From the Archives: Five Favourite Rock Books

More 2002-2003 fun. Image above (March 2019) is from Chuck D’s Twitter feed, a picture of his music bookshelf. The entire photo, blown up, is worth a look. Of interest to at least eight or nine respondents to this question, is a title by another Chuck (top row, 14th from the left).

01:  As Time Goes By–Derek Taylor
02:  Punk Diary–George Gimarc
03:  It’s Too Late to Stop Now–Jon Landau
04:  Please Kill Me–Legs Mc Neil and Gillian McCain
05:  England’s Dreaming–Jon Savage

#’s 2,4, and 5 deal with the punk scene in the 1970s; #3 with classic rock also of that era; and #1 with thoughts of the road manager for the greatest rock and roll group of all time–do I really have to tell you their names? Well, the Walrus was Paul!

HANDLE:  Greg Marchelos
CITY:  Bronx, NY
Friday, June 27, 2003 at 17:09:51 (PDT)

01:  Robert Palmer/ Rock And Roll: An Unruly History
02:  Victor Bokris/ Uptight: the Story of the Velvet Underground
03:  Michael Stuart/ Pegasus Carousel
04:  Laura Jackson/Golden Stone : the untold life and tragic death of Brian Jones
05:  V Vale/ Incredibly Strange Music Vol 1

1. Unquestionably the Greatest Rock and Roll Book Ever (From Ike to Iggy, From Public Enemy to Steve Cropper)
2. The Absolute Best Part is Jonathan Richman’s explanation of Lou Reed’s Country Gentleman
5. Trent Ruane, Miriam Linna, Johnny Bartlet, Ivy Rorschach discuss Korla Pandit, The Superstocks, Esquirita, Andre Williams, Dolomite, Beatle Clones, Hasil Atkins and why it doesn’t get any better than “I Only Have Eyes For You” (These Are The Best)

Wednesday, June 04, 2003 at 20:51:25 (PDT)

01:  Stephen Davis/Old Gods Almost Dead
02:  Nick Kent/The Dark Stuff
03:  Peter Guralnick/Sweet Soul Music
04:  Levon Helm/This Wheel’s On Fire
05:  Howard Sounes/Down the Highway

what are you waiting for?

HANDLE:  DogDawg
Monday, May 12, 2003 at 23:14:40 (PDT)

01:  Phil Kaufman / ROAD MANGLER DELUXE
04:  Alice Cooper / ME, ALICE

Tried to avoid the obvious essentials: Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Meltzer, Legs McNeil, “Englands’s Dreaming,” Real essentials left off are the zine reprints: “Sniffin’ Glue,” “Punk,” and Vale’s “Search & Destroy” Vols. I & II. Oh, and Rollins’ “Get In the Van” is uh let’s say a tad one-sided. THAT guy. Okay, the shit:
1. The best r’n’r book ever? You decide. Road managed (“Executive Nanny” he calls it) the Stones, yadda yadda, stuff in here that would make Tony Sanchez shrink, oh, and he’s the guy who actually stole Gram Parson’s body and (partially) burnt it out at Joshua Tree. Talk about a friend. E-ssen-tial. And not cause Emmylou says to say so, either.
2. Mojo reprinted Playboy Press’ 1972 ripoff expose of the final days of Apple from the Calif. hippy who was there (Derek Taylor’s asst. or sumpin). Hilarious & full o’ anecdotes found nowhere else, plus real ho-hum in re the Beatlegods which in itself… Didn’t actually hang w/ the Fabs hisself so short on firsthands, but everything else- tracking down a barrel o’ apples day of for Mary Hopkin’s release, acorns for J&Y’s peace mailing, tense Hell’s Angels Xmas buffets (Geo. chills everybody, btw), firsthand witness into descent into excess, hubris, egocentrism & the birth of Superstardom, plus death of Beatles all from one office. Badly written, ends with minute legal detail in re Klein et al., incl. for no apparent reason complete court transcripts.
3. Similar appeal. Fuck the “Anthology” whitewash, out with the dirt. No one but a fiend wld find this remotely appealing, Day-by-day detailing, track-by-track of the “Get Back” sessions, deterioration slo-mo’d and magnified. Great bathroom book, good for Beatleg collectors.
4. Is this book even in print? Checked it out of library in HS, was warped pretty good- I hope & assume he’s lying about this stuff. Written before he went all AA and started guesting on Carson. Maniac. Egomaniac. Like if Little Richard is pissed at McCartney, howzabout Alice and say oh uh Sabbath, Kiss, Gwar for that matter, Marilyn Manson? If “My Sweet Lord” is “He’s So Fine” then AC = Marilyn Manson. Butcha know, in this ghostwritten pulp AC himself admits it’s all ripped off, no matter how he came off in that “Decline Part II” thing…
5. More relevant than, well, Ralph Nader, to pull a name- Interviews with Kathleen Hanna, Steve Albini, Ian Mackaye, the real history of Black Flag (Henry Garfield? A musclebound poet? Ah. Ha.), Winston Smith, Frank Kozik, Ruckus Society, friggin Chomsky? Who *isn’t* in here? Never read the mag before or since, good i’views, tho. A Few More for the Road (Un-Music Related): a) Mindfuckers, Sourcebook on Acid Fascism; Ed. David Felton [Straight Arrow, 1972, o/o/p] b) Phenomenal World; Joan D’Arc [Book Tree, 2002] c) Public Secrets; Ken Knabb [BoPS, 1997] [on the web] d) Rubicon Beach; Steve Erickson e) Infinite Jest; DFWallace oh, and an extra rock book: f) Great Jones Street; Don Delillo

HANDLE: Elmyr de Hory
Tuesday, April 22, 2003 at 03:20:44 (PDT)

01:  Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll
02:  Book of Rock Lists/Dave Marsh & James Bernard
03:  All Music Guide
04:  Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide
05:  Any biography

1) Did a paper based on it in high school. Where I first learned a lot of current history.
2) Because I’m a nut for lists, like this one.
3) Because I’m a nut for reference books.
4) Because jazz counts too.
5) Did I mention I like reference books?

HANDLE:  Moe Shinola
CITY:  Kansas City, Mo.
Monday, March 10, 2003 at 18:07:36 (PST)

01:  psychotic reactions and carburetor dung/lester bangs
02:  journals/kurt cobain
03:  get in the van/henry rollins
04:  please kill me/legs mcneil and gillian mccain
05:  dee dee ramone/chelsea horror hotel

a look into their creative being.

HANDLE:  brian william stuhr
CITY:  el cajon,california
Sunday, December 08, 2002 at 13:58:36 (PST)

01:  Lester Bangs/Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
02:  Jim DeRogatis/Let it Blurt
03:  Marc Eliot/Death of a Rebel (a biography of Phil Ochs)
04:  Dave Marsh/The Book of Rock Lists
05:  Richard Meltzer / A Whore Just Like the Rest

1. One man’s opinion/stoned ramblings on rock. A true pioneer.
2. The story of the pioneer as told to, and researched by a rabid young fan.
3. Gone but not forgotten.
4. Fun. Make your own lists.
5. Second, only to Lester. Fuck ’em all.

