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.
In the 90s, dance music was the euphoric, utopian frontier of youth culture. But what does it mean to people around the world today? Around the world, rave culture set off an explosion of creativity, generating countless new musical forms, from hip-hop and house to dubstep and grime. But in a quarter-century it has gone from the subculture to the mainstream, and every year it seems closer to reflecting our consumerist era. In Rave On, Matthew Collin crosses the globe to tell the story of where electronic music has come from and where it is going - and whether it will survive its own success.
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.
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.
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. From a review of her first performance at L.A.'s legendary Troubadour in 1968 to a career-sweeping 1998 interview by MOJO's Dave DiMartino, this anthology of almost 60 articles charts every stage of Joni's extraordinary journey as a singer, songwriter and artist.
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. 'When I was young, I never dreamed of this. I dreamed of colours and falling, among other things . .
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.
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.
Uncommon People:The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars 1955-1995
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. What did we see in them? Swagger. Recklessness. Sexual charisma. Damn-the-torpedoes self-belief. A certain way of carrying themselves. Good hair. Interesting shoes. Talent we wished we had. What did we want of them? To be larger than life but also like us. To live out their songs. To stay young forever. No wonder many didn't stay the course.
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. Uncommon People isn't just their story. It's ours as well.
By the time she was 14, Chrissie Hynde knew she had to get out of Akron, Ohio. Her perfect '50s American childhood upturned by a newly acquired taste for rock 'n' roll, motorbikes and the 'get down boys' seen at gigs in and around Cleveland. Wrapped up in the Kent State University riots and getting dangerously involved in the local biker and drug scenes, she escaped to Mexico, Canada, Paris and finally London where she caught the embryonic punk scene just in time not only to witness it first-hand, but more importantly to seize the opportunity to form her own band, the Pretenders. Iggy Pop, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Vivienne & Malcolm, Ray Davies- on every page household names mingle with small town heroes as we shift from bedroom to biker HQ; from squat to practice room; from pub gig to Top Of The Pops. The long and crooked path to stardom, and for the Pretenders, ultimately, tragedy. Chrissie Hynde is alive to tell the tale that is, by her own admission, something of a miracle. Throughout she is brutally honest, wryly humorous and always highly entertaining. She has written one of the most evocative and colourful music memoirs to be published in recent years.
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.
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.
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.
Bob Dylan: All the Songs
Bob Dylan: All the Songs focuses on Dylan's creative process and his organic, unencumbered style of recording. It is the only book to tell the stories, many unfamiliar even to his most fervent fans, behind all the 525 songs he released. Organized chronologically by album, Margotin and Guesdon recount the details that led to the composition of Dylan's recorded songs, what went on in the recording studio, what instruments he used, and behind-the-scenes account of the great artists that Dylan worked with.
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.
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. Here, too, are singular memories of Smith's life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith. Braiding despair with hope and consolation, illustrated with her signature Polaroids, 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.
A Little History: Photographs of Nick Cave and Cohorts, 1981-2013
When Bleddyn Butcher first saw The Birthday Party play, back in 1981, he was astonished. And then enthralled. He set about trying to catch their lightning in his Nikon F2AS. That quixotic impulse became a lifelong quest. A little history got made on the way. Collected here for the first time are the fruits of his labour. A Little History is an extraordinary document, tracking Nick Cave's creative career from the apoplectic extravagance of The Birthday Party to the calmer disquiet of 2013's Push The Sky Away via snapshots, spotlit visions and sumptuous, theatrical portraits. It mixes the candid and uncanny, the spontaneous and the patiently staged, and includes eyeball encounters with Cave's baddest lieutenants, men for the most part who long since burned their own bridges down. Butcher's Nikonic eye defines moment after arresting moment in Cave's glorious, sprawling story: it's a splendid testament to two brilliant careers.
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. For the Beatles, writing songs was a process that could happen anytime and anywhere - songs might begin as a scribble on the back of an envelope, a napkin or on hotel stationery. From them we gain a unique insight into the remarkable creative process of the greatest songwriters of all time; what they were thinking, how they changed their minds, and then came up with the words which are now known the world over - complete with all the scribbles and crossings out.
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. All illuminate Kelly's wide sources of inspiration, offering an unequalled portrait of the creative mind. Playful and honest, insightful and intimate, How to Make Gravy is an irresistible reflection on both the big and little things in life.
The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob
Bob Dylan was the most influential songwriter of his time. Half a century later, he continues to be a touchstone, a fascination, and an enigma. From the very beginning, he attracted an intensely fanatical cult following, and in The Dylanologists, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Kinney ventures deep into this eccentric subculture to answer the question: What can Dylan's grip on his most enthusiastic listeners tell us about his towering place in American culture?
In exuberant prose, Kinney introduces us to a vibrant underground: diggers searching for unheard tapes and lost manuscripts, researchers obsessing over the facts of Dylan's life and career, writers working to decode the unyieldingly mysterious songs, collectors snapping up prized artefacts for posterity, travellers caravanning from concert to concert. It's an affectionate mania, but as far as Dylan is concerned, a mania nonetheless. Over the years, he has been frightened, annoyed, and perplexed by fans who try to peel back his layers. Intensely private and fiercely combative, Dylan makes one thing plain: He does not wish to be known. Intelligent, entertaining, and insightful, The Dylanologists is a richly detailed work of narrative journalism in the tradition of Confederates in the Attic and an absorbing story about the tension between zealous fans and their beloved idol.
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.
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.
Go to top of page.