I was chatting with my friend Stef and we started talking about music, specifically good books about rock and roll. I pulled a bunch of my favorites off the shelf for reference and recommendations and then immediately dove into my third (possibility fourth?) reading of Please Kill Me.
by Gillian McCain, Legs McNeil
A completely riveting history of the punk rock movement told through the voices of the people that lived (and survived) it. Authors Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain manage to get their subjects to reveal the stark truths and outlandish debauchery of the principal characters who started the New York/Detroit punk scene (which provides a lovely Rashomon effect to the tales) and follows the movement to the British shores and the nihilistic youth movement that came to define the term punk rock. A must read for any music fan, ever.
by Peter Doggett
If you are a fan of Bright Eyes, Wilco, Lucinda Williams or Ryan Adams (or anyone the gets labeled alt-country) this primer about the merge of country music and rock and roll is a vital read. From bluegrass and the Carter Family to Carl Perkins, Bob Dylan and Gram Parson, this history of what we call rock-country is meticulously researched by rock journalist Peter Doggett with plenty of first hand interviews for a readable guide.
by Steven Gaines, Peter Brown
This one gets panned as being a bit too gossipy and snippy, but I find Peter Brown’s insider telling the most entertaining and readable of all of the Beatles biographies. From thoroughly researched bios of the childhood of all four Beatles, to a great examination of the early, hyper days of the band forging their identity in Germany to the effects of full blown world wide fame as the biggest band in the world, the book is a page turner chock full of insider information.
by Charles R. Cross
A surprisingly heartfelt and poignant look at the short, tragic life of Kurt Cobain, this book also works well as a detailed path of the musical explosion from Seattle in the 90’s. Full of insight from hundreds of interviews with family and friends, as well as information straight from Cobain’s diaries; it’s a great read on the everyman struggles and insecurities facing this reluctant rock superstar. Even though you know how the story ends, you’ll find yourself racing through the last pages with overwhelming dread as author Charles R. Cross details the last days and final moments of Kurt Cobain.
by Pamela Des Barres, foreword by Dave Navarro
This surprisingly sweet and refreshingly honest autobiography by rock’s first groupie, Pamela Des Barres, follows Miss Pamela from the days of puppy crushes on boys to quick shags backstage to full blown love affairs with the biggest rock stars of the 70s. The time periods mystique of free-love, as well as the authors candid tone and total adoration for the stars she’s discussing make this read more like a mythical tale of swinging, hippie love than the way I imagine today’s groupie lifestyle of Rock of Love skanks and hooha shoots.
by Michael Azerrad
The best book on the music of my youth and the indie rock movement in America in the 1980’s. Music journalist Michael Azerrad collects the histories of the most influential groups of the time period and follows the rise of this underground rock movement from regional clubs and college radio to the American mainstream. Thirteen seminal bands are traced from their roots including Husker Du, the Replacements, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and Fugazi.
by Nikki Sixx, Neil Strauss, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil
No rocking book collection is complete without a mention of The Dirt, the most brutally honest and raunchy book of them all. You don’t need to be a Motley Crue fan to enjoy this incredibly readable and raunchy, first hand narrative of the rise and fall (and sex and partying) of this glam metal rock band. The Dirt delivers on the title: all four members tell a no holds barred accounting of their lives (a fatal car accident, the overdoses, an incurable degenerative disease), the band (from a squalid squat house to private planes filled with hookers and blow) and the people (model girlfriends, rival rock stars, Ozzy) that were a part of it. You’ll be revolted and riveted from the start and somehow finish with a soft spot for the guys in the band.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
I’m a co-founder of We Heart This with the amazing Stef. I live in Los Angeles after growing up in the PA suburbs and spending some time in Philadelphia. I adore the California sunshine and my craftsman apartment that I share with roomie Eric (he’s the Will to my Grace), a naughty wiener dog, Lido and an even naughtier black kitten, Giles. Pay the bills by working for an interior designer in Beverly Hills, 90211 – doh! – so close and yet so far!
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