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The Best Music Books of 2017

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Article by Derek Flynn © 29 December 2017.
Posted in Guest Blogs ().

It’s that time of year again – time to take a look at some of the “Best Music Books of 2017”. Having done an exhaustive and highly unscientific search of some of the year’s “Best-of” lists, I’ve compiled some of the books getting the most critical acclaim this year.

Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 – Lizzy Goodman

New York, 2001. 9/11 plunges the US into a state of war and political volatility-and heralds the rebirth of the city’s rock scene. As the old-guard music industry crumbles, a group of iconoclastic bands suddenly become the voice of a generation desperately in need of an anthem.

In this fascinating and vibrant oral history, acclaimed journalist Lizzy Goodman charts New York’s explosive musical transformation in the early 2000s. Drawing on over 200 original interviews, Goodman follows the meteoric rise of the artists that revolutionised the cultural landscape and made Brooklyn the hipster capital of cool-including The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, and Vampire Weekend.

David Bowie: A Life – Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones’s engrossing, magisterial biography of David Bowie is unlike any Bowie story ever written. Drawn from over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators, some of whom have never before spoken about their relationship with Bowie, this oral history weaves a hypnotic spell as it unfolds a remarkable rise to stardom and an unparalleled artistic path.

Including illuminating, never-before-seen material from Bowie himself, drawn from a series of Jones’s interviews with him across two decades, DAVID BOWIE is an epic, unforgettable cocktail-party conversation about a man whose enigmatic shapeshifting and irrepressible creativity produced one of the most sprawling, fascinating lives of our time.

Art Sex Music – Cosey Fanni Tutti

Art Sex Music is the autobiography of a musician who, as a founding member of the avant-garde group Throbbing Gristle and electronic pioneers Chris & Cosey, has consistently challenged the boundaries of music over the past four decades.

It is the account of an artist who, as part of COUM Transmissions, represented Britain at the IXth Biennale de Paris, whose Prostitution show at the ICA in 1976 caused the Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn to declare her, COUM and Throbbing Gristle ‘Wreckers of Civilisation’ . . . shortly before he was arrested for indecent exposure, and whose work continues to be held at the vanguard of contemporary art.

And it is the story of her work as a pornographic model and striptease artiste which challenged assumptions about morality, erotica and art. Art Sex Music is the wise, shocking and elegant autobiography of Cosey Fanni Tutti.

Lou Reed – Anthony DeCurtis

As lead singer and songwriter for the Velvet Underground and a renowned solo artist, Lou Reed invented alternative rock. His music, at once the height of sanctity and perversity, transcended a genre, speaking to millions of listeners, inspiring a new generation of musicians, and forever changing the way we think of that iconic era of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Now, just a few years after Reed’s death, comes the thrilling, provocative story of his complex life. An acclaimed Rolling Stone contributor, Anthony DeCurtis interviewed Reed extensively and knew him well. With unparalleled access to Reed’s friends, family, and dozens of other intimate relations, DeCurtis brings Reed’s story compellingly alive and deepens our understanding of his indelible music. We travel deep into the underground artist clubs, listen along in the studio as the Velvet Underground record their signature work, and revel in Reed’s relationship with legendaries like Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, and David Bowie. Insightful, revelatory, and intimate, Lou Reed is a gripping tribute to a quintessential American icon.

Art Record Covers – Julius Wiedemann

Art and music have always been closely linked, but perhaps never more so than in the 500+ record sleeves collected here, all of which are the work of the world’s most famous artists. From Andy Warhol and Keith Haring to Basquiat and Banksy, the book spans photography, print, painting and digital media, while also exploring the impact of movements like modernism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art, postmodernism and more peripheral scenes on the visual identity of the music. While the potential to re-trace familiar ground here is clear (Andy Warhol’s iconic Velvet Underground cover as an example), the book does make a point of including contemporary covers, like Jeff Koons’ work for Lady Gaga, David Shrigley’s Deerhoof and Metahaven’s cover for Holly Herndon’s Platform.


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Derek Flynn runs Writing.ie's SongBook blog, and is an Irish writer and musician. He has a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and his fiction was featured in 'Surge', an anthology of new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press with the aim of showcasing “the very best of the next generation of Irish authors”. Online he can be found at his writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – and on Twitter as @derekf03