What’s an absolute must-have in a book and music store? Books about music! We’ve got autobiographies and biographies written by and about rap stars, country singers, jazz artists, riot grrrls, psychedelic hippies, Grammy winners, punk rockers and crooners. We’ve got fiction books written by musicians about bizarre road trips and adult picture books about outlaws in diapers – and so much more in between. If you want to live vicariously like a rock star, then you need to come by, pick a book off the shelf and immerse yourself in the life and all it takes to get there. Like drugs. And redemption! And prison. Lots of drugs and redemption and prison.
Here’s a selection of some of the new books we currently have in stock, but there are many more (and more on the way) – as well as plenty of rockin’ secondhand titles as well. Oh yeah, and we carry guitar picks in case you want to realize your own dream of rock stardom…
– Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
From a leader of feminist punk music at the dawn of the riot-grrrl era, a candid and deeply personal look at life in rock and roll.
Before Carrie Brownstein co-developed and starred in the wildly popular TV comedy Portlandia, she was already an icon to young women for her role as a musician in the feminist punk band Sleater-Kinney. The band was a key part of the early riot- grrrl and indie rock scenes in the Pacific Northwest, known for their prodigious guitar shredding and their leftist lyrics against war, traditionalism, and gender roles.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is the deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music, from ardent fan to pioneering female guitarist to comedic performer and luminary in the independent rock world. Though Brownstein struggled against the music industry’s sexist double standards, by 2006 she was the only woman to earn a spot on Rolling Stone readers’ list of the “25 Most Underrated Guitarists of All-Time.” This book intimately captures what it feels like to be a young woman in a rock-and-roll band, from her days at the dawn of the underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s through today.
– I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons
Leonard Cohen, one of the most important and influential artists of our era, is a man of powerful emotion and intelligence whose work has explored the essential issues of human life—sex, religion, power, love. Cohen is also a man of complexities and seeming contradictions: a devout Jew, who is also a sophisticate and a ladies’ man, as well as an ordained Buddhist monk whose name, Jikan—”ordinary silence”—is quite the appellation for a writer and singer whose life has been anything but ordinary.
I’m Your Man is the definitive account of that extraordinary life. Starting in Montreal, Cohen’s birthplace, acclaimed music journalist Sylvie Simmons follows his trail, via London and the Greek island of Hydra, to New York in the sixties, where Cohen launched his career in music. From there she traces the arc of his prodigious achievements to his remarkable retreat in the mid-nineties and his reemergence for a sold-out world tour almost fifteen years later. Whether navigating Cohen’s journeys through the backstreets of Mumbai or his countless hotel rooms along the way, Simmons explores with equal focus every complex, contradictory strand of Cohen’s life and presents a deeply insightful portrait of the vision, spirit, depth, and talent of an artist and a man who continues to move people like no one else.
– My House of Memories: An Autobiography by Merle Haggard & Tom Carter
In this riveting personal story, award-winning,bestselling country music recording artist Merle Haggard takes you on a tour through his house of memories, offering a fascinating look inside his turbulent yet successful life. Merle reveals the true stories about his birth and troubled upbringing in a converted railroad boxcar. He recalls the loss of his father when he was nine, after which his childhood disobedience transformed into full-blown delinquency that eventually landed him behind the cold walls of San Quentin. He gives tribute to his mother and relives the painful memory of her death. He shares the lessons he learned from a life shaped by violence, gambling, and drugs, never shying away from the fact that he continues to pay for decades of reckless living. And he talks about the music he loves—how, ultimately, it has defined the man he is.
– Where I Belong by Alan Doyle
From the lead singer of the band Great Big Sea comes a lyrical and captivating musical memoir about growing up in the tiny fishing village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, and then taking to the world stage.
Singer-songwriter and front man of the great Canadian band Great Big Sea, Alan Doyle is also a lyrical storyteller and a creative force. In Where I Belong, Alan paints a vivid, raucous and heartwarming portrait of a curious young lad born into the small coastal fishing community of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, and destined to become a renowned musician who carried the musical tradition of generations before him and brought his signature sound to the world. He tells of a childhood surrounded by larger-than-life characters who made an indelible impression on his music and work; of his first job on the wharf cutting out cod tongues for fishermen; of growing up in a family of five in a two-bedroom house with a beef-bucket as a toilet, yet lacking nothing; of learning at his father’s knee how to sing the story of a song and learning from his mother how to simply “be good”; and finally, of how everything he ever learned as a kid prepared him for that pivotal moment when he became part of Great Big Sea and sailed away on what would be the greatest musical adventure of his life.
Filled with the lore and traditions of the East Coast and told in a voice that is at once captivating and refreshingly candid, this is a narrative journey about small-town life, curiosity and creative fulfillment, and finally, about leaving everything you know behind only to learn that no matter where you go, home will always be with you.
