It’s World Book Day today, but the last thing you need to read (ha!) is another tedious article about how The Dirt is great (and Nikki Sixx has shat all over its legacy with the nonsense that is The Heroin Diaries, FYI) or how insightful the now 15-years-out-of-date The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell is. No, we harangued the TH editorial team for our picks of slightly less obvious picks.
Top 6 Books about ROCK that aren’t the bleeding obvious choices
1) Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces – edited by Albert Mundrian
Decibel Magazine’s Hall Of Fame series of articles might not do anything particularly new – each month the series details the creative process that went into creating a classic album – but the method of delivery quite frankly shits all over anything any magazine on this side if the Atlantic had tried to do with the same concept. While other mags filter the facts through journalistic inadequacy, Precious Metal presents the stories of classic albums as told through oral histories provided by the musicians involved in their creation. Even when there have been splits of the most acrimonious kinds within bands, Decibel have sought out every member to get a complete picture (the chapter on Jane Doe where they talk with ousted Furber guitarist, Aaron Dalbec, is a perfect case in point, and is absolutely fascinating). Precious Metal collects 25 of the best of these columns (including one on Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger that has never been printed anywhere else) and provides fascinating insights into some of the albums that have changed all our lives.
2) The Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise! – Craig O’Hara
Punk is probably the most fluid concept in the field of “rock” music, existing as not just an incredibly elastic genre (All Time Low at one end, Dead Kennedys at another, and so on). Even leaving aside the wide scope of what “punk” music is, the culture that surrounds the concept is even broader – that’s why there have been so many bloody books on the subject of punk culture. Among the best, recommended by our man of letters, Mr Tom Doyle, is The Philosophy of Punk. Covering everything from fanzines to how punk is presented in the mainstream, from skinheads to homosexuality, The Philosophy of Punk leaves virtually no stone unturned in its analysis and assessment of the spheres of culture that punk has either spearheaded, or found its way into through some form of cultural osmosis or another. And yeah, even though has a chapter on Straight Edge (and goodness knows, the world doesn’t need yet another load of words committed to paper on that little sub-section of punk), it’s still a broad and engaging view on so many aspects of the ephemera and cultural overspill that punk has had in the last 30 years that make The Philosophy of Punk a worthy purchase.
3) Metallica: This Monster Lives – Joe Berlinger with Greg Milner
We’ve all seen Some Kind of Monster, right? We all sat there, squirming as we watched Metallica go through those bum-clenchingly embarrassing group therapy sessions, and those even more bum-clenchingly embarrassing group recording sessions for St Anger. We all had a chortle whenever we saw Kirk Hammett riding about on his horse, and full-on laughed out loud at those scenes where Lars Ulrich met up with Dave Mustaine, and it looked like MegaDave was about to burst into tears at any moment. Metallica: This Monster Lives tells the story of the documentary from the perspective of the filmmakers behind it. It’s interesting to read a book on one of the world’s biggest bands that doesn’t cloak its subject with excessive praise, or try to cover up their flaws with platitudes or excuses. You’ve seen the film – you know that Berliner and Milner aren’t about to go out of their way to present a rose-tinted view of the world’s biggest metal band.
Hell, it’s worth if for the chapters where they talk about crybaby MegaDave alone. Go and read it and you’ll see what we mean.
4) Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 – Michael Azerrad
It’s a solid truth that the impact of a band within rock music cannot be measured by their record sales alone. You only have to look at the NWOBHM bands that Metallica (yep, them again) cite as their early influences – bands that’ve sold less records than Lars Ulrich has had drumming lessons – to see proof that a band’s influence. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 (try saying that three times in quick succession) chronicles the careers of thirteen bands that at least some of should be familiar to most Thrash Hits readers (Black Flag, Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, Husker Du, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Dinosaur Jr., Fugazi, Mudhoney, Beat Happening), all of whom helped define the sound of…well, of damn near ever punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, and damn will a load of other subgenres that are around today. Go learn yourself some history.
5) The Story of The Streets – Mike Skinner
Yeah, this isn’t a book about metal, even if it does contain anecdotes about how an encounter with Black Sabbath’s flight cases while on work experience at Steel Pulse’s studio in Birmingham taught Mike Skinner an important truth about the music industry, and just what it is about Tom Morello’s guitar technique that Mike Skinner loves so much. Even if you can’t stand Mike Skinner’s music, his autobiography is a brutal assessment of his career both personally and professionally, and well worth reading by anyone who has even a passing interest in the realities of the music industry today. Skinner is one of the rare musicians able to offer the perspective of someone who enjoyed success in the industry during the last glory days of mad advances and huge record sales, but also as one that carved out an effective niche for being a working musician in the Internet age. Skinner covers his mental illness, substance abuse, and industry excess with sometimes excruciating honesty, whilst simultaneously providing an eloquent artist’s perspective on some of the more “business” parts of the music industry: the refocussing of the industry on live music revenues as opposed to recorded revenue, the breakdown of just where all the money goes, and how musicians need to adapt to be successful now nobody buys albums anymore. What’s more, his insightful assessment into the creative process and just why making a second album (or in Skinner’s case, his third) is much more complicated than the oft-repeated (but rarely true) adage that “you’ve got your whole life to write your first album, but just a year to write your second”, is by far one of the greatest bits of writing on the subject of the mechanics of songwriting you’re likely to read in a book not specifically aimed at being about songwriting. So yeah, it’s not metal, but it sure as shit is about rock’n'roll.
6) Birth School Metallica Death – Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood
We’ve talked about the books of former-Kerrang! editor, Paul Brannigan, several times before – check out this interview we did with him just last year about his Dave Grohl biography, This Is A Call. We’ve not even sure we’re supposed to know about this yet, but right now Paul’s working on a book about Metallica (yes, them again) with former Kerrang! colleague Ian Winwood . If his previous work is anything to go by, it’s going to be a corker. And yeah, so it isn’t available to buy yet, but we’ve just given you five other books to get your teeth into – finish all of those and then come back and give us grief for previewing a forthcoming release for our sixth choice.
Now get thee to a library. Reading Ist Krieg, ETC.