Good published biographies of alternative musicians/creators
November 27, 2008 9:54 AM   Subscribe

A good friend is looking for a good Xmas gift for a younger, 'cooler', musically committed cousin (as in, wants to create and self-publish music). I suggested a good biography of an important figure in alternative music, and now I'm seeking recommendations. Inspirations, cautionary tales.... what tales have been encased in print about a trailblazer that could speak to a maverick young pup of 2008? Anwers on a postcard please!
posted by mywinningsmile to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know how hip he is to jazz, but Gary Giddins' Louis Armstrong biography is really great, and I know plenty of non-musicians who've read it and liked it, so it may have some appeal even if he's not interested in jazz music.
posted by rossination at 10:14 AM on November 27, 2008

Less biographies of folks but more of a "scene" as it were:
Our Band Could Be Your Life focuses more on the 1980's Punk/Indie bands
Please Kill Me the beginnings of punk in the late 60's/70's

I really dug both FWIW.
posted by Asbestos McPinto at 10:53 AM on November 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

*shakes fist on non-preview*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:53 AM on November 27, 2008

Hmmmm... this is not quite a biography but still very funny and I think it fits the bill quite well... hard copy only available used in the uk, but it's online here so you could always print it and gbet it bound quite nicely...
posted by Chairboy at 10:57 AM on November 27, 2008

doh... ''get of course
posted by Chairboy at 10:57 AM on November 27, 2008

Heavier Than Heaven.
posted by apetpsychic at 12:52 PM on November 27, 2008

I should note the author of that book has many detractors, including a hilarious one-page comic called "How To Write A Book About Nirvana" by Peter Bagge.

The book was also with "full access" to Courtney Love and he often pushes forward her agenda, but overall it's worth reading. I also think Kurt Cobain's diary is a fascinating document in musical obsession. The entire book is t-shirt / video ideas, revised favorite albums lists and letters to bands he likes.
posted by apetpsychic at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2008

you could always get him some music gear. I'd stay away from recording equpiment b/c he probably has his/her personal preferences but you can never have too many XLR or 1/4 cables, extra mic stands, maybe a decent affordable condensor mic.
posted by BrnP84 at 1:44 PM on November 27, 2008

Rip It Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds

I read it right before Our Band Could Be Your Life, and liked it a lot better.
posted by hal incandenza at 2:13 PM on November 27, 2008

I really got a huge kick out of Lipstick Traces, though it's not for everyone (wonky Greil Marcus connects The Sex Pistols to, well, everyone cool ever, pretty much, through The Communards, Situationists, The Inkspots and Lord Byron).
posted by klangklangston at 2:28 PM on November 27, 2008

nthing "our band could be your life"
posted by micawber at 2:48 PM on November 27, 2008

Hey, thank you all so much! I've shared this thread with my friend and given my 2 cents on it, so hopefully we will have a happy cousin! But keep em coming, do... not least, I'm building up my own wishlist!


posted by mywinningsmile at 2:57 PM on November 27, 2008

John Darnielle's book on Black Sabbath, Master of Reality 33 1/3, is really freakin' good. It's about what happens when you're 16 and they take away your CD player.

I don't know if it's what you're looking for, but it's short and amazing.
posted by puckish at 4:20 PM on November 27, 2008

Chronicles - Volume One, the first book in Bob Dylan's autobiography (more to follow I guess).

Seriously. Bob Dylan.
posted by Mephisto at 4:21 PM on November 27, 2008

Seconding Dylan's Chronicles. I'm not a big fan of his, but the way he documents his beginnings and rise to fame is extraordinary. After all that, the story jumps to the eighties, which is a bit of a drag, but it's still kind of interesting, I guess.

I'd suggest bundling that with Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews, which nicely fills the gaping hole in Chronicles.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:13 PM on November 27, 2008

+1 for "our band could be your life"
posted by genehack at 5:55 PM on November 27, 2008

Nthing Chronicles. Required reading regardless of whether you're a fan of Dylan's or not. Oh, and I was named after him so I might be a little biased.

Also, Despite Everything: The Cometbus Omnibus, if he's into punk.
posted by symbollocks at 7:10 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats has written a book about Black Sabbath? Color me intrigued.


Confusion is Next, The Sonic Youth Story, by (my old pal & partner in crime) Alec Foege, is pretty damn good, though it only covers the band up to the release of Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:21 PM on November 27, 2008

I don't know how you're defining "alternative music," but Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer is a fascinating account of the driving force behind "The Only Band That Matters."

Some great suggestions here - thanks to this thread, I now know what's going under the tree for my husband this Christmas!
posted by platinum at 12:29 AM on November 28, 2008

I second: Rip It Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds - which covers the growth of the DIY aesthetic of the 80s. its REALLY GOOD and sounds like what you need.

btu I'm also reading a recent Sonic Youth Biog which is entertaining enough. - actually no it would proabbly boring if you were not a fan.
posted by mary8nne at 4:11 AM on November 28, 2008

nthing Our Band Could Be Your Life.
posted by radioamy at 10:15 AM on November 28, 2008

Perhaps more on the cautionary tale side - He's A Rebel, on Phil Spector. I didn't think the writing was so great, but the story is certainly compelling. This one may be better written - it's looks maybe too long, though...?
posted by zoinks at 11:04 AM on November 28, 2008

Bitter Music by Harry Partch (the original maverick).
posted by speicus at 12:21 PM on November 28, 2008

For bonus points, throw in Radiohead remix 'stems' that'll let you make your own (re)mixes of Reckoner, and Nude off their latest album. (If he likes Radiohead) $.99 on iTunes each.
posted by yoHighness at 9:11 PM on November 28, 2008

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