Over the last few years at Glossop Record Club, we’ve had sessions dedicated to the years 1966, 1967 and 1968, little vinyl time capsules exploring music made in those years by playing key tracks and albums as they celebrate their 50th anniversaries. So it follows that we’ll be doing the same for 1969, and as we bring the decade to a close with a stack of records, we’ve also picked out a stack of music-related books from the shelves of George Street Community Bookshop that represent the incredible arc of the 60s, from biographies and autobiographies to cultural histories and even some fiction.
It’s still an endlessly fascinating era for writers in books and magazines, a fast-moving decade rich in world-changing music. As we get further away from that time, some may wonder if all these things really happened at all. The music tells only part of the story, and so it’s to books like these we can turn to paint the picture in greater detail.
The books we’ve picked out actually start in 1950s Memphis, with Elvis Presley (Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train) and Johnny Cash (his autobiography) at Sun Records, cutting discs that would prove a vital spark for the next and subsequent generations of artists. Without the foundations they laid, it would be hard to imagine all that followed.
From The Beatles (represented here by Philip Norman’s Shout!, one of the first books to offer a comprehensive overview of their career), The Rolling Stones (Keith Richards’ autobiography Life) and The Who (the retrospective Whose Who) to the tall tales and excess of The Doors (No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins & Danny Sugarman), Led Zeppelin (When Gods Walked The Earth by Mick Wall) and Phil Spector (Wall Of Pain by Dave Thompson), this selection provides a good overview of some of the main movers and shakers of the 60s. For those who want to dig deeper and go further than the usual suspects, biographies of Marianne Faithfull (Mark Hodkinson) and Neil Young (Sylvie Simmons) do just that. There’s even a fictional 60s pop star in the shape of Nick Cohn’s Johnny Angelo, loosely based on PJ Proby.
For a more in-depth history and analysis of 1960s music and culture (and beyond), James Miller’s Almost Grown (The Rise Of Rock) and Robert Palmer’s Dancing In The Street fill that role. Palmer’s book accompanied the mid-90s BBC TV series, and takes a fresh look at the accepted history of pop by placing blues and soul centre stage, and how that influence was taken by white artists into the mainstream.
Clinton Heylin’s ‘Bootleg: The rise & fall of the secret recording industry’ explores the illicit world of bootleg records, a phenomenon that first raised its head with Bob Dylan’s Great White Wonder, a collection of outtakes, demos and live recordings, which alerted fans to existence of recordings other than those that were officially released by the record companies.
Finally, a couple of books that look to the 1970s, with David Bowie (Dave Thompson’s fan-fiction work To Major Tom: The Bowie Letters) and Elton John (a mid-70s profile edited by Paul Gambaccini). By the close of the 60s, these future superstars were on the cusp of finding fame, Bowie scoring his first hit with Space Oddity (after a succession of misses), and Elton releasing his debut album.
There are loads more great music books on the shelves in the bookshop, covering many eras and genres, including some very interesting looking jazz books. So if you want some reading material to go with the music, go and have a dig and see what you can find.
Glossop Record Club is the musical equivalent of a book group or a film society, and meets once a month in Glossop Labour Club to listen to albums on vinyl and in full on a decent sound system, in a relaxed environment as free from distraction as possible.
The sessions usually revolve around a theme, with one or two featured albums played in full and a selection of other relevant songs aired along the way. There’s also the occasional guest host sharing stories and records that mean something to them.
Mystery Train - Greil Marcus
Cash - Johnny Cash (autobiography)
Shout! The True Story Of The Beatles - Philip Norman
Whose Who? A Who Retrospective - Brian Ashley & Steve Monnery
Life - Keith Richards (autobiography)
Led Zeppelin: When Gods Walked The Earth - Mick Wall
No One Here Gets Out Alive (The Doors) - Jerry Hopkins & Danny Sugarman
Wall Of Pain: The Life of Phil Spector - Dave Thompson
Neil Young - Sylvie Simmons
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
To Major Tom: The Bowie Letters - Dave Thompson
As Tears Go By: Marianne Faithfull - Mark Hodkinson
Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett - POPism
Almost Grown - The Rise Of Rock - James Miller
Bootleg: The rise & fall of the secret recording industry - Clinton Heylin
Dancing In The Street - Robert Palmer
I Am Still The Greatest Says Johnny Angelo - Nick Cohn