A person never reads every book they plan to. Still, publishers sent their best, and some of our staff — including the entire design team — dug in. It’s not too late to head to your local indie bookshop, or call in a holiday present, music fans.
Here’s the best of what hit our desks in 2019.
“Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest” (University of Texas Press) It doesn’t get said enough, but A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 album, We Got It from Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service was exactly what hip-hop fans — and probably the whole of America — needed after the election of Donald Trump. In his love letter and extended essay dedicated to the group, poet and critic Hanif Abdurraqib explains some of the steps that got us to People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, and through Thank You, by visiting centuries of Black music-making and then landing at a personal love of Tribe (specifically Q-Tip and Phife Dawg) that he masterfully explained in a series of sometimes heartbreaking passages that could create a lifelong fan of a book-lover who’s never even heard of “Bonita Applebum.”
“Welcome to Dripper World” (Sacred Bones) Sam Ryser’s Bushwick back alley punk-rock oddities shop Dripper World wants to live on your coffee table in hardback and softcover thanks to the just-over 200 art pieces in this art book that’s got no words, but screams of the boundary-pushing work that his bands (Crazy Spirit and Dawn of Humans) and design have brought to rock and roll. Music is meant to be heard and felt — not experienced on the internet — and with this visual-knockout, Ryser gets pretty close to crawling through your speaks and ripping you into his hell-on-wheels headspace.
“This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else: Joy Division — The Oral History” (Faber & Faber) There’s no shortage of writing about the ephemeral life and infinite influence of Joy Division, but U.K. punk historian Jon Savage delivered, perhaps, the definitive examination this spring by asking about 40 people closest to the white-hot light — including band members and Ian Curtis’ widow Deborah — to comb through the good and bad, thread-by-thread, on the way to painting a devastatingly intimate peek into a band that continues to confound even its deepest fans while bringing bliss to anyone blessed enough to experience one of its songs.
“Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As Lived by Jon Zazula” (Crazed Management LLC) If you’re Megaforce Records co-founder Jon Zazula, then there’s “nothing to it but to do it,” and in his self-told life story, the music fan who went from the Bronx to Wall Street details how he and his wife Marsha discovered Metallica and brought its music — along with the heavy loads of seminal works by Anthrax, Overkill, King’s X and more—to the world’s ear. This one’s pretty much required if you like living in Tampa because it’s the death metal capital of the world.
“The Wichita Lineman” (Faber & Faber) If books about ideas or a band just aren’t specific enough for you, consider Dylan Jones’ look at “The Wichita Lineman,” a singular, unfinished working-class tune popularized by Glen Campbell and then recorded by countless others including R.E.M. and Johnny Cash. The GQ editor cuts the fat from the folklore and takes readers not just into the intimate details of Campbell’s recording sessions with the world-famous Wrecking Crew house band but into the life of Webb who wrote what Bob Dylan once called the greatest song ever written.
“Cigar City: Tales From a 1980s Creative Ghetto” (St. Petersburg Press) In his debut book, Paul Wilborn, a Bay area creative scene champ and the current executive director of St. Petersburg’s Palladium Theater, taps into his past as a journalist — and his life in 1980s Ybor City, which technically set roots down when his maternal great-grandparents moved here from Sicily — to spin phantasmagorical, fictional short stories set during a seminal time period in the history of Tampa’s arts and music scene. Ybor is still full of life these days, but Wilborn’s magical stores — and the ones that are sometimes all too real, like the tale of the AIDS epidemic—turn a special epoch in the district’s history into magic.
“I Need to Know: The Lost Music Interviews” (St. Petersburg Press) Bill DeYoung has interviewed a fuck ton of musicians during the course of a career that’s included stops at the Gainesville Sun (where he spent 20 years), Goldmine music magazine and occasional stories in CL Tampa Bay. Still, chats with icons like Tom Petty, Sir George Martin, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and more have never been published in their entirety — until now. Suck on this, music nerds, it’ll satiate the need for a deep dive.
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