This is starting to look like trouble. I hope I don’t have to write up a blog post for every damn list that pops into my head. But here’s another one. I saw a little video piece online where Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers describes his 5 favorite books about rock ‘n’ roll. Now this makes sense because Hood’s most recent solo album “Heat Lightning Rumbles In the Distance” started life as a book–until the songs he wrote as marginalia took over. So he gives us his choices for top 5 rock books.
Now, I know you need to listen to music to fully appreciate it–not just read about it. But the rock books I enjoy take a stab at relating a big slice of the musical sub-culture (and perhaps just our general culture) along with the “which-band-played-which-show-when-which-album-hit-the-charts-with-who-was-sleeping with-whom-while-taking-which-drugs.”
So by all means, play the appropriate music in the background while reading my favorite rock books:
Catch A Fire: The Life Of Bob Marley by Timothy White. Just as Bob Marley was more than just a musician–this biography is more than a look at his career. The book delves into the history of reggae, of the Rastafarian religion, of colonialism and the effects upon the Third World, of the impact of Marley’s life and music on the world as a whole. This book is one of the great biographies of our time–about anyone.
Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of The Mississippi Delta by Robert Palmer. Journalist and musician Robert Palmer (no, not that Robert Palmer) takes you through the region that brought us the blues–its history and provides a great description on how the music developed and the people it effected.
Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer by Chris Salewicz. What does it take to live up to the values you espouse? This book attempts to answer that question by analyzing punk and world-beat music through the life and times of one of the major figures in both genres: Joe Strummer.
Jukebox America: Down Back Streets and Blue Highways in Search of the Country’s Greatest Jukebox by William Bunch. The author chases the holy trinity of “jukebox heroes” (Sinatra, Presley and Patsy Cline) across America as he searches for the perfect jukebox. He never really finds it because what he is really searching for is the key to staying young and wild in the face of adult conformity and responsibilities. A perfect merging of two of my favorite types of writing: music history and travel writing.
Love Is A Mixtape: Life And Loss, One Song At A Time by Rob Sheffield. The Rolling Stome writer details his life and early marriage (and even earlier widowhood) by detailing the music he and his late wife would listen to and compile into mixtapes. History really does fit onto an old cassette tape–especially for music fanatics.