Maybe it’s the popularity of memoir, maybe it’s the passage of time, but the past few years have produced a bumper crop of books written by and about musicians. This year is no exception as several legends, including a Boss, a Beach Boy and a Smith, have released long-awaited memoirs. Even if you’re not into rockers dishing the dirt about drugs, sex, horrible band mates and other personal demons, there are some fine books on music history and criticism for the more cerebral-minded among us. There’s a little something for every serious fan of rock and roll, pop, soul and dance–it makes holiday shopping at your local book store almost too easy.
Born to Run
by Bruce Springsteen
What else needs to be said? It’s the Boss in his own words.This memoir, which runs over 500 pages, has been compared to Springsteen’s epic concerts—an incredibly detailed, earnest and satisfying affair that you never want to end.
Not Dead Yet
by Phil Collins
The self-deprecating title is a reference to Collins’ reemergence after a period of semi-retirement that had people questioning whether he gave up music for good. The accomplished Genesis drummer and popular solo act chronicles his amazing career and some of the rough patches he’s gone through. Collins even owns up to the infamous incident in which he faxed a divorce to his second wife.
by Robbie Robertson
The driving force behind the Band through his songwriting, Robertson offers his take on being part of that iconic group, from their early years backing both Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, to their final hurrah with The Last Waltz in 1976.
I Am Brian Wilson
by Brian Wilson
On the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys’ masterpiece Pet Sounds, which preceded the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the legendary group’s singer and sonic architect talks about his Hall of Fame music career along with the well-documented personal struggles that almost derailed him.
Set the Boy Free
by Johnny Marr
Morrissey released his memoir Autobiography a few years ago; now his former Smiths bandmate and songwriting partner Johnny Marr shares his account of being part of one of the greatest and most beloved British alternative rock bands of the ’80s.
by Kembrew McLeod
by Paula Mejia
These two titles are from the 33 1/3 series, which critically examines cornerstone albums. McLeod analyzes Blondie’s breakout third album, Parallel Lines, from 1978, which contains the New York New Wave group’s disco-influenced hit “Heart of Glass.” Mejia’s work explores the origins and influence of the Scottish act’s electrifying noise-fueled debut album Psychocandy that predated the shoegaze movement.
Shock and Awe
by Simon Reynolds
Released in the same of year of David Bowie’s death, Shock and Awe traces the history of glam rock going back to the ’70s, visitng Bowie, T.Rex, the Sweet, Slade, Mott the Hoople and Roxy Music along the way. The book looks at a genre memorably that combined energetic rock and roll with theatricality, captivating young audiences and influencing generations of rockers and pop stars.
Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983
by Tim Lawrence
Following the deaths of punk and disco, New York City dance culture thrived in the early ’80s thanks to Manhattan clubs like the Paradise Garage, the Loft, the Mudd Club and Danceteria—a period that saw No Wave, New Wave, and hip-hop music and culture collide and thrive. The scene also paved the way for soon-to-be legendary artists like Madonna, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Lawrence’s incredibly detailed book looks at New York dance culture’s rise and the way that AIDS, as well as gentrification, curtailed
Perhaps the most notorious event in rock history, the Rolling Stones’ concert in 1969 at the Altamont Speedway, where a spectator was stabbed to death by a Hells Angel who had been hired as concert security, symbolically marked the end of the ’60s message of peace and love. Selvin looks at the circumstances leading to, during, and after a show that was supposed to be the Stones’ version of Woodstock, but instead became shorthand for the dystopian end to the Summer of Love.
In the Midnight Hour: The Life and Soul of Wilson Pickett
by Tony Fletcher
Technically this book doesn’t come out until next month, but it is the story of soul singer Wilson Pickett, best known for the ’60s R&B hits “In the Midnight Hour” and “Land of a 1,000 Dances.” For fans of early soul music, this is one to look out for and maybe even preorder.
Your Song Changed My Life
by Bob Boilen
The NPR Music creator and host of All Songs Considered and the Tiny Desk concert series, Boilen has compiled interviews with 35 artists in which the songs that have had the biggest impacts on their own lives. Just to pique your interest, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy chose the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” while St. Vincent selected Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.”
What Happened, Miss Simone?
by Alan Light
by Rob Sheffield
Released just months after David Bowie’s passing earlier this year, Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield takes a heartfelt look at the icon’s work, genius and enduring legacy.
The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones
by Rich Cohen
This recent title is not your conventional Rolling Stones biography, of which there have been plenty over the years. More than plenty. Instead, journalist and author Rich Cohen looks at what really made the “World’s Greatest Rock Band” tick, and how the Stones have been able to survive for over 50 years now.
This sobering and yet at times funny work from the popular DJ/electronica musician is not so much a story about himself—which is fascinating in its own right—but a chronicle about the-then vibrant New York City club scene from late ’80s through the early ’90s.
Small Town Talk
by Barney Hoskyns
Woodstock in upstate New York is forever synonymous with the famous 1969 music festival, even though technically the event never took place in the town proper but rather 60 miles away from there. Still, the bucolic spot has a rich music history, particularly during the ’60s and ’70s when artists like Bob Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison, Paul Butterfield, and Todd Rundgren recorded there. Music journalist Hoskyns documents the East Coast equivalent of the Laurel Canyon scene on the West Coast.
Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk
by John Doe and Tom DeSavia
When it comes to L.A. punk scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s, musician John Doe had a front row seat as the co-lead singer and bassist for the group X. He and Tom DeSavia compile a history of the era through essays by those who were a part of it, including members of the Go-Go’s, Black Flag, Minutemen, the Blasters and others.
Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout
by Laura Jane Grace with Dan Ozzi
In 1997, Tom Gabel founded the popular punk band Against Me!. But Gabel made an impact that went far beyond the music world when he announced through Rolling Stone in 2012 that he was becoming a transgender woman Laura Jane Grace. In her new book, Grace discusses the history of Against Me! and her courageous and personal search for identity.
Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys
by Lol Tolhurst
While Robert Smith is undoubtedly the main guy behind the British mope-rock band that made dressing in black and wearing Goth makeup standard for disaffected teens, drummer Lol Tolhurst was right there with Smith from the very beginning of the group’s formation in 1976. In his memoir, Tohurst describes what it was like to be part of that influential post-punk group.
Paul McCartney: The Life
by Philip Norman
There hasn’t been a year in the publishing business without the release of at least one Beatles or Beatles-related book. This time around, Paul McCartney gets the deluxe treatment with his own 500-page biography, courtesy of Beatles authority Philip Norman (Shout: The Beatles in Their Generation; John Lennon: The Life).