"An exhaustive, highly informative, and impossible-to-put-down" - PopMatters says in a review of a book about the "strange, mysterious, obscure" album 'Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth' by the 1970s R&B and funk band 24-Carat Black. It chronicles the unfortunate fates of its many members and the delayed praise that it would eventually gain, as a sample-vault for many stars, including Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar.

Craig Brown has won the Baillie Gifford prize, top British award for nonfiction, for his book 'One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time', a mix of history, diaries, autobiography, fan letters, interviews, lists and charts, Daily Mail reports. BG judges say it is “a joyous, irreverent, insightful celebration of the Beatles, a highly original take on familiar territory... a profound book about success and failure which won the unanimous support of our judges. Craig Brown has reinvented the art of biography”.

I love your way of writing
October 16, 2020

"Bracing new memoir" 'Do You Feel Like I Do?' by Peter Frampton

English 1970s rock star Peter Frampton has written a memoir describing the "perfect storm of factors that turned the commercial peak of Frampton’s career into a case-study in rock stardom gone wrong", including details of "series of rip-offs, sketchy management deals and unfortunate choices" he made in his career. New book 'Do You Feel Like I Do?' also "highlights his many creative achievements, from his days as a guitar prodigy, to his time fronting the hit band the Herd, to his formation with Steve Marriott of one of the world’s first super groups, Humble Pie, to his promising early solo work". Guardian talked to him.

"Skin’s story is one of a rhomboid peg spurning both the round and the square hole, drilling dimensions of her own... in a frequently jaw-dropping memoir" - Guardian writes about 'It Takes Blood and Guts', a memoir of Skunk Anansie's singer Skin. The critic adds that "among the pleasures of this peek into an extraordinary life are the intriguing facts it pumps out", like the one time when Robbie Williams took on racist Russian nightclub bouncers when they refused Skin entry to the club.

The Beatles were falling apart as they were making their latest album 'Let It Be', and the new book 'The Beatles: Get Back' is going to tell the story of those last days, Guardian reports. It is drawn from over 120 hours of transcribed conversations from the band’s studio sessions. The book will be accompanied by Peter Jackson’s feature documentary of the same name. Both are coming out in August 2021. In related Beatles news, Canadian filmmaker Paul Saltzman has released a documentary 'Meeting The Beatles in India' about how he met the fab four at an ashram on the Ganges. Narrated by Morgan Freeman and produced by David Lynch, the film, among other things, contains rare images of the band taken by Saltzman. They are wistful vignettes of the rock stars in their prime, unguarded and relaxed, BBC reports.

Journalist Ken McNab goes into the nitty-gritty details of the last year of the Beatles in his book 'And in the End: The Last Days of the Beatles'. As it turns out it was - money, and the fifth Beatle. "The idea that they'd set up their own company called Apple and run it themselves, smacks of incredible naivete... They were not equipped and didn't have the skills to be business managers" - McNab tells in an All Music interview about the beginning of the end The other reason was manager Allen Klein, "the demon king... who created this terrible schism between Lennon and McCartney". The other Beatles didn't really like Yoko Ono - "McCartney had to deal with tiptoeing around this relationship with John and Yoko... Harrison walked out on the band (...) Much of the reason for that was because he couldn't stand Yoko being in the studio, and her presence stymied John's creativity and made him very passive when it came to group decisions". Finally, Lennon got into a row with McCartney when he found out the bassist has been buying Beatles' shares, ignoring the gentlemen's agreement that all the four members will keep equal parts. But, there's a lot of light in the book - "When you get to 'Abbey Road', it's amazing how they were able to put down the boxing gloves and reunite for one last album, their last letter to the world".

"The fan believes the artist and their work helped them come into their own. The artist’s work becomes a comfort—almost like a friend on their journey—as they figure out who they want to be" author Hannah Ewens says in Bitch Media interview about her new book 'Fangirls: Scenes from Modern Music Culture'. The book traces the history of fandom from the Beatles onward to contextualize what fandom means, how it functions, and how it both reflects and drives cultural conversations about everything from teenage girls to mental health. Ewens also differentiates between fans and stans, the latter of whom go to extreme lengths to prove their devotion.

"I wanted to explore boy bands with the same kind of intellectual curiosity reserved for topics and music deemed 'serious' while also maintaining the integrity of what makes boy bands great: They’re fun! They’re supposed to make you feel good!" - author Maria Sherman told Music Journalism Insider about her new book 'Larger Than Life' (Todd L. Burns says the book is "incredibly fun!"). In a Rolling Stone excerpt from the book, Sherman emphasizes that the very first boy bands "contrary to the contemporary image of these harmonizing hunks... were people of color".

I wish i did (not)
July 17, 2020

The 10 best music biographies

Viv Albertine

Guardian picked out 10 of the best music biographies that "reveal the inner lives of musicians". There's 'Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys' by Slits guitarist Viv Albertine, a "no-nonsense sojourn"; 'Life' by Keith Richards, "given the legendarily debauched life of the Rolling Stones guitarist, it’s a wonder that he can remember enough of it to fill a book"; 'Miles: The Autobiography' by Miles Davis, "by turns joyful, raw and plain disturbing"...

A lovely article in the Guardian about the strong friendship between two British folk-rock greats, Nick Drake and John Martyn: "In 2005 Martyn told me, 'Nicky was one of my favourite human beings in the world'. Throughout his life, Martyn’s friendships with other men could be intense: tactile, tempestuous, thoughtful and surprisingly gentle, with lots of kisses and hugs. 'John was different from other people in Glasgow; he was very free', says Linda Thompson. 'He wasn’t at all uncomfortable or frightened of loving a man – not in a physical way – which was quite unusual in those days. Nick and John loved one another. It was quite Greek, without the sex'".

Nick Cave has published a list of his favourite books on his Red Hand Files blog, a "rather formless and incoherent grab bag of titles that come to mind at this moment that, for one reason or another, I have loved over the years" (all of his books are at an exhibition now). It's nice to see there's plenty of poetry there, some familiar names, and some that just might be a starting point of a discovery.

Dan Franklin's latest book 'Heavy: How metal changes how we see the world' goes broadly and tries to position metal music within the cultural context. Guardian says it "situates heaviness within the 'iron-rich bloodline running through the bedrock of culture' . . . a book that pulls off the trick of offering something to both passionate fans and neophytes", with Sunday Times saying it "opens an ornate portal into a murky subculture, illuminating the marginalia as well as the big beasts". The publisher: "It gives shape and meaning to the terrible beauty of metal". The author made a playlist to listen to while reading it. Music Journalism Insider has an interview with Franklin.

An amazing story in Guardian about violinist Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman who in 2002 at the age of 21 joined an award-winning ensemble led by a famous composer, only to find out that all of the musicians aren’t actually playing their instruments but are simply miming along to a CD instead. She was hired by a man she calls The Composer, and she played in the fake orchestra for four years in front of thousands. Hindman published a memoir about it, 'Sounds Like Titanic'.

"He’s a delinquent teenage alcoholic who gets sober, but becomes gripped by addictions once again, with his raging alcoholism assuaged by the short-lived peace of heroin. Lanegan’s prodigious drug habit turns him into less of a musician and more of a dealer" - Guardian says in its recommended read, 'Sing Backwards and Weep' memoir by Mark Lanegan. "It might be a spoiler to reveal how Lanegan’s salvation eventually comes and who, unexpectedly, foots the bill for his rehab. This is a narrative packed with surprises, most not of the good kind".

Guns N' Roses created the new picture book in collaboration with the novelist James Patterson, and it was illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. 'Sweet Child O' Mine' pulls its narrative from the lyrics of the Guns N’ Roses song of the same name and follows the adventures of Maya and Natalia Rose, the niece and daughter of Guns N’ Roses manager Fernando Lebeis, who have grown up touring with the band. It’s due out September.

"I embarked on an in-depth self-education process to learn about the larger history of music as a change agent in human history" music writer Ted Gioia in a Music Journalism Insider interview. He continues: "My latest book, 'Music: A Subversive History', is a culmination of that effort. It encompasses my early work of jazz and African-American music, but aims at something larger—really, nothing less than exposing the inner workings of songs as a source of power and enchantment in our societies and day-to-day lives. That’s really what drives me and motivates me nowadays: music as a change agent".

"I hope that the people will identify with the sobriety. A lot of people have a different idea of what constitutes being an alcoholic or an addict and when it’s a problem. So I really would like my story of getting sober to inspire people" - The Go-Go's bassist Kathy Valentine told Spin about her new autobiography 'All I Ever Wanted'. The book is "shockingly candid, at times difficult to read, full of incredible stories and anecdotes", Spin says. "What distinguishes the book though from other rocker memoirs is her turbulent adolescence and her candor about it, from having an abortion as a teenager to being raped at 14. As tough as it can be at times, it is ultimately a story of triumph".

"In my punk crew, in which we wore out outsider status proudly, I had to admit to myself: I didn't actually want to be an outsider anymore... I wanted to feel like a valued member of my school and my town, even as I rejected my town and my school (punk rock, you're so confusing)" - Phuc Tran writes in his new book 'Sigh, gone', about growing up in small-town America as "the Asian guy" in school. Punk rock offered consolation, but not answers - "the most punk thing for me to do was to be who I was without pretension or preamble or grandiose posturing. I had read it in Nietzsche but didn't know what it really meant: become who you are". Now, besides writing, Phuc inks tattoos and rides motorcycles. PopMatters describes the book as a "smart, tough memoir" that entices reading.

Oliver Craske, "a biographer who understands the intricacies of classical Indian music and the labyrinths of a culture that believes there’s no enterprise that can’t be improved by being made more complicated", published 'The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar' about the great Indian sitar player. The exhaustive book, Guardian says, portrays the "restless workaholic, often melancholic genius... unassailable maestro and guardian of his country’s music". Craske handles the niceties of Shankar’s personal life with diplomacy - he married his teacher's daughter Annapurna Devi, which was an arranged and problematic marriage, had an affair with US concert promoter Sue Jones – with whom he had a daughter, the future star Norah Jones, and had another affair with an old friend Sukanya Rajan, whom he would later marry, and had a daughter Anoushka, who also grew into musical stardom.

“If you’re going to be with someone who’s clearly an artist, who’s deeply dedicated to what they do, then you need something that you’re passionate about” - Jenny Boyd, former model, now a psychologist and an author says in her new book 'Jennifer Juniper: A Journey Beyond the Muse'. In the 70s, Boyd married Mick Fleetwood twice (and had affairs with some other rockers), each resulting in feelings of loneliness, jealousy, rage and, ultimately, a total loss of identity. In vivid, anxious and sometimes hilarious prose, her book chronicles a life at once privileged by its proximity to the starriest rockers of the 1960s and 70s, and plagued by her inner feelings of anxiety and doubt, the Guardian says.

Richard Beck is a psychology professor who teaches a weekly Bible study, and he recently published a book 'Trains, Jesus, and Murder: The Gospel According to Johnny Cash', which got his title via Beck's son who jokes that Cash's songs are all about murder, trains, and Jesus. Beck deals with questions about solidarity and patriotism, with the complexities of Cash’s simultaneously conservative and countercultural appeal, his relationship with the authorities (well, mostly, avoidance). The Quietus says the book is a "welcome companion for anyone wanting to know more about what Cash insisted was not only the key to his music but to the kingdom, too", and that it goes well with the audio of Johnny Cash reading the whole of the New Testament.

'New Kings of the World: Dispatches from Bollywood, Dizi, and K-pop' by Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto investigates the burgeoning cultural movements from India (Bollywood movies), Turkey (dizi series), and South Korea (K-pop). Not that the author likes these much, it's just that she acknowledges its popularity and influence. A short, well-researched, and engaging book.

Historian Stephen Tow "takes readers on a fascinating, astute, and welcoming tour through the birth of the several genre offshoots - such as progressive rock and folk - to explore the remarkable circumstances that made London and its surroundings such a fertile and significant creative space", PopMatters says about 'London, Reign Over Me: How England's Capital Build Classic Rock', a new book about UK 1960s rock. "Tow's extensive insights, engaging connections, and approachable voice makes it an enthralling read".

'Do What You Want: The Story of Bad Religion' is the first autobiography by the punk veterans punks, and it chronicles band's beginnings "as teenagers experimenting in a San Fernando Valley garage dubbed 'The Hell Hole' to headlining major music festivals". It includes rare photos, never-before-seen material from the archives, and new interviews with former members […]

PopMatters is delighted by the new book 'Fandom of Methodology', a collection of experimental texts, autobiography, fiction, and new academic perspectives on fandom in and as art. PM says "Academics must permit themselves to be fans", and adds - "I am officially a huge fan of 'Fandom as Methodology' because the articulation of these concepts ultimately leads […]

"I learned a lot of random things putting this book together and just how many women were in the room, how many women pioneered so much. And then, you know, it's always just kind of passed off to a guy and then, you know, he'll run with it" - author Kathy Iandoli says about her […]

"It quickly becomes clear in Me that few people are more suited to the celebrity autobiography genre, given that he combines the most essential ingredients of the form" - Guardian writes about Elton John's new autobiography, written with the help of music critic Alexis Petridis - who "has a journalist’s eye for the comically absurd, such as […]

Year of the Monkey is a new memoir by Patti Smith, where dreams mix with reality and shows the singer and poet "most at ease when... close to death", as PopMatters put it (a good part of the book is about Sam Shepard). So, worth a read? - "It is satisfying to catch-up with her […]