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Rock 'n' read: Checking out the season's music books
By Gary Graff
email@example.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte
Posted: Sunday, January 3, 2021
See more SOUND CHECK
Rock 'n' read is a thing -- especially thanks to best-selling memoirs in recent years from Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and others.
The fourth-quarter of 2020 has been no different, with lavish, coffee table-sized photo books added to the usual mix of biographies, treatises, histories and other printed matter. And with no concerts at the moment, there's theoretically plenty of time to read 'em.
As the year rolls to a close, then, here's a look at some of the most notable titles the publishing world has popped out during the past few months...
• "All Exce$$ -- Occupation: Concert Promoter" by Danny Zelisko (self-published): The Chicago impresario (also a sports enthusiast and souvenir collector) has tales to tell -- about artists, his colleagues in the business and more -- and plenty of entertaining Windy City wind to tell 'em. His extensive photo collection is on display here, too. You'd definitely buy a ticket from this man. (Baseball great Kirk Gibson wrote the foreword.)
• "Bruce Springsteen -- All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track" by Phillippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon (Octopus Books): Exactly what the title says -- and it means EVERY track, right up through 2019's "Western Stars -- Songs From the Film." A lavishly illustrated, bench-pressable 672-page bible for many a Bruceophile.
• "Confess: The Autobiography" by Rob Halford (Hatchette): Judas Priest's Metal God has always been a bit of an open book, but this fills in plenty of gaps, head held high throughout and accented with some sly, droll cheek and killer stories -- up to and including his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.
• "The Decade That Rocked," Mark "Weissguy" Weiss (photos), Richard Bienstock (test) (Insight Editions): Weiss and his camera had All Area Access to the hard rock world of the 80s, filling this oversized tome with plenty of backstage and behind-the-scenes candids, each of which tells a story before you even get to the words. It's like being a fly on a very well-connected shoulder.
• "Do You Feel Like I Do?: A Memoir" by Peter Frampton with Alan Light (Hatchette): With 55 years of recording behind him and a degenerative condition (inclusion body myositis) bringing it to an end, Frampton strikes a nice balance of hubris, humor and candor as he recounts a wealth of experience as a kind of rock 'n' roll everyman.
• "Jimmy Page: The Anthology Mass Edition" by Jimmy Page (Genesis Publications): The Led Zeppelin founder's 2014 photo memoir, limited to 2,500 copies at the time, gets a wider release, still handsome and weighty in its presentation of rare photos from Page's personal archives. And there's enough "guitar porn" images to have any axe aficionado slobbering over the contents.
• "Let Love Rule" by Lenny Kravitz with David Ritz (Henry Holt): Kravitz's first memoir takes him up to the start of his recording career, but there's a lot to dig into, including his racially and culturally blended upbringing with TV industry parents and his courtship and marriage to Lisa Bonet. It ain't over, as the song says, but it's an illuminating start.
• Limelight: Rush in the '80s" by Martin Popoff (ECW): Canadian journalist Popoff's second of three Rush histories is as densely packed and quote-heavy as its predecessor, taking a broad and deep look at a decade of great changes and great success for the band.
• "Looking To Get Lost: Adventures in Music & Writing" by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown): Guralnick is one of our most valued and accomplished chroniclers of early rock and soul history (his biographies of Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips are definitive), and this compendium of his shorter works spotlights the likes of Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Monroe, Eric Clapton and more in characteristically illuminating fashion.
• "The Meaning of Mariah Carey" by Mariah Carey with Michaela Angela Davis (Andy Cohen Books): Carey's certainly not short of material -- or drama -- in her life, and she populates her memoir with plenty of tales from the dark side, from childhood traumas to a traumatic first marriage to her record company boss, Tommy Mottola. You might not feel like everything's here, but you won't be disappointed with what is.
• "Memphis Mayhem: The Story of the Music That Shook Up the World" by David A. Less (ECW): Between the Sun, Stax and Hi labels and scores of impactful artists, this is a hard story tell in one volume -- let alone a slim one (218 pages). Less does hit most of the right notes, however, and his overview can be a trusted guide to steer further exploration.