– A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths by Tony Fletcher
They were, their fans believe, the best band in the world. Critics and sales figures told a similar story: six albums between 1984 and 1988 made number one or number two in the UK charts. Twenty-five years after their break-up, the band remain as adored and discussed as ever. To this day, there is a collective understanding that The Smiths were one of the greatest of all British bands. The Smiths – Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce – were four working-class youths who came together, by fate or chance, in Manchester in the early 1980s. Their sound was both traditional and radically different, a music that spoke to a generation, and defied the dark social-economic mood of the Thatcher years. By early 1984, barely a year after their first headlining gig, they were the hottest – certainly the hippest – name in modern music.
In the years that followed the group produced an extraordinary body of work: seventeen classic singles, seven albums, and [some] seventy songs composed by the team of Morrissey and Marr. Yet for all their brilliance and adoration – their famously energetic live shows routinely interrupted by stage invasions – The Smiths were continually plagued by their own reticence to play the game, and by the time of 1987’s Strangeways Here We Come, they had split. The Smiths have never played together again – their enormous contribution to pop culture forever condensed into a prolific and prosperous halcyon period, their legacy intact and untarnished.
Thirty years after their formation, twenty-five since they broke up, The Smiths’ firmament remains as bright as ever. It’s time their tale was told. Tony Fletcher’s A Light That Never Goes Out is a meticulous and evocative group biography – part celebration, part paean – moving from Manchester in the nineteenth-century to the present day to tell the complete story of The Smiths. Penned by a contemporary and life-long fan, and the product of extensive research, dozens of interviews, and unprecedented access, it will serve to confirm The Smiths as one of the greatest, most important and influential rock groups of all time.
– Kanye West: God & Monster by Mark Beaumont
This biography, the most in-depth look at Kanye’s life and career to date, lifts the mask to expose the man behind the endless myths. Featuring quotes from all of the major players in Kanye’s life, Kanye West: God And Monster traces his life from the suburbs of Chicago through art school and rap apprenticeships to recording in the coolest studios of New York and Hawaii with the biggest names in music, revolutionising hip-hop at every step of the way. It documents every rumour and revelation, details the wildest extravagances and biggest ego blow-ups of this true rap original. Exploring his life, music and controversies like never before, Kanye West: God And Monster is the ultimate profile of this legendary pop culture titan.
– Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hillburn
The national bestseller celebrated as “the ultimate Johnny Cash biography….Rock writer great Robert Hilburn goes deep.” — Rolling Stone
In this, the definitive biography of an American legend, Robert Hilburn conveys the unvarnished truth about a musical superstar. Johnny Cash’s extraordinary career stretched from his days at Sun Records with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to the remarkable creative last hurrah, at age 69, that resulted in the brave, moving “Hurt” video.
As music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn knew Cash throughout his life: he was the only music journalist at the legendary Folsom Prison concert in 1968, and he interviewed both Cash and his wife June Carter just months before their deaths. Drawing upon a trove of never-before-seen material from the singer’s inner circle, Hilburn creates an utterly compelling, deeply human portrait of a towering figure in country music, a seminal influence in rock, and an icon of American popular culture. Hilburn’s reporting shows the astonishing highs and deep lows that marked the journey of a man of great faith and humbling addiction who throughout his life strove to use his music to lift people’s spirits.
– Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse
Candid, compelling, and heartbreaking–a father’s story of a talent taken too soon and a legacy that will live on for generations
On July 23, 2011, Amy Winehouse’s family, friends, and fans around the world mourned the tragedy that this remarkable, talented, and extraordinarily generous young woman was now gone. A legion of dedicated fans had lost their idol; a devastated family had lost their Amy. With this difficult news came an outpouring of love and grief from her fans, along with troubling questions about Amy’s very public struggles with drugs and alcohol, as people tried to understand how such a soulful singer had been silenced so young.
Now, in this intimate and tender account, her father and confidant, Mitch, offers an inside view of Amy’s life as she lived it, putting to rest once and for all the controversies that have long surrounded her. Sifting fact from fiction, he pre-sents a portrait of Amy unlike any other, detailing the events and the people that shaped her youth–from her mischievous childhood to her grandmother’s Jazz Age stories, to her father singing Frank Sinatra around the house. Shedding light on Amy’s musical coming-of-age, Mitch explores how she honed her distinctive sound, created her unforgettable look, and channeled her own life into hits such as “You Know I’m No Good,” “Rehab,” and “Back to Black”–some of the most memorable and personal pop music in years.
While her beehive hair, larger-than-life voice, and outrageous personality made her famous, her life offstage made her infamous. Here Mitch holds nothing back about Amy’s addiction to drugs and alcohol, mixing the painful with the poignant as he describes the realities of her dependencies and the toll they took on the family and friends who refused to give up on her. Revealing the truth about Amy’s substance abuse and dispelling many of the tabloid-fueled rumors about her tumultuous marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil, Mitch exposes the years of behind-the-scenes drama that consumed his life and explains how, for those who knew Amy in her last months, the greatest tragedy of all was that she finally appeared to be conquering her demons.
Filled with insights into Amy Winehouse’s music, photographs from her life, and stories of the real woman behind the headlines, “Amy, My Daughter” is an emotional journey into music, addiction, and the unbreakable bond between a daughter and her father.
