New books on popular music offer some fascinating studies, including Here She Comes Now (women in the pop music world), Every Song Ever (listening habits in the digital era) and Your Song Changed My Life (songs that have inspired listeners’ lives). The Eurovision Song Contest tells all about this phenomenal event and is fun to read.
Here she comes now : women in music who have changed our lives / edited by Jeff Gordinier and Marc Weingarten.
“Here She Comes Now brings together some of America’s best music writers – such as Susan Choi, recipient of the inaugural PEN / W.G. Sebald award, Daniel Walters, whose credits include the screenplay for Heathers, and Alina Simon, whose novel Note to Self was described as ‘hilarious’ by Amanda Palmer – to explore incredible women in popular music. Often wryly amusing – even occasionally heart-rending – and covering artists from Dolly Parton and Nina Simone to Bjork, Taylor Swift and Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna, this is a feisty celebration of the transformative power of musicians who have truly rocked our world.” (Syndetics summary)
Every song ever : twenty ways to listen in an age of musical plenty / Ben Ratliff.
“What is listening in the digital era? Today, new technologies make it possible for us to roam instantly and experimentally across musical languages and generations, from Detroit techno to jam bands to baroque opera–or to drive deeper into the set of tastes that we already have. Either way, we can listen to nearly anything, at any time. In Every Song Ever, the veteran New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff reimagines the very idea of music appreciation for our times. It is a definitive field guide to our radically altered musical habitat.” (Syndetics summary)
The underground is massive : how electronic dance music conquered America / Michaelangelo Matos.
“Rooted in American techno/house and ’90s rave culture, electronic dance music has evolved into the biggest moneymaker on the concert circuit. The Underground Is Massive charts for the first time the birth and rise of this last great outlaw musical subculture. Full of unique insights, lively details, entertaining stories, dozens of photos, and unforgettable misfits and stars — from early break-in parties to Skrillex and Daft Punk — The Underground Is Massive captures this fascinating trend in American pop culture history, a grassroots movement that would help define the future of music and the modern tech world we live in.” (Syndetics summary)
England’s hidden reverse : a secret history of the esoteric underground : Coil, Current 93, Nurse With Wound / David Keenan.
“Based on several years’ worth of exclusive interviews and unprecedented access to all three bands’ personal archives, this is the first, definitive, biography of Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound. Together, the bands represent the real English underground in all its sexual, cultural and artistic variety. A shadowy scene whose work accents peculiarities of Englishness through the links and affinities they’ve forged with earlier generations of outsiders. The three groups have maintained a symbiotic, yet uneasy relationship with the mainstream of pop culture.” (Syndetics summary)
1966 : the year the decade exploded / Jon Savage.
“The pop world accelerated and broke through the sound barrier in 1966. In America, in London, in Amsterdam, in Paris, revolutionary ideas slow-cooking since the late ’50s reached boiling point. A unique chemistry of ideas, substances, freedom of expression and dialogue across pop cultural continents created a landscape of immense and eventually shattering creativity. After 1966 nothing in the pop world would ever be the same. Jon Savage’s 1966 is a monument to the year that shaped the pop future of the balance of the century.” (Syndetics summary)
The secret life of the American musical : how Broadway shows are built / Jack Viertel.
“For almost thirty years, Jack Viertel has been a major figure in the Broadway theater world–he’s helped create shows like Hairspray, Angels in America, and Into the Woods; served as dramaturg of the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles; and is currently senior vice president of Jujamcyn Theaters, which host such shows as The Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys. The book draws on a range of examples–from Carousel to Wicked , The Music Man to The Book of Mormon –and personal encounters to paint a picture of how Broadway musicals are made, from opening numbers to finales.” (Syndetics summary)
The Eurovision Song Contest : the official celebration / John Kennedy O’Connor.
