Listen - I *like* the Beatles. I watched all 8+ hours of the Get Back documentary over a course of two weekends and took meticulous notes on every outfit George Harrison wore while strutting into Apple Studios (that rainbow lilac pinstripe! that pilgrim hat! his little bright red jumper!), and converted into a temporary Paul fan after years of scowling every time his face popped up. Their influence on music cannot be denied, even to this day.
With all that being said - I am also *sick* of The Beatles. Every year there's a new unauthorized biography, or oral history, or an interview with an ex-wife or ex-friend or ex-girlfriend of an ex-friend. They still grace the covers of magazines decades after breaking up and dominate the Rock/Pop book shelf back in our Performing Arts section. And I think it's about time we start reading and discussing other facets of music history beyond The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, or even Nirvana. Hell, even the people that influenced those bands are left in the dust most of the time. So let's dive into the subgenres that are bringing in new perspectives and excitement, whether it's sweaty beer-soaked crowds in downtrodden basements or brightly lit and intricate stage shows for pop extravaganzas.
Below are some titles deserving of your time and love, and I welcome you to read some music books that are categorically NOT ABOUT THE BEATLES!
Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop by Danyel Smith
An intimate history of the bedrock of American pop music: Black women’s music. The author chronicles everything from Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who sang her poems, to Aretha Franklin, to Mariah Carey, while also shining light on under-considered artists like Marilyn McCoo and Jody Watley.
Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman
Lizzy Goodman curates over 200 original interviews, to chart the early 2000s New York City music scene, from the rise of bands like the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Moldy Peaches, and Vampire Weekend, to the technological changes like Napster and iTunes, to new bloggers and journal upstarts like Vice and Pitchfork.
Sellout by Dan Ozzi
Remember when Green Day signed with Reprise Records, got famous, and then were branded sellouts? Dan Ozzi explores the controversial decisions of bands from Green Day, to the Donnas, to My Chemical Romance to sign with major labels, and the devout, defiant DIY scene that fought for them -- or maybe just fought them -- at every turn.
The Motherlode by Clover Hope
This book shines a spotlight on the integral history of women in hip-hop from across the decades, from Queen Latifa to Cardi B, as well as early innovators and unsung heroes who have shaped the genre.
The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper
First published and celebrated in 2015, this collection of criticism features oral histories and intimate conversations with some of the biggest bands and artists in the world, and has been reissued with new material.
The Spit Boy Rule by Michelle Cruz Gonzales
This is a memoir from the drummer of 90s female hardcore band Spitboy as they blazed trails, faced down misogyny, classism, and racism, while fighting to create the music they wanted to hear: a band that rocked as hard as men, but sounded like women.
Rez Metal by Ashkan Soltani Stone
Rez Metal highlights the ways that metal has spoken to and inspired Indigenous youth culture, and explores the Navajo Nation metal scene from the venues, to the bands, to the fans.
Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus
Chronicles the histories of early 90s bands Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, and the musical feminist rebellion we call Riot Grrrl.
Nobody Ever Asked Me About the Girls by Lisa Robinson
Based on conversations with more than forty female artists, this book presents candid, nuanced portraits of some of music’s most famous and successful women, including everyone from Stevie Nicks to Jennifer Lopez to Rihanna.
They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib
Abdurraqib looks through the lens of music and culture at the complexities of our modern world, observing the ways that music – especially live music – can provide community and become a safe haven.
Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound by Daphne A Brooks
This book dives into a century of music history to show and celebrate the ways that Black women musicians – from Bessie Smith to Beyoncé – have proved themselves radical intellectuals, while standing simultaneously at the center and on the fringe of the culture industry. - (9780674052819)