The Reading Room

"Reading should be a daily neccesity in everyone's life. It can take you to places that you have never visited before".

                                                                                ~ Health Educator, Brian Burgess

The reading room consists of books that relate to music. Each book listed has a brief review and is rated on a scale of 1-5 stars. New entries and reviews are always welcome and should be submitted to  Happy reading!

                                         5 stars - A must read
                                         4 stars - Very good reading
                                         3 stars - May be interesting to some readers
                                         2 stars - Read only if you have nothing else to do!
                                         1 star  - Garage sale material

1. All Music Guide to the Blues-Michael Erlweine, Vladimir Bogdonov, Chris Woodstra and Cub Koda (657 pp.) 1999.
    The history of the blues is a long and phenomenal journey. Finally there is a book available that details a large portion of the blues history. Over 6,000 blues recordings are rated by the authors in this book. Many of the recordings also include important information about the artist and songs recorded. From contemporary blues to blues rock it's all here. If you are a blues conniseur this is the book for you! Musical tidbit: Co-author Cub Koda was the lead singer of the group Brownsville Station who had a huge hit with the song "Smokin' in the Boy's Room". (5 stars)

2. All Music Guide to Rock-Michael Erlweine, Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra (973 pp.) 1995.
    Believe it or not this guide is actually more in-depth than the first entry above! The genres of rock, pop, soul, r&b, and rap are all visited here with expert ratings and analysis of many recordings throughout musical history. From the obscure to the well-known artist, this is a knowledgable reading experience. The authors have done extensive research and are on the money with most of their ratings. If you are a musical historian or just a casual reader there is a wealth of interesting information contained here.
(5 stars)

3. Behind The Music: Casualties of Rock-Quinton Skinner (176 pp.) 2001.
    "Behind the Music" has become one of VH-1's top-rated series giving stirring accounts of the triumphs and tragic fallings of some of music's more popular icons. "Casualties of Rock"  follows along the same lines highlighting some of rock's most tragic stories and untimely deaths. From Sonny Bono's fatal skiing accident to ex AC-DC singer Bon Scott's death due to alcohol asphixiation there is a wide number of stories told. Also includes quotes and essential listenings for each artist portrayed. Musical tidbit: The average rock star only lives to be 34 years of age! (3.5 stars)

4. Ballad of a Thin Man The Authorized Biography of Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy-Stuart Bailie (193 pp.) 1996.
    Irishman Phil Lynott and his band Thin Lizzy rode to the top of the charts in the late 1970's attaining worldwide success with their huge radio hit "The Boys Are Back In Town". Sadly Lynott's life was also filled with a daily struggle to survive as drug and alcohol problems plagued him until his death on January 4, 1986(at the age of 36!) from liver failure. Bailie does a good job of chronicaling Lynott's life and career and deeply delves into his drug and alcohol addictions that eventually killed him. Musical tidbit: Phil Lynott was often referred to as "The Irish Elvis" due to his strong personality and stage persona.
(4.5 stars)

5. Bound For Glory-Woody Guthrie (320 pp.) 1943,1977.
    Woody Guthrie was an amazingly talented man who looked at life from a totally different perspective. He spent most of his life as a hobo traveling the highways and byways of America. He saw America from the open road and knew its people(especially the poor and destitute) firsthand. He was often referred to as the "Dustbowl Ballader" and penned over 1,000 songs before he died of Huntington's Disease on October 3,1967. A phenomenal tale of one of America's great poet-folk singers. (5 stars)

6. Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards: Memories of a Rock and Roll Survivor-Al Kooper (312 pp.) 1998.
    Lifelong session man Al Kooper has rubbed elbows with many of rock's heavyweights including Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Blood, Sweat and Tears. If you've ever been blown away by the familiar organ in Dylan's classic "Like A Rolling Stone" then you now know Al Kooper. Kooper has also been a producer, song writer, solo artist and professor of music during his five decades in the music business. This autobiography takes the reader through the life and times of Kooper. There are also many great photos in this book. (3.5 stars)

7. Backstage Passes: Life on the Wildside with David Bowie-Angela Bowie w/ Patrick Carr (350 pp.) 1999.
    I'm not much on these tell-all books. Angela Bowie is the ex-wife of rock star David Bowie. She shares many experiences of her ten year relationship with Bowie as well as happenings in her own life. Actually she probably could have downsized her book to one chapter and named it "Sex and Drugs and Rock-n-Roll". Boring... (1 star)

8. Barbara Streisand: The Untold Story-Nelly Bly (348 pp.) 1994.
    An in-depth look at the highly successful and publicized life of Barbara "Babs" Streisand. Streisand has had great success as a recording star and actress and this biography follows her life as a child in Brooklyn up to her life-long acting and recording career. (3 stars)

