by John James & r & 'Tis the season for publishing companies to offer up a tall stack of terrific music-oriented books, easy to wrap as gifts and a whole lot deeper than E's True Hollywood Story.
Backbeat Books has just issued Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970-1982, now featuring a bonus 24-track CD of interviews with Stiv Bators, Gary Numan, XTC, Oingo Boingo, DEVO, the Cult, and many more with the author, George Gimarc. This new expanded edition nearly tops 750 pages as a day-by-day history of surprising anecdotes, recording session info, tour dates and press scoops concerning every band that ever mattered from the era, and them some. What's so amazing is how fresh everything was back then, as punk broke down the walls of music and commerce, with still new sounds and styles to be created. Yes, brace yourself, you emo-whining, crunk-dancing, DJ culture club kids, as it truly was much, much better back then. No file stealing, no Clear Channel, no Photoshop, no computerized vocal tweaking in the studio -- and indie record releases flourished. For those who remember poring over issues of England's NME or Sounds magazines and dreaming of the unimaginable concerts listed weekly in their back pages, opening this book anywhere and poking a digit on the page is a serious "wow" moment, peppered with album and single cover art, gig posters, buttons, and newspaper ads.
The tasty Warman's brand has issued another small but mighty book in its Field Guide series, but unlike the bird and wildlife guides of the past, these one-inch thick pocket pals are all about identifying the rarest species of rock n' roll animal and his elusive droppings. At more than 500 pages, the new KISS Collectibles Field Guide is a glossy, extensively researched tour of more than 1,500 listings, from Johnny Lightning cars, pajamas, neckties, international magazines, and every unique variation of records and CDs released worldwide. Not known for saying no to a crazy promotional novelty, the band's memorabilia history is revealed in a bonus interview with manager Bill Aucoin.
Fresh from his acceptance of the Century Award at the recent Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Tom Petty collects his memoirs in a new book by Paul Zallo, spun like stories told best around a card table or a camp fire -- crazy funny, wickedly insightful and often tearfully poignant. Entitled Conversations With, the 448-page interview follows Petty from his meeting Elvis as a young child and playing in his first professional bands at age 14, through his superstar, top hat-wearing status in the lively MTV era, and the deep love and affection between among band mates in the Traveling Wilburys. Can you imagine - in the same afternoon you meet Roy Orbison, he gets under the hood of your new car, and later, along with Jeff Lynne, the three of you sit around and write "You Got It"? Or having Bob Dylan and George Harrison want to join your band? "Wow" is an understatement. With sober advice for young musicians, surprising anecdotes and secret songcraft discussion, this a terrific page-turner packed with more than 100 photos. And I'd forgotten what a fair play hero Petty was back in the 1980's, when he took on MCA Records in a retail price dispute over his Hard Promises LP. Thumbs up, to you, Mr. Petty, as I feel the love. Look for it on the Omnibus Press imprint.
More love is shared openly in another new book, Neil Young Nation, as Canadian writer Kevin Chong faces his personal midlife crisis by rounding up a few slacker buddies for a soul-searching road trip across North America, as they trace the same path Neil Young took in the mid-'60s, leaving his native northern homeland for the happening Los Angeles scene. Listening for traces of the energy he left along the way, Chong tracks down Young's childhood home and other significant addresses that dot the map, and finds a few old friends who shared the original, fateful journey in that glorious 1953 Pontiac hearse. Issued by Vancouver's Greystone Books, this very funny highway diary proves that even if you don't get to meet your hero, often the journey itself is all that really matters.
Seattle native and Northwest music historian Peter Blecha shares his true-life adventures as an Indiana Jones in search of pop culture antiquities in his new book, Rock & amp; Roll Archaeologist, from Sasquatch Books. As the former curator of the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, Blecha took his teenage record-collecting interests to stratospheric new heights, scouring basements and loose leads for rock 'n' roll treasures like Bob Dylan's first guitar and Janis Joplin's paisley pants and pink feather boa. Highlights include the auction chase for Eric Clapton's "Layla" guitar and gaining Kurt Cobain items from a difficult Courtney Love. From chasing the wild report of a tree that naturally casts an eerie shadow of Jimi Hendrix, to hunting down Hendrix's own personal record collection, Blecha donned his pith helmet and charged fearlessly after the scent of a rare artifact. If you're lucky enough to visit the house of rock worship that displays these items today, you'll get to enjoy them without even breaking a sweat.