What’s been the best music book of 2013? Our top 15 starts with Keith Cameron’s ‘Mudhoney: The Sound and The Fury From Seattle’. As iconic Seattle imprint Sub Pop celebrated its 25th anniversary this summer, a new book tracked the history of one of its finest homegrown bands. The grunge pioneers had until now declined all offers to tell their story. ‘The Sound and The Fury’ was worth the wait.
Featuring contributions from Dizzee Rascal, Trevor Nelson and Soul2Soul’s Jazzie B, ‘Sounds Like London: 100 Years of Black Music in the Capital’ saw author Lloyd Bradley investigate the rich melting pot of sounds and cultures that make up the London music scene.
Penned by respected music writer Martin Ashton, ‘Facing The Other Way: The Story of 4AD’ told the history of a British alternative music institution – home to the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and more recently Bon Iver and St. Vincent – as it entered its 33rd year.
Released a year on from their Hyde Park comeback, former NME journalist Simon Spence’s Stone Roses compendium has it all – interviews with the Manc group’s closest confidants, unseen photos and a timeline that stretches all the way back to the group’s inception. No wonder, then, that it was lauded one the definitive word on the band.
Paul Brannigan and one time NME writer Ian Winwood teamed up earlier this year to deliver a comprehensive history of one of rock’s most enduring bands in ‘Birth, School, Metallica, Death’. The book traces the band’s rise to international fame right up until the eve of the release of their seminal ‘Black Album’ with painstaking attention to detail.
43 years after his death, there’s been plenty of biographies on Jimi Hendrix. But ‘Starting At Zero’ compiles the Seattle innovator’s various letters, lyrics, interviews and reflections into something resembling a memoir. Hailed as in equal parts touching and hilarious, it’s a must-read for fans of the guitar legend.
October saw the tenth anniversary of LA heartbreaker Elliott Smith’s death. William Todd Schultz’s ‘Torment Saint: The Life of Elliott Smith’ marked the occasion with poignancy and aplomb, delving into the reluctant star’s legacy rather than the mysterious circumstances around his 2003 death.
’80s pop svengali Jazz Summers launched the careers of Wham! and countless other pop heavyweights. Notoriously outspoken, it was no surprise to find his memoirs packed with frank revelations and compelling tales of life in the music industry fast lane.
Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg’s turbulent romance spanned 13 years, a daughter and one widely acclaimed album, 1969’s ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’. Jane’s brother Andrew Birkin, a keen photographer who was never far from his sister’s side during her time with Gainsbourg, lifts the lid on their relationship in stark, washed out colours in this coffee table photo book.
Trust Beck to do things differently. The Californian pop agitator’s ‘Song Reader’, a book of sheet music, included 20 songs worth of notation and more than 100 pages of art. He’s since begun bringing the songs to life in concerts around the globe, roping in everyone from Jarvis Cocker and Jack Black to interpret the tracks.
‘Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According To Questlove’ was a typically audacious and ambitious twist on the memoir from the big-afroed drummer who guided the Roots to becoming hip-hop royalty. Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson is an unabashed music nerd, and was smart enough to deconstruct his own stories alongside the moments of erudite cultural criticism.
If you were keen to hear stories about mixing My Bloody Valentine while ripped on mushrooms or escorting Carl Barat to A&E because he’d almost lost an eyeball, ‘Creation Stories: Riots, Raves And Running A Label’ is the next best thing to going for a pint with Alan McGee. Funny, incisive and ever so slightly sad, it was a cutting
insight into the man behind Creation Records.
Daniel Rachel’s interview technique for ‘Isle Of Noises: Conversations With Great British Songwriters’ was straightforward: talk to songwriters not about fame, excess or the rock’n’roll lifestyle, but simply about the day-job. The insights he got were as fascinating as his subjects: Jarvis Cocker, Noel Gallagher, Laura Marling, Ray Davies, John Lydon, Johnny Marr, Paul Weller, among others…
It was one of the year’s bona fide literary events, in a way that books by musicians rarely are. But then, musicians are rarely like Steven Patrick Morrissey. ‘Autobiography’ was mysteriously delayed from its original publication date in September before finally arriving in October, cheekily tarted up as a Penguin ‘Classic’. Would it, could it possibly, live up to the hype? Could it ever.
Bob Stanley, one third of indie darlings Saint Etienne, occasional label boss and former NME writer, knows a hell of a lot about pop music. ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: The Story Of Modern Pop’ was brilliantly researched and put together, but it was the charming, obscure anecdotes that made it impossible to put down.