Melanie Smith – My top 5 of the year in books
Daddy Was a Punk Rocker -Adam Sharp. (kindle version) Daddy Was A Punk Rocker is an autobiography, its a kind of bitter sweet tale, with characters that leap from the pages. It's not always an easy read, family attachments are held together by threads, with many moments of sadness, anger, disappointment and deep insecurities, but what shines through the whole book is Adam's determination to succeed and leave his demons behind, despite everything life throws at him. I loved this book so much I had to read it on my iphone, I couldn’t wait for it to come out on paperback. I needed to interview Adam afterwards and I eagerly await his next book.
Telling Stories - Tim Burgess (Penguin). Now I wouldn't say that I am a Charlatans fan, but I do like a good read, doesn't matter if the music is to my taste or not. Tim seems like an interesting character, so was keen to read his story, plus I'm a nosey bugger too. I started to read this on a camping trip, and just couldn’t put it down. Riveting, and well written, enjoyed his ups and downs, the punk days, and way back when he was a Charlatan, in fact he still is and I got to see him live three times this year. And met him in person recently at the Louder Than Words festival.
Manchester: Looking for the Light through the Pouring Rain – Kevin Cummins (Faber & Faber). This is not a brand new book, but I only bought it this year. It's a thrilling ride through the archives of the Manchester photographer Kevin Cummins, alongside stories and memories of the Manchester music scene. Kevin was a face we would see regularly at all the punk gigs in Manchester, and he later became world famous for his early work with Joy Division and The Smiths.You can't fail to be star stuck at his portraits and an inspiration for any music photographer. (Kevins talks are most interesting - I attended one in 2011 and did a piece about it here)
Just A Boy: The True Story Of A Stolen Childhood - Richard McCann (Ebury Press). I know this isn’t a music themed book, but I just had to feature this in my top five. I went to a conference where Richard was giving a motivational speech. I was blown away by his life story, (he was the child of the first victim of the Yorkshire Ripper) By the end of the two hour talk I was literally in floods of tears (as was a few more people around me) they were tears of sadness, joy and in complete awe of this man and what he had managed to overcome in throughout his life. I came home bought this book and read it within 24 hours.
Autobiography – by Morrissey (Penguin). Last but not least.... I have confession to make. I haven’t yet finished this book, but I am sure its going to feature in my best of the year. It’s not an easy read, a little challenging at times, and as yet I don’t feel closer to knowing who Morrissey is beneath the mystery. Maybe as I delve deeper into the chapters I will uncover hidden gems about the enigmatic Steven Morrissey. Again I wouldn't call myself a big fan of his music, but I do find him fascinating as a character, and he is a Northerner!
The next book on my radar is the autobiography of former Clash drummer Terry Chimes - The Strange Case of Dr Terry and Mr Chimes. Paul Hastings reviewed it here.
Den Browne and his chosen books for 2013. It was a daunting task for Den choosing five of the best so he compiled his own little list of favourite books of which he reviewed this year.
The best Looking book award: - The Art of Punk - Russ Bestley & Alex Ogg - (Omnibus) If you need any reminding of the inspiring diversity of punk, this book is essential, and shows that the graphics and imagery were just as important as the music, inseparable even. It’s a nostalgia free look at a scene that’s influencing art and design to this day and beyond.
Top books: 13 Knots: Collected Poetry & Prose - Nina Antonia - (TBMr Records) 13 Knots shows once again that Nina Antonia is one of the sharpest and classiest music writers around, and its ‘slim volume’ nature makes it an ideal starter or filler until her next full-length writing.
Big Star: The story of rock's forgotten band - Rob Jovanovic: (Jawbone) It’s a fascinating story, and one that at times seems like a novel, such are the characters, locations and happenings along the way. Rob Jovanovic does a great job of describing it all. As he says, the group are his first love musically, and it was always his ambition to write about them, but the book’s no gushing fan-fest, and he doesn’t duck the hard stuff.
Performance: Biography of the film - Paul Buck: To be honest, when I got the book I wondered about the word ‘biography’ in the title, but by the end it’s justified, as it tells of the film’s slow growth and troubled life. It’s an inside perspective of how it all came together, rather than a critic’s response to the finished product. It’s a perfect snapshot of the ‘69 vibe, where the times and the drugs were a-changing, leading to an increasingly paranoid and dislocated atmosphere.
