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May 29, 2013



Obvious suggestion: Clampdown by Rhian E Jones!


"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" - E. Costello


Thanks Dickon - that looks like a good read. *adds to 'to-read' list*


What, and you never danced about Architecture? Just shows how much Declan knows...

tim footman

Very decent of you, old chap. There's always a place for mutual buttering-up.

Rob Morgan

You need a Beatles book - "Revolution in the head" by Ian Macdonald is definitive.

Far be it for me to plug my own recently started blog of music writing.


Well Rob, I'd argue that one Beatles book is one too many, but hey ho... Thanks for the heads up about your own blog though - it is added to my feeds so shall check in often.


The Macdonald is ( should you need one ) the definitive B.....s book - he was working on a Bowie track by track when he died (Peter Dogget 'finished' it but I'm not sure if it's any good).
I'd add a couple which are worth reading (if tangential -ha!- to your usual area of operations).
Nowhere to run - the story of soul music-Gerry Hershey'
The heart of rock and roll - Dave Marsh A delightful and idiosyncratic in order list of his 'The 1001 greatest singles ever made'. Great articles for every track and guaranteed to make you fume, applaud, rage and smile, though probably not at the same time.
And anything by Greil Marcus and Peter Guralnick


Never really got on with Marcus myself, although the one about Dylan's The Basement Tapes was entertaining. Your mention of Guralnick reminds me that someone must still have my copy of 'Lost Highway'. Now if only I could remember who...


Not guilty on this one Alistair!
And could we add Electric Eden -Robb Young- cured me of some 70s prejudices.

Music books (not listed above) I have enjoyed include 'Bad Vibes' by Luke Haines (not sure if this is entirely an advisable read for an impressionable youngsters) and also 'How Soon is Now?' by Richard King. Actually same with that. Rather a high substance abuse factor in both books. It is rock music I suppose... A more sedate read is 'Black Postcards' by Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500/ Luna/ Dean & Britta). It's quite an ordinary and unremarkable book, but that is it's charm I think. It was re-assuring (in a way) to read that Galaxie 500 could be on the front page of every music weekly in Europe and still play to 10 people on a Tuesday night in Hamburg or wherever it was... There is good writing in blogs out there but nothing quite to set the heart fluttering like a rabid NME manifesto from 1981...


I thoroughly enjoyed 'Bad Vibes' even though I have never really got on with much of Haines' music. I have had 'How Soon Is Now' unread in my Kindle for months... maybe in the summer. Will check out 'Black Postcards'. Always had a lot of time for Dean Wareham.


My impression is that young people don't really read they just play with their phones.

Satan Wants Me by Robert Irwin (the best living novelist on your side of the pond) set in London in 1967 is not appropriate for a 10 year old (at that age comic books, fantasy and sic-fi is probably what one should be reading) but it's a great book with tangential relations to music. I'm not a huge fan of the Band but, and everyone's got a huge but, John Niven's Novella for 33 1/3 series Music from the Big Pink is a fine stab at weaving fictional and historical characters together. If you love the Byrds, Johnny Rogan's Timeless Flight will keep you busy and happy for a while. Those with a strong Southern California bias will also be well served by Domenic Priore's Riot on Sunset Strip, Smile the Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece and Pop Surf Culture. Anything I write or put together is pretty definitive as well-especially all the youtube clips and mixes over at my blog!


Thanks for the Irwin tip William, I will certainly check that out. Fully agree with you on Timeless Flight and Riot On Sunset Strip. Both essential reads. I also remember thoroughly enjoying Rogan's 'Severed Alliance' book about The Smiths, though it is now many years since I read it. And of course your own blog is a regular read of mine. Couldn't be without it.

Interesting question, discussion and answers, Alistair. If I was going to recommend anything to a fifteen year old boy, it would almost certainly be Julian Cope's 'Head on', because Julian puts across so well the youthful rush of being at one and the same time deadly serious and completely crazy.

I think a fifteen year old might find his way into the world and mind of Dylan’s ‘Chronicles: volume one’. But maybe all he really has to read is page 5 of Robert Forster’s ’10 rules of rock and roll’, those being the ten rules themselves.

‘Revolution in the head’ is great, and not at all fawning; in fact, somewhat severe with the Fabs, I would say. Neville Farmer wrote a more relaxed equivalent for XTC, ‘Song stories’, which I like a lot. And Joe Boyd’s ‘White bicycles: making music in the 1960s’ opened my eyes and ears to production, and made me think that all that was meant by ‘produced naturally’ as sometimes written on the sleeves of 1980s indie records was ‘produced ineptly’.


Thanks Dan, pretty much spot on with all of those suggestions. Gosh, yes, 'Head On' is fantastic isn't it? I had forgotten all about it - a quick search of the book shelves here suggested it must have been loaned out at some point in the murky past... Ditto 'White Bicycles'. Who has all my music books?!! Very tempted to track down the XTC book.

Kevin Pearce

Belated response, but can I add Tracey Thorn's Bedsit Disco Queen to everything mentioned above. I borrowed it from the local library and absolutely loved it. It's just about the first music book where I've got excited thinking: "Yes, that's how it was in the punk/post-punk era". Pure bias, I guess, due to being a similar age and having similar tastes, but a joy to read nevertheless and an important lesson that there are 'other' ways to go about being a pop star of sorts.

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