Monday, March 30, 2015

The Top 20 Music Books of All Time


image from otherb.com

”Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” – Martin Mull

This quotation has been attributed to a variety of people, including musicians Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Thelonious Monk, and Laurie Anderson, but according to QuoteInvestigator.com, the line first appeared in the magazine Time Barrier Express in the September-October 1979. Gary Sperrazza references th quotation, crediting it to actor/comedian Martin Mull.

Regardless of who said it first, the point is clear. Music cannot be broken down and explained in written form. It is an aural experience which is meant to be heard. So why post a list of the best music books of all time? Music goes beyond the listening experience. It envelops social history and science and our fascination with the lives of the people who create the music. Those experiences can be analyzed, critiqued, and discussed in written form – and twenty of the most popular versions of that are introduced here in this blog post. If that doesn’t cut it for you, then seek these tomes out via audiobooks. I’ll leave it to the architects to address dancing.


1. Chronicles Vol. 1 - Bob Dylan (2004)

Dylan’s autobiography eschews a convential, chronological format opting for a disjointed tale which skips over many highlights in favor of more personal revelations.


2. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 - Michael Azerrad (2001)

Azerrad profiles the history of the rock music in the 1980s which owed a debt to punk rock and its DIY ethos.


3. Life - Keith Richards with James Fox (2010)

Some have proclaimed that if the world is ever annihilated, all that will remain will be the cock roaches and Keith Richards, survivor extraordinaire and legendary guitarist of the Rolling Stones. Luckily for us mortals, he’s left us this candid, conversational glimpse into his roller coaster life.


4. Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties - Ian MacDonald (1994)

Amazon called this chronogical assessment of every one of the Fab Four’s songs the “Bible of the Beatles.”


5. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 - Simon Reynolds (2006)

Reynolds’ book travels some of the same ground as Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life in dissecting some of the bands who grew out of the punk rock movement of the 1970s.


6. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation - Jeff Chang (2005)

Amazon.com: “In a post-civil rights era rapidly transformed by deindustrialization and globalization, hip-hop gave voiceless youths a chance to address these seismic changes and…crystallized a multiracial generation's worldview, and forever transformed politics and culture.”


7. England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond - Jon Savage (1991)

Amazon.com: “The ultimate book on punk…Savage brings to life the sensational story of the meteoric rise and rapid implosion of the Pistols through layers of rich detail, exclusive interviews, and rare photographs.”


8. The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band - Motley Crue with Neil Strauss (2001)

Rolling Stone magazine’s Joe Levy: “The most detailed account of the awesome pleasures and perils of rock & roll stardom I have ever read. It is completely compelling and utterly revolting.”


9. Hammer of the Gods: Led Zeppelin Unauthorized - Stephen Davis (1985)

Amazon.com: Led Zeppelin’s “tours were legendary, their lives were exalted—and in an era well known for sex and drugs, the mighty Zeppelin set an unattainable standard of excess and mythos for any band that tried to follow them…A spellbinding, electrifying, no-holds-barred classic of rock 'n' roll history.”


10. Just Kids - Patti Smith (2010)

Amazon.com: “The legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies.”


11. The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century - Alex Ross (2007)

Amazon.com: “In this sweeping and dramatic narrative, Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, weaves together…an astonishing history of the twentieth century as told through its music.”


12. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung - Lester Bangs (1987)

Amazon.com: “The wild and brilliant writings of Lester Bangs--the most outrageous and popular rock critic of the 1970s.”


13. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey - Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton (1999)

Amazon.com: “The first comprehensive history of the disc jockey, a figure who has become a powerful force shaping the music industry…The inside story on some of music’s most memorable moments…A lively and entertaining account of musical history and some of the most legendary parties of the century.”


14. How Music Works - David Byrne (2012)

Amazon.com: “Drawing on his work over the years with Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and myriad collaborators—along with journeys to Wagnerian opera houses, African villages, and anywhere music exists—Byrne shows how music emerges from cultural circumstance as much as individual creativity. It is his magnum opus, and an impassioned argument about music’s liberating, life-affirming power.”


15. This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession - Daniel J. Levitin (2006)

Amazon.com: “This groundbreaking union of art and science…explores the connection between music - its performance, its composition, how we listen to it, why we enjoy it - and the human brain.”


16. Slash: The Autobiography - Slash with Anthony Bozza (2007)

Amazon.com: “Slash tells…how the legendary band Guns N' Roses came together, how they wrote the music that defined an era…and, ultimately, how it all fell apart. Slash is a window into the world of the notoriously private guitarist and a front seat on the roller-coaster ride that was one of history's greatest rock 'n' roll machines, always on the edge of self-destruction, even at the pinnacle of its success.”


17. The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock - John Harris (2003)

Amazon.com: “Beginning in 1994 and closing in the first months of 1998, the UK passed through a cultural moment as distinct and as celebrated as any since the war. Founded on rock music, celebrity, boom-time economics and fleeting political optimism - this was 'Cool Britannia'. The Last Party charts the rise and fall of the Britpop movement.”


