“Most rock journalism,” the ever-quotable and provocative Frank Zappa once opined, “is people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read.”
On that plangent note, if you want to rustle up some fake erudition by populating your bookshelves with books on grunge, or more generally, here are some books that I couldn’t read, by people who couldn’t write, about people who can’t talk. Many of them have got big colour pictures in them too. Please recommend any titles that you found good to crayon in and I’ll give them the visual equivalent of a spin.
Grunge/Seattle and Pacific Northwest
Carrie Brownstein, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
An engaging, erudite account of life in Sleater Kinney from a born writer – unfailingly witty and thought-provoking. SK are finally getting their long deserved dues. Will make you revisit the whole SK back catalogue. Highly recommended.
Charles R. Cross, Room Full of Mirrors: A biography of Jimi Hendrix
Diligently researched biography of Seattle’s finest guitarist and his all-too brief life and career.
Charles R. Cross, Heavier Than Heaven: A biography of Kurt Cobain
A thorough retelling of Cobain’s life from a Seattle insider with an impressive contacts book. It tackles everything head on, not least the mythologies that inevitably when someone is taken too soon. Written in 2000, it lacks the longer perspective of Nirvana and Cobain’s artistic value.
Lance Mercer, 5 × 1: Pearl Jam through the eye of Lance Mercer
Stacks of onstage and behind the scenes photos of the band from their official photographer 1992-95.
Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam Twenty
A beast of the book. The definitive guide to PJ’s first twenty years, presented chronologically.
Charles Peterson and Lance Mercer, Pearl Jam: place/date
More onstage and behind the scenes photos of the band.
Greg Prato, Grunge Is Dead: The oral history of Seattle rock music
Consisting entirely of interviews with most of the protagonists in the Seattle grunge scene, diligently and perceptively edited and arranged by the author into a narrative thread. Perhaps strongest on the early days, before grunge went global.
Fred Woodward (ed.), Cobain: By the editors of Rolling Stone
Brought out in 1994 to commemorate Cobain’s life and work, and including all the magazine’s interviews with and reviews of Nirvana. Excellent photography too.
Other non-grunge scribblings
Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood, Birth School Metallica Death, Volume 1: The biography
Alan Lomax, The Land Where the Blues Began
Andy Neill, Anway Anyhow Anywhere: The complete chronicle of The Who 1958-1978
Julia Rolf: Blues: The complete story
Pete Townshend, Who I Am
Neil Young, Waging Heavy Peace
Am intending to review some of these,* so when I do, I’ll add links to the review.
* Some I’ve been intending to review for years now. Don’t hold your breath. Otherwise sit very patiently.