Few genres of books are as delectable and tasty as the good books on rock 'n' roll, and the best publisher of the form is DaCapo Press.
DaCapo is so good at producing entertaining and informative tomes on music, you could just order everything in the catalog and be a satisfied customer.
Take Is This the Real Life? (DaCapo, $25) by Mark Blake. Its the story of Queen you know, the band from the 70s and 80s that featured Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor.
I was never a huge fan, but I didnt need to be to enjoy this book. Queen was a larger-than-life band that reached its peak before the arrival of grunge and the "Everyman Rock Star" 20 years ago. Back in Freddie Mercury's day, we wanted our rock stars to be spectacular and mythic. (See the Freddie Mercury action figure, at left. We haven't seen too many other rock action figures since then.)
So return to those thrilling days of rock 'n' roll yesteryear with Blake's engrossing chronicle of talent and excess. Its another one of those books that inhales you. Every rock band seems to have built-in storytelling drama and in the case of Queen, theres a long battle for recognition and success, then the inevitable clash of talents and the sad fall, culminating in Mercury's death from AIDS.
Its a straightforward story of how Frederic Bulsara from Zanzibar transformed himself into the mighty stage presence that was Freddie Mercury. With Brian May, guitarist and astrophysicist, we had a partnership that while not quite at Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards levels certainly made its mark on a generation of rocknroll fans.
From the note-perfect Bohemian Rhapsody through the must-be-Elvis funk of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," the band defined an era. Blake does a terrific job of gathering all of his sources to tell the bands story.
Thought its over 400 pages, its the kind of book youll rip through in a day. Its a thoroughly enjoyable read.
BITCHINESS AS ART: Speaking of thoroughly enjoyable reads, pick up The Fran Lebowitz Reader (Vintage, $15.95) for a collection of writing by one of Americas most treasured smart asses.
Fran Lebowitz was featured in the recent Martin Scorsese HBO documentary, Public Speaking. She is, without doubt, a monumental crank and therefore should be next on the podium to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom. I first read her books Metropolitan Life and Social Studies when they were released decades ago. The guts of those books form The Fran Lebowitz Reader and not much is added.