Beach Reads: Music Book Edition
Summer's finally here, and summer always means beach reading season! It's always a busy time for music fans, but here's a list of some recent (and recent-ish) books you'll want to check out between concerts and outdoor festivals.
We'll kick things off with a couple of memoirs by women who rock. Girl In A Band, by Kim Gordon, is the Sonic Youth's bassist's candid recounting of her life (and failed marriage to bandmate Thurston Moore), from her suburban California childhood to the New York City art and music scene of the 1980s (with a brief detour to Toronto's York University!) to her experiences as the founding member of a seminal band that would help pave the way for the alternative music explosion of the 1990s.
As a founding member of The Slits, Viv Albertine was at ground zero for the early days of the English punk rock scene. Her rollicking memoir Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys boys is a vivid chronicle of her life in music, film and fashion that connects the dots between the pioneering women of punk and the Riot Grrrls who followed in their footsteps.
Girl In A Band:
Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys:
Self-proclaimed hip-hop nerd Ed Piskor's Hip hop family tree series started off as a webcomic, but these two gorgeous volumes collect the first several installments in print form. Volume 1 covers the 1970s until 1981, when a group of trailblazing DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists and MCs formed hip-hop culture in the South Bronx, while Volume 2 tells the story of 1981 to 1983, as the scene moved from rec rooms to downtown clubs and record stores. These two books are an affectionate homage to both hip-hop and comic books and almost as much fun as listening to all those old-school rap hits.
A musical generation before hip-hop hit the streets, many American soul, r&b and gospel musicians were important participants in the civil rights movements of the 1960s. Greg Kot's I'll take you there: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the march up freedom's highway tells the story of Mavis Staples, the lead singer of family gospel stars The Staple Singers, whose music battled racism and oppression during one of the most turbulent periods in American history.
Readers of a certain age will fondly (or not-so-fondly) remember the outrageous haircuts, fashions and music of the '80s new wave scene. Mad world: an oral history of new wave artists and songs that defined the 1980s gives 35 of the most notable artists of the time, from huge stars to one-hit wonders, a chance to tell their stories of pop stardom and the creation of their biggest hits. If you were around at the time, the playlist suggestions will have you digging your old tapes out of the basement for a trip down musical memory lane.
Music is an art, but it's also big business, and these two books take you behind the scenes for a look at the commercial side of the recording industry. How music got free: the end of an industry, the turn of the century, and the patient zero of piracy, by Stephen Witt, traces the history of online music from the invention of the MP3 in a German audio lab to the revolutionary shifts that occurred for both artists and record companies when it became possible for any music fan with a modem to download songs and entire albums from the internet for free.
Gareth Murphy's Cowboys and indies: the epic history of the record industry is an ambitious overview of the entire history of the recording industry, from the invention of the first sound-recording devices in the 1850s right through to the present day, with colourful profiles of the many record label founders and executives, talent scouts and producers who played an instrumental part in building the music biz into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.
How Music Got Free:
The always thought-provoking cultural critic Greil Marcus is back with his latest book, which hones in on ten of rock 'n' roll's turning points, songs and artists who single-handedly changed the course of the music. The history of rock 'n' roll in ten songs weaves together the past, present and future of the music by outlining how these singular tunes helped create and preserve the unruly and liberating glory that is rock music in all its forms.
The next time you're at a flea market or garage sale and see some old 78 rpm records sitting in a box, it might be worth your while to have a look at them. In Do not sell at any price: the wild, obsessive hunt for the world's rarest 78 rpm records, Amanda Petrusich delves into an eccentric and secretive subculture where intrepid collectors and archivists hunt down decades-old records and music that are in danger of being lost to history (and are sometimes worth thousands of dollars).
The American literary magazine The Believer has been publishing interviews with musicians since it launched in 2003, and Confidence, or the appearance of confidence: the best of the Believer music interviews compiles their wide-ranging conversations with thirty-five of the past decade's most creative and influential musicians. Where else are you going to read Jack White's instructions on how to upholster a couch, Björk's thoughts on poet e.e. cummings and Ice Cube talking about kicking George Clooney's butt at basketball under one cover?
Do not sell at any price: