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Six Great Music Books - Timeless Passion


On my desk is an impressive stack of recently published books. This half dozen volumes brought me almost as much excitement as the music they generated in my head.  Checking out the covers, alone, is almost like spinning the vinyl on a turntable. After all these decades of reading books about music, I’m so happy there remain authors able to generate the excitement I got from these.

Robert Gordon, accomplished writer and veteran Memphis music guy, brings the heat with Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. This is classic, gritty music journalism at it’s best. The Stax Records Story is much more than the up-and-down tale of a record label. This is soul music itself, 1960s and ‘70s America, brought to life on the printed page. You’ll sweat, feel the heat, and find yourself appreciating fine writing as much as the music Gordon tells about. Respect Yourself goes onto the shelf with Guralnick.


Amanda Petrusich goes deep into the mind-set, the very world, of 78 rpm collectors. Recorded music enthusiasts go to great lengths for their passions, they’ll often spend their money on vinyl rather than clothing or food or their home. For better or worse, Petrusich makes her way into their lives, gains trust, and goes fully inside. I find Do Not Sell At Any Price absolutely riveting. I’m helped by having lived in that world, and know some of the characters profiled in these pages. If you enjoy people with passion, you’ll appreciate this book and Petrusich’s ability to share with us the feel, the lives, of these collectors.

@amandapetrusich  @ScribnerBooks

If I need to introduce Greil Marcus to you, it’s time to stop reading and Google the man. Find a copy of Mystery Train - begin there. Read it. Now return to today, buy a copy of The History of Rock’N’Roll in Ten Songs, and read slowly. Slow down. Appreciate what Marcus is delivering with this book, how much thought and care he’s put into this. Do you even think an argument about distilling rock’n’roll music into ten songs would ever end, much less result in this thoughtful masterpiece of a book? Like or dislike his choices, I find myself savoring his thought processes and sublime writing. A masterpiece.

@GreilMarcusNET  @yalepress


Punk USA is an oral history of one of the influential punk record labels. Lookout Records spawned Green Day, the Donnas, Weasel, and a dozen other bands you’ll remember on some level, if you were paying attention in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. What’s special about Kevin Prested’s book? He gets it, the spirit and attitude and rhythm of Lookout Records jumps off the pages. If you’ve fond memories of fanzines, DIY publishing and record sleeves, posters and concert flyers - you’ll find tugs at your heart in Punk USA. Passion is an understated word for the punk world Lookout Records inhabited.



Stealing All Transmissions is a cool story. The United States, at least the intelligent music scene part of this country, fell hard for the Clash in the late 1970s. This book reflects the impassioned work and lives of many people in the field then, notable free-form radio, striving to effect change and take back control of the music industry from the corporate suits. A brief, impassioned history of the revolution taking place in music in the ‘70s, revolving around the Clash and their role leading the charge, Stealing All Transmissions is on-point and true to the spirit and the music. 

The Clash put on a fall 1979 show in New York City that may have been the high-water mark of their career. Stealing All Transmissions brings that seminal evening to life, as it does the heartbeat of the band, their fans and the times. The old adage is that a great music book causes your toes to tap. Author Randal Doane brings sweat to my head with his words. As Hemingway said, this is the “true gen.”

#theclash  @PMPressOrg

The Stones are kicking off another tour of the States. Now, in 2015. I’m excited, though I don’t anticipate spending the kind of money necessary for tickets. How cool is it, that all these decades into their lives and careers, the Rolling Stones continue to generate a frenzy of excitement as another series of concert begin? Ain’t It Time We Said Goodbye: The Rolling Stones on the Road to Exile by Robert Greenfield puts it all into context.

In 1971 the Stones set off on a brief circuit of shows in England, the home country they were soon to leave as tax exiles. Greenfield, author of other Stones books and long a confidant of the band, was with them during this pivotal time. Keep in mind, this is immediately pre-Exile On Main Street-era Stones.

Herion is a big deal. Tension between Jagger and Richards is growing. Their music is amazing, but whether the band would even hang together and record again was in doubt. Greenfield was right in the middle, nothing was hidden from him, and once again he brings the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world to life, warts and all.

#RollingStones  #DaCapoPress





Great Writers - Disappointing Books

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

 The legendary passenger liner Lusitania’s final voyage undergoes the mighty detailed scrutiny of Erik Larson in Dead Wake. As a fan of his earlier work, someone happy to immerse myself in the rich detail and atmosphere he creates with the written word, I found myself disappointed, sometimes bored, with Dead Wake. 

