For People with a Weakness for Popular Music

For some folks, it's shoes or guitars that set their hearts aflutter. For others (and we know who we are) it's books about music and artists that make our pulses quicken. We've got to have them. We'll spend our lunch money, turn our pockets inside out, grow collections large enough to be the source of occasional marital friction. And sometimes, a really great one comes along: the overall presentation is stunning, the narrative is authoritative and passionate, the photographs and illustrations pop. It stands as an important record of a special moment in time. We were young! We were hot! We made them all scream and shout!

Here are my picks for the fun new pop music books for the holidays. I'd love to hear about the ones that rock your world.

1. Doo Wop: The Music, The Times, The Era, By "Cousin Brucie" Morrow, with Rich Maloof (Sterling, $24.95)
Broadcasting legend "Cousin Brucie" rewinds to the roots of rock. Morrow points to African music 400 years ago as the "first strands of our musical DNA," fast forwards through blues and jazz, credits the white vocal group The Mills Brothers with pouring the foundation of doo wop, and the black Ravens with building the first few floors in the late '40s. "Show me an R&B legend and I'll show you a singer who bowed at the altar of doo wop," he says. "Sam Cooke was there at doo wop's genesis with the Soul Stirrers, Marvin Gaye sang for the Moonglows and Wilson Picket for the Falcons . . . Gladys Knight and the Pips were doo wop with a soul injection. Diana Ross and the Supremes were cut from the Shirelles' cloth, and Michael Jackson fronting the Jackson 5 was a fresh take on Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers." By 1963, he says , doo wop's glory days were over, but they lived on in R&B, soul, folk and even the Beatles' music. Doo wop artists get their due. Bomp bomp ba dang a dong ding.

2. Reggae Scrapbook, By Roger Steffens and Peter Simon (Insight Editions, $45)
Toots Hibbert. the first to use the word "reggae" in a song ("Do the Reggay") 40 years ago, says in his foreword, "I know seh it's a good book. The book is about everyone." Open it and you are in Jamaica, living the island's music history, mon. They're all here: from Skatalites, Jimmy Cliff, "The Father of Reggae Music" Joe Higgs, and Beverly Kelso to Lee "Scratch" Perry, Peter Tosh, Lady Saw, the Marley kids, Buju Banton, and . . . Mick Jagger? Brilliant photos and art jump off the pages, and the quotes and anecdotes mesmerize. Also includes reproductions of fliers, posters, a ticket, a playlist, vinyl singles and a DVD with live interviews. Seriously, you'll be jammin'.

3. The Sixties: Photographs by Robert Altman (Santa Monica Press, $39.95)
It's a trip, paging through Altman's counterculture photos taken between 1967 and 1974. He's in California, New York, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., at free-spirited gatherings, anti-Vietnam War protests, Black Panther rallies and the March on Washington. Revolution was in the air and a heady creative energy for social experimentation radiates from these pages. Conformity was shed, along with some clothing. Hair and beards grew long and bushy. Flowers and beads became social statements. Altman captured the movers and shakers: Cezar Chavez, Dick Gregory, Bobby Seale, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Peter Max, and Jane Fonda. Not to mention music's royalty: Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, Richie Havens, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Phil Ochs and Joan Baez. "The lesson of the '60s is that people who cared enough to do right could change history," activist Abbie Hoffman says at the end. And seeing these photos, you believe him.

4. Rock and Roll, By Lynn Goldsmith (Abrams, $50)
Spectacular photos by an author, director and photographer whose work we've seen in every major American magazine. Here are the Beatles, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan with Dinah Shore, Simon & Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin, U2, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Bo Diddley, Joan Jett, Siouxsie Sioux, Andy Warhol with Mick Jagger, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, Ozzy Osbourne, Ani DiFranco, Iggy Pop, Pat Benatar, Little Richard, Roger Daltrey with Kevin Bacon, Carlos Santana with John McEnroe, Prince, Marvin Gaye, David Byrne with Brian Eno, James Brown, Freddy Mercury, Chaka Kahn, Patti Smith, Tina Turner. "These are the messengers, chosen by us to play out our passions," says Goldsmith. Her book is a mirror on our times.

5. The Jim Morrison Scrapbook, By James Henke (Becker & Mayer, $40)
'60s rock icon Jim Morrison of the Doors lives again - from birth in 1943 in Florida to death in 1971 in Paris - through rare photographs, careful reporting and reproductions of personal papers, including Morrison's kindergarten report card, his first poem ("The Pony Express"), song lyrics (e.g., "Riders on the Storm") and correspondence and drawings in his own hand. But there are also: fliers and programs, his father's reply to a letter about Morrison's conviction for indecent exposure, an audio CD of Morrison speaking. Doors fans, it's your birthday.

-- Mary Morris

By Christian Pelusi |  November 29, 2007; 11:25 AM ET Mary Morris
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

you missed Barney Hoskyns's HOTEL CALIFORNIA.

Posted by: janet | November 29, 2007 2:55 PM

Thanks, Janet!

HOTEL CALIFORNIA looks fascinating - will definitely look out for it!

Another couple rock & roll books worth checking out:

CREEM: America's Only Rock n' Roll Magazine, Edited by Robert Matheu and Brian J. Bowe (Collins, $29.95)

ROADWORK: Rock & Roll Turned Inside Out, By Tom Wright with Susan VanHecke (Hal Leonard, $29.95),

Posted by: mary ishimoto morris | November 29, 2007 4:51 PM

It is truly disheartening to see talk of pop music books without any reference to Continuum's excellent (and many!) 33 1/3 books.

Posted by: edward champion | November 29, 2007 6:00 PM

Great list Mary!

This is a bit different but Radiohead also just put out a beautiful book with Verso of all their art work that appeared in liner notes from the past ten years or so ---

"Dead Children Playing" by Stanley Donwood and Dr. Tchock. (Verso, $15.95)

(Dr. Tchock is frontman Thom Yorke's alias...)

Posted by: Jeremy W-I | December 4, 2007 11:00 PM

"Here, There and Everywhere" by Geoff Emerick, one of the main recording engineers for the Beatles. Emerick documents his life in the music business, and lots of inside looks at the Beatles, from Revolver to Abbey Road.

Posted by: J.D. Wegner | December 14, 2007 12:13 PM

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