“A nostalgic and resplendent official celebration of the Eurovision Song Contest. The fun and the feuds, the high points, the dismal lows, the scandals, the most outrageous outfits, the innovators, and the copy cats, this glorious book captures the singular flavor of Eurovision, charting its journey from the first competition in 1956–just seven entrants, broadcast from a tiny venue in Switzerland with a studio audience of 200–to the international extravaganza watched by millions of viewers that it has become today.” (Syndetics summary)
Goodnight and good riddance : how 35 years of John Peel helped to shape modern Britain / David Cavanagh.
“How Thirty-Five Years of John Peel Helped to Shape Modern Britain is a social history, a diary of a nation’s changing culture — a man who can legitimately be called the most influential figure in post-war British popular music. Without the support of John Peel, it’s unlikely that innumerable artists — from David Bowie to Dizzee Rascal, Jethro Tull to Joy Division — would have received national radio exposure. But Peel’s influence goes much deeper than this. Just like a Peel show, Good Night and Good Riddance is warm, informative and insightful, and wears its enthusiasm proudly.” (Syndetics summary)
Maybe I’m doing it wrong : the life & music of Randy Newman / David & Caroline Stafford.
“Rich with biographical notes and key background facts, Maybe I’m Doing It Wrong explores the more unlikely topics and characters to be found in Randall Stuart Newman’s inimitable songs. Though he once wrote catchy pop songs covered by Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and Joe Cocker, it was his own albums that introduced the world to a haunting musical sensibility inclined to veer between irony and romanticism, self-deprecating humour and joyous celebration.” (Syndetics summary)
Hamilton : the revolution : being the complete libretto of the Broadway musical, with a true account of its creation, and concise remarks on hip-hop, the power of stories, and the new America / by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter.
“Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country’s origins for a diverse new generation. It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don’t throw away their shot.” (Syndetics summary)
Your song changed my life : from Jimmy Page to St. Vincent, Smokey Robinson to Hozier, thirty-five beloved artists on their journey and the music that inspired it / Bob Boilen.
“From the beloved host and creator of NPR’s All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts comes an essential oral history of modern music, told in the voices of iconic and up-and-coming musicians, including Dave Grohl, Jimmy Page, Michael Stipe, Carrie Brownstein, Smokey Robinson, and Jeff Tweedy, among others–published in association with NPR Music. Is there a unforgettable song that changed your life? NPR’s renowned music authority Bob Boilen posed this question to some of today’s best-loved musical legends and rising stars.” (Syndetics summary)
Complicated game : inside the songs of XTC / Andy Partridge and Todd Bernhardt.
“Complicated Game offers unique insight into the work of XTC founder Andy Partridge, one of Britain’s most original and influential songwriters. It is also an unprecedentedly revealing and instructive guide to how songs and records are made. This fascinating book also includes pages from Partridge’s songwriting notebooks and reproductions of his original artwork designs; a guided tour of his hometown of Swindon; and a foreword by Steven Wilson, the guitarist, songwriter, and record producer best known as the founder and leader of Porcupine Tree.” (Syndetics summary)
Delta lady : a memoir / Rita Coolidge ; with Michael Walker.
“The two-time Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter bares her heart and soul in this intimate memoir, a story of music, stardom, love, family, heritage, and resilience. She inspired songs–Leon Russell wrote “A Song for You” and “Delta Lady” for her. She co-wrote songs–“Superstar” and the piano coda to “Layla,” uncredited. She sang backup for Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Stills, before finding fame as a solo artist with such hits as “We’re All Alone”. Following her story from Lafayette, Tennessee to becoming one of the most sought after rock vocalists in LA in the 1970s, Delta Lady chronicles Rita Coolidge’s fascinating journey throughout the ’60s-’70s pop/rock universe.” (Syndetics summary)
Lives of the poets (with guitars) : thirteen outsiders who changed modern music / Ray Robertson.
“Lives of the Poets (with Guitars) picks up where Samuel Johnson left off nearly 250 years ago, collecting biographical and critical portraits of 13 of rock & roll, blues, folk, and alt-country’s most inimitable artists. These often irreverent essays offer a riotous, toe-tapping and original take on how each musician shaped their genre, while looking into their tumultuous lives.” (Syndetics summary)