A Summer Rock and Roll Reading List

Gregg Allman in "Cross to Bear"

You may not have to turn in an essay in September entitled “What I Read on My Summer Vacation”, but if you’re the kind of music obsessive who loves to learn more about the stories behind the songs, you’ll still need to pack something more substantive than 50 Shades of Grey in your beach bag to give your brain a buzz during sea-and-sand season. Whether you’re the kind of reader who likes to curl up with a Kindle or kick back on your beach blanket and actually page through a tactile tome, take one (or all) of these along to make sure your summertime escape keeps the right beat.

1. My Cross To Bear  by Gregg Allman with Alan Light

When a guy with as many wild times in his rearview mirror as Gregg Allman starts opening up about his past, who wouldn’t want to sit down and soak it up? From the tough times (his turbulent marriage to Cher) to the tragic times (the deaths of brother Duane and Allman Brothers Band bassist Berry Oakley) to the triumphant times (the towering legacy of the ABB and their continuance as a vital entity), Allman lets it all hang out here. [Buy here.]

2. 33 1/3: Talking Heads’ Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem

In celebrated novels like Fortress of Solitude and Chronic City, Boerum Hill’s most renowned literary son serves up his share of music journalist characters, and now Jonathan Lethem gets his own licks in, expounding on the impact and influence of the game-changing album Talking Heads unleashed in 1979, when Lethem was a music-obsessed teen in the Heads’ hometown. [Buy here.]

3. Devils and Blue Dresses: My Wild Ride As A Rock & Roll Legend by Mitch Ryder

Even if Mitch Ryder hadn’t changed the course of rock & roll with his mid-‘60s hits — a crucial influence on heartland rockers like Springsteen, Mellencamp, et al — his tales of hanging out in the studio watching Bob Dylan record Highway 61 Revisited and turning down Jimi Hendrix’s offer to be the Band of Gypsys’ [sic] singer would be fascinating enough. And after he casts a cold, hard eye on his own indiscretions (personal, chemical, sexual, you name it) and recounts the indignities he suffered at the hands of the music business, you can’t help wanting to just buy the guy a beer or something. [Buy here.]

4. If 6 Was 9 And Other Assorted Number Songs by David Klein

Everybody likes to be a musical know-it-all once in a while; if you really want to impress your friends with the sonic arcana at your disposal, join Klein in his glorious geek-out about number songs. This first part of a projected trilogy goes from Sparks’ “The No. 1 Song In Heaven” to Stereolab’s “Peng! 33,” and it’s a frequently funny, unfailingly insightful account of one man’s dovetailing obsessions. [Buy here.]

5. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye: The Fleeting Fame & Lasting Legacy of Soft Cell by Kurt B. Reighley

If you’re too busy to take two weeks off and you’ve only got a single day to spend basking in beachy leisure, put this brief-but-bright entry in Rhino’s new short-form Single Notes ebook series on your agenda. Reighley’s reconsideration of Soft Cell’s short-but-seminal run touches not only on their impact as synth-pop pioneers but also on frontman Marc Almond’s importance as an ‘80s gay icon to everyone from Antony Hegarty (who is interviewed) to the author himself. [Buy here.]

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