What Are The Best Books By Musicians?

This year, for the first time, there’s a Best Book category at the NME Awards. Jay-Z’s Decoded, Keith Richards’ Life and Carl Barat’s Threepenny Memoir are all on the shortlist (though curiously Susan Boyle’s The Woman I Was Born To Be didn’t make the cut).

Coincidentally, we revealed today that two musicians are currently writing books. Patti Smith is working on a detective novel (somehow I doubt it’ll be a cosy Miss Marple-type affair), while Kele Okereke is moving to New York to focus on his own literary project, thought to be an “erotic memoir”.

Fair enough. He’s a smart guy, and it’s good to know he now has an non-music interest beyond pumping iron until his biceps resemble balance balls.

It has to be said, though, that rock stars rarely cover themselves in glory when they turn scribe. I’ve been thinking about books by musicians that I’ve genuinely enjoyed, and it’s a pretty short list.

The last one was Luke Haines’ Bad Vibes: Britpop And My Part In Its Downfall, which was eloquently vitriolic, especially in its acid contempt for Haines’ ’90s contemporaries such as Justine and Damon (“a gruesome couple”), Oasis (“light entertainment”) and Suede (“more Grange Hill than Bowie”).

Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One is more engrossing and less hard work than you’d think, and Bill Drummond’s The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which came out in 1988, is essential reading for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of pop. It’s also really funny.

Everyone loves Motley Crue’s The Dirt, but that wasn’t really their work. Sure, they brought the lurid backstage anecdotes about snorting candlewax and catapulting live dolphins out of motel windows [subs please check]. But Neil Strauss wrote it.

Things The Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett, aka ‘E’ from Eels’, contains some fine writing, though obviously given the harrowingly morbid subject matter, it’s not exactly a rib-tickling read. But I’d love to hear some recommendations…