HANDLE:  Kevin Campbell
CITY:  Halifax, N.S., Canada
Friday, November 22, 2002 at 11:40:10 (PST)

01:  Lester Bangs/Phsycotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
02:  Jim DeRogatis/LET IT BLURT
03:  Charles R. Cross/Heavier Than Heaven
04:  Jon Savage/England’s Dreaming
05:  Marilyn Manson and Neil Strauss/The Long Hard Road OUt of Hell

Lester Bangs’ collection of articles… there are no words to describe its genius. It’s just pure rock n’ roll opinion. It is true art. Jim DeRogatis’ account of Lester Bangs works on two levels: 1.) It gives a comprehensive, intensely interesting overview of the journalists’ fascinating life. 2.) It gives a comprehensive, intensely interesting overview of the history of rock journalism. “Heavier than Heaven” is great because it demystifies that rock hero aura around Kurt Cobain and paints him as a real person. “England’s Dreaming” is a thorough overview of one of the most important bands and musical movements (and social movements) of all time. And, finally, say what you will, Marilyn Manson is a genious. This book is not only his life story, its the tale of the American dream gone bad due to rock n’ roll and Manson’s social criticism makes so much friggin sense.

HANDLE:  Oapie
CITY:  New York City
Wednesday, September 18, 2002 at 18:39:32 (PDT)

02:  Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain/PLEASE KILL ME
04:  Marc Spitz & Brendan Mullen/WE GOT THE NEUTRON BOMB
05:  Michael Azzerad/OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE

Too vast an area, so I’ve narrowed my focus to all punk histories, the first 2 covering the initial American forebears from a musical and insider perspective, respectively; Savage’s book offers an grand overview of the English punk phenomenon from a musical, social, fashion, etc. sense, with the Sex Pistols as the barometer; #4 is a PLEASE KILL ME for the underappreciated LA scene; while Azzerad’s book follows some of the architects of the post-punk American underground. For a critical viewpoint, Joe Carducci’s ROCK AND THE POP NARCOTIC is a fierce document that if nothing else forced me to think hard about where and why I disagree with him, plus he’s a damn sight more informative and useful than most highbrow intellectuals. And, of course, no self-professed indie geek should be without dog-eared copies of both editions of THE TROUSER PRESS RECORD GUIDE, edited by Ira Robbins.

HANDLE:  mome
CITY:  fitchburg, ma
Sunday, September 01, 2002 at 01:44:42 (PDT)

01:  N Tosches/ Hellfire
02:  G Marcus/ Mystery Train
03:  R Christgau/ all three Consumer Guide Books
04:  S Booth/The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones
05:  P Guralnick/ Last Train to Memphis

I spend most of my rock and roll reading time reading compilations like Please Kill Me, The Illustrated History of Rock and Roll (the Rolling Stone one, that is), Stranded, Book of Rock Lists and, especially the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s Consumer Guides. The latter is the only one to place because they’re so complete and dense and funny and profound; nothing has influenced my record buying more. The other four are great books that happen to be about rock and roll. Hellfire is monumental. It’s as if William Faulkner was commissioned to tell one of the greatest stories in rock history: the life and times of Jerry Lee Lewis. Mystery Train is as prolific as rock writing should get. (Lipstick Traces, in constrast, is Marcus going too far which is still quite facinating.) It also shows Marcus’ amazing (and somewhat annoying) ability to describe a song as being better than it really is; I took me years to hear Two Steps From the Blues without him sublimminally coaching me. I’ve found that no band is more fun to read about than the Stones and Stanley Booth’s book, his memoir from tagging along on the ’69 tour–when the Stone were the greatest any rock performer has ever been. His book, like Tosches, was written with “Southern soul.” Elvis, however, is beyond rock–he’s a truly great American–and everyone should know as much about him as they can. The first in Guralnick’s two-part biography captures his rise in a way that puts you there with just the right bit of commentary. The second part, Careless Love, captures, of course, the fall which, while a must-read, is nowhere near as fun. Above all, each of these books capture essence of the rock spirit–as I understand it.

Monday, August 26, 2002 at 22:15:12 (PDT)

01:  Nick Hornby/High Fidelity
02:  Dave Marsh/The Book of Rock Lists
03:  Legs McNiel/Please Kill Me
04:  Marcus Gray/Last Gang in Town
05:  Jimmy Guterman/The Worst Rock-And-Roll Records of All Time

Speak for themselves, I think

HANDLE:  Max Katz
CITY:  Riverhead, NY
Thursday, August 01, 2002 at 20:36:22 (PDT)

01:  Mikal Gilmore/Night Beat
02:  Hi Fidelity/Nick Hornby
03:  Book of Rock Lists/Dave Marsh and others
04:  Nowhere to Run/Gerri Hirshey OR Please Kill Me/Legs Mcneil and Gillian McCain
05:  Stranded/edited by Greil Marcus

Sad…no Lester Bangs, because the powers that be fucked up and picked the less stellar of the man’s work, although Marsh’s intro is worth the price of admission. And until a definitive anthology of Lester (that’s what I call him, Lester) comes along, this should be required reading nonetheless. Please, please, please, somebody, give us what we need:a complete anthology of his record reviews. The man elevated them to an art form, after all, and the forced economy only proved his theorist cred. No Christgau, either; his collections tend to be chosen for utilitarian value, not aesthetic or insight. Sorry, Bob…you would have been a great marketing whiz. As a dispenser of insight into rock and roll, however, you ain’t foolin’ this boy. Biographies, the rock stripe of which there are many fine, were left out due to their specialized nature (it would, however, make a great top five category). Lotta good stuff left out.
1. Because at a time in my life when I thought music was a mere luxury, this book reminded me of it’s intrinsic value in my life, and helped me rediscover some old friends, and reassess more than a few of the artists featured in it’s pages. Gilmore’s “Shot in the Heart”, a memoir of his life in the penultimate dysfunctional family, is also recommended. Highly.
2. Because virtually anyone reading this, certainly those of us who submitted a list, would qualify as a “music geek”. Read this and see if you don’t see yourself somewhere within it’s covers.
3. Preferably the first edition, which seemed more free wheeling and irreverent. The second edition, while seeming older and wiser and certainly more encompassing, seems a tad stuffy in comparison. Still, history, theory, criticism, and pure information, all in one seriously fun volume.
4. Pick your poison, both are definitive histories. I would love to see “Nowhere..” updated. Trust me, you’ll be up all night digging through your Otis LPs and/or your Television bootlegs.
5. Another one I’d love to see updated. Essays by various and sundry critics on their “desert island” disc of choice. Marcus’ finale essay is overblown, pretentious, and still downright lazy, but does contain a few good one-liners…unlike most of his book length work, which just manages the overblown and pretentious part. To all who contributed to this list: Thanks for the suggestions…

HANDLE:  Brent Sanders

Friday, July 05, 2002 at 23:06:29 (PDT)

01:  oh
02:  fuck
03:  i
04:  forgot
05:  Legs McNeil “Please Kill Me”

so scratch the book of lists

Monday, July 01, 2002 at 23:14:17 (PDT)

01:  Lester Bangs “Psychotic reaction and Carburator Dung”
02:  Danny Sugerman and ??? “No One Here Gets out alive”
03:  Cameron Crowe “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”
04:  Dave Marsh “Book of Lists”
05:  “Who Killed Kurt Cobain”

all good reads

Monday, July 01, 2002 at 23:12:17 (PDT)

01:  Mikal Gilmore/ Shot in The Heart
02:  Tony Sanchez/ Up and Down With the Rolling Stones
03:  Peggy Caserta/ Going Down With Janis
04:  Albert Goldman/ The Lives of John Lennon
05:  Legs McNeil/ Please Kill Me

1) One of the best memoirs ever written. 2,3&4) Few of us want to acknowledge the sleezy side of rock books; tell all gossip and scandal mongering. These three books are the best of these much maligned, guilty pleasures. 5) Oral history

HANDLE:  Rev Matt

Friday, May 10, 2002 at 19:07:55 (PDT)

01:  Dave Marsh/Heart of Rock and Soul
02:  Peter Guralnick/Sweet Soul Music
03:  Steve Earle/Doghouse Roses
04:  Dave Marsh/Glory Days
05:  For the Record: Sun Records An Oral History/John Floyd Edited by Dave Marsh

Great books…everyone who loves music should read these.

