Fall is the best time of the year for book lovers. Publishers schedule the release of their most serious-minded fare for when we’re indoors and have time to read. So put away that phone and tablet. There will be plenty of time for doomscrolling in the New Year when get back to climate change emergencies, Elon Musk’s latest bits of insanity, and panic over the U.S. presidential election. Time to curl up with some good books on music.
Talking to My Angels by Melissa Etheridge (Out now)
Etheridge’s second memoir (the first was The Truth Is… from 2002) picks up where that one left off and adds 20 years of new experiences (a battle with breast cancer, some very public breakups, the death of her son as the result of opioid addiction, involvement in the LGBTQ2 community) and reflections on life. It’s very honest stuff. There will be tears.
Mud Ride: A Messy Trip Through the Grunge Explosion by Steve Turner (Out now)
Turner, a skater and hardcore kid, was there at the very beginning of grunge. In fact, it was Mark Arm, his later bandmate in OG groups like Green River and Mudhoney who first used the word to describe the heavier sounds coming out of the Pacific Northwest. Turner takes us through those early days, showing us just how few people were responsible for a scene that eventually blew up worldwide. Green River, for example, once included both future Pearl Jam members Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard but left when their ambitions outgrew the group. Although Mudhoney continues to record and tour, their experience shows that not everyone associated with the birth of grunge was on the same page.
Abbey Road: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Famous Recording Studio by David Hepworth (Out Now)
I’ve been lucky to both work at and tour through Abbey Road Studios several times over the years and I can attest that the place is like a shrine. Opened by Electric and Machine Industries (that’s what “EMI” stands for) in a nine-bedroom century-old Georgian townhouse, the studios have been the source of some of the most legendary recordings in the world: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Oasis, Muse, Radiohead, Depeche Mode — the list goes on forever. The massive Studio One is also where orchestras performed and recorded the soundtracks for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, Aliens, and a bunch of Harry Potter films. While the studio is off-limits to most visitors, this book takes us inside and shows how things work behind the curtain.
Don’t Call It Hair Metal: Art in the Excess of ’80s Rock by Sean Kelly
Hair metal has not been treated kindly by history. Most remember it as a time when dudes looked like ladies with their big hair, makeup, and spandex up partied up and down the Sunset Strip. A lot of rock fans were fine when the grunge tsunami wiped the entire scene from the face of the early at the dawn of the 1990s. But maybe we’ve been too harsh. Kelly teases out stories from members of Twisted Sister, Guns N’ Roses, Dokken, Poison, Quiet Riot, and others to offer a different perspective on the music of the era. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
High Bias: The Distorted History of the Cassette Tape by Mark Masters (Out Oct. 3)
When Philips introduced the Compact Cassette in 1963, they expected it to be used for low-fidelity purposes like diction and answering machines. But as tape formulations and tape machines got better, the cassette allowed everyone to create custom mixtapes for home, the car, and new-fangled things like the Sony Walkman. For a brief period in the 1980s, more people bought prerecorded albums on cassette than on vinyl or the new compact disc. The cassette made music consumption personal, customizable, and portable. Today, cassettes are making something of a comeback as retro tchotchkes and souvenirs as well as being used to preserve Afghani music from the Taliban’s music-hating ways. It’s a fun, twisty story.
Lay It On the Line by Rik Emmett (Out Oct. 10)
Subtitled A Backstage Pass to Rock Star Adventure, Conflict, and Triumph, the guitarist for Canada’s other ’70s-’80s power trio offers a mix of memoirs, anecdotes, observations about the music industry, and rock’n’roll songwriting that’s sure to be appreciated by anyone who likes Canadian-built hard rock. Emmett also explains why he walked away from the band for 20 years to explore other forms of music.
Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones by Dolly Parton (Out Oct. 17)
Dolly has been having a very long moment these past couple of years, especially since she was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With a new album entitled Rockstar coming in November (yes, a Dolly Parton rock record), she’s ready with a thick book featuring 450 full-colour photos of her wardrobe while explaining how her sense of style developed over the decades. Love sequins and rhinestones? Here you go.
The Tragically Hip ABC adapted by Drew Macklin (Out Oct. 24)
This could be classified as something for the young’uns, but it’s really a picture book for all fans of The Tragically Hip. And it’s like it sounds: a tour through Hip songs A is for “Ahead by a Century,” B is for “Bobcaygeon,” etc., all whimsically illustrated by Clayton Hammer, Julia Breckenreid, Bridget George, and Monika Melnychuk. File it under, “For the Hip Fan Who Has Everything.”