24 Must-Have Music Books Every Collection Needs

on 11 April 2014 in Slideshows


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They say you should never judge a book by its cover, far better to judge it on its musical merits we say. So, we decided it was time to get to listing our favourite music tomes. Ranging anywhere from autobiographies to photography, from the classics to the kitsch, our slideshow has it covered. Grab a bookmark and a pair of headphones – here we go.

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    They say you should never judge a book by its cover, far better to judge it on its musical merits we say. So, we decided it was time to get to listing our favourite music tomes. Ranging anywhere from autobiographies to photography, from the classics to the kitsch, our slideshow has it covered. Grab a bookmark and a pair of headphones – here we go.

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    Beck – Beck Hansen's Song Reader
    Beck’s latest album is completey unlistenable – literally. The musical chameleon’s first album in four years, Song Reader, will be a 108 page collection of sheet music, illustrations and commentary from the musician. The idea being that it’s the fans that bring this album to life with performance, with literary website and publisher McSweeney’s offering to host fan recordings of the new tunes.

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    The Great Australian Song Book
    The Great Australian Song SCRAPbook might be a more appropriate title as this coffee table sized collection pays homage to some of the country’s most iconic songs with a visual feast that includes handwritten lyrics, paintings and memorabilia. Right down to its cover art, which pays tribute to Sir Sidney Nolan's 'Ned Kelly' in an original work by Rolf Harris. Covering forty of Australia's most cherished songs, from old favourites like Little River Band, Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel, while also still including some more recent artists such as Sarah Blasko, Eskimo Joe, Kylie Minogue and Powderfinger.

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    Morrissey - Autobiography
    The life, times, and career of the fabulously verbose frontman of The Smiths presented by an expert on the topic: Morrissey himself. As you’d expect of the man who gave the world ‘This Charming Man’, the whole thing is written with deliciously intelligent wit, both absorbing (when he’s discussing his clear love for the craft) and bitingly acerbic (when he’s slagging off peers or shooting down antagonists). From its salacious details of his homosexual relationships and the epic putdowns, to its modishly styled Penguin printed formatting suggests, <.em> Autobiography<.em> is a classic.

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    In His Own Write – John Lennon
    The legendary Beatle’s first novel was released in 1964 during the height of Beatlemania. With an introduction by Paul McCartney, the book features drawings, short stories, plays and poetry by Lennon along with his trademark wit and sarcasm; with the “About the Author” section being renamed to “About the Awful.” There is even a story here entitled, 'Good Dog Nigel' about a happy dog who urinates on a lamp post. At the time of its release it was considered nonsense, yet humorously irreverent. It's safe to assume that if ‘In His Own Write’ had been released outside of the Beatlemania period, less people would have been so positive.

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    The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band – Motley Crue and Neil Strauss (The Heroin diaries – Nikki Sixx/ Motley Crue)
    Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll are epitomised in this incredibly forthright book on the affairs of Motley Crue. Possibly the grittiest, sleaziest account ever put to page from one of the era’s most hedonistic bands. A book so successful that bassist Nikki Sixx followed it with his own book, entitled 'The Heroin Diaries'; while a film version of The Dirt failed to get off the ground, because of the book’s lascivious content. A sample of the band’s intense adventures? How about sticking their penises in warm burritos to hide the smell of groupie sex from their wives – and that’s the tame stuff!

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    Music and Words – Paul Morley
    Who would have thought that Kylie Minogue's 'Can't Get You Outta My Head' would be so inspiring? After watching the video for the hit single, famed music scribe Paul Morley finds himself driving towards a virtual city of sounds and ideas. Morley’s free-association narrative drafts an ambitious scope that’s seeped with the journo’s encyclopaedic knowledge and rambling epiphanies. Together with Minogue, they travel through various paradoxes of twentieth century culture as they encounter celebrities and geniuses. It sounds strange, but actually it's pretty brilliant.

