We asked Chris Morris, author of Los Lobos: Dream In Blue, if he had any favorite music biographies or books he had read recently that he’d like to recommend.
"I read books about music as much for their style and voice as I do for the information they impart," Morris said. "It has to work as writing, or it isn’t worth a damn.” Here's some picks from Chris that are worth a damn...
The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones
by Stanley Booth
“Booth had full access to the Stones on their 1969 tour, which climaxed with the catastrophic free gig at Altamont. For those facts alone this would be a significant book. But Booth also digs deep into the band’s history, and ratchets back and forth between the past and the then-present; Brian Jones is the real hero/martyr of the work. Booth has a distinctive narrative voice and a keen eye and ear. Moreover, this is a great work of personal journalism, right up there with Hunter S. Thompson’s best stuff. Fifteen years elapsed between the events the book takes in and its publication, but it’s so immediate that everything in it feels like happened yesterday. I try to re-read this every year or two. I think it’s the best book ever written about a rock band.”
Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties
by Ian MacDonald
“Analytical track-by-track books have become vin ordinaire, but MacDonald’s 1994 take on the Great Canon is a vintage to be prized. The late, brilliant English critic displays his wide-ranging knowledge of rock and cultural history, and he has the tools to explicate the Fabs’ writing and playing – his other tome was a study of Shostakovich. Here’s the mark of great critical writing: Even when you disagree with him – and I frequently do, at times violently – his makes his points so forcefully and intelligently that you can’t completely dismiss them. Excepting Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Chronicle, this is the only Beatles book I couldn’t live without.”
Feel Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll
by Peter Guralnick
“Guralnick, who may be my greatest inspiration as a writer, has never penned anything less than a great book, but I’ll thump for the one that introduced him. This 1971 collection of short pieces intimately embraces the music of some magnificent artists – Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Skip James, Johnny Shines, Charlie Rich – in glowing, heartfelt profiles, and offers loving hip-pocket histories of the Sun and Chess labels. The writing has great heart, and Guralnick is an ardent, sensitive observer. He’s the most soulful music journalist I know, and he’s written a whole shelf of essential books. Readers should begin with this and its equally estimable 1979 successor Lost Highway. But he hasn’t written a page that isn’t worth reading.”
“Tosches is my favorite among the original wild-man rockcrits (pace Bangs and Meltzer), and these two books kick serious ass. I can’t choose between them. Country is a sordid, idiosyncratic look at the genre that mixes arcane fact and appalling fiction, and its description of a 1973 session for Jerry Lee Lewis’ album Southern Roots is the most outrageous and uproarious piece of rock journalism I can think of. The writer topped this crazed opus with Hellfire, an impossibly demented bio that remains the only essential work about its subject, despite its age. Also worth anyone’s while: Tosches’ epic Dean Martin study Dino.”
“This cuckoo 1995 ‘field guide,’ the first volume ever on the genre, is the work of the former front man of the Liverpool punk group the Teardrop Explodes. Copey is quite a piece of work, and what is probably significant drug-related brain damage contributes mightily to the flavor of this hyper-enthusiastic trawl through avant-garde German rock. It’s uproariously funny (as is his lunatic 1995 band memoir Head-On and his wacked-out 2007 sequel on Nipponese music, Japrocksampler), and even the most questionable opinions are delivered with an irresistible fervor. The thing has been out of print for an eternity. My younger son has been trying to convince me to give him my copy for years. He will get it when I die. Someone, I forget who, also sent me a copy of the book in German. I can’t read German, but I’m gonna keep it.”
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