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RIFF AND READ

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But this is nit-picking. Omissions might easily be remedied in the book's next edition. Best of all, Walker displays a poet's eye for sick trivia throughout. His description and photograph of the "Elvis" McDonald's in Memphis, Tennessee, for example, make this book worth the price.--Robert Baird Rock N' Roll Road Trip

A.M. Nolan
(Pharos Books)

Published closely on the heels of Dave Walker's book, this rock n' roll travel guide carries the weighty subtitle The Ultimate Guide to the Sites, the Shrines and the Legends Across America. That promise notwithstanding, this glove compartment-size volume is an excellent, city-by-city examination of rock landmarks.

Eschewing the scope of Walker's American Rock N' Roll Tour, Nolan zooms her focus in on 16 cities. With great detail, she then ferrets out gobs of history on the venues, studios, music stores and birth and death sites that make places like New Orleans and New York City such living shrines to rock history. She's especially strong when it comes to the history of punk and alternative music. In each entry, the obvious sites are listed first. After that come fascinating sections like "Hangouts and Homes," "Schools" and "Detours." The "Detours" sections are particularly interesting. They're where Nolan tries, with some success, to compensate for the book's 16-city focus. Under the Austin "Detours" listing, for example, Nolan includes sites in San Antonio, Houston and Lubbock, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Clovis, New Mexico. If that sounds like a stretch, it is. Clovis is at least a two-day "detour" from Austin.

More than anything else, Rock N' Roll Road Trip is a mountain of rock trivia. Lacking maps, it isn't a nuts-and-bolts travel guide. But the mass of information Nolan lays out is impressive and invaluable. And the photographs in this book are knockouts--everything from a striking aerial view of Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheatre to great concert shots of, among others, Fugazi, Hsker D and MC5.--Robert Baird

Musicians in Tune: Seventy-Five Contemporary Musicians Discuss the Creative Process

Jenny Boyd, with Holly George-Warren
(Fireside/Simon & Schuster)

A doctoral thesis on rock n' roll's creative process, including serious discussions of addictive behavior and the "peak experience? Before you turn up your nose and shout, "Let's party, dude," consider that co-author Jenny Boyd, a Ph.D. in psychology, is the sister of Patti Boyd, who married both George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Jenny herself has been a part of Britain's--and to a lesser degree, America's--rock scene since the Beatles. What this means is that she's had extraordinary access to and cooperation from 75 musicians ranging from Queen Latifah to Vernon Reid.

A four-year project, Musicians in Tune is a scholarly but readable psychological examination of how the above-average musician's head works. Boyd and George-Warren plow through, deftly separating ego from sincerity. Boyd's personal relationships with many of the subjects is what makes this book worth reading. Keeping the psychojargon to a minimum, Boyd weaves in the kind of honest, telling quotes that only a friend could get. These differing perspectives give the book its power to illuminate the dark corners of creativity. While Musicians in Tune may not explain how music happens, it helps to show why it does.

A consultant to the innovative drug-rehabilitation center Sierra Tucson, Boyd wisely gives the book perspective by recounting the story of her own dissolute rock n' roll past. The antidrug message here is subtle: Boyd clearly respects and admires the musician's gift and simply hates to see it wasted.--Robert Baird

Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession
Greil Marcus
(Doubleday)

Patriarchal rock writer Greil Marcus had a brilliant idea when he conceived Dead Elvis. What could be more interesting than a book-length explanation of how the only King that America's ever had can remain a weekly tabloid headline 15 years after his death?

Too bad Marcus didn't write a book to match the premise. Dead Elvis is basically a collection of 16 previously published articles on Presley, revamped to vaguely pursue the reasons behind the continuing Elvis enigma. But the reader is more likely to see Elvis in a Taco Bell than to find an answer in Marcus' meanderings.

We are offered the script of Jungle Music, an unintelligible, imaginary play meant to show the importance that Elvis, Carl Perkins, Bo Diddley and their musical peers had in forming rock n' roll. We need to be told?

Another chapter centers on piano crazy man Jerry Lee Lewis, with Presley mostly relegated to the shadows. An essay titled "A Corpse in Your Mouth: Adventures of a Metaphor, or Modern Cannibalism" will have Elvis fans chewing their knuckles before a weak Presley connection is made. As for the book's visuals, Marcus felt that any piece of contemporary artwork or advertising that barely alluded to Elvis merited inclusion.

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Robert Baird
Dave McElfresh