Music books in this section include classical, jazz and blues, punk, and rock, with both general histories and biographies of particular performers. If you look closely you can guess who our favourite artists might be…
If you can't find what you are after, please contact us via our enquiries page.
The age of the rock star, like the age of the cowboy, has passed. Like the cowboy, the idea of the rock star lives on in our imaginations. In Uncommon People, David Hepworth zeroes in on defining moments and turning points in the lives of forty rock stars from 1955 to 1995, taking us on a journey to burst a hundred myths and create a hundred more. As this tribe of uniquely motivated nobodies went about turning themselves into the ultimate somebodies, they also shaped us, our real lives and our fantasies.
Tex Perkins is an embodiment of rock'n'roll. He has the swagger, presence and indomitable attitude that comes with three decades of fronting some of Australia's most intense and spirited rock'n'roll bands - The Cruel Sea, The Beasts Of Bourbon, Tex, Don & Charlie, Dark Horses, Thug, The Ladyboyz and many other projects, including performing as Johnny Cash in the acclaimed Man In Black theatre show. His take-no-prisoner approach to performance comes with the sensibility of an artist committed to the subtle (and often unsubtle) nuances of his craft. Throw in an astonishing voice full of power and depth, mix it with a dry and sardonic sense of humour and what emerges is the reason there is only one Tex Perkins.
Born to Run
Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs. He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as "The Big Bang": seeing Elvis Presley's debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song "Born to Run" reveals more than we previously realized.
Grant & I
The Go-Betweens, one of Australia's most talented and influential bands, very nearly wasn't. Grant McLennan didn't want to be in a group, and couldn't even play an instrument. That didn't stop the singer-songwriter duo of Forster/McLennan becoming one of the most acclaimed partnerships in Australian music history. Just as The Go-Betweens always defied categorisation, Grant & I is like no other rock memoir. At its heart is a privileged insight into a prolific artistic collaboration that lasted three decades, and an extraordinary friendship that rode out the band's break-up to remain strong until Grant's premature death in 2006.
Legendary songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed passed away on the 27th October 2013, but his musical influence is assured. Now discover the true story of the Velvet Underground pioneer in this update of Bockris's classic biography.Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story follows the great songwriter and singer through the series of transformations that define each period of his fifty year career. Rippling underneath everything he did are Lou's relationships with his various muses, from his college sweetheart to his three wives (and one drag queen). Leading Lou Reed biographer, Victor Bockris - who knew Lou throughout the Rachel Years, from Rock ‘n' Roll Animal to the Bells - updates his original biography in the wake of Lou's death.
Robbie Robertson's singular contributions to popular music have made him one of the most beloved songwriters and guitarists of his time. With songs like 'The Weight', 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' and 'Up on Cripple Creek', he and his partners in the Band fashioned a music that has endured for decades, influencing countless musicians. In this captivating memoir, written over five years of reflection, Robbie employs his unique storyteller's voice to weave together the journey that led him to some of the most pivotal events in music history.
Another Little Piece of My Heart
In 1961, Richard Goldstein saw Bob Dylan perform for the first time at Carnegie Hall. Rock music was in its infancy, and revolution was in the air. Criticism of the genre didn't yet exist but, as it began to change music and politics for ever, the serious discussion of rock became a thriving institution. Aged just twenty-two in 1966, and the first rock critic in New York, Goldstein became a pivotal figure in the industry. Forging close relationships with huge names - Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson and Janis Joplin to name just three - his life became a whirlwind of politics, sex and rock and roll. Another Little Piece of My Heart is an unparalleled document of rock and revolution.
Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division
This is the rollercoaster story of Joy Division - the friendships, fights, fall-outs; the rehearsals and recording sessions; the larger than life characters - told by the band's legendary bassist, Peter Hook.
The Sick Bag Song
The Sick Bag Song is an exploration of love, inspiration and memory shaped around the events of Cave's 2014 tour of North America. It began life scribbled on airline sick bags during the 22-city tour. It soon grew into a restless full-length contemporary epic. Spurred by encounters with modern day North America, and racked by romantic longing and exhaustion, Cave teases out the significant moments, the people, the books and the music that have influenced and inspired him.
Reckless Daughter: A Joni Mitchell Anthology
Joni Mitchell has only visited the U.S. Top 40 singles chart four times in her long recording career - and the Top 20 just once. So much for "stoking the starmaker machinery behind the popular song", as she sang in her 1974 song 'Free Man in Paris'. What Joni has done, on the other hand, is record a handful of masterful albums - Blue, Court And Spark, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns for starters - that prove she is right up there with the big boys: Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and Stevie Wonder. Some of Mitchell's songs are great art. Almost all are emotionally complex and musically gripping. Reckless Daughter collects some of the most incisive commentary on Joni's music - and some of the most candid conversations she has had with journalists through her long career.
