Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tomes about Tunes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tomes about Tunes

Article excerpt

At the end of every year, pop music writers give their lists of the best -- and, usually, the worst -- albums of the year.

The best books about pop music in a given year, however, often get less attention. And that's a shame, because this year -- and most years -- what you can find on the bookshelves is almost as interesting as what's in the CD racks. From biographies to coffee-table tomes, 1995 saw a bumper crop of excellent books about rock, reggae and jazz.

Best of the lot is "Touching From a Distance" (Faber and Faber, $15.95), Deborah Curtis' bio of her late husband, Ian, the founder and lead singer of seminal New Wave band Joy Division. Released on the 15th anniversary of Curtis' suicide, "Touching" is a tersely written, unflinching look at an odd, fragile, inward-turning man whose lyrics and voice influenced everyone from Bono to Trent Reznor.

Deborah Curtis strips away the myth and romance of her husband's life and reveals a man who was wracked by demons that he never quite articulated -- not in song, not to her -- and who had no intention of ever growing old.

This year also marked what would have been Bob Marley's 50th birthday. As befits a man of Marley's stature, a slew of books were released. Best of the lot is "Bob Marley -- Songs of Freedom" (Viking Studio Books, $34.95), a richly detailed portrait of not only Marley but also how reggae developed in Jamaica in the '60s. Authors Adrian Boot and Chris Salewicz use extensive quotes by intimates such as Marley's widow, Rita, and band member Junior Marvin, and the design is also laudable.

Bill Flanagan's "U2 at the End of the World" (Delacorte, $22.95) is not so much a bio as a look at a band in progress. Flanagan, editor of "Musician" magazine, was allowed total access to U2 during the recording of 1991's "Achtung Baby" and subsequent massive tour.

"World" takes us from Irish and German recording studios to the stadiums of Europe to Frank Sinatra's California mansion to the after-hours clubs of Tokyo. …

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