Home > Articles > M&M > Summer Reading 2004: Nine Books About Music


If you’re looking for a good non-fiction book this summer, look here first.  Boston Beats contributing editor Matt Robinson has picked out nine great summer titles on the topic of music, with a broad enough selection that you’re certain to find something that piques your interest.  And if not, there’s always next summer…



Icons of Jazz: A History in Photographs 1900-2000
Dave Gally

Thunder Bay Press
176 pages

Though it is the most expressive and complex of American art forms, Jazz can often be just as beautifully and affectingly expressed and communicated through absolute silence. In this millennial collection, artist/critic Dave Gelly compiles a set of visual blue notes that bend and color the world of jazz through still black and white. From Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker to Sarah Vaughan and Lester Williams, Icons of Jazz offers windows into the lives and musical souls of some of the greatest voices of the Jazz Age itself. While most are caught in the act, even the shots taken away from the stage demonstrate the greater lifestyle that is Jazz. Whether an interested neophyte or an educated aficionado, Icons acts as encyclopedia, storybook and coffee table-worthy reminder of a Golden Age that is greatly of the past.


Temples of Sound: Inside the Great Recording Studios
By Jim Cogan and William Clark

Chronicle Books
224 pages

United Western. Sunset Sound. Sigma Sound. These were (and, in some cases, still are) the places where the magic happened. Created from renovated gas stations and refrigerator warehouses, or brick by brick according to some sonic mastermind, these legendary rooms spawned the sounds that shaped generations. In this book, engineer Cogan and songwriter Clark travel across the country – from Columbia’s Manhattan rooms and Rudy Van Gelder’s Jersey Jazz joint to the central centers of Stax and Motown to LA’s legendary Capitol building (which has often been thought to resemble a stack of records itself) – in search of the mysterious elements that made the music possible. Through discussions with the folks on either side of the studio glass, Cogan and Clark try to give a sense of what these renowned rooms were like. Unfortunately, with only a few brief details of the actual dimensions and descriptions that tend to get a bit technical, this book may leave readers more questions than answers. Even so, the profiles of the men and women who made the music happen are informative and empassioned, making Temples of Sound an interesting reference for even the casual fan.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs
Chuck Klosterman

244 pages

In his funny follow up to Fargo Rock City, Spin-meister Chuck Klosterman takes a look at life through the eyes of…well…Chuck Klosterman. Championing opinions few others even consider (e.g., that Coldplay songs “deliver an amorphous, irrefutable interpretation of how being in love is supposed to feel,” that the Dixie Chicks are “the new Van Halen,” and that most men “want women to think like Aimee Mann”), Klosterman brings his insightful (and at times inciteful) eye to the worlds of emo, Techno and other musical and non-musical forums. Pitting Toby (as in Keith) v. Moby (as in --) and putting Lisa Loeb on the ice planet Hoth, this self-proclaimed “Rock Chump” and admitted Punk Rock hater interjects inter-chapter “interludes” on topics ranging from Johnny Cask to the Monkees, adding even more musical madness to the literary mix. In so doing, Klosterman defends the age-old triumvirate of “low culture” while enhancing each part thereof with his pithy perspectives.

The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music
General Editor: Paul Du Noyer

Billboard Books/Watson Guptill Publications
450 pages

From Classical to Young Country, Blues to Trip-Hop, and Alternative to Zydeco, The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music lays it all out as only Billboard could. Though the categories are not alphabetical, the book is easy to navigate with its broad chapters and comprehensive entries, many of which include not only descriptions of the given genre, but also lists of sub-genres and their "leading exponents," artist quotations, representative musical charts, and even seminal album covers (among its thousands of illustrations). Each section also includes its own index to help readers find out more about their favorite bands or less familiar artists. With a foreword by Sir George Martin, this almost all-in-one guide to the wonderfully diverse world of music puts it all in perspective and all in one edifying and enjoyable volume.

Giants of Jazz
Studs Terkel

The New Press
203 pages

Jazz is a complicated phenomenon. Over 100 years after its inception, nobody can tell you exactly when or where that magic event actually took place. In his latest collection of oral history, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkl (Working) takes a shot and, though it may not include every detail, it is a strong first step. Instead of trying to ascertain exactly where and when Jazz began, Terkl introduces his readers to a baker’s dozen of some of the genre’s most prominent characters, depicting the lives and contributions of each through historical data, personal anecdotes, spare illustrations and a selective discography. From the tragic tales of Bix Beiderbeck, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker to the triumphs of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman, Terkl investigates the story of Jazz through the stories of some of the people who helped shape it. While some may debate about who others who might have been included in this collection, Terkl admits to being one of them. "Thirteen lives do not tell the whole story," he says in the final chapter. "Jazz is the music of multitudes." And with the help of Terkl’swell-researched and lyrically written book, even greater multitudes can now be introduced to its timeless magic.

