With the year coming to a close, we're heading off the inevitable barrage of “best” lists coming your way with one that will actually be useful and problem solving (a holiday gift guide for the music lover in your life, that's not actually music… or a t-shirt). Buy 'em a book! iPad and Kindle, be damned, nothing compares to the smell and feel of the real thing – the pristine jacket, the crisp pages and (hopefully) smattering of pictures inside- especially covering one's favorite band/artist/music genre. People who still buy CDs and vinyl in particular will love these. Here, Nightranger's list of the year's best music books, including a couple (#4 and #1), we've only read about but really, really hope will be under the tree. Santa, you reading this?
10. The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock 'n' Roll Rivalry– Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot
The age-old debate (almost half-century old at this point) makes for fun sparing at parties — and lately, on Facebook — but a whole book exploring the question of which band is better? Well, why not? The authors provide points and counterpoints ranging from “best singers” to “best double album” but since both concede an affinity for the Stones up front, this may not be the book for your favorite Beatlemaniac. Also, the debates are pretty tame. One might think Stones fans would sling a little harder. Still, a good one for collectors, and it gets brownie points for the 3D lenticular cover which goes from one band to the other when moved to and fro.
9. I'm In The Band- Backstage Notes from the Chick in White Zombie– Sean Yseult
This colorful scrapbook style tome provides a lively look at what it's like being the only woman in a testosterone drenched milieu, and while not a tell-all, the writer doesn't hold back on the difficulties of having a relationship in a band (with Rob Zombie), breaking up in a band and ultimately, having the band implode.
Read our chat with the author here.
8. Corn Flakes with John Lennon (paperback)- Robert Hilburn
We had the pleasure of working with Mr. Hilburn when we freelanced for the LA Times several years ago, and the one thing that always struck us about the revered rock critic and editor was his intimatable writing style. If he edited your piece, sometimes it would even end up sounding like him, but it was always for the better. His clean, passionate, descriptive anecdotes infuse this chronicle of an amazing writing career with highlights including watching cartoons with Michael Jackson, hanging with Johnny Cash in Folson Prison and yes, chomping cereal with a Beatle. Out in paperback this year, this is an affordable nugget for rock fans and would-be writers alike.
7. My Appetite For Destruction– Steven Adler
Odes to excess that are really cautionary tales (ala VH1's Behind the Music docs) are a dime a dozen, but the Guns n' Roses mystique makes any book by one of its members a must read. We choose Adler's over Slash's (the guitarist's self-titled release this year tries too hard to be Neil Strauss' Motley Crue book Dirt, accepted as the un-holy grail of sex, drugs and rock n' roll chronicles). Adler's book isn't another boastful self-congratulatory ride through the high-life, but an honest and touching exploration of the downward spiral so many '80's rockstars have endured, sadly of their own doing.
Read Siran Babayan's Q&A with Adler about the book here.
6. De Capo's Best Music Writing 2010– Edited By Ann Powers and Daphne Carr
Somehow, we always end up getting this one in our stocking and we're never disappointed, either. An annual collection of the best music writing from the year previously, the editors — this year pop music expert Powers — always choose a diverse cross-section of pieces. Randall Roberts (LA Times music editor and former LA Weekly music editor) has an engrossing piece on Ozomatli (a cover story for this pub) in here and other article subjects include Merle Haggard, The Gossip, Michael Jackson and “The Decade of Indie,” from Pitchfork, natch.
5. Joan Jett– Todd Oldham
We don't own this one but Rodney Bingenheimer himself told us about it recently. He wondered why it didn't get more attention. The answer, of course, is that bandmate Cherie Curie's book, Neon Angel, was re-released with a new cover from The Runaways movie around the same time (the film was based on it). Todd Oldham is a designer, not a writer, but his keen eye is all over this photo-packed book, which also has several Jett interview excerpts (she was involved in choosing) and an extensive intro from Kathleen Hanna. Fans are still waiting for a proper JJ autobio, but this will do for now.
4. Lick Me- How I Became Cherry Vanilla (by way of the Copacabana, Madison Avenue, the Filmore East, Andy Warhol, David Bowie, and the Police) -Cherry Vanilla
If Dirt is a bombastic blueprint for books about rockstar excess, Pamela Des Barres' I'm With The Band and follow-up, Let's Spend the Night Together, are definitely the tarty templates for tell-all tales of groupie-dom. Miss Vanilla's tome has the juiciness you'd expect from this type of read, but like PDB's books, it provides insight into the music and lifestyle of the writer's “conquests,” her own musical endeavors and the eras in which they occurred.
Read our coverage of the book here.
3. SLUTTY READS TIE:
The Last Living Slut- Born in Iran, Bred Backstage– Roxana Shirazi
Video Slut- How I Shoved Madonna off an Olympic High Dive, Got Prince into a Pair of Tiny Woolen Underpants, Ran Away From Michael Jackson's Dad, and Got a Waterfall to Flow Backward So I Could Bring Rock Videos To The Masses – Sharon Oreck
Shirazi's book is a more graphic, raw recollection than the hearts and flowers musings about the rock god/groupie relationship in the previously mentioned books, but it comes short of sexploitation thanks to its first half chronicling the author's sexual abuse and her restricted childhood growing up in Iran under Muslim law.
Oreck's book is a tell all too, but not of the sexual sort. The music video producer dishes about the divas and dunces she encountered on set and off in the '80's. We really don't have to say any more here, as the ridiculously lengthy sub-title kind of says it all.
Read our coverage of both books here.
2. Just Kids– Patti Smith
Released in January and just out on paperback last month, Patti Smith's heartfelt account of her friendship with controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe is as revealing and poetic as one might expect from the iconic singer and songwriter.
Read Steve Appleford's piece on Patti and the book here.
1. Life – Keith Richards
Was there any doubt that King Keef's long-awaited memoir take the top spot? There's been plenty of books about the legendary Rolling Stones guitarist (we covered one here) but a book by him? It seemed impossible until it actually happened. Like, he actually remembers everything? Maybe that coconut to the head had a positive affect… Admittedly we've yet to pick this one up, mainly because, as a Richards fanatic, we know we'll want to submerge ourselves in it. Still, we've read — as you surely have to — all about it. How Disney was going to dump him from Pirates of the Carribean because of the book's extensive (shocking!?) drug abuse. How Mick was pissed about his portrayal (most notably his small dick, uh, “todger”). How he admitted that he sort of really did snort his dead dad's ashes (some residue from the box happened to mix in with the coke lines on his coffee table… ahhh). Beyond the sensational headlines, though, we're hoping this one provides an intimate glimpse into the greatest rock n' roll band of all time (so you know where we stand on book #10's debate). But even if it doesn't, if it captures an ounce of the rock god's droll intellect, effortless talent and wicked cool, it'll be worth it.