HANDLE:  rrm
CITY:  Hot Springs

01:  Nick Cohn/Pop From the Beginning
02:  Nick Kent/The dark stuff
03:  Greil Marcus/Mystery Train
04:  Lawrence Grossberg/We Gotta get out of this place
05:  Dave marsh/Before I Get Old: The Story of the Who

These are the books that changed my life. Each and one of them has guided me and inspired me in my writing as a music critic and a musician.

HANDLE:  Ari Ktorza
CITY:  Tel-Aviv

01:  Albert Goldman / DISCO
02:  John Morthland / BEST OF COUNTRY MUSIC
04:  Lilian Roxon / ROCK ENCYCLOPEDIA
05:  Jonathan Eisen (ed) / AGE OF ROCK

1) the scourge of rock criticism wrote the definitive guide to this much-maligned genre. Figures. “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” owes quite a bit to this out-of-print marvel.
2) the unsung hero of music writing opens the treasure chest of american sounds. the best record guide, hands down.
3) 80s pop at its most thought-provoking — not to mention funny as hell. The genius of N Tennant, undiluted.
4) &
5) sentimental favorites from the days when I read everything in the local library. Upon reinspection thirty years later, they hold up as vital and revealing historical documents. Surprise!

HANDLE:  M Coleman

01:  Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung by Lester Bangs
02:  Sweet Soul Music by Peter Guralnick
03:  No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs by John Lydon
04:  Book of Rock Lists (1979 edition) by Dave Marsh and Kevin Stein
05:  Christgau’s Record Guide (Seventies) by Robert Christgau

Bangs’ book is the only rock book I can think of (save for Tosches’ Hellfire, perhaps) that transcends its subject matter and could be recommended solely as literature. Guralnick manages to trace a compelling thesis both beautiful and tragic. Lydon’s book captures the most honest and authentic voice of any rock autobio. The Book of Rock Lists was my first rock book and monumental in forming my aesthetic. Christgau’s 70’s guide is his masterpiece, though all his books are worth reading.

HANDLE:  K. Coleman
CITY:  Portland, OR


I love Chuck Eddy. I think his ironic, postmodern paradigms serve to debunk and deconstruct the pretentions of the pretentious and return music to where it should be: in the garage, with that guy you used to know who thought MC5 was totally groovy. In addition, Chuck Eddy is clever and I like clever people and he’s also clever.

HANDLE:  Nicanor

01:  Lester Bangs – Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
02:  Greil Marcus – In the Fascist Bathroom
03:  Richard Meltzer – A Whore Just Like the Rest
04:  Jon Savage – England’s Dreaming
05:  Jerry Hopkins & Danny Sugerman – No One Here Gets Out Alive

All these had a powerful effect when I first read them.

HANDLE:  Grahamp3
CITY:  London

01:  Lester Bangs – guess what?
02:  Joe Carducci – Rock and the Pop Narcotic
03:  Chuck Eddy – Stairway to Hell
04:  Stephen Davis – Hammer of the Gods
05:  Richard Meltzer – The Aesthetics of Rock

#5 – Hilarious when readable.

HANDLE:  Dinosaur Shoes
CITY:  Toronto

01:  Craig Werner, A CHANGE IS GONNA COME
04:  Nelson George, THE DEATH OF R&B
05:  Peter Guralnick, SWEET SOUL MUSIC

These are the best that I can think of right now…I’m sure there are others, but this is what’s on my mind currently.

HANDLE:  The Juju Man
CITY:  Madison, WI

01:  Lester Bangs/Psychotic Reactions and Carboreutor Dung
02:  Dave Marsh & James Bernard/The New Book of Rock Lists
03:  Jim DeRogatis/Let It Blurt
04:  Greil Marcus/Mystery Train
05:  Robert Christgau/Grown Up All Wrong

Bangs is the god of rock criticism and all others follow in his footsteps. However, Christgau’s self-rigtheous scholastic drivel sometimes makes one feel he is the complete antithesis of everything Lester stood for.

HANDLE:  CAcdboy
CITY:  Havre de Grace

03:  Mack Allen Smith/HONKY TONK ADDICT
04:  Richard Meltzer/THE AESTHETICS OF ROCK
05:  John Broven/RHYTHM AND BLUES

1) This is the only really good general history
2) Think this one is out of print now
3) Self-published
4) Like this one for the pictures
5) Best book on New Orleans r&b, my favorite music

HANDLE:  Skidwell

03:  Mack Allen Smith/HONKY TONK ADDICT
04:  Richard Meltzer/THE AESTHETICS OF ROCK
05:  John Broven/RHYTHM AND BLUES

1) This is the only really good general history
2) Think this one is out of print now
3) Self-published
4) Like this one for the pictures
5) Best book on New Orleans r&b, my favorite music

HANDLE:  Skidwell

01:  where dead voices gather- nicktosches
02:  unsung heroes of r’n’r- nick tosches
03:  please kill me- legs mcneil/gillian mccain
04:  country- nick tosches
05:  mansion on a hill- fred goodman

more good books about jazz than there are about r’n’r.

HANDLE:  Handel
CITY:  nyc

01:  Robert Christgau/Consumer Guides
02:  Lester Bangs/Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
03:  Greil Marcus/Mystery Train
04:  Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock n’ Roll – original w/Greil Marcus’ chapter on Rod Stewart
05:  Marcus,Christgau,Tosches,Bangs,Ward,Willis,etc./Stranded:Rock and Roll for a Desert Island

Like most teenage rock fans, I read the RS Illustrated History in record stores for years before finally throwing some money down for it (why buy a book when you can buy a record was the thinking before that). That one, and Paul Gambaccini’s 200 Greatest Rock Albums of All Time were my first Rock books. I’ve gotta give props also to Dave Marsh’s Book of Rock Lists which was a shitload of information on great rock albums, movies, songs, producers, as well as the trivia that rock fans love. Bangs’ writing, at its best, was as exciting as the music and turned me on to rock criticism as a genre; Stranded sealed my attraction. Mystery Train is still as entertaining and intelligent as it was 25 years ago. And purchasing Xgau’s Consumer Guide-Albums of the 70s quite frankly changed my life. I’ve been looking forward to his monthly CG’s ever since. The CG 80s book is truly awesome, containing a Core Collection of essential rock albums. And it was a thrill to help him compile reviews for his CG90s book. Honorable Mentions: As a lover of bios, I also admire these “rock” books: Bios on Kurt Cobain (Charles R. Cross), George Jones (Bob Allen), The Who (Dave Marsh), Elvis Presley (Dave Marsh), Jerry Lee Lewis (Nick Tosches), B.B. King (Charles Sawyer), Led Zeppelin (Stephen Davis), Woody Guthrie (Joe Klein), Jimi Hendrix (David Henderson, Charles S. Murray), Bob Dylan (A. Scaduto, Robert Shelton), Beatles (Philip Norman), Satchmo (Gary Giddins). Runners-up: Nelson George’s Where Did Our Love Go? The Motown Story, Peter Guralnick’s Feel Like Going Home/Sweet Soul Music/Lost Highway Trilogy, Michael Azzerad’s This Band Could Be Your Life, Richard Meltzer’s A Whore Just Like the Rest, David Toop’s Ocean of Sound, Mikal Gilmore’s Night Beat, and pretty much anything by Greil Marcus (Ranters and Crowd Pleasers, Invisible Republic, Lipstick Traces) and Robert Christgau (Grown Up All Wrong, Any Old Way You Choose It).