18. Scar Tissue - Anthony Kiedis with Larry Stoman (2004)

Amazon.com: “The Red Hot Chili Peppers, against all odds, have become one of the most successful bands in the world. Though the band has gone through many incarnations, Anthony Kiedis, the group's lyricist and dynamic lead singer, has been there for the whole roller-coaster ride. Kiedis shares a compelling story about the price of success and excess…a story that could only have come out of the world of rock.”


19. Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music - Greg Milner (2009)

Amazon.com: “Milner takes us through the major breakthroughs and glorious failures in the art and science of recording…From Les Paul to Phil Spector to King Tubby, from vinyl to pirated CDs to iPods, Milner pulls apart musical history to answer a crucial question: Should a recording document reality as faithfully as possible, or should it improve upon or somehow transcend the music it records? The answers he uncovers will change the very way we think about music.”


20. Wonderland Avenue: Tales of Glamour and Excess - Danny Sugerman (1989)

Memoir of Doors’ publicist Danny Sugerman. GoodReads.com: “Excessive, scandalous, comic, cautionary and horrifying, it chronicles the 60s dream gone-to-rot and the early life of a Hollywood Wild Child who was just brilliant at being bad.”


Resources and Related Links:



Friday, March 27, 2015

The Supremes hit #1 with “Stop! In the Name of Love” 50 years ago (3/27/1965)

First posted 4/15/2020; updated 4/21/2020.

Stop! In the Name of Love

The Supremes

Writer(s): Brian Holland/Lamont Dozier/Eddie Holland (see lyrics here)


Released: February 8, 1965


First Charted: February 20, 1965


Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 2 RB, 7 UK, 3 CN, 42 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.12 UK, 1.12 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 10.9 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

This song grew out of an argument between Lamont Dozier – one of the songwriters – and his girlfriend. She was about to head out the door when he yelled “stop, in the name of love!,” a slight variation of the phrase “stop, in the name of the law.” TB It broke the tension and they both starting laughing over the silliness of the line. CR

Of course, Dozier was one-third of the famed Holland-Dozier-Holland writing team at Motown. They crafted many of Motown’s biggest hits, but were more associated with the Supremes than any other act. “’Stop!’ moves with the grace of HDH’s greatest productions.” MA Initially, the Supremes – Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballad – thought the song was “insufficiently feminine, too forthright.” CR Once in the studio, however, they had fun with it. CR

As for the signature choreography, they were making a live appearance before having the moves for the song worked out. Moments before they went on stage, they worked with Motown head honcho Berry Gordy and a couple of the members of the Temptations to come up with the moves – in the mens’ room! SJ

The song became the trio’s fourth #1 out of five consecutive chart-toppers. In fact, they amassed a dozen #1 songs from 1964 through the end of the decade, giving them more trips to the top than any other American act in the 1960s. It also made them the most successful Motown act of the decade. TB


Resources and Related Links:

  • The Supremes’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 570.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Pages 496-7.
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Brothers, Inc. Pages 126-7.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 76.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Temptations hit #1 with “My Girl” 50 years ago today (3/6/1965)

First posted 3/6/2013; updated 4/20/2020.

My Girl

The Temptations

Writer(s): William “Smokey” Robinson/Ronnie White (see lyrics here)


Released: December 21, 1964


First Charted: January 9, 1965


Peak: 11 US, 2 CB, 3 HR, 27 AC, 16 RB, 2 UK, 8 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.6 UK, 2.6 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 101.68 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Smokey Robinson’s body of work is impressive enough to have earned him praise from Bob Dylan as one of “America’s greatest living poets.” BR1 With his group, the Miracles, Smokey gifted the world with such iconic hits as “Shop Around,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” and “The Tears of a Clown.” However, some of his biggest hits were for other Motown acts, including Mary Wells’ #1 “My Guy” and the Temptations’ “My Girl.”

Smokey wrote the latter about his wife, Claudette, SF with Ronald White. All three were members of the Miracles and naturally Smokey intended his group to record it. When the Temptations heard it, though, they begged Robinson for the song. RS500

He relented, having already been looking for something for the Temptations’ “throaty tenor David Ruffin” RS500 to “belt out” WK that was also “melodic and sweet.” WK Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks had assumed lead vocal duties for the group; Kendricks even sang lead on the Smokey Robinson-penned “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” However, when Smokey saw the Temps perform as part of a collective tour of the Motown roster, he determined Ruffin was the group’s “sleeping giant.” WK

Robinson’s hunch proved right. Not only did “My Girl” become a #1 in the hands of David Ruffin, but it gave the Temptations their signature song. Ruffin stepped out front as the primary lead singer after that. SF The song is so tied to the Temptations that the group evoked boos from their audiences when they tried cutting it from their set. NPR


Resources and Related Links:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ultimate Classic Rock Hall of Fame

image from ultimateclassicrock.com

According to the Ultimate Classic Rock, their Hall of Fame “is 100 percent fan-voted. Every artist who makes it into our hallowed hall has earned his or her spot there. We started this in March 2013. Since then, many of rock’s biggest names have been voted to victory. Take a look at some of the legends who have made it into the Ultimate Classic Rock Hall of Fame.”


Resources: