For many fans, a discussion of this season’s music books could begin and end with the highly anticipated—and embargoed—memoir by Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (Simon & Schuster, Oct.).
But in addition to the Boss’s book are titles from two founding members of the Beach Boys—Brian Wilson and Mike Love—as well as insider takes on the worlds of pop, soul, and metal, among others. Perhaps the most noteworthy trend of the coming months is the growing number of titles suggesting that, at least on bookshelves, punk (and glam rock, and post-punk, and new wave) is not, in fact, dead.
Just as one generation makes way for the next on the airwaves, books on classic rock royalty are ceding some shelf space to books on the punk generation. This season’s lineup includes a primer on glam rock, a visual history of ’70s punk, and memoirs by members of the Sex Pistols and Joy Division.
The Clash FAQ
Gary J. Jucha. Backbeat, Dec.
Part of Backbeat’s FAQ series, this installment by Jucha (Jimi Hendrix FAQ) chronicles the rise, fall, and ultimately doomed revival of the British band. The author pays particular attention to the band’s success in the U.S., which according to the publisher constitutes “a feat matched by no other U.K. punk rock band.”
Steve Jones. Da Capo, Jan 2017
In this memoir, Jones, the Sex Pistols guitarist, describes an unlikely rise to stardom. He tells of neglect at the hands of his mother and stepfather, abandonment by his father, and a petty-crime-filled youth—all of which contributed to the anger and rebellion that would come to characterize the Pistols’ sound. Chrissie Hynde wrote the foreword.
New York Rock
Steven Blush. St. Martin’s Griffin, Oct.
Blush (American Hardcore) traces the evolution of New York–based rock music over several decades, illustrating the music’s connection with, and influence on, the city’s ever-morphing political and cultural landscapes. The book, which PW’s review called “sweeping in scope,” includes first-person narratives that offer deeper looks various subgenres, including glitter rock and New York hardcore.
Oh So Pretty
Toby Mott, with Rick Poynor. Phaidon, Oct.
Mott, an artist and punk historian, teams up with Poynor, a curator and critic who founded Eye magazine in London in 1990, for this visual guide to the late ’70s punk scene. The book features some 500 artifacts (posters, flyers, fan magazines, etc.) drawn from various sources, including performance venues, political groups, and some of the acts themselves, among them the Clash and the Ramones.
Edited by Johan Kugelberg, with Jon Savage and Glenn Terry. Rizzoli, Oct.
Music writers Kugelberg (The Velvet Underground: New York Art) and Savage (England’s Dreaming) collaborated on this visual history of the influential British punk band, drawing on materials—some of them never before made public—such as album artwork, fan magazines, and letters written by Malcolm McLaren, the band’s manager. The book’s release is being timed to coincide with the band’s 40th anniversary, an occasion likely to have many a gray-haired Pistols fan saying, “Bollocks.”
Shock and Awe
Simon Reynolds. Dey Street, Oct.
In a book that PW called “intriguing,” music historian Reynolds (Energy Flash) delivers a primer on glam rock, the genre that blew aside the mainstream rock and country of the early ’70s, replacing their mellowness and authenticity with high-octane artifice and glitz. Alongside analyses of the genre and its superstars, such as David Bowie and Alice Cooper, Reynolds offers insight into the various cultural contexts that helped breathe life (and hair spray) into this flamboyant musical style.
Scott Crawford. Akashic, Feb. 2017
This volume serves as a visual and narrative companion to Salad Days, a 2014 documentary, also by Crawford, that explores the 1980s Washington, D.C., hardcore punk scene. Like the film, the book sheds light on the ways in which the music coming out of the nation’s capital, by bands such as Bad Brains and Fugazi, served as a mode of political and economic critique.
Peter Hook. Dey Street, Nov.
A founding member of Joy Division and New Order, Hook rounds out his three-part memoir series with a book on the formation of the latter band, following the 1980 suicide of Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis. The first two titles are The Hacienda, about the club that served as the hub of the music scene in Manchester, England, in the 1980s and ’90s, and Unknown Pleasures, which chronicled the rise of Joy Division, and which sold 10,000 copies in hardcover and trade paper, according to Nielsen BookScan.
Singing Their Own Songs
A much-anticipated tell-all by Bruce Springsteen, a chronicle of Lil Wayne’s time in prison, and other new memoirs offer insider accounts of some of the biggest musical acts of the past half century.