Today, Billie Holiday is an icon - an artist whose voice has weathered countless shifts in public taste, and whose impact on contemporary music is unquestionable. But when eighteen-year-old Billie Holiday stepped into Columbia studios in November of 1933 to record 'Riffin' the Scotch' and 'Your Mother's Son-in-Law', no one could predict the sensation that was about to emerge; marking the beginning of what is arguably the most remarkable and important career in twentieth-century popular music. Drawing on revelatory new material, including unpublished memoirs and interviews, Billie Holiday is the first account to consider the singer as an artist, her influences, her uncanny voice and rhythmic genius, and her legacy.
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock n' Roll
Sam Phillips, born in rural Alabama, 1923 the youngest son of a large family living in a remote colony called the Lovelace Community. From these unprepossessing origins, in 1951 Phillips made what is widely considered to be the first rock 'n' roll record, Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston's 'Rocket 88'. Two years later a shy eighteen-year-old kid with sideburns, fresh out of high school, wandered into his recording studio to make a record 'for his mother', secretly hoping that it might somehow get him noticed. His name was Elvis Presley. Elvis's success, and the subsequent triumph of rock 'n' roll, was initially propelled to an almost astonishing degree by a limited number of releases by Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis - all from this tiny, one-man label. An engaging mix of biography and anecdote, Peter Guralnick's book brilliantly recreates one shining moment in the history of popular culture.
Dead Gods: The 27 Club
Robert Johnson. Brian Jones. Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain. Amy Winehouse. They were inspirational, controversial, talismanic and innovative. They lead lives full of myth, scandal, sex, drugs and some of the most glorious music that has ever been heard. Though each of their lives were cut tragically short at the age of 27, they would all leave the world having changed it irrevocably. Chris Salewicz tells, in intimate detail, the stories behind these compelling figures. From Robert Johnson and his legendary deal with the devil, to Jimi Hendrix appearing like a psychedelic comet on the London scene, through to Amy Winehouse's blazing talent and her savage appetite for self-destruction.
M Train begins in the tiny Greenwich Village cafe where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. Through prose that shift fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, and across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations, we travel to Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico; to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; to a ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith acquires just before Hurricane Sandy hits; and to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation. M Train is a meditation on travel, detective shows, literature and coffee. It is a powerful, deeply moving book by one of the most remarkable artists at work today.
Kim Gordon: Girl in a Band
In Girl in a Band Kim Gordon, founding member of Sonic Youth and role model for a generation of women, tells her story. She writes frankly about her route from girl to woman and pioneering icon within the music and art scene of New York City in the 1980s and 90s as well as marriage, motherhood, and independence. Filled with the sights and sounds of a changing world and a remarkable life, Girl in a Band is a moving, evocative chronicle of an extraordinary artist.
Easy Riders, Rolling Stones: On the Road in America from Delta Blues to 70s Rock
Easy Riders, Rolling Stones delves into the history of twentieth-century American popular music to explore the emergence of 'road music'. This music - blues, R'n'B and rock - took shape at pivotal moments in this history, and was made by artists and performers who were, in various ways, seekers after freedom. Whether journeying across the country, breaking free from real or imaginary confines, or in the throes of self-invention, these artists incorporated their experiences into scores of songs about travel and movement, as well as creating a new kind of road culture.
The Beatles Lyrics: The Unseen Story Behind Their Music
Never before has anyone attempted to track down and publish the original versions of the classic songs, many of which have never yet been published. These documents have ended up in the hands of collectors and friends of the Beatles, scattered across the world at museums and universities. Hunter Davies knew and worked with the Beatles during their heyday, and wrote their first and only authorized biography.
In this collection, he has tracked down and reproduced over 100 original handwritten manuscripts of their songs, reproduced here and, in almost every case, for the very first time.
Words Without Music
Rapturous in its ability to depict the creative process, Words Without Music allows readers to experience that sublime moment of creative fusion when life merges with art. Biography lovers will be inspired by the story of a precocious Baltimore boy, the son of a music-shop owner, who entered college at age fifteen, before traveling to Paris to study under the legendary Nadia Boulanger; Glass devotees will be fascinated by the stories behind Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha, among so many other works. Whether recalling his experiences working at Bethlehem Steel, traveling in India, driving a cab in 1970s New York, or his professional collaborations with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Ravi Shankar, Robert Wilson, Doris Lessing, and Martin Scorsese, Words Without Music affirms the power of music to change the world.
Waging Heavy Peace
Reflective, insightful and disarmingly honest, in Waging Heavy Peace Neil Young writes about his life and career. From his youth in Canada to his first band's travels across the US seeking fame and girls, through Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash, to his massively successful solo career and his re-emergence as the patron saint of grunge on to his role today as one of the last uncompromised and uncompromising survivors of rock 'n' roll - this is Neil's story told in his own words. In the book Young presents a kaleidoscopic view of personal life and musical creativity; it's a journey that spans the snows of Ontario to the LSD-laden boulevards of 1966 Los Angeles to the contemplative paradise of Hawaii today.