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    Scar Tissue – Anthony Kiedis (Written with Larry Sloman)
    Released in 2004 and taking its title from the band’s hit single, the Chili Peppers frontman released this confronting autobiography, revealing some deeply intimate details about his fascinating life. Kiedis goes into depth about his sordid childhood, extensive drug addictions, the overdose of former bandmate Hillel Slovak, as well as stories behind some the band’s most iconic tunes. The best-seller is now being working into a TV adaptation by a production team at US channel, FX.

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    Journals – Kurt Cobain
    Journals is just that, a collection of Cobain's thoughts from his notebooks throughout his tragically short life. First published in 2002, it has everything from the Nirvana frontman's thoughts on life, music, his fans, as well as his plans for the future of the band. Through letters, lists and drawings the book provides a rare insight into Cobain that is far more intimate than any TV appearance or magazine article could hope to be – even from an icon that’s been as heavily documented as Cobain.

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    Decoded - Jay-Z and Dream Hampton
    Jigga has done just about all that there is to do. With a clothing line, record label, rap-legend status and just about anything and everything in between already under his belt, it's only natural that a book should fit into that heaving CV. Released in 2010, the rapper mogul not only looks at his own life, but the evolution of hip-hop and the culture that surrounds it. Achieved through analysis of his own lyrics, as well as juicy chapters where Jay-Z gives his thoughts on his peers, to his own drug-dealing past. Informative reading.

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    Cash – Johnny Cash (Written with Patrick Carr)
    This autobiography of the late American music legend was first published back in 1997, chronicling the country music singer’s life in his own words, right from the very beginning. Detailing the highs, and just as many lows, of his impressive career - from his blinding success to his battles with addiction and his beloved wife June. Written twenty years after his first biography Man in Black, it goes to further lengths to capture Cash’s unique life – making it an essential item for fans.

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    33 1/3 Book Series
    This brilliant series, named for the speed of an LP’s average rotation, dedicates its focus to one album per pocket-sized book, written by one unique offer per publication. The Bloomsbury Academic curated series has 90 titles to date, since kicking off in 2003 with Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis. With everything from covering iconic classics (Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Radiohead’s Kid A), right down to tackling the inanities of Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love - there’s something for every kind of music connoisseur in this history-spanning, genre-defying collection that’s continually growing.

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    Fuck You Heroes: Photographs 1976-1991 – Glen E. Friedman
    A photographer of all things punk, rap and… skateboards?! Friedman’s photographic collection is a means to represent the legends from 1976 to 1991. From braving intense mosh pits in order to capture the most hectic of atmospheres, to immortalising portraits artists like Public Enemy and Ice-T – Friedman’s Fuck You Heroes has captured some of the most incredible pictures of that era.

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    David Byrne - How Music Works
    The entire history of popular music is a daunting topic, but what better way to tackle it than through the narration of one of its most intriguing figures: 61-year-old David Byrne. Despite a pithy introduction that lists all the areas he won’t broach, Byrne ends up touching on nearly everything to do with the art-form, as well as his own adventures with Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and a long list of collaborators. His thoughts are original, his opinions refreshingly honest, and his writing fabulously rhythmic. If you’ve recently enjoyed the Talking Head's thoughts on streaming services and their impact on the future of music, just think of How Music Works as the brilliant long-form edition.

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    Peace, Love and Brown Rice – A Photographic History of the Big Day Out – Sophie Howarth
    To celebrate Australia's biggest and most renowned festival turning 15 years of age, Sophie Howarth put together this huge book of the all of Big Day Out’s most memorable moments. Given the size of the book, you'll notice there's been plenty. From the crazy fans to the even more eccentric artists, this tome has everything from article clippings to nudity. As enjoyable for those who have been there right from the start, as to those using it as a crash course in the veteran music event’s history.

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    Shakey – Neil Young's Biography
    This 2002 bio was the first time Young had let any author scribe his life, handing the mammoth task to Jimmy McDonough, who writes with an exhaustive attention to detail that manages to avoid romanticising his prolific subject. Drawing from a reported 50 hours worth of audio interviews with Young, Shakey remains the most comprehensive look at the American treasure which remains as highly-lauded and controversial as the day it first hit bookshelves.

