In recent times I have got out of the habit of reading books about music, concentrating instead on history and fiction. However, the arrival of the New Year may persuade me to dust off some of the music-related titles on my shelves. Here are a few of my favourites.
One of the best reference works I have encountered is the fairly monumental AllMusic Guide To Rock, which summarizes the works of a huge diversity of rock, pop and soul artists, giving album ratings as well as brief reviews. Each act is also accorded a brief biography, and there is also an effort to summarize each genre and sub-genre. The sort of book in which to become happily immersed, both to rekindle old tastes and to develop new ones.
As far as scholarly works are concerned, Ian MacDonald's "Revolution In The Head" has a deservedly high reputation. Basically an analysis, song-by-song, of the music of The Beatles, cross-referenced with the social upheavals of the Sixties, it is a riveting read, and it fully merits the acclaim which it has been afforded.
Another Beatles-related book of some import is "The Complete Beatles Chronicle", written by Mark Lewisohn. Meticulously researched, it basically lists, in chronological order and in remarkable detail, what the Fab Four were doing on each day during their career, whether it was a concert, a recording session, a radio show , a television appearance or something else. Lavishly illustrated, this is another engrossing read, and a reminder of just how frenetic the Beatles' schedule was, especially in the period 1962-1964.
Also well worth seeking out is "Waiting For The Sun", a chronicle of the Los Angeles music scene by Barney Hoskyns. It does not just concentrate on the "obvious" artists, but explores the development of various musical sub-cultures, the careers of influential people, and also the changing character of the music industry itself.
As far as biographies are concerned, Johnny Rogan's books out Neil Young and The Byrds are hugely comprehensive and enjoyable. Recommended too are Philip Norman's book about The Rolling Stones, and Barney Hoskyns' work dealing with the story of The Band.
Dave Marsh's "The Heart Of Rock & Soul - The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made" is a strident and thought-provoking work, not for the faint-hearted, but impossible to put down once begun. It probably helped to jolt me out of some of my musical complacency and inertia, even if I didn't agree with all of the author's opinions.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to do some reading....