Best Books about Rock and Roll by jgn on Saturday, August 28, 2010 in Reading, Listening, and Reviews

So with this move to St. Paul, Minnesota, and the requisite unpacking, I've had the opportunity to review the various books about rock and roll I've acquired over the years.

Here are the ones I consider personal favorites (and I'll leave out the Guralnicks, Marcuses, etc., etc.). Maybe not actually the best, but I'll leave the title as is to capture more links :-)

Best rock book overall: Pamela Des Barres, I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie. This is awesome because the account is from the present, but it's punctuated (or maybe I should say perforated) by unvarnished journal entries from the period, and teaches well how absurd adolescent hero worship can be. Des Barres does a great job of critiquing yet acknowledging her younger, stupider, and more hormonal self.

Best history by way of interviews: McNeil and McCain, Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. Everything in this book has to be read with a grain of salt, because the subjects tend to play around with their memories. Still, quite a read.

Best book on routine rock depravity: [Tie] Rawlings and Diggle, Steve Diggle's Harmony in My Head; Bonomo, Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America's Garage Band. Great bands, questionable choices.

Best roman-a-clef : Thomas, The Big Wheel [about Elvis Costello and the Attractions, by the bassist]. Could have been subtitled: The Ego and the Id. This one was out of print for quite awhile: No doubt they were laying low fearing lawsuits from Declan MacManus.

Best book about a style: Davidson, We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001.

Best reference: Robbins, The Trouser Guide to New Wave Records (first edition). Until this came out, it was impossible to figure out anything. Here and there are odd little mistakes that don't exist nowadays in the era of Wikipedia, making the book all the more charming if you read it today or tomorrow.

Best book about collector scum: Milano, Vinyl Junkies: Adventures in Record Collecting.

Best scene book: Gordon, It Came from Memphis.

Best book about obscurities: Unterberger, Unknown Legends of Rock and Roll. Someone reading this today would probably deny that a lot of these are "unknowns," but that is partly due to the impact of this book.

Best coffee-table book: Matheu and Bowe, Creem: America's Only Rock & Roll Magazine.

Best serious memoir: Wareham, Black Postcards. From the Galaxy 500 / Luna front man.

Best serious biography: Ravenscroft, John Peel: Margrave of the Marshes. This began as Peel's memoir, but was so ably completed by his wife, I'll count it as a biography.

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