Arts & Culture » Books

Who do you love?

by

Norene Cashen

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs

I love Lester Bangs because he fooled me into wanting to write about rock. But with this book as a standard, I’ll never be able to do it.

Early Work 1970-1979 by Patti Smith

For those too young to experience Patti Smith during this high time, these poems, essays and photographs make another avenue back into the vulnerable yet savage soul of one of rock ’n’ roll’s legends.

Mystery Train by Greil Marcus

Marcus starts his definitive history of rock at the beginning with the blues, a difficult subject even for him. By the time he gets to Elvis, he’s authoritative, inventive and even moving.

Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty & Meaning in Popular Music by Martha Bayles

This spirited, eloquently written cultural history of pop music rubs against the grain of the tired argument that pop culture is being shaped solely by the market.

Blissed Out: The Raptures of Rock by Simon Reynolds

Written under the wonderful delusion that all of culture is at the mercy of one man’s wild interpretations.

Larry Gabriel

‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky – The Life of Jimi Hendrix by David Henderson

Poet Henderson uses words the way Hendrix played guitar. They swoop and soar and delve deeply into the guitarist’s motivations and psyche.

Miles Davis For Beginners by Daryl Long

This graphic documentary totally swings. Example: "Motherfucker" is an exceedingly common Milesism used primarily to express ardent admiration. For example: "Sarah Vaughan was there also, and she’s a motherfucker too."

Berry, Me and Motown – The Untold Story by Raynoma Gordy Singleton

Raynoma paints some deep, early and behind the scenes Motown moments that were quite unflattering to Berry Gordy.

Too Marvelous For Words – The Life and Genius of Art Tatum by James Lester

Pages 75-76: Tatum meets Fats Waller, James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith for a head-cutting session to welcome him to New York. Tatum conquered the Big Apple in one night.

Straight Life – The Story of Art Pepper by Art and Laurie Pepper

Bebop meets the ’60s. Art Pepper probably took more drugs than Charlie Parker and lived just long enough to tell the story.

Chris Handyside

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Obsession, dorkiness, romantic idiocy and lists upon lists of pop culture flotsam.

The Dark Stuff by Nick Kent

Shot for shot with the mystery of rock and punk distilled into damn fine writing.

Ranters and Crowd Pleasers by Greil Marcus

Short bursts of concentrated Marcus aimed at the door between pop and punk.

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs

Hell, if this dude can create literature about other people’s art, why can’t I, damn it?

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk ed. by Legs MacNeil & Gillian McCain

Musicians do the talking? Yup, there are no critics around to mess up the story of NYC’s early punk scene.

W. Kim Heron

Music of the Whole Earth by David Reck

Ethnomusicology for the masses, rich in pictures, diagrams and ideas.

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje

A novelist’s personal meditation on Buddy Bolden, more poetry than prose, more fancy than fact.

to BE, or not … to BOP. Memoirs by Dizzy Gillespie with Al Fraser

An oral history scrapbook brimming with talk about – of all things! – the music itself.

Deep Blues by Robert Palmer

Deftly intertwines the story of a music and the stories of its times.

Stomping the Blues by Albert Murray

A functional analysis of the blues-jazz continuum, as in function at the junction, that is.

Khary Kimani Turner

Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White

This is comprehensive evidence of the spiritual connection between music and man.

Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line by Michael Eric Dyson

Hip hop’s resident intellectual discusses race relations in America.

Say it Loud: The Story of Rap Music by K. Maurice Jones

A native Detroiter traces hip hop’s roots back to Jamaica.

Fight the Power by Chuck D

When hip hop’s most consistent activist philosophizes and shit, you better listen.

Hip-hop America: The Death of Rhythm ’n’ Blues by Nelson George

The founding father of hip-hop journalism explores the genre’s impact on this country.

George Tysh

Noise by Jacques Attali

Succinct but mind-blowing treatise on the political economy of music, from prehistory to the present.

Silence by John Cage

Joyful essays and word-performance scores by America’s prophet of sonic inclusiveness.

But Beautiful: A Book about Jazz by Geoff Dyer

Imagining the private minds of Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, Ben Webster, Art Pepper and Chet Baker. An uncanny accomplishment.

Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige

Critical study of British punk’s antecedents in reggae, with a lucid discussion of ideology and oppositional styles.

The Blues Line by Eric Sackheim

Hundreds of classic blues transcriptions, with each song set on the page like a poem, plus cool drawing-portraits and a discography.

Richard C. Walls

The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958 by John Litweiler

This survey of the avant-garde jazz movement is a rare mix of insight, nuts-and-bolts descriptions and the odd dash of poetry.

Pro and Contra Wagner by Thomas Mann

The premier 20th century ironist wrestles with the premier 19th century egotist to a richly ambivalent draw.

Visions of Jazz: The First Century by Gary Giddins

Anyone who can actually make you want to listen to Bing Crosby is a writer of rare gifts.

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs

An American original, loving not too wisely but too well.

Black Music by Amiri Baraka

A still timely fierceness.

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