Rock Reads Edition - AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Grateful Dead, Beatles, More

For the music lover on your holiday gift list, check out our recommended books about AC/DC, the Beatles and the Grateful Dead along with rocking activity books from Fantoons and a collection of indie rock photos from Piper Ferguson.

"AC/DC at 50" - Martin Popoff - (Motorbooks, hard cover, 192 pages)

For those about to rock, er, read, here's a must-have book for AC/DC fans. Part of the Motorbooks "At 50" series, here the revered music journalist and prolific author Martin Popoff looks at the career of Australian mainstays AC/DC through 50 significant events. These include chapters on the early days when Bon Scott was the band's vocalist. Each of the 50 chapters is accompanied by photos and pictures of ephemera (posters, ticket stubs, backstage passes) from the era and a short essay from Popoff, whose eloquent commentary is not only informative but also often amusing. For example, when "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" was released in the US, Popoff reveals that the phone number that Scott cites in the song was an actual working number and the owners of it got calls from folks looking to hire the dirty deeds doer. There's a chapter for each album (through 2020's Power Up), a sad chapter about the death of Scott and another about his replacement by Brian Johnson, a chapter about the time Axl Rose replaced Johnson, and more sadness in the chapters about the failing health of guitarist Malcolm Young (he died in 2017) and the legal troubles of drummer Phil Rudd (drug bust). Mostly though the book is upbeat and happy, conveyed not only in Popoff's words but also in the performance and offstage photos that show the guys experiencing great joy. Order here or by clicking the book cover below (ad):

"All the Years Combine: The Grateful Dead in Fifty Shows" - Ray Robertson - (Biblioasis, paperback, 233 pages)

As the book title indicates, here author Robertson traces the development of the Grateful Dead through critiques of fifty concerts, beginning with a 1966 show at the Vancouver Trips Festival in Canada and finishing up with the band's final concert, a 1995 show at Soldier Field in Chicago. While many Deadheads saw hundreds of Grateful Dead shows in person, Robertson works here by listening to recordings from the band's archives (they recorded every show.) Robertson is frank in his critiques, sometimes even pithy, clearly demonstrating that while he is extremely knowledgeable about the Grateful Dead, the purpose of the book is not to blow smoke up anyone's skirt. He bluntly describes how the band is lacking in chops in the early days, especially rhythm guitarist Bob Weir and original front man Pigpen; the band had a meeting to discuss kicking Pig out of the band but never did anything about it. Details like these are found throughout the book, making the read about far more than how the band performed on any given date. Readers will also hear about the highs, the times when everything clicked and the band shot like a rocket into the stratosphere. No doubt carefully cherry-picked, Robertson's selection of shows covers every phase the band went through and all the member changes including the tenure of beloved husband and wife duo Keith and Donna Godchaux. Each chapter begins with the show's set list and some readers will likely, if they were at a particular show, flash back to their memory of hearing "Uncle John's Band" or "Stella Blue;" "Oh man, the band was really flying and so was I!" "All the Years Combine" is a fast, enlightening read but it is also something to savor, like one of the Dead's notorious hour-long jams. Order here or by clicking the book cover below (ad):

"Indie/Seen: The Indie Rock Photography of Piper Ferguson" - Piper Ferguson - (WeldonOwen, hard cover, 272 pages)

Ferguson began her career in the late 1990's and as the book title indicates she aims her lens here at hot indie bands of that era. Some photos are in black & white but most are in color as Ferguson's shots capture the excitement of live performances as well as the serenity of offstage moments. Especially stunning shots include a shirtless (of course) Iggy Pop at Coachella in 2001 showing the veins in his neck and chest bulging prominently, a b&w shot of Robert Levon Been of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club riding a motorcycle (perfect!), Kasabian recreating the famed Beatles "Butcher Block" cover, the Shins dressed in superhero outfits (while in bed) and Greg Lee of Hepcat looking totally mellow in a field of clover and flowers. Ferguson adds commentary for many of the photos and candidly reveals how she was nervous about a session with Joe Strummer at the infamous West Hollywood hotel The Chateau Marmont and equally on edge shooting Richard Ashcroft of the Verve in London (all turned out okay and she got fabulous shots.) It's page after page of eye candy throughout with some of the other luminaries pictured being Beck, the Strokes, Cat Power, Happy Mondays, Mercury Rev, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kelly Osbourne, Chali 2Na, Radiohead, Persephone's Bees, PJ Harvey, Courtney Barnett, Supergrass, and well, the list goes on and on. Johnny Marr pens the book's forward. A great one to leave on the coffee table for all to enjoy. Order here or by clicking the book cover below (ad):

Rock Activity Books from Fantoons

A holiday present from Fantoons will be sure to bring a big smile to the music lover on your gift list. Working with the finest illustrators, Fantoons presents visually striking activity books like the "Where's Waldo"-style seek-and-find puzzle book "Where is Alice Cooper?" The large, hardcover book features 15 full color puzzles where readers try to locate Cooper among a maze of animated characters, mostly people but also non humans. Cooper is drawn slightly differently from puzzle to puzzle but there's a hint page that shows you which of the Alices you'll be looking for in each puzzle. Like Cooper's music, each puzzle is completely wild but readers will enjoy the fact that each is themed after one of his songs or album titles. For those with a more artistic bent there are coloring books with the newest being "The Beach Boys Official Coloring Book" that holds all kinds of fun; use markers or colored pencils to colorize scenes of surfing, hot rodding, singing in the studio and much more. Maybe it's best not to tear pages out of this collectible but when completed the pages depicting the Surf's Up album cover and a scene from Pet Sounds will beg to be framed. Fantoons also has a new Tenacious D coloring book with tons of wild scenes; unlike the wholesome Beach Boys book, this one has plenty of adult humor within. And finally, for the budding punk rock kid, there's "Learn to Count with Johnny Ramone." Small in size like many children's books are, this one shows kids how to count to four with illustrations showing four of various items: cats, buildings, monsters (not scary), guitar moves, movie posters, punk rock clothes outfits and more. Made of sturdy cardboard to stand up to the use and abuse a kid will likely give it. View all of the fun Fantoons books and order here.

Beatle Wives: The Women the Men We Loved Fell in Love With- Marc Shapiro - (Riverdale Avenue Books, paperback, 181 pages)

Shapiro is a New York Times best-selling author and here he focuses not on the Fab Four, but on the fab females who married them. The chapters are presented chronologically and the first to get married was John Lennon who married Cynthia Powell when she was five months pregnant with his child. Ringo was next, marrying his first wife Maureen Cox, followed by George Harrison marrying Patty Boyd and Paul McCartney marrying Linda Eastman. About half way through the book Starr remarries, this time to former Bond Girl Barbara Bach, who he remains married to today. The notion persists to this day among many that Lennon's second wife Yoko Ono, "broke up the Beatles;" here Shapiro chronicles the mental problems, including attempted suicide, that Ono had in her pre-Lennon days. Harrison gets remarried to Olivia Arias; the pair remained married through the rest of Harrison's life and she famously went berserk on an intruder who tried to murder George in the couple's home. The book's final two chapters cover McCartney wives two and three, Heather Mills and Nancy Shevell. Although the focus here is on the wives, the legacy of the Beatles cannot be excised from the stories, and there's lots of coverage here for significant moments that occurred on each wife's watch. "Beatle Wives" is a refreshing read and a different look at Beatlemania that will keep readers rapt. Order here or by clicking the book cover below (ad).

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