HANDLE:  jyanosik

01:  asf
02:  asfd
03:  asdf
04:  asfd
05:  asdf


HANDLE:  asdf

01:  Chuck Eddy – Stairway to Hell
02:  Richard Meltzer – A Whore Just Like The Rest
03:  Joe Carducci – Rock and the Pop Narcotic
04:  Dave Marsh – The Heart of Rock and Soul
05:  Ben Watson – Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play

…maybe this category should be changed to “Top 5 ASIDE from PR & CD”, which OBVIOUSLY belongs on everyone’s list (except Anthony “Albert Goldman Lives” DeCurtis’.) My list follows that assumption. Inevitable honourable mentions: Greil Marcus’ “Ranters & Crowd Pleasers”, Steven Davis’ “Hammer of the Gods”, Charles Shaar Murray’s “Crosstown Traffic”, Dellio & Woods’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” (hilarious!), Christgau’s Consumer Guides (’70s & ’80s)

HANDLE:  vonbontee
CITY:  Mississauga

02:  Charles Shaar Murray / CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC
04:  Simon Frith / SOUND EFFECTS
05:  Robert Palmer / THE ROLLING STONES

1) Yes, everyone lists this one, what can I say, it influenced my teenage life greatly.
2) Best book on Jimi Hendrix, great book on the trajectory of rock, soul and jazz in general.
3) Nobody writes on Elvis Costello or Gang of Four as well as Marcus.
4) Pretentious, but still pretty brilliant.
5) The only Palmer book I’ve read. Does a great job explaining the MUSIC and not just the words (I get the impression most rock critics, like, don’t actually play an instrument). Not “rock” books per se, but also important to me are BLUES PEOPLE and BLACK MUSIC by Leroi Jones, and Miles Davis’ autobiography (which gets the award for the most times “motherfucker” is printed in a single book).

CITY:  Brooklyn

01:  Richard Meltzer, A WHORE JUST LIKE THE REST
03:  Michael Azerrad, OUR BAND COULD BE YOUR LIFE
05:  Stephen Davis, HAMMER OF THE GODS

Reading the Azerrad book at the moment and really enjoying it. I’ve never been able to finish Meltzer’s “Aesthetics of Rock,” so I can’t realistically list it here; besides, “Whore” and his post-“Aesthetics” stuff are actually *writing*. I think Popoff can fly wildly off the mark at times, but IMHO he’s one of the only entertaining and readable metal writers ever to have walked the planet. Lester’s book is a given; “Hammer of the Gods” is one of the few rock books I’ve ever re-ead for pleasure. In unrelated matters, word up to Phil Freeman for writing “New York is Now!” — (to my knowledge) the first inclusive, passionate document of post-Coltrane/Ayler/Braxton free jazz by a man who can hear Candiria and William Parker on a level playing field.

HANDLE:  Aaron Burgess
CITY:  Lakewood, OH

01:  nick tosches / country
02:  philip larkin / all what jazz?
03:  lester bangs / psychotic reactions & carburetor dung
04:  phillip dellio III & scott “scooter” woods / i want so desperately to be sedated
05:  david downing / future rock

Tosches is terribly full of shit, sometimes, but I adore “Country” more than any other book by more “reputable” writers like Booth and Guralnick about the genre. At least Tosches makes it sound vital. The joke with the Larkin book is that he actually hates modern jazz, most of which he’s called on to review in the course of his term as jazz critic. His dismissal of Charlie Parker (“he constantly repeats five notes known in my youth as ‘the Woody Woodpecker theme’.” — or something to that effect) is priceless. Bangs. Yeah, well. Verrrry original choice. Messrs. Dellio and Woods book is probably the finest academic treatise on polyphony ever authored. Downing’s “Future Rock” — I bought it in grade nine, at the height of my prog rock infatuation. It’s a really pretentious piece of work — an anti-Bangs kind of book — but it made me aware of the greater context of rock music, the (faintly risible) literary tradition it was capable of mining. The chapters on Lou Reed and Bowie, who I’d never really listened to on album at that point, probably make me interested in them later on. Basically David Toop and Simon Reynolds before their time.

HANDLE:  rick mcginnis
CITY:  toronto

02:  Greil Marcus / LIPSTICK TRACES
03:  Jon Savage / ENGLAND’S DREAMING
04:  Greil Marcus / MISTERY TRAIN
05:  Ritchie Unterberger / UNKNOWN LEGENDS OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL

I think I’m not original here.

CITY:  Lima, Perú

01:  Greil Marcus – Stranded
02:  Dave Marsh – Heart of Rock and Soul
03:  The Mojo Collection
04:  David Lee Roth – Crazy From the Heat
05:  Greil Marcus – Mystery Train

1) Gives writers a chance to fantasize – not something they do often
2) 1001 opinions – always fun to read
3) Just fun to read – damn thick though…
4) Damn funny – the guy ain’t Shakespeare, but what a read anyway
5) Deserves to be here.

CITY:  Perth

01:  Lester Bangs -Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung-
02:  Rickey Vincent -Funk-
03:  Robert Gordon -It Came from Memphis-
04:  Jon Savage -England’s Dreaming: Punk, the Sex Pistols and Beyond-
05:  Nelson George -The Death of Rhythm and Blues-

