New Books on Popular Music

Along with biographies, new books on popular music this month offer something unique. How to write about music is essential for those who want to be a music writer whereas The concise guide to hip-hop music offers everything you should know about hip-hop music. As always, a number of biographies have arrived on our shelves which include Billie Holiday (2015 is the centennial of her birth), Neil Young and Alex Chilton. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverHow to write about music : excerpts from the 33 1/3 series, magazines, books and blogs with advice from industry-leading writers / edited by Marc Woodworth and Ally-Jane Grossan.
“How to Write About Music offers a selection of the best writers on what is perhaps our most universally beloved art form. Selections from the critically-acclaimed 33 1/3 series appear alongside new interviews and insights from authors like Lester Bangs, Chuck Klosterman, Owen Pallet, Ann Powers and Alex Ross. How to Write About Music includes primary sources of inspiration from a variety of go-to genres such as the album review, the personal essay, the blog post and the interview along with tips, writing prompts and advice from the writers themselves. How to Write About Music is an invaluable text for all those who have ever dreamed of getting their music writing published and a pleasure for everyone who loves to read about music.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe concise guide to hip-hop music : a fresh look at the art of hip-hop, from old-school beats to freestyle rap / Paul Edwards.
“In 1973, the music scene was forever changed by the emergence of hip-hop. Masterfully blending the rhythmic grooves of funk and soul with layered beats and chanted rhymes, artists such as DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash paved the way for an entire new genre and generation of musicians. In this comprehensive, accessible guide, Paul Edwards breaks down the difference between old school and new school, recaps the biggest influencers of the genre, and sets straight the myths and misconceptions of the artists and their music. Fans old and new alike will all learn something new about the history and development of hip-hop, from its inception up through the current day, in The Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBillie Holiday : the musician and the myth / John Szwed.
“When Billie Holiday stepped into Columbia’s studios in November 1933, it marked the beginning of what is arguably the most remarkable and influential career in twentieth-century popular music. Her voice weathered countless shifts in public taste, and new reincarnations of her continue to arrive, most recently in the form of singers like Amy Winehouse and Adele. Most of the writing on Holiday has focused on the tragic details of her life—her prostitution at the age of fourteen, her heroin addiction and alcoholism, her series of abusive relationships—or tried to correct the many fabrications of her autobiography. But now, Billie Holiday stays close to the music, to her performance style, and to the self she created and put into print, on record and on stage.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Syndetics book coverNaked at the Albert Hall : the inside story of singing / Tracey Thorn.
“In her bestselling autobiography Bedsit Disco Queen , Tracey Thorn recalled the highs and lows of a thirty-year career in pop music. But with the touring, recording and extraordinary anecdotes, there wasn’t time for an in-depth look at what she actually did for all those years: sing. She sang with warmth and emotional honesty, sometimes while battling acute stage-fright. Part memoir, part wide-ranging exploration of the art, mechanics and spellbinding power of singing, Naked at the Albert Hall takes in Dusty Springfield, Dennis Potter and George Eliot; Auto-tune, the microphone and stage presence; The Streets and The X Factor. It offers a unique, witty and sharply observed insider’s perspective on the exhilarating joy and occasional heartache of singing.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverYoung Neil : the Sugar Mountain years / Sharry Wilson.
“Young Neil is a detailed chronological narrative of the early life of iconic Canadian musician Neil Young. Exploring a time in this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s life that has yet to be documented with such depth of research, Young Neil is an exhaustive document of his “Sugar Mountain” years, from 1945 to 1966. From his birth in Toronto through his school years in Florida, Ontario, and Manitoba, the book examines the development of Young’s unique talent against a backdrop of shifting postwar values, a turbulent family history, and a musical revolution in the making. Includes many previously unseen photos, memorabilia, and set lists.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTom Jones : the life / by Sean Smith.
“From bestselling biographer Sean Smith comes the fascinating and tumultuous true story behind Sir Tom Jones, the nation’s treasure, sage of The Voice and living music legend. Now approaching his 75th birthday, Tom Jones’ life has been an unforgettable rollercoaster ride. From starting out in a little Welsh mining town where he married his sweetheart at just 16, who could have known that seven years later he would go on to become a major musical hit that would propel him to Bel Air? Through intimate interviews, Smith uncovers all this and more, including the years Tom spent as little more than a Vegas lounge singer, before being rediscovered in the late ’80s and becoming a maestro on the music scene once again. As revealing as it is entertaining, this is the definitive story of a great talent who is showing no signs of slowing down.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe last balladeer : the Johnny Hartman story / Gregg Akkerman.
“Just after recording with John Coltrane in 1963, baritone singer Johnny Hartman (1923 1983) told a family member that something special occurred in the studio that day. He was right the album, containing definitive readings of Lush Life and My One and Only Love, resides firmly in the realm of iconic; forever enveloping listeners in the sounds of romance. In The Last Balladeer, author Gregg Akkerman skillfully reveals not only the intimate details of that album but the life-long achievements and occasional missteps of Hartman as an African-American artist dedicated to his craft. In the first full-length biography and discography to chronicle the rhapsodic life and music of Johnny Hartman, the author completes a previously missing dimension of vocal-jazz history by documenting Hartman as the balladeer who crooned his way into so many hearts.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRock & roll’s hidden giant : the story of rock pioneer Charlie Gracie / Charlie Gracie with John A. Jackson.