The Song Reader
Lisa Tucker

Downtown Press/Pocket Books
312 pages

Ever get a song stuck in your head? Find yourself singing the same refrain over and over, but you don’t know why? Don’t you wish there were someone to help you figure it out? Well now there is- Sort of. In her debut novel, journalist/waitress/computer programmer/professor and tour groupie Lisa Tucker presents Mary Beth Norris, a young woman who turns her small town on its ear by figuring out the meaning of the music it hears every day. Though she is kept plenty busy raising her adopted son and taking care of her younger sister, Mary Beth always has time for music. She spends hours each day going over the lyrics of favorite songs. Soon, she begins to offer her sonorous services to neighbors, as a way of helping them deal with issues they may not even consciously realize they have. As word of Mary Beth’s special talents spreads, more and more people become inextricably linked to this sympathetic musical entrepreneur. Eventually, Mary Beth’s odd calling turns on her, and it is up to those she has tried to help to return the favor, even if they do not fully understand it. Along the way, the town rediscovers many of its members, seeing them what they are, often for the first time. Whether Mary Beth can afford to continue to provide her services, however, remains to be seen. Written with vivid imagery and characters that all can recognize, The Song Reader is a unique vision that many may hope will come to pass. At turns shocking and inspiring, it is sure to stick with you and make you rethink your "favorite" songs.


Lennon Legend: An illustrated life of John Lennon
James Henke

Chronicle Books
63 pages
$ 40

You know the music. But do you know the man? Now, with the help of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame administrator and long-time music journalist James Henke, you can come to have a better and deeper appreciation of the man who inspired a generation. From his earliest days on Men love Avenue in Liverpool to his days of milk and honey in Manhattan, Henke takes readers on a guided tour of one of the most beloved lives in musical history. Along the way, he introduces many of the people and places that made John Lennon the man and the musician he was. Filled with scores of original artwork, photos and special surprises such as copies of original lyric sheets, removable concert tickets (including a ticket to The Ed Sullivan Show on August 14, 1965) and promotional fliers, and an hour-long interview CD that features a live version of the timeless classic "Imagine," the handsomely slip-cased Lennon Legend makes for a great introduction for the curious or a treasured chronicling for one of Lennon’s millions of devoted fans.

According to the Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood

(edited by Cora Lowenstein and Philip Dodd)
Chronicle Books
360 pages

They are one of the most enduring and written-about bands in the history of music. And now, for the first time, fans can hear their story told in their own words! Filled with informative interviews and pictures (many never before seen in print), this handsome coffee table book chronicles the band’s 50-plus year journey. In addition to the band members themselves, the book also includes commentary from the legendary likes of Chuck Berry (from whom Keith admits to "lifting every riff") award winning journalist Carl Hiassen, playwright Tim Rice, and Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun, who brought the Stones to America almost 40 years ago. With a comprehensive chronology of the band’s personal and professional stories, a discography covering every album (including personnel and producers), and a "Who’s Who" of the people who made the band and its members who they were and are (from Jeff Beck to Muddy Waters), According to the Rolling Stones is the definitive history of the definitive band of the Rock era.

Guitar: A Complete Guide for the Player
Dave Hunter (editor)

Thunder Bay Press
312 pages


Don’t know an F-hole from an F- chord? Unsure about how many Farads your axe can handle? Can’t tell ebony from ebonol? Don’t fret (guitar pun). This book has got you covered. From Fender and Gibson to Martin and Parker, Acoustic and Classical to Rock and Metal, and John Abercrombie to Frédéric Zigante, this well-toned tome will help you figure out where to take your musical inclinations and learn about many (though not all) of the past masters you may meet along the way. Whether you want to know how a guitar is made, maintained and played or how to modify and amplify it to get the sounds of your favorite six-stringed heroes, this well-titled guide is complete indeed. In addition to an extensive illustrated glossary, it includes chord and fingering exercises, and even fingerboard radius and scale length charts to help get you on your way or to take your playing to the next level. Though not exactly portable, this substantial reference book will be a great go-to guide for almost any player or aficionado.

c. 2004, M. S. Robinson, ARR


©2003-2005 Boston Beats






Boston Music, Boston Artist Interviews, Boston Bands