I know everyone includes -Psychotic Reactions- on their lists, but Bangs really was a writer of life-affirming greatness for me. Also, it’s the earliest book on pop music I remember reading which truly inspired me (checked out of the local library at age 15 or so). I avoided record reviews (otherwise), and lists (which meant not including two great books by Paul Williams, -The 50 Greatest Singles of All Time- and -The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits-, sad to say). I also can’t include some great music fanzines that influenced me greatly (they haven’t hit anthologized book form yet), such as -Forced Exposure-, -The Big Takeover-, -Popwatch,- -Ptolemic Terrascope- and others. I also couldn’t include some great books by Tosches, Palmer, Shaar Murray, Hoskyns, Guralnick, Brian Hinton (the brilliant -Country Roads-) et al. Have to stop somewhere. Vincent’s book is maybe my favorite “little known” book of pop music writing. Like the title says, it’s all about “funk,” but Vincent uses the term as a description of a feeling rather than a genre to write brilliantly about many styles of African-American music from Chess Records blues and jazz up to hip-hop (the book wraps up around 1991 or so), tying in the history of the music with black American culture (in a wonderful, non-pretentious way). He also breaks down the music as music (parts, sections, instruments, rhythm, melody, in a way more music writers should. Okay, much of the book -is- about funk (the genre) and he writes about a lot of great R&B/funk/dance/hip-hop music of the past and present I just don’t read about anywhere else (the discography is mind-blowing). Gordon’s book is another “small” favorite. It isn’t a history of the Memphis music scene (except it is), but a great non-fiction story of the culture of the city, and the memorable people (mostly musicians but a few non-) that make up a story of “shadow history” of Memphis culture. Gordon glosses over Elvis, Stax, Sun and Al and tells the stories of Phineas Newborn, Dewey Phillips, Smiley Lewis, Jim Dicksinson, Charlie Freeman, Sputnik Monroe, Alex Chilton and Big Star, Penn and Oldham, William Eggleston, Tav Falco, and others. Not a book of rock criticism and not the work of a rock critic. But it is great fun and the written essence of great pop music. Savage’s book isn’t the “definite” punk history (there is no such thing), but it’s damn good. He covers the cultural threads that lead to punk, and on to a thousand new music styles punk gave birth to. Amazing discography, too. George’s book is in someways similar to Vincent’s, but it’s too good not to include. Anyways, the thrust of this book -is- different, as George is writing about the social context that African-American music came from over the music itself (Vincent’s book is the reverse), and why and how that music has needed to evolve over time. He also covers the business of African-American music (economy, radio,, and its relation to black American culture. Great stuff.

HANDLE:  James
CITY:  somewhere in New Jersey, USA

02:  Xgau/ROCK ALBUMS OF THE 70s
04:  Myra Friedman/BURIED ALIVE

(not nec. in order of pref.) Myra Friedman’s life was never saved by rocknroll, and didn’t particularly need to be, as far as I can tell. She graduated with a degree in Classical Music, just as she decided, “Oh, welll-“. Sought & obtained a job with Columbia the prestige label (next to Prestige, no lie). Assigned to the office of Albert Grossman, who assigned her to the Janis Joplin Experience. Became close friends with Janis, later wrote this (as-little-and/or-justifiably-exploitational-as-possible) bio. She loved a lot of the music and some of the people. She never blinks, but didn’t care about exposing or ass-kissing or hagiography (Janis is convincingly portrayed as one of those people who had to make other people have to love her, and then punished them and herself for it, over and over). Myra was picking up the pieces and fitting them together, not forcing but not too gingerly either HELL no and this was at a time the early 70s when that was such a crucial process like it isn’t always. But it was a new thing to a lot of us youngsters and a new thing in rock writing apparently and a new thing in Rock which was the beast which had devoured so many source musics and little monsters and then lurched away, a big fat inept Bizgrowth (Altamont, for one thing just one I agree). Also it’s one of those books if you pick it up be prepared to take the day off (a main criterion for being on this list)(speaking of lists, Eddy has his grievances, but no dreary shitlists too near the edge of the page at all times, unlike most big-name critics—his [first anyway] book conveys the fun of the listening experience at its best. If the prose seems hyper-everything at times, it’s ’cause he’s DEVOURED everything and lurched away but like a Bonzo beat steeped in Keith Moon [grounded in sensible chunks of Ringo], preparing to birth us this book. Xgau’s like primo Jimmy Page, not going to let the REAL 70s out of his suite lair, ’til he gets to the bottom of her and then some). P.S.: The second edition of BURIED ALIVE contains only (very fluent) paraphrases of Janis’ letters, which were extensively excerpted in the first ed. Janis’ sister Laura took ’em back at the last minute and collected them into LOVE, JANIS (Laura Joplin, ed.) And THAT’S the one that went out of print! But well worth seeking out (as are Janis’ recordings, the documentary JANIS [directed by Alk and Findley, MCA 80080], and Mary Gaitskill’s books. All of which, like Myra’s book, reach all the way up the knuckle into the stinkiest, most intractable tract-squirm there is, and not only make as much sense (and maps of the no-sense) as possible, but also make all that shit swing (“Sincerity, and a good time”, as JJ replied to “What are today’s restless youth looking for?”–like I said, right up the knuckle–)

HANDLE:  Don Allred
CITY:  coupdeville

01:  Richard Meltzer/GULCHER
02:  Chuck Eddy/STAIRWAY TO HELL
04:  various (Jonathan Eisen, ed.)/AGE OF ROCK 2

I know the Meltzer book isn’t really “about” rock but Gulcher = Rock Culcher…books like the Jonathan Eisen (ed.) one are usually better than ones with a coherent central thesis by one guy, for the same reason…There probably oughta be something by Lester Bangs but he never writ a real good bk. (the editor of the “C. Dung” anthology included some really inexplicable shit)…Nik Cohn’s “Awopbopalubopalopbamboom” (I hope I spelled that right) should be in there too…yeah well, we haven’t got all day.

HANDLE:  Duane Zarakov
CITY:  Dunedin,N.Z.


The first two (frankly, I should reverse the order here) sum up my rock and roll philosophy, especially Marsh’s, which is one of the ultimate no-brainers of the rock world, even if the fans/critics/biz seem to be intent on smashing any mentions of singles these days. (God bless Tori Amos and R.E.M. for still releasing CD singles on the U.S. market!) As for Marcus, MT is indispensable for understand rock and American history in its awful beauty. The remaining three—especially Marsh’s 1st Boss bio and Arnold’s personal herstory of punk up to Cobain & Co—capture the simple exuberance of fandom!

CITY:  Alameda, CA

02:  Charlie Gillett / THE SOUND OF THE CITY
03:  Robert Christgau / consumer guides (esp. ’70s)
04:  Greil Marcus / MYSTERY TRAIN

No big surprises here. With the possible exception of the Booth, these were the most formatively influencing for me, particularly the Cohn. Others deserving more than honorable mention: Christgau, Any Old Way You Choose It and Grown Up All Wrong; Marcus: Lipstick Traces and Stranded; Nick Tosches: Hellfire and Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll; Jon Savage: England’s Dreaming; and Fredric Dannen, Hit Men.While I appreciate them — I really, really do — I have to leave the genuflections to others for Lester Bangs, who never really got off a good book, and for Richard Meltzer, who could stand to improve in, uh, articulation.

HANDLE:  Jeff Pike
CITY:  Seattle

01:  Nik Cohn/ Rock From the Beginning
02:  Paul Nelson/ Collected Works of…..
03:  Rainer Maria Fassbinder/ Fox and His Friends
04:  Paul Garon/ Blues and the Poetic Spirit
05:  Botkin/A Treasury of American Folklore

Cohn’s book remains the only book ever written about rock, the rest but for Nelson is filler for ad driven reactionary toilet paper of the kind that Wenner, Blenner, Tenner, what is his name? produces.