America's Mistress: Eartha Kitt, Her Life and Times
Eartha Kitt was a skinny, mixed-race woman with an odd, angular face, who seduced fifties white America into thinking that she was, in the words of Orson Welles, 'the most exciting woman in the world'. She could count Marilyn Monroe, T.S. Eliot, Prince Philip and Albert Einstein among her friends and admirers, and was almost able to forget she had once been a poor black girl from the Deep South. But her new persona was also a prison from which she found it impossible to escape. John L. Williams' moving and unsettling biography shows a star adrift in a bewildering new America torn apart by the Civil Rights movement. Shunned by many of her former friends, shocked by her country's insidious racism, and with a perilously fragile sense of her own identity, Eartha Kitt would pay the price that came from trying to be America's mistress.
I'm Your Man
This book contains exclusive material and interviews making it THE biography to buy on Leonard Cohen - singer-songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist. The genius behind such classic songs as Suzanne, Bird on the Wire and Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, a man of spirituality, emotion, and intelligence whose work has explored the definitive issues of human life - sex, religion, power, meaning, love. I'm Your Man explores the facets of Cohen's life. Sylvie Simmons draws on Cohen's private archives and a wealth of interviews with many of his closest associates, colleagues, and other artists whose work he has inspired.
Oliver Sacks' compassionate tales of people struggling to adapt to different neurological conditions have fundamentally changed the way we understand our own minds. In Musicophilia, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians and everyday people - those struck by affliction, unusual talent and even, in one case, by lightning - to show not only that music occupies more areas of the brain than language does, but also that it can calm and organize, torment and heal. Always wise and compellingly readable, these stories alter our conception of who we are and how we function, and show us an essential part of what it is to be human.
How to Make Gravy
Paul Kelly is a uniquely gifted storyteller. For thirty years he has written songs of uncommon directness about everything from love and land rights to cricket and cooking. 'Before Too Long', 'To Her Door', 'Leaps And Bounds', 'Don't Start Me Talking', 'Dumb Things', 'From Little Things Big Things Grow', 'How To Make Gravy' - his songs connect generations of listeners across the country. Now Kelly has written the memoir everyone hoped he would. How to Make Gravy mirrors the structure of his legendary A to Z shows, where he performs around a hundred of his songs alphabetically over four nights. Taking the lyrics of those songs as starting points in this book, he tells stories of his life - the highs and lows of performing, the art of songwriting, being on the road with the band, tales of his childhood, family, friends and fellow musicians.
When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison
This book is a quest to understand Van Morrison's particular genius through a close look at the most extraordinary and unclassifiable moments in his long career, beginning in 1965 and continuing in full force to this day: sometimes entire songs, sometimes single words or even the guttural spaces between words that become musical events in themselves.
Why Mahler? How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed the World
A century after his death, Gustav Mahler is the most important composer of modern times. Displacing Beethoven as a box-office draw, his music offers more than the usual listening satisfactions. Many believe it has the power to heal emotional wounds and ease the pain of death. Others struggle with the intellectual fascination of its contradictory meanings. Long, loud and seldom easy, his symphonies are used to accompany acts of mourning and Hollywood melodramas. Sometimes dismissed as death-obsessed. Mahler is more alive in the 21st century than ever before.
The Dark Stuff
In The Dark Stuff Nick Kent profiles twenty-two of the most gifted and self-destructive talents in rock history. From Brian Wilson to Syd Barrett, the Rolling Stones to Neil Young, Iggy Pop to Lou Reed, he offers intimate portraits that are unimaginable in the world of today's market driven music business.
Darker Than the Deepest Sea
When Nick Drake (1948-1974) died of a drug overdose at twenty-six, he left behind three modest-selling albums, including the stark Pink Moon and the lush Bryter Layter. Three decades later, he is recognized as one of the true geniuses of English acoustic music. Yet Nick Drake--whose music was as gentle and melancholy as the man himself-- has always maintained a spectral presence in popular music. This groundbreaking biography reconstructs a vanished life while perfectly capturing the bohemian scenes surrounding the music business in London in the late '60s and early '70s.
Bound for Glory
Bound For Glory is the funny, cynical and earthy autobiography of Woody Guthrie, the father of American folk music. He tells of his childhood running wild in an Oklahoma oil-boom town, the tragedies that struck his family and of his life on the open road during the Great Depression - hell-raising and brawling in boxcars, all the while singing to raise a dime for his next meal. But above all, this is a song for an America Woody saw from the lonesome highway, as he travel led from one end of the country to the other with guitar in hand and the songs that made him a legend drifting out over the Dust Bowl.
Sweet Soul Music
A gripping narrative that captures the tumult and liberating energy of a nation in transition, Sweet Soul Music is an intimate portrait of the legendary performers - Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Al Green among them - who merged gospel and rhythm and blues to create Southern soul music. Through rare interviews and with unique insight, Peter Guralnick tells the definitive story of the songs that inspired a generation and forever changed the sound of American music.
Robert Palmer was the New York Times first full-time rock writer and chief pop critic (1976-1988) and has been a contributing editor at Rolling Stone since the early seventies. He has taught courses in American music at Yale, Carnegie-Mellon, Bowdoin, the University of Mississippi, and Brooklyn College, where he was the first senior research fellow of the Institute for Studies in American Music to teach and write a musicological monograph on rock and roll. He is the author of Deep Blues and other books, and served as writer and music director for two award-winning documentary films, The World According to John Coltrane and Deep Blues.
Go to top of page.