The best new music books to buy for Christmas 2021


Bobby gillespie Child of the building (White Rabbit, £ 20) takes us from his difficult working-class childhood in Glasgow to the release of Primal Scream’s pioneering acid rock album, Screamadelica, on September 3, 1991. “For some people it is. the day the 90s really started. Gillespie concludes shamelessly, in prose so purple that it would surely have embarrassed the NME reporters whom he claims to despise: “It was a spiritual mantra of resistance, an electronic intifada, an analog bubble bath for the mind and the soul. body … ”The politics of his unionist father permeated his vision of the world, so that a group is never really a group but“ a form of socialism in action ”and the adventures of childhood in the fields of bomb games are peppered with commentaries on imperialism. If it all sounds over the top and ridiculous, well, that’s part of the fun. Obsessive music fan who made his wildest rock star dreams come true, Gillespie has found an authentic voice to describe his often hair-raising experiences, and the result is a rock’n’roll epic.

A similar fandom permeates Stevie Van Zandt Unrequited fads (Orion, £ 20), delivered in punchy phrases interspersed with beatnik riffs (“it’s a wandering winter and you can’t sell the conscience”) and the zipped Italian-American “bada bing” of Silvio Dante, the character that he played in The Soprano. An eternal sideman in his own history, there is much to be learned from his mind-blowing adventures as Bruce Springsteen’s consigliere. It’s hugely funny, even though Van Zandt hints at his unreliability as a narrator. “Who knows?” he said, of Rolling Stone’s report on exactly when he was recruited into the E Street Band. “We’re all half of this shit anyway.”

Dave Grohl is perhaps even better connected than Van Zandt. The narrator (Simon & Schuster, £ 29.99) is peppered with encounters with rock heroes from Iggy Pop to Paul McCartney. Featured as a series of vignettes, it follows Virginian high school‘s hyperactive dropout from local punk obscurity on drums with Nirvana to become the charismatic frontman of the Foo Fighters, arguably the last big stage rock band. Grohl is an endearing storyteller, but his memoir suffers from his default Tigger enthusiasm, bouncing off dark things (Kurt Cobain’s suicide) to celebrate superficial moments (his daughter’s bedtime story). Everyone in Grohl’s world is beautiful, and all’s well that ends well.

The great guitarist and folk rock songwriter Richard Thompson is less appreciative of his fellow travelers in Old wine (Faber, £ 20), which focuses on the years 1967-1975 and the struggle to find his voice with Fairport Convention. “The world of music is full of madmen,” he reports, “absolute madmen, arrogant and selfish who imagine that everything revolves around them.” Which, to be fair, is almost a prerequisite for an entertaining music book.

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