9. The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal-Martin Popoff (538 pp.) 1996.
    If you are into hard rock and heavy metal than this book is for you. Popoff rates over 3600 heavy metal and hard rock titles with interesting tidbits added for many. There is also a wealth of information about hard rock and heavy metal in general. Popoff obviously has done his research and it is evident that he has a love for the genre himself. If that's not enough to wet your metal palate, a 19 track cd sampler is included with the book. From Accept to Zebra it's all here. Raise thy metal fist into the air and bang your head! (5 stars)

10. Cash: The Autobiography-Johnny Cash w/ Patrick Carr (432 pp.) 1997.
    Johnny Cash is a country music legend. The "Man in Black" has been to hell and back during his historical career and lifetime. A brilliant recording career has been interrupted at various times by addiction, health issues and personal tragedy. He is a survivor in the truest sense and at the same time a great story teller. It almost feels like you are sitting with Cash on his back porch as he weaves tale after tale about his life and career. Well worth looking into. (4.5 stars)

11. Clapton!-Ray Coleman (361 pp.) 1985.
    Eric Clapton has been called one of the greatest guitar players of his time. His place in music history is firmly intact after playing with super groups such as Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos. He has also had a long and successful solo career with many hit recordings. Clapton has also struggled with alcoholism and heroin addiction and Coleman does a good job of relating to the reader Clapton's personal demons. Now clean and sober Clapton has dedicated much time and money for drug and alcohol tratment centers.There are also over 50 awesome photos in the book. Musical tidbit: Clapton and Cream were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in (4 stars)

12. Crazy From The Heat-David Lee Roth (358 pp.) 1997.
    You have to say one thing about David Lee Roth: he sure is one arrogant SOB. He can also tell a story like no other person offering up many of his "Daveisms". Putting that aside, Roth also happened to be the lead singer of successful rock group Van Halen before egos and musical differences split the group up. If you can tolerate Dave's habit of going off on tangents this could be a decent read for some. I couldn't...
Musical tidbit: Roth toured with another ex-Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar in 2002. (1.5 stars)

13. Crosby, Stills and Nash-Zimmer Diltz (301 pp.) 1984, Revised 2000.
    Crosby, Stills and Nash are considered to be innovators in the world of music with their beautifully sounding harmony vocals and strong song writing abilities. Their first album became a very important part of the political atmosphere in America when it was released in 1969. Diltz has done an excellent job of following each artist from their childhoods through their successful careers. David Crosby is lucky to be alive after years of substance abuse but has thrived as a solo artist. In fact a liver transplant was necessary for his life to continue. Both Stephen Stills and Graham Nash also have had great success as solo artists as well. A wealth of information about this important group and some incredible photos make this book a necessary read. Musical tidbit: Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead fame played steel guitar on the classic CSN track "Teach Your Children". (5 stars)

14. Dream On: Livin' on the Edge with Steven Tyler- Cyrinda Fox Tyler and Danny Fields (261 pp.) 1997.
    Cyrinda Fox was a regular on the New York city circuit in the 1970's when she met and married Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith. Unfortunately, she also married his drug and alcohol addictions. Fox shares her thoughts on life with Tyler and focuses on the toll that fame, fortune and drug abuse had on their relationship. Musical tidbit: Fox died in 2002 after succumbing to inoperable cancer with Steven Tyler paying for many of her expenses. (3 stars)

15. The Def Leppard Story-Dave Dickson (234 pp.) 1995.
Def Leppard were one of the first bands to come out of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal Band(NWOBHM) era. Their landmard album "Pyromania" went on to sell over 17 million copies making it one of the top selling recordings of all time. Their career has beem marred by tragedy though. Drummer Rick Allen lost an arm due a severe car crash though he courageously still plays with the band today. He has also had bouts with alcoholism and domestic violence. Original guitarist Pete Willis was asked to leave the group in 1982 due to his alcoholism and most devastating was the death of guitarist Steve "Steamin'"
Clark from alcohol poisoning. Def Leppard's success was a labor of love and Dickson does a good job showing the ups and downs that the group has endured. Musical tidbit: Def Leppard released the cd "X" in the year 2002.(4 stars)

16. Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock-John Enarson (287 pp.) 2001.
    Considering the talented song writing and musicianship of many country rock bands its surprising the genre never really caught on with the buying public. Many of the bands discussed in this book (Poco, Byrds, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) had some degree of success but weren't considered mega sellers. They developed a strong fan base but were never considered heavyweight bands in the music business. Groups though like The Eagles did obtain mega stardom but it can be argued that their music became more pop/rock oriented when they hit their peak with the huge selling "Hotel California". The origin of the country rock movement is a fascinating one filled with many unheralded groups and performers(check out Gram Parsons). The fact that these groups stuck to their beliefs and styles  when the genre was not  at the forefront of the musical  climate is admirable. You can tell that the return of "alternative-country" in the 1990's is heavily influenced by the original country rockers of the 1970's. Enarson completely covers the history of country rock and is able to show it's importance and significance in musical history. (4.5 stars)

17. A Drink With Shane McGowan-Shane McGowan and Victoria Mary Clark (359 pp.) 2001.
    Irishman Shane McGowan is best known as the co-founder of the Irish band The Pogues. The book is a series of questions that his wife Victoria Mary Clark asked Shane about his life and career. One thing that stands out is Shane grew up in an alcoholic family and has not broken the cycle of addiction as he fancys his drink. Some parts of the book are interesting but alot of Shane's answers are drawn out and make for slow reading. Clark also doesn't always ask the most interesting questions either. (2.5 stars)

18. Dancing With Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield-Penny Valentine and Vicki Wickham (306 pp.) 2000.
    I didn't know much about Dusty Springfield before I read this book. Springfield was a successful British pop singer who scored quite a few hits including "I Only Want To Be With You" and "Son of a Preacherman". Springfield also suffered from some serious mental health issues during her life hence the title of the book. This led to severe depression, insomnia, insecurities and alcoholism which all had a toll on her life and career. A up close and personal look at her life and her struggles with her own demons. Springfield died on March 2, 1999. (3.5 stars)

19. Encyclopedia of Albums-Michael Heatley, Paul Lester and Chris Roberts (255 pp.) 1998.
    Authors list (in their opinions) in alphabetical order 1000 "best" albums of all time. Some of the selections ring true with artists such as U2("Under A Blood Red Sky") and Black Sabbath("Paranoid") getting a nod. Then you get Boston(Third Stage) and Blondie(Eat To The Beat)? Maybe Boston's classic first album but Blondie? I think the authors have put some personal bias into their selections which is bound to happen. If I came up with a list of my own a lot of my selections would be based on personal music preferences. Some neat album(yes vinyl, not cd) cover photos and write-ups though. (2.5 stars)

20. Free Birds: The Lynyrd Skynyrd Story-Marley Brant (256pp.) 2002.
    Lynyrd Skynyrd epitomized the genre of music known as southern rock. Constant touring resulted in success and a hardcore following. The big time was right around the corner when tragedy struck. On October 20, 1977 the plane that was carrying the band to a concert crashed killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, singer Cassie Gaines, manager Dean Kilpatrick and roadies John Gray and Walter McClary. The surviving band members courageously continued. Gary Rossington and Allen Collins formed the Rossington-Collins band with other Skynyrd musicians while Artimus Pyle formed All Points Bulletin. Skynyrd did reform with all the original surviving members except for drummer Artimus Pyle. They added lead singer Johnnie Van Zant(brother of Donnie) and valiantly carried on the legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd and southern rock. Bad luck and bad habits continued to follow Allen Collins though. His wife died from illness and he was paralyzed after a drunk driving accident. He eventually died on January 23, 1990 from complications due to pnemonia and alcoholism. Bassist Leon Wilkerson died in 2001 from cirrohsis of the liver after living in the fast lane for too many years.  Skynyrd carries on today but with only two original members remaining: Gary Rossington and keyboardist Billy Powell. Author Brant has done an excellent job of sharing the importance and legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Information gathered has been based on one to one interviews with Skynyrd members, family, friends, and fans. There are also many never seen before photos of the group. Long live southern rock... (5 stars)

21. Free At Last: The Story of Free and Bad Company - Steven Rosen (224 pp.) 2001.
    Free were innovators on the British blues rock scene of the late 1960's and early 70's. Turn on any classic rock station and sooner than later you will hear their trademark song "All Right Now". Many groups list Free as major influences on their own careers including the Who and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Constant touring which led to burnout and out of control drug use by guitarist Paul Kossoff led to a premature end for this music group. Kossoff went on to form the much hyped but unsuccessful Backstreet Crawler before his death due to overdose. Lead singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke formed one of the best classic rock groups of all time: Bad Company. Bad Company recorded many classics and toured constantly during the 1970's. Rodgers(who lived the hard life of a rock star himself) has not always been the easiest lead singer to work with and he left the group for a solo career. He was replaced by singer Brian Howe and they became a shadow of their former selves. Time (and the need for money) heals old wounds as the band reunited in 1999 and still tour today. (4 stars)