Born to Run
Bruce Springsteen. Simon & Schuster, Sept.
According to his publisher, Springsteen decided to begin writing this memoir, which is currently under a hype-amplifying embargo, after performing at the 2009 Super Bowl halftime show. In the book he looks back on his childhood in New Jersey, his musical eureka moment (seeing Elvis debut on the Ed Sullivan Show), his early days as bar-band performer in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band.
Lol Tolhurst. Da Capo, Oct.
Tolhurst tells the story of his friendship with fellow Cure cofounder Robert Smith, which began when the boys were five years old. The English duo found success as part of the goth rock movement of the 1980s, but Tolhurst faced addiction problems and eventually had to leave the band. Here he narrates his subsequent search for redemption.
18 and Life on Skid Row
Sebastian Bach. Dey Street, Dec.
The lead singer of the heavy metal band Skid Row looks back on a career rife with the kind of bacchanalian excess you can expect from someone who toured with Guns N’ Roses and Bon Jovi. In addition to his time with the band, which spanned the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s, Bach also highlights his work as an actor, such as his performance in a 2000 Broadway production of Jekyll & Hyde and his recurring role on the TV series Gilmore Girls.
Gone til November
Lil Wayne. Plume, Oct.
In 2010, Grammy-winning rapper and producer Lil Wayne was convicted of criminal possession of a firearm and sentenced to a year in prison, which he served on Rikers Island. His memoir, which draws directly on journals he kept there, recounts his life behind bars: the habits he kept, the relationships he formed with fellow inmates, and the lessons he learned about staying motivated.
Mike Love, with James S. Hirsch. Blue Rider, Sept.
With journalist Hirsch (Walk in Their Shoes), Love, a cofounding member of the Beach Boys, tells of his more than 50 years as the band’s lead singer. He also delves into his pre-fame days, including his apprenticeship as a sheet metal worker, and his various encounters with the ugly side of success, such as the time the Boys became entangled with Charles Manson.
I Am Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson, with Ben Greenman. Da Capo, Oct.
In the simple declarative title of this book, Wilson, the Beach Boys leader, cofounder, and songwriter, suggests a level of personal disclosure longtime fans have been craving. With journalist Greenman (Emotional Rescue), Wilson not only revisits his band’s various success and failures; he also opens up about his struggles with mental illness (Wilson has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder) and his efforts to keep making music despite them.
A New America
Tommy Mottola. Celebra, Nov.
Mottola (Hitmaker), the former head of Sony Music Entertainment and influential champion of Latin music, pays tribute here to some of the genre’s biggest stars of the past few decades, many of whom he’s worked with directly. They include Carlos Santana, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and Selena, as well as more recent talents, such as Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin.
The Speed of Sound
Thomas Dolby. Flatiron, Oct.
Many may think of Dolby, who’s best known for his 1982 song “She Blinded Me with Science,” as a one-hit wonder. But in this memoir, he paints a more varied picture of his life in music, from his collaboration with artists such as David Bowie and Stevie Wonder to his work at the nexus of music and mobile technology (he is to be thanked, at least in part, for the Nokia ringtone).
Dean Torrence. SelectBooks, Sept.
Torrence, the Dean of Jan and Dean, chronicles the duo’s emergence as a staple of 1960s West Coast pop and the genre known as the California Sound. He also tells the story of Jan Berry’s 1966 car wreck, which put Berry in a coma and left him partially paralyzed. The accident hampered the duo’s musical career for some time, but in the 1970s they resumed performing and even toured with the Beach Boys, with whom Torrence continues to appear today. Berry died in 2004.
New biographies offer takes on 20th-century musical legends, tracking their breakout hits and wild successes as well as their indulgences and falls from grace.
Tom Doyle. Random House, Mar. 2017
This biography of Elton John by rock journalist Doyle focuses mainly on one decade of the musician’s career—the ’70s—but what a decade it was. These years saw numerous professional achievements (seven number-one albums, 16 top-10 singles) and a range of personal trials that included drug use, sexual anxiety, and two suicide attempts. Doyle illustrates how John—after announcing his retirement in 1977, at age 30—eventually overcame these setbacks and returned to music.
Peter Ames Carlin. Holt, Oct.