HANDLE:  warren leming
CITY:  chicago/berlin

01:  Michael Moynihan & Didrik Soderlind / LORDS OF CHAOS
02:  R. Meltzer / AESTHETICS OF ROCK
03:  John Savage / ENGLAND’S DREAMING
05:  Evan Cohen/ I WAS A MURDER JUNKIE

LORDS OF CHAOS tells you a lot more than you want to know about scandinavian satanic metal; I WAS A MURDER JUNKIE tells you slightly more than you want to know about scum rocker gg allin…the other three figure in others lists here so i won’t bore you with ’em

HANDLE:  ?????????????????????
CITY:  london england

02:  Paul Morley / ASK: THE CHATTER OF POP
03:  Simon Reynolds / BLISSED OUT
04:  Nick Cohn, Guy Peelaert / ROCK DREAMS
05:  Simon Garfield / THE NATION’S FAVOURITE

Eddy’s book pretty much crystallised and turned around everything I’d been trying to think about pop: magnificent. Morley’s out-of-print interview collection is hilarious and hides a lot of intelligent stuff in a lot of clever stuff (always a good trick). Reynolds’ book was influence #1 for the longest time. Cohn and Peelaert’s pretentious rock fantasia is the only way I can imagine approaching the sixties successfully. Garfield’s book on Radio 1 is so far the only good book on what happened to music in the UK in the 1990s – and it’s funny as hell too. Just missed: Drummond’s ’45’, Eshun’s ‘More Brilliant Than The Sun’, Reynolds’ ‘Generation Ecstasy’, Cohn’s ‘Awopbopaloobopawopbamboom’, Marcus’ ‘Lipstick Traces’. Curses, another sausage party.

HANDLE:  Tom Ewing
CITY:  London

01:  Richard Meltzer/A Whore Just Like the Rest
02:  Nick Tosches/Unsung Heroes of R&R
03:  Nick Tosches/The Nick Tosches Reader
04:  Richard Meltzer/Aesthetics of Rock
05:  Dave Bidini/On a Cold Road

i know, it’s a limited list…but it’s BEST rock books right…right?

HANDLE:  Emmet Matheson
CITY:  R-E-G-I-N-A (rhymes with…)

01:  Chuck Eddy / The Accidental Evolution of Rock and Roll
02:  Chuck Eddy / Stairway To Hell
03:  Jimmy Guterman and Owen O’Donnell / The Worst Rock ‘n’ Roll Records of All Time
04:  Lester Bangs / PRACD
05:  Robert Christgau / 70s Record Guide

Eddy’s masterpieces were addictive companions in the summers of 1997 and 1998, respectively; they read like long, amusing conversations with a musically knowledgeable friend. Guterman and O’Donnell’s book, a Christmas present when I was in eleventh grade, opened my eyes to how entertaining rock criticism could be (and Guterman’s follow-up solo-project, “The Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Records of All Time”, turned me on to the Clash, Mott The Hoople, “Astral Weeks” and much more…). I read PRACD often during my undergrad years, when I might have been the only person checking it out of Rice University’s library. I’ve never actually owned a copy of Christgau’s 70s Guide, but the permissive in-store reading policy of the local Borders Books allowed me read it enough times to get the gist. Honorable mention: “Stranded”, “Rock and the Pop Narcotic”, Guralnick’s Presley duo, Joe Jackson’s book, the parts of the Spin Alternative guide that Sheffield, Crist, Kogan and Eddy contributed, the most recent Rolling Stone guide, Marsh’s lists book.

HANDLE:  John Fredland
CITY:  Randolph AFB, TX

01:  Robert Christgau/70s RECORD GUIDE
02:  Greil Marcus (editor)/STRANDED
04:  Robert Christgau/80s RECORD GUIDE
05:  Bill Flanagan/WRITTEN IN MY SOUL

All these are great for browsing, including Stranded for the great critical discography at the end and the brief interviews compiled in the Flanagan book. The Lewisohn book — recently reissued — is a must for any Beatles fanatic.

HANDLE:  T. Sawyer
CITY:  London, Ont.

02:  Mark Shipper/PAPERBACK WRITER
05:  Peter Guranick/FEEL LIKE GOING HOME/LOST HIGHWAY/SWEET SOUL MUSIC (seems like one book, really)

If it’s still outta print, Shipper’s book needs to be hustled back in: a wacky, slapstick, parody-bio of the Beatles that’s all rock and roll spirit as it slaps silly anybody who takes the music too seriously. Palmer’s book is my favorite history of the music among many.

HANDLE:  The Reverend Wayne Coomers
CITY:  Columbia, Missouri

01:  victor bockris kieth richards
02:  colin harper dazzling stranger
03:  clinton heylin behind the shades
04:  micheal gray song and dance man
05:  jim de rpogatis let it blurt

no comment

HANDLE:  pete latham
CITY:  stoke on trent

03:  Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain/PLEASE KILL ME
05:  Clinton Heylin (ed.)/THE DA CAPO BOOK OF ROCK & ROLL WRITING

#01 changed my life.
#02 pulled me back into all this noise after a respite (marriage/kids/military service).
#03 and #04 document my fave period in music as well as it can (the former from the gossip/sleaze angle, the latter from the music/scholarship angle).
#05 is a useful compendium of stuff from all over.

HANDLE:  Ken Shimamoto
CITY:  Fort Worth, Texas, Where the West Begins

02:  Stanley Booth / RYTHM OIL
05:  Greil Marcus / MYSTERY TRAIN

1 & 3…had to run with my peeps and used up number two b/c Bangs entire oeuvre has yet to be collected satisfactorily. I despise Dylan but I really like the style of that tour account; I wish I’d done similar for the Crowes. As for the perennial MT, I don’t really like most of it — the odious Pelvis, Randy Newman??? — but The Band bit is good and the Sly Stone story gave me an indelible epiphany. Alas no chicks have written a book I can turn to over and over, beyond the pillow-books of Ms. Des Barres & Ms. Faithfull — I DO eagerly await Anita’s weigh-in & perhaps that of the erstwhile Mrs. Chris Robinson. Honorable mention to Martha Bayles’ “Hole In Our Soul” The other Honorable goes to Nick Kent’s Dark Stuff…his Stones piece is almost as deep as what I got to say about them…

HANDLE:  Stellar Gypsy
CITY:  New York, NY

05:  Robert Palmer/DEEP BLUES

Deep Blues, for where it all came from, Bangs and Marcus’ books to show what it makes you feel and why it’s important, and Stanley Booth’s for a view from the middle of the storm. And hey, I’ve always been a big Zappa fan. At the risk of overstepping my bounds, I’ll give you a couple of worthwhile runners-up to search out: Paul Quarrington/WHALE MUSIC Michael Turner/HARD CORE LOGO Both are Canadian, both have been made into movies, and both show a gift for making the characters come alive. The first is a story of a Brian Jones-like burned out recluse who is unwittingly brought out of his shell. And the second is the very much believable story about one last shot at glory, on the road in the back of the van. Did I tell you that they’re also humourous and touching?

HANDLE:  Erik Iversen
CITY:  Vancouver

03:  Henry Rollins/GET IN THE VAN
04:  Peter Guralnick/CARELESS LOVE
05:  Chuck Eddy/STAIRWAY TO HELL

Carducci’s book is the single most important rock book ever, because it assaults all which came before, and holds false idols to the flame with appropriate contempt. Bangs is Bangs, and while he should be penalized for convincing a million schmucks they could be him (he’d be in line behind Bukowski, Kerouac, Henry Miller and Hunter Thompson for castigation on that score, anyhow), the work holds up, for the most part. Rollins’s book was funnier in shorter form, as HALLUCINATIONS OF GRANDEUR, but who the fuck besides me has a copy of that anymore? The first half of Guralnick’s Elvis opus wasn’t any good, because the music WAS. The music in the latter book was tripe, so he could focus on the pills and dead TVs, and rightfully so. And Eddy squeaks in because I really like more than half of his choices. The other half make me want to head right to the Voice offices (a short subway ride from my own office) with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers, but what can you do.

HANDLE:  Phil Freeman
CITY:  Elizabeth, NJ

01:  true adventures of the rolling stones-stan booth
02:  rolling stones-first twenty years-david dalton
03:  faithfull- herself b/w dalton
04:  the love you make-peter brown
05:  i’m with the band- pam des barres

these are just some of my choices…what the fuck is this, a john cusick movie?

HANDLE:  groovymax
CITY:  frisco…cybermillionaires stay home the suburbs need you more

01:  Legs McNeil / Please Kill Me
02:  Peter Guralnick / Careless Love & Last Train To Memphis
03:  Fred Goodman / Mansion On The Hill
04:  Staphen David / Hammer Of The Gods
05:  Lewis MacAdams / The Birth Of The Cool

in no particular order, and I know I will need to change this list tomorrow.

HANDLE:  Ocean
CITY:  New York

01:  Burchill and Parsons/THE BOY LOOKED AT JOHNNY
02:  Nick Kent/THE DARK STUFF
04:  R.Meltzer/GULCHER
05:  Anderson and Jenkins/DANCE OF DAYS (history of Wash DC punk – as yet unpublished)

In no special order, but all at turns insightful, provocative and worth reading thru again and again.. .(by the way, if anyone can help me get a line on any other books by Julie Burchill, I’d be forever in your debt.)

HANDLE:  Michael Layne Heath
CITY:  San Francisco CA

01:  Amsco Music Publishing/ ROLLING STONES (1972)
02:  Anton Corbijn/ FAMOUZ
03:  Pennie Smith/ THE CLASH – BEFORE & AFTER
04:  Phil Dellio & Scott Woods/ I WANNA BE SEDATED
05:  Guy Peellaert & Nik Cohn/ ROCK DREAMS

My list is mostly of visual books, I guess that is what excites me most – maybe I should go off and start my own “” site? The Rolling Stones book really doesn’t seem to have an author (or key editor) so I just put the publishers’ name. This book is great for the wealth of photos from this period of the Stones – especially the Ethan Russell shots. I’m actually not as pleased with Corbijn’s book as with many of his individually published photos but his effect on me and my work is strong enough that I feel I must put something in.

HANDLE:  Chris Buck
CITY:  New York

01:  Lester Bangs Robert Christgau Richard Meltzer / PSYCHOTIC REACTIONS ANY OLD WAY AESTHETICS
02:  Simon Reynolds / GENERATION ECSTASY
04:  Albert Murray / STOMPIN’ THE BLUES

Also Jonathan Eisen’s anthologies, particularly TWENTY MINUTE FANDANGOS, and probably Ian Penman’s VITAL SIGNS. And any book by Jim Thompson and any book by or about Charles Mingus. And Jean Louis Schefer’s L’Homme ordinaire du cinema.

CITY:  Melbourne, Australia

02:  Richard Meltzer/THE AESTHETICS OF ROCK
03:  Robert Christgau/ANY OLD WAY YOU CHOOSE IT
04:  Nick Hornby/HIGH FIDELITY

(1) Biographies of rock stars generally bore me, almost without exception. (2) I hope I have the title of the Duncan book right; I haven’t looked at it in a while. (3) I may actually prefer Meltzer’s GULCHER and Hornby’s ABOUT A BOY to the books by those two guys I’ve listed above, but though music figures prominently in the two I didn’t list, the two I *did* list seem to be primarily *about* music, so I went with them. (4) “carburetor” is a really hard word to spell.

HANDLE:  chuck eddy
CITY:  brooklyn

01:  Greil Marcus/LIPSTICK TRACES
02:  Richard Meltzer/THE AESTHETICS OF ROCK
03:  Chuck Eddy/STAIRWAY TO HELL
04:  Fred & Judy Vermorel/STARLUST

This is maybe fairly unstartling and conventional: but these are all books I use a lot, which is all “favourite” can mean to me. Next on the list wd be Jon Savage’s ENGLAND’S DREAMING: SEX PISTOLS AND PUNK ROCK, not least as a map of my own evolving teen psyche 1977-79. Concerning Kodwo Eshun’s extraordinary MORE BRILLIANT THAN THE SUN, I have to recuse myself: I was its editor. If I wanted to push out beyond the limits of books you can actually find in the “rock/pop” section in a store, there’s Dave Rimmer’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE EAST, abt a disenchanted Culture Club fan’s shuttling between scrubby Berlin squat-dom and Eastern Europe before the Fall of the Wall; Samuel R. Delany’s TIMES SQUARE RED TIMES SQUARE BLUE, a passionate defence of the civic value of New York’s now-exterminated sex district; Imre Lakatos’s PROOFS AND REFUTATIONS: THE LOGIC OF MATHEMATICAL DISCOVERY, an exploration the human dimension of abstract thought, made into a funny playlet, featuring a schoolroom argument about the laws of polyhedra; and the art crit of Gary Indiana at the Village Voice in the late 80s (which like an idiot I only cut and kept maybe half a dozen columns of). This is the rock book as I know and use it.

HANDLE:  Mark Sinker
CITY:  london

01:  Dave Marsh/Heart of Rock and Soul
02:  Jon Savage/England’s Dreaming
03:  Greil Marcus/Mystery Train
04:  Dave Marsh/Elvis
05:  Dave Marsh/Fortunate Son

Marsh tops the list with a book of the best singles ever released because he’s simply the best at understanding that it’s about the music. Thank you very much. And he’s stayed passionately true for 30 years. Argue all you want for better stylists, Marcus, Christgau, Landau, and Bangs, but Marsh has hit more consistent bullseyes than anyone. And he’s skewered more sacred cows. Not for the fun of it, but because it was damned necessary and he ain’t afraid of getting his hands dirty. I’ll take him with me in a fight over anyone else at the bar. The books I’ve left off include DeRogatis’ “Let It Blurt” bio of Lester Bangs, “The Nashville Sound” by Paul Hemphill, and Marsh’s two Springsteen bios. Peter Guralnick’s “Last Train To Memphis” and “Careless Love” were great. So was his “Searching for Robert Johnson”.

HANDLE:  Ron Brown
CITY:  Quincy, Illinois

02:  John Storm Roberts / BLACK MUSIC OF TWO WORLDS
03:  Clinton Walker / INNER CITY SOUNDS
05:  John Chilton / JAZZ

That Henry Rollins book is really beautiful.

HANDLE:  zeba
CITY:  Maningrida

01:  Richard Meltzer, A Whore Just Like The Rest
02:  Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
03:  Robert Palmer, Deep Blues
04:  Stanley Booth, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones a.k.a. Dance With The Devil
05:  LeRoi Jones, Blues People

One book per person. I haven’t read Blues People in 20 years, and maybe I’d find the politics to be a lot of posturing, but the idea (how music creates ideas) was important to me once. I haven’t read Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in 30 years, but maybe it belongs on this list. The best use of music in fiction is the stuff on “Love Is All Around” and “18 And Life” in Mary Gaitskill’s Two Girls, Fat and Thin. And in answer to the question you didn’t ask: My five favorite rock critics are Meltzer, Bangs, Sheffield, Eddy, Frith.

