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Musical Volumes

From John Lennon to the Smiths, read about some of the biggest influences in music


Music lovers, here are interesting reads that deal with music in general, or musicians. A few luminaries—Lou Reed, Tom Petty—sadly have passed of late, so this gives us some acute perspective upon a few greats such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Tupac Shakur, to name but three, who passed far before their own times. I’ve culled recent titles (and one less so) down below, to get ya started.


Morrissey (and The Smiths) defined British pop during the heart of the ’80s, and Moz’s autobio, released but two months ago under the Penguin Classics imprint(!), details his hard-fought youth and more. Seems like the man may have grown up in hell, but he sings like an angel. (And yes, I’m aware that the above link is to the Kindle edition, so don’t bother pointing that out…)

What You Want Is In The Limo

Three bands (and their tours/albums) in 1973, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper, are probed here as the quintessential models of excess in rock, signaling a death knell to the ’60s—decades do tend to spill over—and sounding the early chords of what would become the standard for the decade to come in terms of such redolent terms as “arena rock,” or, basically, decadence…jacked up to 11. (Note: Your recent accompanying text here should be Robert Plant: A Life.)

The John Lennon Letters

Another great gift idea—or just interesting reading—is this new and quite well-put together collection of epistles; it’s not your standard grouping of “Dear John” letters (ha ha, sorry: couldn’t resist). It manages to form an insightful treasury/miscellany of private writings from Liverpool’s favorite son, in his own words. Sorry, Paul, but he’s always been my favorite Beatle.

Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith

More recent talent, mourned by many, may be examined in William Todd Schultz’s biography of the gifted songwriter whose death remains a bizarre incident even a decade on. The author’s perspective at times here may be cloying, a tad too “sympathetic,” but fans and those interested in Smith’s material will find much to dig into here.

Please Kill Me

I wanted to cover a large swath of time and action—as much as I could—so this “Uncensored Oral History of Punk,” much celebrated over the years, should do the trick for any looking to lose themselves in period detail. These kinds of books make you want to be part of a happening scene just when it starts to germinate, not when it has blown up, bloated and become the sham that commercial success usually turns most genuine things into. Fun stuff.

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