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    Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey - Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton
    Authors Brewster and Broughton discuss the Disc Jockey’s rise to legitimacy with a serious outlook on the early history of disco. As one of the first books to provide a comprehensive history on the DJ, including interviews with record executives, musicians, critics and punters on a timeline from radio’s birth right through to beginning of the new millennium.

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    Chronicles: Volume 1 – Bob Dylan
    First released in 2004 as the first part of planned trilogy, Volume I has het to be joined by any of its proposed sequels. Still, coming from the pen of the man born Robert Zimmerman, it indeed chronicles and explores the telling points in Dylan's life and career. From first arriving in Manhattan in 1961, to his late 80s comeback; Dylan records all on his thoughts and influences, with a poignant reflection of specific times in his life.

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    When Giants Walked the Earth – Led Zeppelin (Written by Mick Wall)
    Through a mixture of interview excerpts from back in the day, as well as talks with the surviving members of the band, Mick Wall weaves a comprehensive tale about one of rock’s most important and renowned acts. With several years of research, the book uses the lives of the individual band members – from humble beginning to tragic end – to illustrate not only Led Zeppelin’s iconic status, but their personal, human dimension as well. A delicate balancing act that enriches one of music’s most interesting band biographies.

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    Hey You in the Black T-shirt! - Michael Chugg (Written with Iain Shedden)
    Australian promoter Michael Chugg tells his life story across pages which displayd his enigmatic personality. But more importantly, the book describes the early beginnings of Australia’s touring industry through his eyes. While he gives away some great behind-the-scenes secrets and anecodtes from his time on the road with acts such as Bon Jovi, Fleetwood Mac and The Police, this tome chiefly details how Chugg became one of the industry’s biggest players.

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    Questlove - Mo' Meta Blues: The World According To Questlove
    Along with his prolific role as bandleader for The Roots, drummer Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson is a regular New York University lecturer and celebrated author. His debut tome is one of the best memoirs you’ll ever read – music or otherwise. The 274 pages of Mo’ Meta Blues positively shine with the words of a deathlessly passionate (and knowledgable) music lover. It’s also brimming with amazing anecdotes (Highlight: an ice-skating encounter with Prince), fabulously off-topic asides, and page-turning moments of sex, drugs, and soul. If you need more of Questo’s great writing once you put this down (and you will), his follow-up Soul Train: The Music, Dance and Style of a Generation<.em> is an equally compelling document chronicling the popular US variety TV show.

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    Plastered: The Poster Art of Australian Popular Music – Murray Walding with Nick Vukovic
    When judging this book by its cover it might be easy to palm it off as just a book full of cool posters. But in fact, it's so much more. Both Walding and Vukovic give detailed insight into the development of the rock and tour posters on display, all of which range from the early 50s through to the early 00s. With exquisite art, these pieces of – essentially - advertisement also reflect the times they were displayed in. An impressive art collection to any music lover’s coffee table.

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    Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley
    The tragedy of father and son is put on display in this dual biography of the Buckley family. While esoteric troubadour father Tim died at the age of 28, his equally famous offspring Jeff ,stunned the world when he drowned at the age of 30. Based on hundreds of interviews with friends, family members, business associates and journals, the book admirably tells the mirrored story of a father and son who both unfortunately passed too soon.

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    Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop, and Rap – Evelyn McDonnell, Ann Powers
    Sixty female writers from the 1960s to the 1990s have come together here to provide first person accounts on everything from music criticism to personal accounts from the artists themselves and fan encounters. Combined, the documented 62 pieces offer a comprehensive history of female writers, as well as detailing a perspective that for the longest time was ignored, from women who were never allowed to share their stories.

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    Kiss – KISS MONSTER
    Noteworthy for their ridiculous catalogue of merchandise, the band are set to add another obscure curio to their arsenal. To coincide with their twentieth album, the band are releasing a career-spanning book which will attempt to be the biggest rock tome ever released- literally. Kiss Monster is roughly the size of an electric guitar and will be limited to 1000 copies with each to be autographed by the band. It’s price tag is just as enormous as the book itself, going for the asking price US$4,300 a copy. *gulp*

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