Paperback Writer

By Steve Matteo | August 17th, 2018

Recent books by and about favorite boomer musicians and influencers


Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones On Air in the Sixties: TV and Radio History As It Happened (Harper Design)

Peer deep into the tales behind artists, studios, events and media that helped influence the remarkable music culture that began in the 1960s.

What Is It All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man (Knopf) is Art Garfunkel’s second memoir, a very unconventional autobiography that shifts back and forth in time and covers more than just his musical career. The book delves deep into Garfunkel’s extensive walks around the world and his obsession with reading and offers glimpses of his film career. The book reflects a brilliant and unique mind imbued with a quirky wonder.

The Cake and the Rain: A Memoir (St. Martin’s Press), by Jimmy Webb, is also a second memoir, with Webb’s first being a complex look at the songwriting process. The writer, producer and arranger is quite the raconteur. Webb weaves tales of music and excess with sharp detail that evocatively capture the West-Coast music zeitgeist of the ’60s and ’70s. This memoir ends in the 1970s as a cautionary tale of drug and alcohol abuse.

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell (Sarah Crichton), by David Yaffe, is the first biography of Joni Mitchell done with Mitchell’s cooperation. Yaffe rarely allows the cooperation of such a formidable subject to obscure his objectivity. If not the definitive bio of Mitchell, it’s now easily the most fulsome and important.

Lou Reed: A Life (Little Brown), by Anthony DeCurtis, is the first full-scale biography of Reed since his death. From one of the most respected music historians and Rolling Stone magazine veteran scribe, this book is a monumental and defining work on the late musician’s life and music.

Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks (St. Martin’s Press), by Stephen Davis, is a look at the music and life thus far of the Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter diva. Like his definitive Led Zeppelin biography, Davis spares no details in reflecting the lurid world of ’70s sex, drugs and alcohol. The maze of relationships that Nicks pursued in and out of Fleetwood Mac and her rise to fame within and without the group offer a portrait of determination and mystical talent.

Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine (Knopf), by Joe Hagan, is a defining authorized history of Rolling Stone and its founder, editor and publisher. The book chronicles the rise of the ’60s counterculture through the prism of San Francisco and the fledgling rock music magazine that became a corporate success story. Wenner ends up coming across as not a likable figure, eventually stopping Hagan’s access to him.

Goodnight, L.A.: The Rise and Fall of Classic Rock – The Untold Story from Inside the Legendary Recording Studios (Da Capo), by Kent Hartman, gives valuable insight into the people behind the scenes of what was one of the most fertile recording scenes in American pop music history.

My British Invasion: The Inside Story on The Yardbirds, The Dave Clark Five, Manfred Mann, Herman’s Hermits, The Hollies, The Troggs, The Kinks, The Zombies, and More (Rare Bird), is lovingly written by Harold Bronson, founding owner of Rhino Records, the most important reissue record label in history. The book reflects Bronson’s evolution from music fan to a key person in revitalizing and preserving ’60s music.

Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs (Voyageur Press), by Martin Popoff, is more of a coffee-table book than a defining history of Zep’s catalog, but nonetheless it is an enjoyable and welcome addition to the vast canon of books on the heavy rock heroes.

Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to the Dark Side of the Moon (Rowman & Littlefield), by Bill Kopp, chronicles the years it took Pink Floyd to develop before making the iconic album, Dark Side of the Moon. Kopp takes a very specific point of view and strives for and succeeds in presenting his convincing case for how Floyd went from British art school freaks to monsters of rock.

Rolling Stones on Air in the Sixties: TV and Radio History As It Happened (Harper Design), by Richard Havers, is a beautiful coffee-table book that chronicles in great detail the live appearances by Rolling Stones on BBC TV and radio. This invaluable book also offers a great history of the importance of radio and TV in the 1960s in Britain in the launching and evolution of British rock. The book is published in conjunction with previously unreleased historic BBC radio live recordings of the group from the ’60s.

Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Early Years, 1926-1966 (Chicago Review Press), by Kenneth Womack, is the first volume of what may be the defining biography of the Beatles producer.

The Beatles on the Roof (Omnibus Press), by Tony Barrell, looks at what Rolling Stone magazine called the greatest concert in rock music history: the Beatles’ final performance in January 1969. The concert was held on the roof of the London headquarters of the group’s Apple Records company and was the climax of the film Let It Be.


Steve Matteo is the author of Let It Be and Dylan. The Beatles in Context will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. He has written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, New York magazine, Rolling Stone, Elle and Salon.

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