Rock Reads Edition

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If you're looking for a holiday gift for a music fan who's also a reader, we have some great new titles to tell you about. And if you're a fan of John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, collecting music on vinyl, guitar greats or the long-running punk band NOFX, then you'll want to get one of these for yourself too!

"Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon"
Edited by Jeff Burger
Chicago Review Press

Having previously put together similar books regarding Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen, here Burger compiles interviews that John Lennon did with various print and broadcast mediums; many of the latter have never been published in print form before. Presented in chronological order, the interviews include a few from while the Beatles were still together, including a "Tonight Show" interview with a clueless Joe Garagiola. Lennon went through the transition from goofy pop star to outspoken intellectual concurrent with beginning his relationship with Yoko Ono and she plays a part in many of the interviews subsequent to that time. Featured conversations are captivating, and some of the more interesting chapters feature the 1969 press conference Lennon and Ono did in Austria while wearing bags over their heads the whole time, a conversation that the pair had with LSD guru Timothy Leary and his wife, and sadly, the last interview Lennon ever gave, taped at his home in New York City on Dec. 8, 1980 mere hours before his murder. Burger pens an intro to each chapter in this most entertaining and enlightening book.

"The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories"
By NOFX with Jeff Alulis
Da Capo Press

By now they have sold over six million records and the members of NOFX --- "Fat Mike" Burkett, Eric Melvin, Erik "Smelly" Sandin and Aaron "El Hefe" Abeyta --- are very wealthy men. The guys take turns telling the band's story through mostly brief chapters and sometimes some of the "facts" come out differently depending on each member's perspective; that's to be expected considering that the story begins in the early 1980s and because all of the band members were drunk, drugged up or both a good deal of the time. An odd thing to think, but fans can in a way be thankful that the band was whacked out of their minds for so long; no right-thinking person would've continued to try and navigate the horrifying West Coast punk scene where violence and drug addiction often outshone the music. And there are no punches pulled here; the band is very candid talking about their struggles with addiction, their sorrow in remembering friends who didn't survive the scene, their sometimes cruel pranks, and eventually, mismanaging a first taste of real money. Burkett is particularly candid talking about his penchant for S&M and he is not above poking fun at himself throughout the book, and the humor here tempers what is a riveting but sometimes painful read. As band memoirs go, this is by far one of the best to come along in recent memory.

"The Beginner's Guide to Vinyl"
By Jenna Miles
Adams Media

Here's a nice primer for those who have recently taken an interest in collecting music on vinyl. The book's first couple of chapters offer a brief history lesson on the introduction of the phonograph (record player) and the changes in the vinyl format over the years along with an explanation of how records are made. The ensuing two chapters are very important; these cover everything a vinyl fan needs to know about turntables; their care and feeding, a glossary of part names along with an explanation of what each part does, and reviews of some popular turntable models that list off the advantages and disadvantages of each model. The rest of the book offers helpful information like how to inspect and grade used vinyl, how to clean your records, and what you should know about collecting special pressings like test pressings, promo copies, half-speed masters, picture discs, die-cut and laser-etched discs and more. Even knowledgeable audiophiles and longtime crate-diggers will find something helpful in this guide that carries the very appropriate subtitle "How to Build, Maintain and Experience a Music Collection in Analog."

"The Grail Guitar: The Search for Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" Telecaster"
By Chris Adams
Rowman and Littlefield

In 1973 author Adams, at the time the guitarist for String Driven Thing, bought a used Telecaster in London after enduring an embarrassing on-stage incident where his only guitar failed on him during a show. Eventually Adams came to believe the guitar was previously played by Jimi Hendrix, and then the possibility came up that it could actually be the guitar that Jimi used on the recording of "Purple Haze." The book is the story of Adams' quest to find out the truth about the guitar and the tale is presented in a fun way that reveals insight about Hendrix and other rock 'n' roll luminaries as Adams meets and gleans information from various survivors of the scene. We won't reveal here what Adams determined about the provenance of the guitar but we will reveal that the reader will have a great time tagging along with him during the investigation.

"Unstrung Heroes: Fifty Guitar Greats You Should Know"
By Pete Braidis
Schiffer Publishing

As the clever title intimates, this book is not about guitar gods like Eric Clapton, Steve Vai, Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen. That doesn't mean you won't find familiar names here though; some of the guitarists deemed worthy of a chapter include George Thorogood, Eric Gales, Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield), Steve Hackett (Genesis), Bruce Cockburn, Vicki Peterson (the Bangles), Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Mick Box (Uriah Heep), Rik Emmett (Triumph), Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions) and Pat Travers. Braidis interviews each spotlighted player, with most conversations taking up just a few or up to 10-or-so pages. It should be noted that the interviews are not technical pieces about gear and such; instead they are geared to entertaining the everyday music fan.

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