Books are the best gifts during holiday time. If you think about it, nothing says “While I may appreciate the way you typically spend your time, I’m giving you this book so you can better yourself, which really just makes me a little better because if the quality of my relationships go up, then I am clearly a quality person.” Books make us all a little bit better.
If you've still got some gifts to pick up, or you've got a gift card burning a hole in your pocket, consider a book. But what book, you ask? If music and entertainment are interests, then here are some books for you to consider.
‘A Walk Across Dirty Water and Straight Into Murderer’s Row: A Memoir’ by Eugene S. RobinsonBack in early November, Oxbow came to town and blew the doors off Pub Rock in Scottsdale. A few weeks prior to the show, singer Eugene S. Robinson shared with me that he had written a book. I immediately ordered it from Amazon, and holy hell! "A Walk Across Dirty Water" is a fun read and intriguing on many levels. Robinson hit a home run with this book.
You don’t need to be a fan of Oxbow or any of his other musical or written endeavors (and there are many) to enjoy the book. Robinson is an exquisite storyteller. Blunt and honest are words that come to mind, but he also tells his tale with humor and reverence, as well. If you ever wanted to be a lead singer in a band, you should read Robinson's memoir.
Fans of punk, hardcore and noise rock will love the myriad of references to bands, venues and personalities. But Robinson isn’t a name-dropper. The celebrities that find their way into his story are just people in his eyes and one of the refreshing things about this book is how easily you begin seeing the world through Robinson’s lens. His take on the people he shares his life with or encounters is very cool indeed.
For the non-music lover in your life, this book is also a pretty great find for people who love mixed martial arts and bodybuilding. In addition to music-making and appreciation, Robinson is and was very active in these areas as well, and skillfully shares his love and interest in them as well as how they helped shape him into the man he is today.
Another consideration for this one: Robinson shares what it was like to work in the world of military defense, too, so political intrigue abounds.
Here’s where you can get this book.
‘Curepedia: An A-Z of The Cure’ by Simon PriceIf you asked me back in the mid-1980s when I first heard The Cure if there would ever be a goddamn encyclopedia about them, I would have laughed at you. I would have pondered it for a while, too, but ultimately, I would have laughed. After taking in a great deal of this book, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to Cure fans, as well as people who love alternative and post-punk music.
It’s thorough. Price, a fantastic Welsh journalist who has written for Melody Maker, certainly did a ton (probably 12 tons) of homework to get these essays, stories and love letters right. It’s not all blind praise, either. Price gives Cure fans a lot to chew on in "Curepedia" as he tackles the good, the bad and even the occasionally ugly side of the band.
Another consideration with this one: Price also wrote a book about the Manic Street Preachers several years ago.
Buy it here.
‘Marlowe’s Revenge’ by Dan StuartThe good peeps at R&R Press, Maggie and Brian Smit, hipped me to this one earlier in the year. Dan Stuart, who is quite a prolific solo artist and former member of Green on Red, is also an excellent writer. "Marlowe’s Revenge" wraps up his triumphantly warped Marlowe Billings trilogy with a tasty look at Tucson, drug crime and sobriety.
Don’t fret, though, dear reader, if you haven’t caught the first two parts of the trilogy ("The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings" and "The Unfortunate Demise of Marlowe Billings"). "Marlowe’s Revenge" works nicely as a standalone story, as well, and native Arizonans and those who wish they were will love the beautiful description of southern Arizona (thorns and all) that Stuart creates. It’s a great crime noir novel and one you will not want to stop reading. Give it to someone you love and they will curl up with it and sing your praises.
Another consideration with this one: There's music that goes along with the stories available on various streaming services and for the golfers out there, this book is like a beautiful tee shot followed by the perfect wedge.
Non-music book alert.
‘Being Henry: The Fonz and Beyond’ by Henry WinklerOne can only read so many books about music and musicians without needing a little palate cleanser. If you're of a certain age, you can’t help but love Henry Winkler. The man is legendary for his kindness among Hollywood types and his book is a fun, yet serious read.
"Being Henry" chronicles his rise to the top of TV fame as “The Fonz,” but the book also sheds light on his personal life which includes far more struggle than a casual fan may realize. Winkler deftly paints the picture of his childhood, self-doubt and struggle with the fleeting nature of living a life among the arts. There are laughs and tears and realizations a plenty to be had with this highly entertaining book.
Another consideration with this one: If you or someone you know is affected by dyslexia, you'll want to share this book with them. While reading is not always a pleasant experience for dyslexics, Winkler’s poignant look at the condition will open the eyes and the heart.
Order it here.
‘Some New Kind of Kick’ by Kid Congo PowersIs there anyone out there with a better musical resume than Kid Congo Powers? The Los Angeles native was a member of Gun Club, Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and now his own, Pink Monkey Birds, and all those bands were (and in the case of the Pink Monkey Birds who play at Yucca next month, still are) amazing. As it turns out, Powers, born Brian Tristan in 1959, is also a heck of a writer, too.
"Some New Kind of Kick" sucks you in immediately. Even if you're not familiar with any of his musical work, Powers tells his story with love, truth and wisdom. You can’t help but begin to understand what it was like to grow up as a queer Mexican-American teenager in the early 1970s who got swept up in the early glam and punk rock scene in Los Angeles. Powers creates prose that takes you right into the scene that helped him become a punk rock icon in his own right.
Another consideration with this one: Great information is in here for Cramps fans. If you love the Cramps, you need to read this book.
Buy it here.
Lastly, one to avoid.
‘Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records’ by Jim RulandI really wanted to like this one, but it just kind of falls short of what I wanted and needed it to be. Ruland himself is a really good writer and I’ve liked his stuff for a long time, but this book doesn’t quite deliver enough of what many longtime fans/detractors and followers of SST Records will want out of it. If you’re looking for dirt on Greg Ginn, the SST head honcho and guitarist of Black Flag (among others), you’ll get some, but not enough to bury him.
There are good interviews (with snippets from local legends Cris Kirkwood and Derrick Bostrom) and lots of fun stories during the part of the book that chronicles the rise of SST Records, but as things start going south for the much-heralded and much-maligned California-, now Texas-based label, Ruland never really delivers the death blow and seems to avoid giving any of his interview subjects that chance as well.
Another consideration with this one: don’t buy it. Borrow it from a friend if you can’t help yourself. Also, read "My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor," which Ruland helped Keith Morris (Circle Jerks/OFF!) write. It rules. You can buy it here.
Happy holidays and happy reading.