill Drummond's 45. Both highly recommended.

saneshane said...

and more visual treats:

This Rimy River: Vaughan Oliver and v23 (a good overview originally an exhibition catalogue of 4AD covers) mighty beautiful.


Designed by Peter Saville

if you're into giving your eyes a bit of a massage, give them a whirl.

BalearicBeat said...

Oh, don't get me started on design porn, shane, especially Saville. That and the Factory Records Complete Graphic Album are a constant source of inspiration. I also love my Cover Art Of Blue Note Records book, which, whilst being no great jazz fan, I can pore over for hours, just admiring the typefaces and layouts. Simply stunning.

saneshane said...

I was expecting Goneforeign (as a great photographer and jazz fan) to mention a blue note book.. but as he says, that list is just a small mention of his collection. Absolutely beautiful graphics and photographs.

'Money Will Ruin Everything 2' the book and CD from Norway's Rune Grammofon label is what I want next.. if anyones buying!

ToffeeBoy said...

Ben Watt's autobiography Patient is worth reading - it's not really about music but what the hey.

BalearicBeat said...

I must check out that Ben Watt book, ToffeeBoy. I remember that he suffered from a debilitating illness, but I didn't know he'd written a book about it.
I put the "(or related to)" caveat in there to cover just such examples. The Paul Morley book isn't really about music, more a memoir focusing on the suicide of his father, although it obviously touches on music, especially Joy Division. Much maligned is Morley, I always think, mostly his own fault for appearing as a rent-a-quote on every "I Remember Last Tuesday" programme going, but "Nothing" is one of my favourite books and I can't recommend it highly enough.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ BB - I've got a copy somewhere (I think). It's as well written and interesting as you'd expect from Ben Watt and quite harrowing in places. Happy to send it to a good home with the sole condition that it subsequently gets sent to another good home. You can email me through my Blogger profile.

BalearicBeat said...

Cheers, la', I'd appreciate that. Maybe I could send you something back in return, if there's anything from my list that you haven't read.

Blimey, it's like Richard & Judy's Book Club on here, now. ;-)

My favourite EBTG song...

ToffeeBoy said...

I can't get it to open at the moment (apparently Mrs Abahachi is to blame) - ooh, it's just started playing - and it's a doozy.

We had a big EBTG debate on here a while back which you can still read but the music's gone. Could have done with you then ...

BalearicBeat said...

Enjoyed reading that. Good call on Microdisney too, although, as Chris points out in that thread, they could be a tad nasty at times, an aspect I never fail to utilise when winding up my S.A. friend, Marc with "We Hate You South African Bastards".

goneforeign said...

Shane: Thanks for those kind words, I've scanned the Blue Note book but somehow never popped for it, I do have something similar that I omitted, it's 'Stir it Up' Reggae album cover art by Chris Morrow. 1999, it's probably a dead rip off of the concept. I enjoy occasionally leafing through it as I have many of those illustrated but it does include many by the same artists that I only know by name.
For jazz photographs the Herman Leonard book is the one to have, great classic 4 by 5 shots.

Japanther said...

@GF and/or Abahachi (or any other Jazzers)

Can you recommend a good general Jazz book? I want to know history of course, main players and some interesting minor ones (it would need at least a chapter on free jazz) and if possible with some socio-cultural insight too. Basically i'm after a Jazz "England's Dreaming"!! Does it exist?

nilpferd said...

I'd add Ian Carr's brilliant Miles Davis bio, and -ahem- Simon Goddard's the songs that saved your life, about the Smiths.
Japanther, I can't think of a single book which will do what you want re jazz better than the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, now in the Ninth edition. All single author overviews are in my opinion overshadowed by jazz snobbery or the particular likes/dislikes of the author, which makes them sadly useless for getting into the genre. The Penguin Guide simply lists all available recordings with enough description to guide you into dozens of areas you'd never have tried before, and using music sharing sites like Spotify or Lastfm you can also quickly check whether something is going to be to your taste before investing.
The book is a brick, but very readable and easy to dip into, and good value at around 30-40€. As a compromise, I'm sure earlier editions are available more cheapy via Amazon seller sites and the like, and given the subject matter, older editions are not exactly that much out of date.

goneforeign said...

Panther: rather than a book let me suggest the Ken Burns six part history of jazz on DVD, there's box sets
going for approx $70 at US amazon. A wonderful treatment of the subject, very well done though of course when it was released there was a chorus of 'What about so-and-so?" as everyone complained that their favorites were overlooked. For a test run try part one, it's an overview of jazz history, maybe exactly what you're looking for. Google Ken Burns and you'll get lots of info.

Japanther said...

Thanks for the suggestions, the Penguin book looks very useful and I do love a good reference book, although I was hoping for something with a bit of narrative to get my teeth into, which GF's suggestion might just take care of!

I'll get Googling and Amazon checking! Thanks!

ejaydee said...

I was going to suggest the Ken Burns too, but I'm one of the "what-about-so-and-so?" people, but it's definitely great until it gets to free jazz and anything after that.

goneforeign said...

There's another that I overlooked, I think it would go down very well here. It's 'Kind of Blue' - The making of the Miles Davis masterpiece. by Ashley Kahn, foreword by Jimmy Cobb. It's everything you've ever wanted to know about every detail of that recording plus much more re. Columbia, finances, thorough source notes.

an ex-ex-guru writes said...


ejaydee said...

Oh, of course, there is the best ever book (of music lists), The Book Of Guardian Playlists.

ejaydee said... one Dorian Lynskey.

saneshane said...

If we'd been holding our breath for the follow up - protest songs? - we'd have suffocated though.