The Gift Guide
Rockin' reads 2010 and other delights
Published: November 24, 2010
The one Beatles book of recent interest is The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones: Sound Opinions on the Great Rock 'n' Roll Rivalry by Chicago scribes Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kott (Voyageur Press, $35), although its very premise has always seemed a bogus debate in the first place. When I was a kid, my friends and I just loved rock 'n' roll in general, which meant we loved both the Beatles and the Stones. It wasn't an either-or proposition, although even Quentin Tarantino has confused the issue over time. Nevertheless, the book, which takes the form of the duo's long-running Sound Opinions music debate radio program, makes some interesting points, giving plenty of credence to both sides of the argument (though it could've exploited the historical detail of the bands' longtime mutual friendship, camaraderie and even collaboration more than it does).
Macca's got two new biographies this year — Peter Carlin's Paul McCartney: A Life (Touchstone, $15.99) and Howard Sounes' more exhaustive Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney (Da Capo, $29.95). Carlin's leaner tome is more a fan appreciation, similar to his reverent but mostly astute Brian Wilson bio a few years back, while former Dylan biographer Sounes gives his subject more of a warts-and-all treatment at nearly twice the pages. Both, however, can get behind Heather Mills being a nasty wench. "She's just awful," proclaims Ringo in the Carlin book. Meanwhile, two longtime L.A. power-"pop geeks" examine the legacy of John Lennon via John Borack's memorabilia-filled Life Is What Happens (Krause Books, $26.99) and Ken Sharp's Starting over: The Making of Double Fantasy (MTV Books, $26.99).
Dylan got two worthy books as well. Shawn Wilentz's Bob Dylan in America (Doubleday, $28.95) is one of the best Dylan think-piece collections in ages, featuring the finest account of the recording of Blonde on Blonde to date. Bob Dylan: Writings 1968-2010 by Greil Marcus (Public Affairs, $29.95) collects work from various publications and websites by one of the world's foremost Dylanologists whose obsession dates back to first seeing a "scruffy-looking guy with a guitar" sing a few songs at a Joan Baez show in 1963 ("I was just shit," Zimmy tells Marcus afterward, when the young college student approaches the aspiring bard). Said obsession then manifested itself via, among other things, one of the most infamous record reviews in history ("What is this shit?" began Marcus' critique of Self Portrait) as well as some of the more insightful reflections on the mystery and majesty that are and have been Robert Zimmerman.
MORE BIOS: Motown biographer Mark Ribowsky offers the same excellent, in-depth exploration he gave the Supremes last year in Ain't Too Proud To Beg: The Troubled Lives & Enduring Soul of the Temptations (Wiley, $25.95) and a less explored life in Signed, Sealed & Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder (Wiley, $27.95). Andrew Earle's Hüsker Dü (Voyageur Press, $24) explores the career of the Minneapolis noise-pop pioneers, paving the way for Bob Mehr's upcoming Replacements history. Patti Smith's beautiful and poignant Just Kids (Ecco, $17.95), which was covered extensively in MT earlier this year, recently garnered a well-deserved National Book Award in nonfiction. And MT's own Brett Callwood revised and republished his MC5: Sonically Speaking — A Tale of Revolution and Rock 'n' Roll (Wayne State University Press, $19.95) in 2010. Neil Young: Long May You Run, An Illustrated History by Gary Graff and Daniel Durcholz (Voyageur, $30) is a visual treat for Shakey fans. Tommy James' Me, The Mob & The Music: One Helluva Ride With Tommy James & the Shondells (Scribner, $25) not only tells the story of one of America's most underrated pop-rock artists of the '60s, but also the story of the gangster model for music mogul Hesh Rabkin on The Sopranos. Scorsese and De Niro are very interested! Speaking of which, James Kaplan's Sinatra: The Voice (Doubleday, $35) is one of the most ambitious bios of its subject to date. Robert Hofler's Party Animals; A Hollywood Tale of Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n Roll (Da Capo, $15.95), which explores the rise and fall of Alan Carr, the man behind Grease as well as the most disastrous Academy Awards show in history, is a decadent delight. And Rosanne Cash's Composed: A Memoir (Viking, $26.95) is just the feisty delight you'd expect from this true chip off the old block, who recently called John Boehner an "asshat" on Twitter for co-opting the name of her late father.
COFFEETABLE BOOKS: Steve Kasher's Max's Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll (Abrams, $24.95) certainly takes the prize here, encapsulating the famed countercultural hub which helped give birth to punk and various magnificently "decadent" art scenes. The black-and-white photos are terrific — one wishes there were twice as many — with words from the wonderful Danny Fields, Lou Reed and Lenny Kaye. Beautiful. Rick Meyerowitz's Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers & Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great (Abrams, $40) is exactly what its title promises. Although it can only skim the surface of that great publication, it will remind of a time when comedy, rock 'n' roll and counterculture were basically one, with a resultant humor that may have been vicious but never mean-spirited. Music by Andrew Zuckerman (Abrams, $40), features photos of subjects ranging from Ozzy Osbourne to Kid Rock and their various thoughts on the nature of music. And Ask the Angels: Photographs by Donna Santisi (Mixed Sources/Kill Your Idols, $29) is a black-and-white collection of the ace LA punk scene lens gal's shots of legends and hangers-on from the still innocent mid-to-late '70s.
> Email Bill Holdship