• "Run Out Groove: Inside Capitol's 1980s Hits & Stiffs" by Dave Morrell (self-published): The record promo man's continuing Archives series takes in his decade at Capitol, where he worked with the likes of Bob Seger Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, Bonnie Raitt, MC Hammer and many more. with lots of quick-hit anecdotes (verbal singles rather than albums) that make for easy, needle-drop reading.
• "Monsters of River & Rock: My Life as Iron Maiden's Compulsive Angler," By Adrian Smith (BMG): Not necessarily the Maiden memoir some might want, but Smith's salute to his other passion is more engaging than you'd expect, and there's enough rock mixed in amidst the rivers to keep Maidenheads hooked.
• "Queen: The Neal Preston Photographs" (Reel Art Press): More than a few bands considered preeminent music photographer Preston their go-to, Queen among them. With the band's full cooperation and participation in curating these 200-plus images, it's hard to imagine a more definitive representation of Queen's heyday.
• "Ringo.Rocks: 30 Years of the All Starrs 1989-2019" by Ringo Starr (Julien's Auctions): The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer couldn't take his band on the road this year, so instead he's remembering three decades of a concept that made him the busiest Beatle ever on the road. Starr's extensive commentary is intertwined with reminiscences from the All-Starr Band members, along with hundreds of photos. A testament to what you can do with a little help from your friends.
• "The Rolling Stones: In the Beginning" by Brent Rej (Mitchaell Beasley/Octopus Books): When bassist Bill Wyman calls it "the finest single collection of Stones photographs I have ever seen," that says something. And this refreshed new edition of the book, first published in 2006, continues to live up to that plaudit, adding another 15 pages of previously unseen shots from the late Danish photographer's collection.
• "Somewhere You Feel Free: Tom Petty and Los Angeles" by Christopher Merrick (Post Hill Press): Not exactly definitive, but a concise, clip-job look at the late Petty's migration from his native Florida to the Left Coast and the iconic success he achieved there.
• "Son of a Milkman: My Crazy Life with Tesla" by Brian Wheat with Chris Epting (Post Hill Press): The bassist rocked through the crazy 80s (and early 90s) and lived to tell about it -- with some juicy details and a rare, clear-eyed perspective that puts some flesh on a scene often defined by MTV imagery.
• "Step It Up & Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music" by David Menconi (University of North Carolina Press): Why should you care? Start with Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Nina Simone, Superchunk, Mitch Easter, Whiskeytown and the Avett Brothers -- and rest assured there's much more. Menconi's comprehensive history will make you a Tar Hill fan -- of the tunes if not the hoops teams.
• "Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics" by Dylan Jones (Faber): There's much more to the tale of this British music movement than U.S. audiences in particular got to see via MTV. Jones takes a deep and deserved scholarly dive into it, and the details are what keep the reader locked in for these 680 pages.
• "Time Between: My Life as a Byrd, Burrito Brother, and Beyond" by Chris Hillman (BMG): Given his history and resume, you'd expect something longer and maybe puffier from this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. But Hillman covers all the bases in these illuminating 225 pages, pulling back the curtain on the many different scenes he was part of over the course of 55-plus years.
• "Whatever It Takes" by Tom Morello (Genesis Publications): The guitar hero and activist takes the photographic biography route here, unearthing gems from childhood to the present, with plenty of images from the days of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Prophets of Rage, his time with Bruce Springsteen and more. Morello's captions keeps the narrative moving, though we should hope this is just the precursor to a more thorough traditional memoir.
• "While We Were Getting High: Britpop and the '90s" by Kevin Cummings (Octopus Publishing): A photographic chronicle of a decade dominated by Oasis, Blur, Radiohead and more from a shooter who was on the scene and clearly trusted by his subjects. The images are nothing short of priceless and bolstered by a handful of Q&As dotted throughout the book.
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