“Charlie Gracie’s hit song “Butterfly” topped the American and British music charts in 1957, selling over three million copies. Charlie was part of the birth of rock & roll, and his unique style influenced some of the most important artists in rock history, including The Beatles, Cliff Richard, Van Morrison, and countless others. Rock & Roll’s Hidden Giant uncovers Charlie’s inspiring story, tracing his rise to the top of the charts through to his fall from fame. From his upbringing on the streets of Philadelphia to the tragic death of his friend Eddie Cochran to experiencing the dark side of Dick Clark and the early days of the music industry, we learn that Charlie’s unfaltering integrity and talent were the constant guides in his life. Rock history would not be the same without Charlie Gracie, and this remarkable, uplifting account is essential for all fans of rock & roll.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA man called destruction : the life and music of Alex Chilton, from Box Tops to Big Star to backdoor man / Holly George-Warren.
“A brilliant and influential songwriter, vocalist and guitarist, the charismatic Alex Chilton was more than a rock star; he was a true cult icon. Award winning music writer Holly George-Warren’s book is the first biography of this enigmatic artist, who died in 2010. Covering Chilton’s life from his early work with the chart-topping Box Tops and the seminal power-pop band Big Star to his experiments with punk and roots music and his sprawling solo career, this is the story of a musical icon and a richly detailed chronicle of pop music’s evolution.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeal : my three decades of drumming, dreams, and drugs with the Grateful Dead / Bill Kreutzmann with Benjy Eisen.
“The Grateful Dead are perhaps the most legendary American rock band of all time. For thirty years, beginning in the hippie scene of San Francisco in 1965, they were a musical institution, the original jam band that broke new ground in so many ways. Bill Kreutzmann, one of their founding members and drummer for every one of their over 2,300 concerts has written an unflinching and wild account of playing in the greatest improvisational band of all time. Everything a rock music fan would expect is here, but what sets this apart is Bill’s incredible life of adventure that was at the heart of the Grateful Dead experience. Bill’s life is a chronicle of American music and pop culture history and his epic personal journey is one of sonic discovery and thrilling experiences.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverJourney to the centre of the Cramps / Dick Porter.
“Based upon work and materials compiled for the acclaimed and now much sought after 2007 Cramps biography A Short History of Rock’n’Roll Psychosis, Journey To The Centre Of The Cramps goes far beyond being a revised and updated edition” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBowie on Bowie : interviews and encounters with David Bowie / edited by Sean Egan.
“Bowie on Bowie presents some of the best interviews David Bowie has granted in his near five-decade career. Each featured interview traces a new step in his unique journey, successively freezing him in time in all of his various incarnations, from a young novelty hit-maker and Ziggy Stardust to plastic soul player, 1980s sell-out, and the artistically reborn and beloved elder statesman of challenging popular music. In all of these iterations he is remarkably articulate and also preternaturally polite as almost every interviewer remarks upon his charm. The features in this book come from outlets both prestigious– Melody Maker, MOJO, New Musical Express, Q, Rolling Stone — and less well-known–t he Drummer, Guitar, Ikon, Mr. Showbiz –but no matter the renown of the magazine, newspaper, or website, Bowie lets us approach the nerve center of his notoriously creative output.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMr Mojo : a biography of Jim Morrison / Dylan Jones.
“In Paris’s Père-Lachaise cemetery, Jim Morrison’s graffiti-scrawled tombstone is a place of pilgrimage for local devotees, adolescent hedonists and wayward backpackers alike. Found dead in his bathtub aged only 27 having achieved worldwide stardom as lead singer of The Doors, Morrison was quickly immortalised amongst the rock and roll deity such as Hendrix and Joplin. In death, however, this debauched ‘rock poet’ remained more stubbornly enigmatic than ever. In this colourful and intimate biography, Dylan Jones strips bare the skin-tight leather suit of Jim Morrison’s Lizard King persona, and offers a frank and honest appraisal of a much beloved and often-romanticised counter-cultural icon. Mr Mojo is littered with little-known anecdotes from fellow stars, spurned lovers and industry moguls. It is a refreshingly honest portrait of a self-indulgent artist with a penchant for pageantry and public self-destruction.” (adapted from amazon.com)

Jack! : celebrating Jack Body, composer / edited by Jennifer Shennan, Gillian Whitehead & Scilla Askew.
“Internationally renowned composer and ethnomusicologist Jack Body is 70 — celebrate his birthday and unswerving commitment to New Zealand music with this beautiful volume. Featuring more than 120 contributions, Jack! is an astounding collection of memories, photos, paintings, art and music from friends and colleagues such as Vincent Ward, Slamet A Sjukur, Geoff Chapple, Martin Lodge, Tan Dun, Charles Te Ahukaramu Royal, Gao Ping, Ian Wedde, Gareth Farr, Budi Putra, Jose Evangelista and Richard Nunns. Woven between the stories is a transcript of Jack’s comprehensive Radio NZ ‘Composer of the Week’ interview with Elizabeth Kerr. A must for lovers of contemporary New Zealand music.”(Syndetics summary)