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Johnny Rogan’s Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance
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Johnny Rogan’s Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance

There has always been one book on the Smiths that has been revered above all others, and that was Johnny Rogan’s early 1990s book Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance. I first bought a copy of this book in the late 1990s and devoured the information contained therein. In particular, it offered a nice background into the upbringing and pre-Smiths years of the four band members, especially the mysterious and aloof Morrissey. It was also the book that prompted Morrissey himself to wish death upon author Johnny Rogan without having even read the book, famously saying in the pages of the musical papers: “Personally I hope Johnny Rogan ends his days very soon in an M3 pile-up.”

Texas Radio, The Big Beat, Nixon and Steve Canyon: Greil Marcus’ The Doors
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Texas Radio, The Big Beat, Nixon and Steve Canyon: Greil Marcus’ The Doors

In “The Doors,” Marcus tries to draw the same sort of wild connections between the music and various strands of culture as he did for Dylan and The Band with “Invisible Republic.” This time instead of casting back into history for obscure antecedents he projects the songs outward into their psycho-historical context of the rapidly morphing popular culture of the last half of the 20th century.

Sean Wilentz’s 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story
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Sean Wilentz’s 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story

Considerable pages and much explicatory jiu-jitsu are devoted to black artists. Columbia Records is busily patting itself on the back for its promotion of “race records” back when it wasn’t fashionable to do so. I doubt Columbia was any better than the rest of them about rewarding the artists whom they were exploiting, so their virtuous self-regard is disingenuous. Especially when they somehow fit Al Jolson in blackface in with their African-American roster of talent.

Isle of Wight ’69 Revisited: Ray Foulk’s Stealing Dylan From Woodstock
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Isle of Wight ’69 Revisited: Ray Foulk’s Stealing Dylan From Woodstock

Even though the Woodstock festival took place some seventy miles away in Bethel, New York, promoter Michael Lang made a deliberate effort to name the event Woodstock for two reasons: he wanted to use the town’s name and notoriety as Dylan’s hideaway to attract attention to his festival, and he hoped to entice Dylan out of seclusion to return to the stage at the event.

Ringo Starr’s Photograph
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Ringo Starr’s Photograph

Since the Beatles all first got their own cameras around 1963/1964, Ringo has had an interest in photography and has taken scores of photos for his personal enjoyment. In 2013, he decided to open up his archives and release a collection through Apple’s iBooks as well as an extremely limited edition hardcover book containing his pictures.

Joel Selvin’s Altamont: The Rolling Stones, Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day
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Joel Selvin’s Altamont: The Rolling Stones, Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day

You will be missing the mark if you draw your conclusion of the 1969 Altamont concert and its cultural significance from Gimme Shelter — which is clearly a Stones’ concert movie. While the movie captured the mayhem that ultimately brought more notoriety to the event, movie and Stones’ tour, it is certainly not the vehicle to gain an unbiased way to define a cultural movement or assess the innocence or guilt of anyone involved in the staging of a concert that was bound to unravel into murder and death. For anyone who wants to know more, this book delivers.

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