Sunday, 15 June 2014

My top 10 music books

Jarvis Cocker has written about his top 10 music books for the Guardian. So I thought I'd write about mine.

Diary of a rock'n'roll star by Ian Hunter

Published in 1974 and it cost 50p. My sister gave it to me for Christmas. It's Ian Hunter's diary of Mott the Hoople's 1972 American tour and I have to confesss that as a teenager quite a lot of it went over my head.

The back cover blurb is hilarious. "Worshipped, hated, envied, exploited - who are they, these rock stars?... Read Diary of a Rock'n'Roll star - and your idols will never seem the same..."

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Julie Burchill's autobiography, I Knew I Was Right, didn't make it into the list, but I like what she says about that famous Patti Smith photo: "I see this picture of her standing up against a wall with a jacket slung over her shoulder. For those of us who saw that black-and-white photo in 1976, it remains as endlessly iconic as Marilyn over the grating or the England 1966 squad over the moon."

Robert Mapplethorpe took that photo and the book is the story of the two would-be artists and soulmates in New York - up to, and during, the punk rock years. A perfect evocation of big-city bohemia for everyone who wished it was them.

England's Dreaming by Jon Savage

The definitive history of (as the subtitle says) the Sex Pistols and punk rock: the rise and fall in huge detail. Long, but never boring. It was first published in 1991, when I refused to read it (I distrust anything about music that looks remotely academic). A review of the Sex Pistols' reunion  brings the reissue up to date.

Revolt into Style by George Melly

"They're selling hippy wigs in Woolworths, man." They always have, and they always will. This book shows why. Like everything George Melly has done, it's also very entertaining.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? by Charlotte Greig

A history of girl groups in pop, published by Virago in 1989. We need more music books about women and written by women. Which makes it even worse that I don't own this book any more: I think it's in my ex-husband's house. I do, though, own Charlotte Greig's first novel, A Girl’s Guide To Modern European Philosophy, set in 1974. Beautifully written and with so much period detail that it feels like a historical novel.

Last Train To Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick

The first of a two-part biography of Elvis, another one that deserves the "definitive" label. More than that, a dramatic narrative describing the unstoppable momentum of Elvis's rise to fame - making the story almost as exciting as the records. Sadly, the second volume describes the unstoppable momentum of Elvis's drive to self-destruction.

Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn

Tracey Thorn's pop-career memoir, from the post-punk indie explosion to stardom of sorts with Everything but the Girl. Favourite quote: "I often feel that I barely recognise 'The 1980s' as a decade in the form that it is now remembered and repackaged for glib TV programmes." Her version of the 1980s is the decade I remember: DIY culture, benefit gigs and feminism - not Live Aid and the royal wedding.

No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by John Lydon

Lydon's autobiography, and the personal context makes sense of a lot of what came later. Ghost-written but Lydon's voice comes through: funny, intelligent and very sharp.

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

Hilariously accurate picture of your first band.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Hilariously accurate picture of your local independent record shop.

No comments:

Post a Comment