Perhaps it’s because I knew how the book must end. I’m not certain, but I was bored halfway through, but completed reading because I felt it was my duty, some kind of “I like this writer and should slog through” guilt. 

Dead Wake is a best-seller. Larson is a wonderful writer.  I’ll eagerly read his next work, but this one doesn’t do it for me.

@CrownPublishing  #eriklarson  #deadwake


The Martini Shot by George Pelecanos

George Pelecanos is one of my favorite contemporary, tough-guy, crime novelists. HIs writing for television (The Wire, for example), is stellar. He’s many novels to his name, and I’ve enjoyed each I’ve read. I’m disappointed in The Martini Shot; a couple of the short stories, and the longer novella contained in here, don’t hold up for me. They are well written and entertaining, but somehow they don’t measure up to my inner-Pelecanos standard. I found myself flipping through the pages, waiting for the book to end so I would feel good about beginning another.

I’ll wait for the passion, energy and creative personalities I enjoy and expect from Pelecanos the master, in his next project.

@littlebrown  #georgepelecanos   #martinishot


The Food Babe Way by Vani Hari  

Well-known as a leading food activist, master of social media, and outspoken critic of the poisoning of our food supply, Hari has written a wonderfully accessible and truly useful book, an instant classic, in The Food Babe Way.

Some “important” books, wrestling with hot topics, remain unread on bookshelves. I own a few. The Food Baby Way won’t be one of them. This book is destined to be read cover to cover. From the first page, I found myself drawn to Hari’s story, wrapped in her passion for healthy, non-toxic foods. Then she takes her crusade a big step further with activism. This is who she is.

There is no need for me to recount for you tales of meeting-room bravery on her part, confronting corporate big-shots who famously don’t care.  Vani Hari effectively uses YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pressure, whips up the Food Babe Army, and suddenly the profiteers care!

The Food Babe has brought about truly successful change in the health of the American food supply, and hopefully the American people. Please read her posts and essays on her website, Facebook page, and other social media outlets. Sign up for her email updates. This is important, exciting, relevant work.

If this isn’t enough for you, accept as reality everything encompassed by the subtitle of The Food Babe Way:  “Break Free from the Hidden Toxins in Your Food and Lose Weight, Look Years Younger, and Get Healthy in Just 21 Days!”

The Food Babe Way is a book you’ll read, get excited about, then buy several more copies to give to friends and family as gifts!

@thefoodbabe  #thefoodbabe   @littlebrown   @CathyGruhn  #foodbabeway


The Fat Chance Cookbook by Robert Lustig  

Eating healthily, buying the right foods, preparing meals and getting ahead on food prep: all daunting missions for many. The Fat Chance Cookbook is a guide to shopping, cooking and eating, helping people avoid the hidden sugars in our food supply. This is a major issue in our society, leading us down the road of increased health care costs and a sick population.

Dr. Lustig hates sugar. His best-selling Fat Chance clearly explains how a calorie is not a calorie. Find any of Lustig’s talks on YouTube and listen for a few minutes. He makes a lot of sense, conveying a message with the truth about sugar, fat, carbohydrates and protein.

Consider The Fat Chance Cookbook a companion as you take steps toward a healthier life. Make food buying and prep decisions easier for yourself, lose some weight and feel better, while enjoying flavor and taste.

Plume, $16 trade paperback  

@RobertLustigMD  #FatChance


The Whole30 by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig  

Melissa and Dallas created their well-known 30-day challenge a half dozen years ago, in an effort to turn their own health around. Blogging about their experiences and challenges turned their efforts into a business. The Whole30 is their blueprint for health and freedom from food tyranny.

For years, as a personal trainer, I’ve maintained to clients that their efforts in the gym only create results if the food side of their life straightens out. Melissa and Dallas believe food is the most important element of health and fitness as well, outlined clearly in their earlier book, It Starts With Food

This new guide is meant to jump start a full-on lifestyle makeover. Yes, you’ll probably lose bodyfat if you truly commit to a month of Whole30 eating, but that’s an added bonus. You’ll create a healthier metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation, and perhaps most important - your brain will stop sending you crazy, unhealthy food cravings 

I cannot overstate how strongly I feel a month-long commitment to the Whole30 will benefit untold numbers of people. The Whole30 is much more than recipes; they comprise he smaller portion of the book. This is life coaching at it’s best. Erase some bad habits, enrich your mental and physical health. Change your life for the better.   Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30  

@whole30  #whole30