2018 in Review: The Best Music Books of the Year

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In the first three parts of our 2018 holiday gift guide, we looked at the best of the reissues, boxed sets and historical collections, the best newly recorded albums by classic rockers and new Christmas recordings.

For the final part of our guide, we put on our reading glasses and dug in to the year’s best books for fans of classic rock and related music. The first segment of our survey is devoted to memoirs and biographies (arranged alphabetically by subject). The second part is a guide to new books on various music-related topics, arranged by title.

There are no rankings for these dozens of titles because they’re all worthy.

All of these titles are available as physical books (you know, with paper and ink); many are also downloadable digitally.

Click on the book covers below to purchase.

Happy shopping!


AC/DC 1973-1980: The Bon Scott Years, by Jeff Apter
The large-format book documents all of the key events of the band’s early days, beginning with its very first shows in suburban Sydney—even before the name AC/DC had been dreamed up—and culminating with 1979’s Highway to Hell.

The Story of The Band: From Big Pink to the Last Waltz, by Harvey Kubernik
A celebration of one of the most revered American groups of all time, on the 50th anniversary of their debut album, and the 40th anniversary of the legendary film of their final concert.

The Roof: The Beatles‘ Final Concert, by Ken Mansfield
The book takes a touching and comprehensive look back at one of rock ’n’ roll’s most significant events, while bringing an insider’s perspective to the days leading up to those 42 fascinating minutes of the Beatles’ monumental rooftop concert.

Visualizing The Beatles: A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band, by John Pring and Rob Thomas
“As designers, we wondered what it would look like to visualize the Beatles and chart their story–the evolution of their music, style and characters–through a series of graphics,” wrote the authors, and so they have.

Johnny Cash: The Life and Legacy of the Man in Black, by Alan Light
The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash
The former title reveals Cash’s personal and professional life through largely unpublished material from the Cash family, including his handwritten notes and set lists, personal photographs and more. The latter book draws on decades of studying Cash’s music and life, from his difficult depression-era Arkansas childhood through his death in 2003, to tell his life story through songs familiar and obscure.

Slowhand: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, by Philip Norman
The bio follows Clapton through his childhood, early life of reckless rock ’n’ roll excess, and twisting and turning struggle with addiction in the ’60s and ’70s, and beyond.

Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite, by Roger Daltrey
The singer’s memoir tells the story of his rise from nothing to rock ’n’ roll megastar, and his wild journey as the voice of The Who.

Dreaming of Dylan: 115 Dreams About Bob, Edited by Mary Lee Kortes
That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound: Dylan, Nashville, and the Making of Blonde on Blonde, by Daryl Sanders
Dreaming of Dylan examines “the mysterious world of dreams and the mysterious world of Bob Dylan,” while the other title claims to provide “the most extensive account of the sessions that produced [Blonde on Blonde].”

Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful Dead‘s Long, Strange Trip, by Joel Selvin
Mother American Night: My Life in Crazy Times, by John Perry Barlow
Fare Thee Well is the tell-all biography of the epic in-fighting of the Grateful Dead in the years following Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. Mother American Night is the story of the late Grateful Dead songwriter Barlow’s colorful life that took him from ranching royalty in Wyoming to working with the band’s Bob Weir to membership in the Internet Hall of Fame as a digital free speech advocate.

Let the Good Times Roll: My Life in Small Faces, Faces, and The Who, by Kenney Jones
As the subtitle spells out, this is the memoir of the drummer who played in three of the greatest British bands of the classic era.

Been So Long: My Life and Music, by Jorma Kaukonen
The memoir of the co-founding guitarist/singer/songwriter of, first, Jefferson Airplane, and then Hot Tuna charts the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s wild path through the ’60s and beyond.

The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities, by Wayne Kramer
The guitarist Kramer shows in his memoir that peace and love can be born out of turbulence and unrest.

Bring It On Home: Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin, and Beyond–The Story of Rock’s Greatest Manager, by Mark Blake
Bring It On Home is the first book to tell the complete uncensored story of this industry giant. With support from Grant’s family and interviews with Led Zeppelin’s surviving band members.

Imagine John Yoko Collectors Edition
Imagine tells the story of John and Yoko’s life, work and relationship during the intensely creative period of the early ’70s, through narrative film stills, Yoko’s archive photos and artifacts, and stitched-together panoramas taken from outtake film footage.

The Gospel According to Luke, by Steve Lukather
A no-holds barred, uncensored look at Luke’s 40-plus years of making records with his band Toto, along with the countless legendary sessions he’s been a part of.

Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Later Years, 1966–2016, by Kenneth Womack
The second volume on the legendary producer picks up after Rubber Soul through the end of the band and also covers Martin’s work with America, Jeff Beck and others.

What’s Big and Purple and Lives in the Ocean?: The Moby Grape Story, by Cam Cobb
Drawing on extensive interviews with the surviving members of the band, the bio of the ill-fated San Francisco psychedelic group finally tells their full story.

Let’s Go: Benjamin Orr and The Cars, by Joe Milliken
Eleven years in the making, the bio of the late Cars singer is based on interviews with over 120 family members, friends, bandmates and music associates from Orr’s life, and includes many unpublished and never-before-seen photos from private collections.

Tom Petty And Me: My Rock and Roll Adventures With Tom Petty, by Jon Scott
At Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ final show, the singer dedicated a song to the author, who helped them out early in their career. The book focuses on the author’s adventures with the band.

Truth, Lies & Hearsay: A Memoir of a Musical Life In and Out of Rock and Roll, by John Simon
Simon produced numerous classic albums by the Band, Janis Joplin, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and others. Here he tells his story, including in-depth, behind-the-scenes tales of cutting those landmark recordings.

Paul Simon: The Life, by Robert Hilburn
Written by a longtime Los Angeles Times music journalist, this bio is the first on the singer-songwriter for which the artist sat down for extensive interviews.

Another Day in the Life, by Ringo Starr
This third book in a series presents a previously unpublished collection of his photographs, captioned with the drummer’s own thoughts and anecdotes.

Siren Song: My Life in Music, by Seymour Stein
Stein is responsible for signing such legendary artists as the Ramones, Madonna, Talking Heads, the Cure, the Pretenders, Depeche Mode, Lou Reed, k.d. lang, the Smiths and many others. This is his own story.

There’s No Bones in Ice Cream: Sylvain Sylvain’s Story of the New York Dolls, by Sylvain Sylvain
Taking in his early life in New York, the rise, fall and rise again of the New York Dolls, and all the misadventures between, There’s No Bones in Ice Cream is the story one of the band’s founding members.

Looking For Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders, by Danny Garcia
Drawn from interviews, this oral biography of guitarist and singer Thunders includes first-hand recollections from those who knew him best, from his fellow New York Dolls and Heartbreakers mates to others.

My Love Story, by Tina Turner
From her early years in Nutbush, Tenn., to her rise to fame alongside Ike Turner to her phenomenal success in the 1980s and beyond, Turner candidly examines her personal history, from her darkest hours to her happiest moments and everything in between.


Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, by Ryan H. Walsh
A dive into a lost chapter of 1968, centered in Boston and featuring the famous and forgotten: Van Morrison, folkie-turned-cult-leader Mel Lyman, Timothy Leary, James Brown and many more

The Band’s With Me: Tour 1964-1975, by Sally Mann Romano
A former groupie, who hung with the likes of Frank Zappa, the Band, Stephen Stills and Ten Years After, and married the drummer of Jefferson Airplane, tells all now—and names names.

Life in the Key of Rubini: A Hollywood Child Prodigy and His Wild Adventures in Crime, Music, Sex, Sinatra and Wonder Woman, By Michel Rubini
A member of L.A.’s legendary Wrecking Crew, he recalls his days of hit-making, hell-raising and skirt-chasing within a Hollywood music scene long gone.

Memphis Rent Party: The Blues, Rock & Soul in Music’s Hometown, by Robert Gordon
Profiles and stories of Southern music from the author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion

Rock and Roll Woman, by Meredith Ochs
An insightful look at 50 female rock icons from the 1950s to today who indelibly shook up the music scene, whether solo or in a band.

Rock Critic Law, by Michael Azerrad
The author turns his eye to the art of rock writing itself, hilariously skewering 101 of the genre’s seemingly endless litany of hackneyed phrases and tropes.

Best Classic Bands Staff

4 Comments so far

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  1. Stephen Novik
    #1 Stephen Novik 15 December, 2018, 15:43

    I think you meant to say: A celebration of one of the most revered CANADIAN groups of all time, on the 50th anniversary of their debut album, and the 40th anniversary of the legendary film of their final concert.

    Reply this comment
  2. Chazzbo
    #2 Chazzbo 27 November, 2019, 05:49

    I can’t believe you left out the Nick Lowe biography “Cruel To Be Kind”…incredibly thorough, and packed with Nick’s self-effacing charm…

    Reply this comment
    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 27 November, 2019, 08:56

      And we can’t believe that you didn’t notice that this article is from 2018. The Nick Lowe book came out this August and will be featured in our 2019 guide, which will be published later today!

      Reply this comment

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