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Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 6:03 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Viv's autobiog' made me think what are the best books written by musicians? I don't mean ghosted or "as told to" but actually written by them. Apparently Ian McLagan's is pretty good but I've yet to read it. I do rate James Young's book Nico: Songs They Never Play On The Radio very highly, this book gives an idea of what it's like to be on the road (and off) with a faded icon. He's a very funny writer - who would have thought "funny" and Nico go together? But they do when Young describes her behaviour.

Horace Panter's Ska'd For Life is also excellent - he chronicles The Specials rise and fall without gossip or malice and really gives a sense of what it is like to be in a touring band. I'm sure there are lots - what are your favourites?

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 7:08 pm
by Jamie Renton
Are you familiar with the writings of Wesley Stace AKA singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding? His novel By George set in the world of British light entertainment in the 1930s and 70s, is very enjoyable (thanks to NormanD for recommending it).

I also get a kick out of the comic detective stories of Kinky Friedman, although I'll happily admit that their plots are negligible and jokes recycled.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 7:21 pm
by Chris P
Garth Cartwright wrote: I do rate James Young's book Nico: Songs They Never Play On The Radio very highly


yes, a truly funny, creased up and laugh aloud at times, read indeed. I wonder what his book Moscow Mule is like, anyone tried it?

I was looking at the Wesley Stace books available online earlier today (in the wake of the Cecil Sharp House gig with Shirley Collins and many others that he arranged - wish I could have gone). Has anyone read Wonderkid set in the world of rock n roll?

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 7:55 pm
by Adam Blake
No question: "Mr Jelly Roll" by Jelly Roll Morton, as told to Alan Lomax.
Also very fond of "In His Own Right" by John Lennon.
"Life" by Keith Richards is too long but entertaining nonetheless.
"Miles - The Autobiography" as dictated by Miles Davis to Quincy Troupe is a hilarious and scurrilous memoir, as is "Owning Up" by George Melly.
"X-Ray" by Ray Davies is one of the best - up there with the James Young Nico book.
"Beneath The Underdog" by Charles Mingus is quite a page turner.
Actually there are lots.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:12 pm
by Chris P
Mezz Mezzrow's Really the Blues is the standout example that springs to mind

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 12:26 am
by AndyM
Books written ABOUT musicians would also be interesting (as we should no more expect musicians to research, write decent prose, etc than we should expect authors to bash out a trombone solo). In that category, David Sheppard's biography of Brian Eno is pretty fantastic.

But if we're sticking to BY, I have to put in a vote for Boy George's 'Take It Like A Man' -- witty, scurrilous, score-settling, tender, revealing, muck-raking & a very good social history of a certain slice of London queerness.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2015 11:46 pm
by David Flower
No question about it. Artie Shaw's 'the trouble with Cinderella'. The most extraordinary musician's life ever.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 7:51 am
by Kari Salonen
Well, Greg Kihn might also be a contender. The leader of Greg Kihn Band and one time Beserkley Records artist has also written a horror novel called, well, Horror Show, a murder mystery novel Rubber Soul (revolving around The Beatles) and edited Carved in Rock, short stories by rock musicians (including Pete Townsend, Graham Parker, Joan Jett - and Ray Davies).
I've only read Horror Show, but the others might be entertaining too.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 1:41 pm
by Garth Cartwright
I did like the boy George autobio - enough to buy his follow up Straight. But I've never got around to reading it: is it any good?

Jelly Roll Morton's "as told to" Mr Jelly Roll is maybe my favourite music book of all time. Another great "told to" book is Honeyboy Edwards' The World Owes Me Nothing. Great memory and anecdotes from the 1920s-90s.

Oddly, no one has mentioned Patti's Just Kids - won a Pulitzer! - and David Byrne's book on music (tho Dave Flower mentioned this on the TV post). I liked Just Kids and look forward to the next edition. Not read Byrne's book but I'm sure it is of interest. These days I'd rather read books by these 2 than hear any new music they issue. Same for Dylan - Chronicles started really well in NYC 1961 then got a bit dull. Actually, I never finished it. But I'd still rather read Bob these days than listen to his new albums.

Of all the David Ritz "as told to" books I've read Etta James is the best - she seems to hold nothing back and lived a truly insane life.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 3:05 pm
by Adam Blake
David Flower wrote:No question about it. Artie Shaw's 'the trouble with Cinderella'. The most extraordinary musician's life ever.


I tried so hard to find that book for my mother who loved it and lost her copy. It was out of print and unavailable anywhere in the 80s and 90s. Has it been reprinted since? You're quite right, it is a superb memoir, but for my taste I prefer the Jelly Roll Morton book.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 3:36 pm
by Jamie Renton
Garth Cartwright wrote:Of all the David Ritz "as told to" books I've read Etta James is the best - she seems to hold nothing back and lived a truly insane life.


Agreed. The Ray Charles one is pretty good too.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:18 pm
by john poole
Chronicles Vol.1 would definitely be towards the top of my list, despite the one long chapter detailing the making of an album that few, I would imagine, would consider one of his more interesting. No sign yet of Volumes 2 & 3, or the other books forming the six book deal that Bob secured four years ago.

I liked Patti’s book about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, although at least one person who used to visit here was less enthusiastic.
viewtopic.php?f=44&t=13886

All the Rage by Ian McLagan now seems to go for silly prices, but worth borrowing from the library if you can. Would justify a reprinting.

Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace is probably not for the unconverted, part autobiography, part diary, part whatever was one his mind that day, what else would you expect from Neil? I enjoyed it a lot.

Certainly Ray Davies; I wasn’t entirely sure about the “unauthorised autobiography” concept for X-Ray, but liked his most recent (Americana) about his, and the Kinks relationship with the US.

Black by Design by Pauline Black, recommended for all who liked Viv and Tracey’s books.

Two that I enjoyed despite previously not having followed their musical careers to any great extent, Simple Dreams by Linda Ronstadt and Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett (of Eels).

Keith’s Life Itself was certainly “as told to” and most of his best stories I first read in his 1971 Rolling Stone interview with Robert Greenfield, but I would certainly add another vote to Owning Up by George Melly, one I have gone back to re-read at least a couple of times over the years.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:30 pm
by Alan Balfour
Humph Lyttelton's I Play As I Please: The Memoirs of an Old Etonian Trumpeter (McGibbon & Kee 1957) is entertaining, witty and drawings by the author. His death probably spawned a reprint.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 2:44 pm
by Paul S
I'm a sucker for books by musicians.
Just finished Graham Nash's "Wild Tales". A recommended read. Interesting to hear how and why he left The Hollies.

Others written by musicians that spring to mind;
Earl Palmer: Backbeat
Tracey Thorne: Bedsit Disco Queen
James Fearnley: Here Comes Everybody: The Story of the Pogues
Giles Smith: Lost In Music

I'd forgotten about 'Owning Up'. I'm going to dig that out of the cupboard and re-read it.

Re: Books Written By Musicians

PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:00 pm
by Adam Blake
Oh, oh! "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya -The Story of Jazz as Told by the Men who Made it" by Nat Shapiro is a wonderful book. Apart from anything else it contains the only historical account of the birth of the noble art of Tour Managing.