Recommended Reading: Books on Music

I’m often asked what books I would recommend to someone wanting to delve deeper into the history of the various popular music scenes of the past fifty years or so. That’s an interesting question, as there are so many fascinating volumes out there (and a fair few blatant cash-ins too, which really aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on). Rummaging through my own now-sizeable collection of music books inspired me to put together this list  – that and being a total listoholic, as regular readers will know!

When it comes down to it, I’m not necessarily saying these are the ‘best’ books on music ever because that’s such a subjective definition – I’ve chosen these books because I have read and enjoyed them all, and because I think they would be of interest to those music fans wanting to learn more about the music they know and the music they don’t. Most of them will be easy enough to find – your local library or bookshop should stock many of these titles – but you may have to track down one or two online. They’re worth the effort though…

The list has been divided into three sections for ease of perusal. Biography, Autobiography and Memoirs contains exactly that – books written by or about a band, artist or music industry insider. Scenes, Eras and Places lists volumes covering specific times, locations and musical movements that have had an important impact in some way. Finally, Collected Writings covers more general texts, and compilations of music journalism and other writings. Each section is listed in alphabetical order by the author’s surname and the date given is that of first publication, where known.

22/05/15: Having since read yet more books on music, I decided to update my list with some new additions, which are in bold type. If you’d like to contribute to the really quite brilliant crowdsourced list of music books which resulted from this original list, please do get in touch here, or tweet me. Thanks!


AZERRAD, Michael – Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana (1993/4)

BLACK, Pauline – Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir (2011)

BRANNIGAN, Paul and WINWOOD, Ian – Birth, School, Metallica, Death: 1983-1991 (2014)

BRANNIGAN, Paul and WINWOOD, Ian – Into The Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014 (2015)

BURGESS, Tim – Telling Stories (2013)

CURTIS, Deborah – Touching From A Distance: Ian Curtis & Joy Division (1995)

DYLAN, Bob – Chronicles: Volume One (2004)

FAITHFULL, Marianne – Faithfull: An Autobiography (1994)

FIEGEL, Eddi – Dream A Little Dream Of Me: The Life of ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot (2006)

GILBERT, Pat – Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash (2005)

HEWITT, Paolo and HELLIER, John – Steve Marriott: All Too Beautiful… (2005)

HOOK, Peter – Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division (2012)

LYDON, John with ZIMMERMAN, Kent and ZIMMERMAN, Keith – Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs: The Authorised Autobiography (1994)

MACCOLL, Jean with DALBY, John and SHORTLAND, Fred – My Kirsty: The Short Life & Tragic Death of Kirsty MacColl (2014) (Originally published in 2008 as ‘Sun On The Water’)

MACONIE, Stuart – Cider With Roadies (2004)

MARCUS, Greil – Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes (1998)

MCIVOR, Joel – To Live Is To Die: The Life and Death of Metallica’s Cliff Burton (2009)

MCNALLY, Dennis – A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of The Grateful Dead (2002)

NORMAN, Philip – The Stones (2002)

PANTER, Horace – Ska’d For Life: A Personal Journey With The Specials (2008)

PEEL, John and RAVENSCROFT, Sheila – Margrave of the Marshes (2005)

PRICE, Simon – Everything (A Book About Manic Street Preachers) (1999)

RIBOWSKY, Mark – He’s A Rebel: Phil Spector – Rock & Roll’s Legendary Producer (2006)

RICHARDS, Keith with FOX, James – Life (2010)

SMITH, Giles – Lost In Music: A Pop Odyssey (1995)

SMITH, Patti – Just Kids (2010)

THORN, Tracey – Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star (2013)

WOBBLE, Jah – Memoirs Of A Geezer: The Autobiography of Jah Wobble: Music, Mayhem, Life (2009)


BRADLEY, Lloyd – Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King (2001)

BRADLEY, Lloyd – Sounds Like London: A Century of Black Music in the Capital (2013)

COLLIN, Matthew and GODFREY, John – Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House (1997)

DOGGETT, Peter – There’s A Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars and the Rise and Fall of 60s Counter-Culture (2008)

GREEN, Jonathon – Days In The Life: Voices from the English Underground 1961-1971 (1998)

HARRIS, John – The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock (2003)

HASLAM, Dave – Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City (1999)

HASLAM, Dave – Not Abba: The Real Story of the 1970s (2005)

HOOK, Peter – The Haçienda: How Not To Run A Club (2010)

MCGEE, Alan – Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label (2013)

REYNOLDS, Simon – Rip It Up and Start Again: Post-Punk 1978-84 (2005)

REYNOLDS, Simon – Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews and Overviews (2009)

ROBB, John – Punk Rock: An Oral History (2006)

ROBB, John – The North Will Rise Again: Manchester Music City 1978-1996 – An Oral History (2009)

SAVAGE, Jon – England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock (1992)

SAVAGE, Jon – The England’s Dreaming Tapes (2009)

WILSON, Tony – 24 Hour Party People: What The Sleeve Notes Never Tell You (2002)

YOUNG, Rob – Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music (2011)


HANN, Michael (ed.) – The Guardian Book of Rock & Roll (2008)

KUREISHI, Hanif and SAVAGE, Jon (eds.) – The Faber Book of Pop (1995)

O’BRIEN, Lucy – She Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop and Soul (1995)

PEEL, John – The Olivetti Chronicles (2008)

REYNOLDS, Simon – Bring The Noise: 20 Years of Writing About Hip Rock and Hip Hop (2007)

REYNOLDS, Simon – Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction To Its Own Past (2011)

THORN, Tracey – Naked At The Albert Hall: The Inside Story of Singing (2015)

Note: This list may be subject to change and may also be updated in the future with additional titles (mostly because I still have a large pile of relevant books that I haven’t even read yet!) And you may have a few suggestions of music books that I might have missed – let me know in the comments or tweet me and I’ll post up your choices too.

13 thoughts on “Recommended Reading: Books on Music

  1. Shakey, Jimmy McDonough’s biography of Neil Young, and his Tammy Wynette – Tragic Country Queen are as good as it gets, and I can read them over and over. Just put down Viv Albertine’s book, which is very honest and open. My under-the-radar one is Black Postcards, by Dean Wareham (of Galaxie 500 and Luna), which is tremendously good.

    1. Several people have recommended ‘Shakey’ to me in the past – must get round to reading it. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out Viv Albertine’s book too.

  2. Pingback: Recommended Reading: Books on Music – Your Choices | Another Kind Of Mind

  3. Pingback: Recommended Reading: Books on Music UPDATED | Another Kind Of Mind

  4. Pingback: Recommended Viewing: Documentaries on Music | Another Kind Of Mind

  5. Pingback: Recommended Viewing: Documentaries on Music – Your Choices | Another Kind Of Mind

  6. Pingback: Recommended Reading: Books on Music (The Another Kind Of Mind 10th Birthday Edition) | Another Kind Of Mind

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