HANDLE:  Frank Kogan
CITY:  Denver

01:  Aerosmith / WALK THIS WAY
02:  Richard Cole / STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
03:  Michael Moynihan / LORDS OF CHAOS
04:  David Buckley / THE STRANGLERS NO MERCY

Aerosmith: bloody ‘ell, all in their own words, insiders, all the poop: perfect. The rest, just good reads, and I’m not even a Stranglers fan. These people are way more ambitious than I could ever be on one band.

HANDLE:  Martin Popoff
CITY:  Toronto

01:  Mick Wall — Paranoid
02:  Robert Christgau — Consumer Guide — Rock Albums of the 70s
03:  Chuck Eddy — Stairway to Hell
04:  Stranded — (Editor) Greil Marcus
05:  The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones — Stanley Booth

Wall’s memoir about being a rock scribe in England is both scary and funny. Christgau’s earliest writing is his best. Eddy’s book is the holy grail of rock criticism and album guides as far as I’m concerned. And Booth’s Stones book transcends the rock writing genre — it’s just beautiful writing period.

HANDLE:  Steven Ward
CITY:  Gonzales, La.

01:  Greil Marcus (ed.), ‘Stranded: Rock ‘n’ Roll For a Desert Island’
02:  Chuck Eddy, ‘The Accidental Evolution of Rock ‘n’ Roll’
03:  Nik Cohn, ‘Pop: From the Beginning’
04:  Richard Meltzer, ‘The Aesthetics of Rock’
05:  Lester Bangs, ‘Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung’ (Greil Marcus, ed.)

I avoided record guides, and tried (unsuccessfully–cf. #1 and #5) to avoid anthologies. #1 has a few great essays in it (Tom Carson, Simon Frith, Jim Miller), but it really tops my list for Marcus’s amazing discography, in my view the sharpest and funniest writing he’s done–I still quote lines from it on a regular basis. #2, 3, and 4 are all unusual history books, similar only in that there are tons of jokes in each. The Bangs’ book, despite being an anthology, is just too good to ignore. (I’m doing this list off the top of my head; I’ll; probably see someone else’s list and think, “Damn, how could I have forgotten that one?”)

HANDLE:  Scott Woods
CITY:  Toronto


6 thoughts on “From the Archives: Five Favourite Rock Books

  1. Also note on Chuck D’s shelf, ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock ‘n’ Roll,’ the coffee-table-size 1976 (first) edition (bottom row, middle-right).

  2. You can also spot Twitter for Dummies (top right). I bet I can name the other guy who bought that book.

  3. two decades late to the party, I’m doing ten books, not ranked, reverse alphabetical order

    Caetano Veloso – Tropical Truth
    Greg Tate – Flyboy in the Buttermilk
    Tom Smucker – Why The Beach Boys Matter
    Simon Reynolds – Rip It Up & Start Again
    Jim Miller (Editor) – Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock’n’Roll (1980 edition)
    R. Meltzer – Aesthetics of Rock
    Phil Dellio & Scott Woods – I Wanna Be Sedated
    Joe Carducci – Rock & The Pop Narcotic
    Joe Boyd – White Bicycles
    Lester Bangs – Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung

    the memoirs: Veloso and Boyd. They are both fine writers and I’d read non-memoir stuff too, from either of them, in a heartbeat.

    Tropical Truth: Brazil, warmer unluckier mirror of the USA. Imagine if Bob Dylan had been disappeared into the hands of the Brazil-supported US military dictatorship ruling in the mid-60s, held incognito for months under military guard, before being exiled to Portugal. After a few sad but educational years, Elvis Presley invites Dylan to be on a TV special with him (and the govt. can’t mess with Elvis so) Dylan returns in more or less triumph to a country weary of dictatorship. There you have a major plotline in Veloso’s amazing story, just change the countries and the realities.

    White Bicycles: I can’t get anybody to read this book apparently despite raving about it for 10 years, so I’ll try the Dylan bit here only for real, not fantasy. There’s a chapter on what it was like to be a backstage technical guy at the Newport Festival where Dylan freaked everybody out by going electric. (Earlier, a short bit on what it’s like to find out your girlfriend has just slept with Bob Dylan – not a major theme or anything but I thought I’d mention it for the sake of sensationalism). This isn’t the most major stuff. Check out who Joe Boyd worked with in the 60s and early 70s. Get the damn book.

    Smucker — the newest book on the list, will review here soon.

    Reynolds “Rip It Up” – am I mistaken or does this book not get nearly the credit it deserves for documenting a great era of creation? I never see people talking about it.

    RS Illustrated History 1980: I’m not just being contrarian leaving various famous names off this list, I think a lot of people did their best work here. Bangs last readable stuff, he almost sounds like a fan.

    By the way, Bangs book is here for the undeniable half of it or so (mostly the top-loaded long pieces that kick it off: the Troggs, Count Five & Stooges pieces in particular). At least half of it is crap, and the next collection of stuff showed a guy who was flogging a couple of notions at best in article after article. We’ll never know if he would have grown out of it, but if he was so bored by most of the musical offerings of 1979-1981, he had already closed his ears.

    Greg Tate and Joe Carducci’s books (and I must add the non-rock Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise) did the most to expand my aesthetics after I had already turned 30, which of course is the stultification zone where you either struggle to appreciate new-to-you music or comfortably huddle with your youthful faves for the rest of your life. Many thanks to all three books for showing me new avenues to appreciation when I needed it the most.

    Dellio/Woods. It’s why I am even here: I re-read, laughed at, identified with, and learned from my remaindered Santa Fe Public Library copy of this book for about 10 years, and finally went “who are these guys?” Will always be the best on the 70s; years after the supposed rise of “poptimism” almost nobody REALLY gets into the K-TEL hot tub. Well I live in that hot tub, I sleep on that waterbed. It is the home of my sensibility.

    R. Meltzer’s Aesthetics of Rock – can pick this up anytime, open anywhere, love it as literature

  4. I in fact DO intend to read White Bicycles some day, Vic – thanks for the nudge. Just about to dive into John Simon’s memoir (the producer John Simon, not the tendentious movie critic). His commentary on the two Band records in one of those VH-1 specials helped me hear those records better.

    For me, Rip It Up proved better as a reference book than anything else–something I find myself going back to now and again to consult its index (just the other day I needed some information on Kid Creole & the Coconuts, for instance, and I wasn’t disappointed; the 2 or 3 pages he devotes to the August Darnell/Ze moment were generous.) I wasn’t riveted at all during my one straight read-through of the thing (in fact, I think I may have dropped off a little early), but many if not most of my favourite music books end up functioning as reference books anyway, so that’s not a slight. (There are books on my shelf I’ve not made it to the last page of which I’ve nevertheless pulled off the shelf three dozen times to look up this or that…I’m a dabbler in my old age as much as I’m a reader, I guess.) The Reynolds book which got to me most as *writing* I suppose, was his first, Blissed Out (which may have something to do with me being more unaware of and/or open to his voice and aesthetic–it was a curious read at the time).

    So many post-2003 titles to add to this list, the one that comes to mind immediately is Geoffrey O’Brien’s Sonata for Jukebox, in particular his chapters on the Beach Boys, 50s radio, novelty records, etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.