The Strangest book award: Clarks in Jamaica - Al Fingers (One Love Books) (a beautifully illustrated & produced exploration of reggae footwear) I can see that this book’s a real eccentric niche market thing, or niche of a niche even, but for anyone with love or interest in the wider aspects of the reggae music scene and culture, it’s a rewarding read and also a knock-down “get out of jail” card if you’re looking for an unusual present. Looks beautiful too!.
Best DIY book awards: It was great when we started getting self-produced books as well as the mainstream publisher stuff. Writers like Tony Beesley - Away From The Numbers - The memoir can be a tricky path, easy to fall into the dread “In my day…” territory, or to over-analyze youthful highs and lows from an older-but-wiser perspective. Tony Beesley avoids these traps thru the direct honesty of his writing, and lots of nice little touches like the occasional sketches and cartoons scattered through the text, which add to the affectionate but never sentimental tone of the writing.)
JMR Higgs: KLF - Chaos Magic Music Money have been making their mark for a while and go from strength to strength. This is as far from a conventional band biography as you’ll get, but along with all the theory and weirdness, John Higgs does a great job in capturing the effect of KLF obliterating “Top of the Pops” and the chart competition with their mix of Viking ships, dance beats, heavenly choirs - and Tammy Wynette!
My personal favourite DIY were from two newcomers - Ann Witherall's FLY, a great coming-of-age tale set in the early 80's Melbourne hardcore squat scene and Daddy Was a Punk Rocker -Adam Sharp, a really skilful balance of personal history and the Manchester of Durutti Column & Joy Division.
Dick Porter’s five favourite books of the year
Look Wot I Dun: My Life In Slade – Lise Lynn Falkenberg and Don Powell (Omnibus) Essential reading for all Sladists – This warm, engaging memoir not only offers stark recountments of Don’s issues with alcohol and drugs, and his marital difficulties, but also a wealth of laugh-out-loud anecdotes from Slade’s history.
Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins – Mick Farren (Headpress) The low point of 2013 was the great Mick Farren’s death. A massive influence on yours truly and armies of others, this anthology draws together Mick’s matchless recountments of more than four decades spent manning the barricades. Read it and remember what we have lost.
Zounds Demystified – Steve Lake (Active) Steve Lake’s candid memoir vividly evokes the early 1980s anarcho-punk scene and is populated by characters that will strike a familiar chord with anyone who was there at the time. Written with considerable wit and Lake’s customarily self-deprecating humour, Demystified engagingly explores the travails of an altruistic band exposed to the self-serving machinations of the music industry.
Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen – Al Jourgensen (Da Capo) Good and bonkers. All the fear and loathing you can eat. This, my friend, is the spirit of rock’n’roll.
Scott: The Curious Life and Work of Scott Walker – Paul Woods (Omnibus) A forensic analysis of the reclusive auteur’s life and work that shines new insight and perspective to one of the world’s most quixotic performers.
Mike Ainscoe’s five of the bestJethro Tull: The ‘A New Day Tapes’ Vol 2 – Dave Rees & Martin Webb. (A New Day) Fabulously detailed collection and worthy follow up to Vol 1 from a couple of fans who are also part of the Tull inner circle. Wry, witty and open.
Led Zeppelin: Trampled Underfoot (Faber & Faber) – Barney Hoskins. Fantastic collection of quotes and anecdotes from all the key players in the Zep story and interesting revelations and different people’s takes on the same topics and events.
The Moaning Of Life – Karl Pilkington (Canongate Books Ltd) Genius observations – say what you think should be everyone’s motto.
Bruce Springsteen: The E Street Shuffle – Clinton Heylin (Constable) Nice new tome from a writer who knows his onions and impeccably research bringing the Springsteen story up to date.
Bob Dylans NeverEnding Tour: One More Night – Andrew Muir (CreateSpace) An extension of his first book which left off in 2001, and an enthralling take on the fan’s (and obsessive Dylan collector’s) view of a fascinating period of Dylan’s live career.
I would just like to add a massive big thanks to Helen Donlon at Omnibus Music publishing for giving us the chance to review some amazing books over the years.