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24bookhagan2-master180Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine

Joe Hagan

A fascinating look behind the curtain at Rolling Stone magazine and its controversial creator. Hagan’s biography gave me a whole new perspective on the legacy of the classic rock era and how it has been incorporated into our mainstream culture.

Read my full review here. 

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1366840604-elvis_reviews01Last Train To Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley

Peter Guralnick

Epic. Masterful. Must-read.

This two-volume biography changed my entire understanding of Elvis. It takes him completely out of the realm of caricature and illuminates the ultimately tragic creation of a cultural icon. Absolutely essential reading for any music, pop-culture, or biography fan. Read my full review here.

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Sweet Soul Music Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom

Peter Guralnick

This is the definitive story of soul music as told by one of music history’s finest writers. Peter Guralnick packs an incredible wealth information into this tome without sacrificing any of the readability. Meticulously researched and deftly written,  it’s an absolute must-own for anyone with an interest in R&B, and that should be just about everyone who likes rock & roll.

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Chronicles - Volume 1Chronicles, Volume One

Bob Dylan

There have been dozens of books written about Bob Dylan, but no one can tell his story like he can. The consummate master of musical poetry brings his lyrical style easily to the page. Jumping between topics and time periods, Dylan gives you a rare glimpse of his inner thoughts. Some lines are so off the wall you’ll howl with laughter, and some passages are so profound you’ll reread them four or five times. My copy is well worn, with countless underlines and notes in the margins. I end up rereading this book about once a year, and spend the rest of the year in anticipation of Volume Two….

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I'm With The Band, Pamela Des BarresI’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie

Pamela Des Barres

And now for something completely different… You may be quick to scoff at my inclusion of Pamela Des Barres’ memoir of her days as Queen of the Sunset Strip but it definitely deserves a place in every rock library. Miss Pamela offers a unique perspective on the male-dominated world of rock & roll. Her sweet spirit shines through her writing making it more endearing than erotic. She’s got a hell of a story to tell, and I recommend listening.

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Searching for the Sound, by Phil LeshSearching for the Sound

Phil Lesh

I’ve read a lot of musicians’ autobiographies. On the whole, the generally poor quality of the writing is far outweighed by the epicness of the life story. I usually just have to look past this imbalance, since you could write a book about a rock star with only words under five letters and it would still be a hell of a story. This is not the case with Phil Lesh’s book. Searching for the Sound is refreshingly written in the affable, colloquial voice of the Grateful Dead’s pioneering bass player. There’s none of the eye-rolling bravado or posturing that often comes with rock star memoirs. And he’s got some seriously great stories to tell. My advice: Don’t read his description of the antics aboard the 1970 Festival Express train in a quiet coffee shop unless you’re looking to make an ass out of yourself with uncontrollable laughter…  It’s definitely been a long strange trip for the Dead, and Phil is a great tour guide.

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Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and OutBill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out

Bill Graham and Robert Greenfield

Anyone who’s ever enjoyed the hell out of a really great rock concert should recognize their debt of gratitude to the late Bill Graham. As Pete Townshed said “Bill changed the way rock evolved.” It’s a strong statement but after reading his semi-auto biography I understand that it is clearly true.  Bill Graham Presents is not written as a narrative but as a conversation with dozens of people steered by the voice of Bill himself. The style is similar to another of my favorite rock bios, David Crosby’s Long Time Gone. I don’t know if that style was the original concept for the book or if it was born out of necessity when Graham’s life was cut tragically short in a 1991 helicopter accident. But every time I sat down to read it I thought “Thank God they started working on this before his death.” Because honestly, to not have the thoughts and memories of this truly unique force in rock history recorded would be a real tragedy… (Read the rest of this review)

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Miss O'DellMiss O’Dell: My Hard Days and Long Night with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved

Chris O’Dell with Katherine Ketcham

A regular American girl from Tucson, Arizona, Chris O’Dell landed a job at the Beatles’ Apple office in 1968 and entered into a life of pure rock & roll fantasy. She worked with the Beatles, she worked with the Stones, she worked with Dylan, she was a tour manager before womenwere tour managers, Leon Russell and George Harrison both penned songs about and for her, Friar Park was a second home, and her best friend is the ultimate rock & roll muse – the incomparable Pattie Boyd. Yet, her name is relatively unknown. I admit that before this book I’d only known her name from reading Pattie Boyd’s memoir Wonderful Tonight. Chris O’Dell wasn’t famous, but she was an insider – privy to the true inner circle of rock’s highest echelon. And she worked for it… (Read the rest of this review)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2010 6:29 pm

    The Dylan, Guralnick, and Graham books are absolutely imperative. I would also add Guralnick’s two-volume biography of Elvis. It’s not only the best music bio I’ve ever read, it’s one (well two) of the best books I’ve read period.

Trackbacks

  1. read phil lesh’s book « t h a t m e r c u r y s o u n d
  2. read bill graham’s book « t h a t m e r c u r y s o u n d
  3. read miss o’dell’s book « t h a t m e r c u r y s o u n d

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