We recently spoke to Richard Houghton, author of the new book You Had To Be There: The Rolling Stones 1962-69, which collects fan's remembrances from those early Stones concerts. We asked Houghton if he had any favorite music biographies or books and if he had read any recently that he’d like to recommend. Here’s what's on Richard's bookshelf...
I’m a big reader of music biographies and will read things that don’t necessarily reflect the type of music I listen to. So I’d recommend Rod Stewart’s Rod: The Autobiography for its candour, even though it’s a little bit lightweight in places and I wouldn’t really listen to anything Rod has released since about 1978. It suffers from the same faults as many autobiographies, music or otherwise, in that it focuses on his childhood and the pre fame days and skips through the post Atlantic Crossing years to arrive at the present day and so large parts of his career are not covered in any detail. In that sense it is something of an incomplete history, but perhaps when the Cristal champagne is flowing and the powders are being passed around it’s hard to remember all those details thirty or forty years later.
Another book I’d highly recommend is Route 19 Revisited: The Clash And London Calling. Having so many pages devoted to one album makes it sound like it could be quite heavy going, but for anyone who’s a fan of The Clash and saw them in their prime, as I did, this is a great read. You cannot fault the detail and of course many of the main protagonists were still around in 2011 to tell the tale.
I also liked Chris Salewicz’s Joe Strummer: Redemption Song as he’s obviously researched his subject in great detail and taken the time to track down quite a few people who knew Strummer from his pre Clash days.
A slightly off beat choice is Eric Goulden’s A Dsyfunctional Success: The Wreckless Eric Manual. This came out in 2003 and I picked it up in my local Oxfam shop recently as it was published by a small independent publisher and I missed it at the time. Wreckless Eric was signed to Stiff Records and had a big hit with "Whole Wide World." He had fame and then a big problem with alcohol and I read this book in two sittings. It’s very rare that I devour a book so quickly but it really was a good read.
Other things I’ve read recently include Iron Man by Tony Iommi, the guitarist with Black Sabbath, and Rupert von Lowenstein’s A Prince Amongst Stones. I thought the latter might provide more juicy stories than it actually contained, particularly as Prince Rupert was responsible for organising the Rolling Stones tax affairs for many years and Mick Jagger was apparently very anxious about its publication.
As a Rolling Stones fan I’ve got over two hundred books about the Stones and there are some great books in there as well as some salacious cut and paste jobs that don’t really add anything to the canon.
The ‘must reads’ including Bill Wyman’s A Stone Alone, although frustratingly that only goes up to 1971 and so he has the story of another 22 years with the Stones that he has yet to tell. A Stone Alone got some criticism at the time for Bill’s habit of noting what his bank balance was at the time and for the way he tallied up the number of women he’d slept with as though he was keeping score at a cricket match, but it’s still a fascinating document.
Keith Richards’ Life is another essential tome for anyone wanting to read about the Stones, I’d avoid buying the audio book, though. I was given that as a Christmas present and the opening three chapters are voiced by Johnny Depp doing a passable impression of Keith. But Johnny must then have been offered something a bit more lucrative and someone else voices the rest, which makes it feel a bit cheap in terms of the production. It’s a shame Keith didn’t feel inclined to do it himself.
Of other Stones books I have two favourites. Barbara Charone’s Keith Richards caught up with Keith around the time of his Toronto bust and intercuts contemporaneous events with a history of the band. Charone was obviously blessed with having exclusive access to Keith at a time when it looked like he could end up in prison for heroin trafficking, and that’s what makes the book. Keith obviously felt he could open up to her too, which is reflected in the fact that she went on to become his business manager.
But my all time favourite is Roy Carr’s Illustrated Record. It was an LP format book that was published in 1976 and contained a lot of facsimiles of tickets, posters, etc as well as copies of press clippings to accompany the photos and commentary on the band. There’s a lot of material in there that now is widely available to view on the Internet but at the time was quite ground-breaking.
I’m still to read Paul Trynka’s Brian Jones: The Making Of The Rolling Stones but it has received good reviews and it’s in my ‘to read’ pile.
To be honest, I think the definitive Stones biography has yet to be written. I’d like to read it when it comes out!
#richardhoughton #therollingstones #rodstewart #theclash #joestrummer #wrecklesseric #stiffrecords #tonyiommi #backsabbath #keithrichards #brianjones #authorpicks