Sunday, May 7, 2017

three favorite music books

[written for somebody as part of an interview i did, bonus side-bar thing or something, can't remember who, can't remember when - the concept was "three music books you love that aren't that well known or are forgotten"

Starlust (1985) by Fred and Judy Vermorel has been out of print for years, but is just about to get reissued by my publisher as part of its Faber Finds imprint. Here’s how I blurbed it: “This fascinating and groundbreaking expose . . . lifts the lid on fan culture to reveal—and revel in—its literally idolatrous delirium. Yet, far from manipulated dupes of a cynical record industry, fans are shown to be subversive fantasists who use the objects of their worship as a means to access the bliss and glory they cannot find in their everyday lives and social surroundings. A lost classic of pop-culture critique that’s woven almost entirely out of the testimonials and confessions of the fans themselves, Starlust is above all a celebration of the power of human imagination.”
Big Noises (1991) is a really enjoyable book about guitarists by the novelist Geoff Nicholson. It consists of 36 short “appreciations” of axemen (and they’re all men; indeed, it’s quite a male book but quite unembarrassed about that). These range from obvious greats/grates like Clapton/Beck/Page/Knopfler to quirkier choices like Adrian Belew, Henry Kaiser, and Derek Bailey. Nicholson writes in a breezy, deceptively down-to-earth style that nonetheless packs in a goodly number of penetrating insights. I just dug this out of my storage unit in London a couple of months ago and have been really enjoying dipping into it.
The Boy Looked At Johnny (1978) by Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons is a curious thing: proof that a music book can be almost entirely wrong and yet remain a bona fide rockwrite classic. Allegedly written in a few days during an amphetamine bender, it’s subtitled “The Obituary of Rock and Roll,” but is really a requiem for the then-married authors’ broken-hearted belief in punk-as-revolution. Bitter and bitchy, strident and stylish, it had a huge impact on me at the time, as it did on loads of other impressionable youths; I was surprised to find out later that many people at the time of its release disapproved/deplored/dismissed it altogether. A big deal at the time, The Boy Looked At Johnny really has been forgotten. Few today even remember that perennially infamous newspaper opionator Burchill was once a music journalist—indeed, for a few years, the U.K.’s most famous rock writer.


Unknown said...

I've been looking forward some books by Bangs or Morley. Any recomendations?


Morley's Ask is a great book - interviews - and Words and Music is definitely worth a read. He also did a real cool short book that ostensibly about the Bakerloo Line in London but actually about music - extract here: Piece by Piece his Joy Division and New Order collection looks like a meaty read. I've not read the book on The North (sitting in a pile of books i intend to get to) and currently avoiding anything to do with Bowie for a long resting period after Shock and awe - so not read The Age of Bowie. However his masterwork, i think, is Nothing - a book about the suicide of his father which has a lot about growing up in the North, music, etc in it as well.

Lester Bangs - Psychotic Reactions is the classic, the essential Bangs, but the later anthology Mainlines usefully fills in some gaps that Psychotic's editor Greil Marcus skipped. Bangs books on Blondie and Rod Stewart are well worth a read, even if you have no interest in their subjects. I think that is the sum total of his book-bound writings, sadly.