This look at the life and career of Paul Simon takes in his time as one-half of Simon & Garfunkel as well as his solo career, including Graceland, his 1986 album, which sold millions but drew ire for incorporating musical styles from South Africa, which at the time was under apartheid. The author’s 2012 Bruce Springsteen biography, Bruce, sold more than 114,000 print copies, per BookScan.
In the Midnight Hour
Tony Fletcher. Oxford Univ., Jan. 2017
Fletcher, whose previous works include books on Keith Moon (Moon) and the Smiths (A Light That Never Goes Out), here looks at the career of Wilson “Wicked” Pickett, the soul singer known for songs including “Mustang Sally” and the hit referenced by the title. By also diving into the careers of contemporaries including James Brown and Ike and Tina Turner, the author places Pickett in the wider context of African-American music in the 1960s and ’70s.
A Perfect Union of Contrary Things
Sarah Jensen, with Maynard James Keenan. Backbeat, Nov.
This authorized biography of Maynard James Keenan aims to provide a more nuanced portrait of the man best known as the vocalist of prog-metal band Tool. Jensen, his longtime friend, discusses details including Keenan’s former job in a pet store in Boston and the fact that, in recent years, he’s forged a second career as a vintner.
Somebody to Love
Mark Langthorne and Matt Richards. Weldon Owne, Nov.
Drawing on photographs and interviews with close friends, Langthorne, a former music manager, and Richards, a documentary filmmaker, examine the life of Freddie Mercury, the four-octave vocalist of Queen. The authors also use Mercury’s death from AIDS-related illness in 1991 as a touchstone for a discussion of the rampant spread of the disease in the mid-1980s.
Peter Benjaminson. Chicago Review, Mar. 2017
Following several books on Motown (The Story of Motown among them), Benjaminson strives to present an evenhanded account of the life of Rick James, discussing the funk musician’s success in the 1980s as well as his rampant drug use and prison time.
Todd Mayfield, with Travis Atria. Chicago Review, Oct.
The author, son of soul musician Curtis Mayfield, joins musician and journalist Atria in tracing his father’s life, from his childhood in the slums of Chicago to his emergence as an influential singer and songwriter whose evocations of African-American life bolstered the civil rights movement.
Daniel Lefferts is a writer living in New York City.
The Art of Noise
Music’s not just about the music: it’s about all the toys that go with it. Here, new books take on record collecting, gear, and poster art.
The Beginner’s Guide to Vinyl
Jenna Miles. Adams Media, Dec.
Miles, cofounder of vinyl-reissue company SRC Vinyl and co-owner of Vinyl Collective, an online community of LP enthusiasts, serves up the ABCs of buying and caring for new and secondhand records, choosing the best turntable, and more.
Guitar Amplifier Encyclopedia
Brian Tarquin. Allworth, Nov.
This compendium profiles amps from classic brands including Gibson, Fender, and Vox as well as boutique designers such as Industrial and Fuchs. Tarquin, a guitarist, composer, and producer, has worked with Jimmy Page, B.B. King, and many others; Michael Molenda, editor-in-chief of Guitar Player, wrote the foreword.
The History of Rock in Fifty Guitars
Bruce Wexler. History Press, Dec.
Wexler’s previous cultural histories include books on the Hatfields and McCoys, and on muscle cars; here, he surveys seven decades of sounds, highlighting axe wielders including Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend.
No One Told Me Not to Do This
Jay Ryan. Akashic, Dec.
The third collection of Ryan’s screen-printed work, covering 2009–2015, includes more than 50 band posters (Andrew Bird, Sonic Youth, St. Vincent) plus several festival posters.
Mitch Putnam. Regan Arts, Oct.
This 11 × 14 in. title showcases a decade of limited-edition artwork featured on Putnam’s blog of the same name, for acts including the Black Keys, Vampire Weekend, Spoon, and Primus.
Play It Loud
Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna. Doubleday, Oct.
Interviews with Les Paul, Patti Smith, Keith Richards, and others inform this look at the evolution of the electric guitar. Carlos Santana contributed the foreword.
Tim Book Two
Tim Burgess. Faber & Faber, Jan. 2017
In his second memoir (after 2013’s Telling Stories), Burgess, lead vocalist of ’90s Britpopsters Charlatans U.K., takes readers along as he hunts for vinyl at indie record stores across the globe, soliciting suggestions from musical friends including Iggy Pop and Paul Weller. —C.J.
Also check out our feature on new books about David Bowie.