For many people, summer is the perfect time to kick back, relax, and read. However, finding worthwhile books about music can be extremely difficult. There are countless unauthorized biographies and boring memoirs that add nothing to what you could probably find on wikipedia. So, instead of reading some misogynistic macho garbage like Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt, here are some great books written by or about musicians from every genre you could possibly think of, that will make for some great summer reading this year.
Yarm’s oral history of grunge tells the story of the genre that dominated 90’s rock music as told by the very people who helped create it. The book interviews members of bands ranging from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Sound Garden to Dwarves, Melvins, and Mudhoney. This volume is a truly unique coverage of the genre, and perfectly captures the atmosphere of Seattle’s grunge scene, and the national explosion following the popularity of Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. This is a must read for grunge fans still rocking flannel shirts and cut up jeans. Further Reading: Kurt Cobain Journals, a collection of Cobain’s handwritten notes, lyric sheets, drawings, and thoughts on life, death, and everything in between. A truly fascinated read.
Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
If you’ve ever watched Jimmy Fallon’s late night program, you’ve probably heard of The Roots. Founded by frontman Black Thought and musician Questlove, The Roots are one of the biggest hip-hop groups in history, and music guru Questlove’s reflection on life and hip-hop is a fantastic read for both huge rap fans and those who’ve never even heard a single track off The Chronic. Questlove provides both a memoir AND a comprehensive guide to the history of rap music, starting with Stevie Wonder’s 1971 record Music of My Mind and finishing up with Kanye West and Frank Ocean, filling in a whole genre’s history in between. Further Reading: The Wu-Tang Manual by The RZA, a detailed guide to everything related to the Wu-Tang clan, whether it be music, kung-fu films, comic books, or chess. The book also include detailed breakdowns of some of the Wu’s most popular tracks, with notes explaining specific lines and rhymes.
American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Steven Blush
Before Suicide Silence, The Devil Wears Prada, A Day To Remember, and Senses Fail, there was Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Suicidal Tendencies and Misfits. American Hardcore is an oral history of the violent genre that shaped today’s scene. This book brings you into the circle pits and fist fights that shaped early hardcore in America. Blush covers everything from Hardcore’s punk roots, to it’s demise at the hands of drug overdoses, suicides, musical disputes, and Heavy Metal. American Hardcore brings you right into the chaos of the early 80’s hardcore scene, and provides first hand accounts of the basment shows, police brutality, and utter madness that was hardcore. Further Reading: Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & The Truth About Reality by Brad Warner, a great little book about how hardcore music and Godzilla can help bring you inner peace, straight from the mouth of a punk-rocker-turned-zen-guru.
Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult by Dayal Patterson
Admittedly not for everyone, Black Metal covers the most extreme genre in the history of all music. This giant volume is perfect for everyone from Black Metal fanatics and kvlt elitists to those who have no idea what the hell a Gorgoroth is. Dayal Patterson shows off his true expertise of the genre with this massive volume, carefully examining early releases, demo tapes, and records from the most obscure projects like Von and Master’s Hammer to the black metal titans like Mayhem and Darkthrone. This is a truly stellar read for anyone with even the tiniest bit of interest in extreme music. Further Reading: Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan & Didrik Søderland. Although this reads more like a true-crime book, it covers the truly evil acts committed by some of the members of the early black metal scene, and proves that this music is not for the faint of heart.
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