– Young Neil: The Sugar Mountain Years by Sharry Wilson
Young Neil is a detailed chronological narrative of the early life of iconic Canadian musician Neil Young. Exploring a time in this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s life that has yet to be documented with such depth of research, Young Neil is an exhaustive document of his “Sugar Mountain” years, from 1945 to 1966. From his birth in Toronto through his school years in Florida, Ontario, and Manitoba, the book examines the development of Young’s unique talent against a backdrop of shifting postwar values, a turbulent family history, and a musical revolution in the making. Includes many previously unseen photos, memorabilia, and set lists.
– M Train by Patti Smith (Backbeat Recommended Read)
From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey into the mind of this legendary artist, told through the prism of cafés and haunts she has visited and worked in around the world.
M Train is a journey through eighteen “stations.” It begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. We then travel, through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations: from Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico, to a meeting of an Arctic explorer’s society in Berlin; from the ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York’s Far Rockaway that Smith buys just before Hurricane Sandy hits, to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s craft and on artistic creation, alongside signature memories including her life in Michigan with her husband, guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, whose untimely death was an irremediable loss. For it is loss, as well as the consolation we might salvage from it, that lies at the heart of this exquisitely told memoir, one augmented by stunning black-and-white Polaroids taken by Smith herself. M Train is a meditation on endings and on beginnings: a poetic tour de force by one of the most brilliant multiplatform artists at work today.
– The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book by Foxfire Fund Inc.
For almost half a century, Foxfire has brought the philosophy of simple living to hundreds of thousands of readers, teaching creative self-sufficiency and preserving the stories, crafts, and customs of Appalachia. Inspiring and practical, this classic series has become an American institution.
The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book continues the beloved tradition of celebrating a simpler life, this time with a focus on Appalachian music, folk legends, and a history full of outsized personalities. We hear the encouraging life stories of banjo players, gospel singers, and bluegrass musicians who reminisce about their first time playing at the Grand Ole Opry; we shiver at the spine-tingling collection of tall tales, from ghosts born of long-ago crimes to rumors of giant catfish that lurk at the bottom of lakes and quarries; we recollect the Farm Family Program that sustained and educated Appalachian families for almost fifty years, through the Depression and beyond; and we learn the time-honored skills of those who came before, from building a sled to planting azaleas and braiding a leather bull-whip. Full of spirited narrative accounts and enduring knowledge, The Foxfire 45th Anniversary Book is a piece of living history from a fascinating American culture.
– The Death of Bunny Munroe by Nick Cave
Set adrift by his wife’s sudden death and struggling to keep a grip on reality, Bunny Munro does the only thing he can think of – with his young son in tow, he hits the road. An epic chronicle of one man’s judgement and death, “The Death of Bunny Munro” is an achingly tender portrait of the relationship between father and son.
– Outlaw Pete by Bruce Springsteen
Outlaw Pete is a modern legend of a criminal who starts out in diapers and confronts the roughest edges of adulthood. It’s one of the most ambitious and original story songs Springsteen has written.
When Bruce Springsteen was a little boy, he learned the story of Brave Cowboy Bill, about a pure-hearted little cowboy. It was the first of Bruce’s Western loves, which now range from John Ford movies to Mexican music to Native American art. Each of these inspirations, plus what he’s learned as a man and a rock ’n’ roller about how to combine whimsy and wisdom, were stations on the way to Outlaw Pete, a modern legend of a criminal who starts out in diapers and confronts the roughest edges of adulthood. It’s one of the most ambitious and original story songs Springsteen has written—rhapsodic and harsh, a meditation on destiny, filled with absurdities but not for one second of its eight minutes exactly a joke. It’s an elaborate musical drama, weaving into a single tapestry several styles of rock and an orchestration reminiscent of a Morricone soundtrack.
Outlaw Pete is an adult book, illustrated by Frank Caruso, who drew and painted its pages. Caruso does more than illustrate the song. His approach, immaculately detailed, simple when it needs to be, parallels Springsteen’s blend of absurdity and meditation. The questions about destiny remain unanswered, as they must be, but they’re also brought into a different kind of focus. Details that pass by almost unnoticed in the lyrics become central.
– Houston Rap by Lance Scott Walker
The Houston, Texas, neighborhoods of Fifth Ward, Third Ward and South Park have grown to be hallowed ground for modern rap culture, populated with celebrities, entrepreneurs, support networks and a micro-economy of their own. Photographer Peter Beste (photographer of “True Norwegian Black Metal”) and writer Lance Scott Walker spent nine years documenting the most influential style in twenty-first-century hip hop and the vibrant inner city culture from which it stems. “Houston Rap,” edited by Johan Kugelberg, profiles noted artists such as Bun B of UGK, Z-Ro, Big Mike, K-Rino, Willie D of the Geto Boys, Lil’ Troy and Paul Wall, alongside reflections on the lives of departed legends such as DJ Screw, Pimp C and Big Hawk. The book also features community leaders, rappers, producers, businessmen and family members, all providing an astonishing and important insight into a great American cultural narrative. In addition to featuring Beste’s previously unseen images of the contemporary Houston rap scene, “Houston Rap” includes a detailed timeline charting the growth of rap music in Houston from its origins to the present.