GUITAR SHOWCASE 2022: From amazing biographies to stimulating lessons to fascinating guitar history, here’s our pick of the books that need your attention…
1. The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the guitar-pioneering rivalry that shaped rock ‘n’ roll
Author: Ian S. Port
Port’s book The Birth Of Loud focuses on the mid-20th century feud between Fender and Gibson and tells the story of the electric guitar against a backdrop of rivalry, technical innovation and some world-changing players.
This takes you not only into the minds and personalities of the greatest guitar designers of the post-war era, but also into the scenes in which their instruments thrived.
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2. Urban Transport: Jimi Hendrix and post-war pop
Author: Charles Shaar Murray
Hendrix is often hailed as a mythical boundary-breaker fueled by an innate genius, but Charles Shaar Murray’s superb examination of the pop phenomenon dispels many pernicious myths about the guitarist’s seemingly supernatural talent.
Instead, it focuses on how and why Hendrix did what he did, and the arguably greater value of his remarkable achievements as a black artist breaking into a pop culture dominated by the white hegemony of the ’60s rock scene.
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Author: Keith Richards
Keith Richards’ autobiography Life caused a stir when it was released, thanks in no small part to a sophisticated PR campaign and some jagger baiting that made headlines.
While rich in juiciness and lewdness, the wonderful thing about Life is in the way it captures the languid humor of Richard’s voice: his rumbling inner monologue that reflects the thinking (and sometimes lack thereof) behind his personal and creative relationships explains , the ‘Stones’ highs and lows, and of course addiction, which he has grappled with for decades.
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4. Heaven and Hell
Author: Don Fields
A straightforward rock biography documenting a remarkable life to date, Felder’s tell-all book focuses on telling his side of The Eagles’ tumultuous history, with embarrassing layers of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
Plus, the six-string connections abound, from taking guitar lessons for an unknown Tom Petty, to copying slide techniques straight from Duane Allman, Joe Walsh’s sideline prankster, to meeting Keith Richards (who was passed out on the bathroom floor) .
Buy Heaven And Hell: My Life In The Eagles, 1974-2001 at Amazon.com (opens in new tab)
5. When I left home
Author: Buddy Guy
Buddy Guy is one of the best blues guitarists in the world. He’s also the undeniable first-hand link between the founders of Chicago blues – like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf – and the showmanship of rock greats like Hendrix, Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Jeff Beck.
All of this has hailed him as an influence, and Guy’s incredible story has in some ways set the template for blues iconography – literally taking him from an impoverished childhood in the cotton fields of Louisiana up the Mississippi to Chicago, where he made his name armed promoters, blues greats and rock icons.
Buy When I Left Home on Amazon (opens in new tab)
6. Zen Guitar
Author: Philip Toshio Sudo
Zen Guitar is a manual for the six-stringed warriors of light. Zen Guitar avoids the typical technical breakdowns and physical focus of usual instructional titles, instead embracing the spiritual and mental approach of great guitarists.
It’s about improving your mentality as a musician so you can better immerse yourself in that state of “in-the-moment” flow that the best musicians so treasure.
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7. Heavier Than Heaven: The Biography of Kurt Cobain
Author: Charles R. Cross
The leading biography of the late, great Nirvana frontman. Author Charles R. Cross conducted extensive research, including more than a hundred interviews with the Cobain family, as well as Courtney Love, Buzz Osbourne, Krist Novoselic, Dylan Carson, Jessica Hopper, and Curt Kirkwood (to name a few).
It is emotionally difficult to read, but extremely well written and great care is taken on the sensitive subject. An eye-opening portrait of an icon.
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8. Electric Eden: Discover Britain’s visionary music
Author: Rob Young
This colossal tome (600+ pages) is the ultimate read for fans of British Isles musicians and music.
It’s ostensibly the colorfully told history of British folk music, but its main concern is the folk-rock revival of the ’60s and ’70s (with many guitar icons) – including Richard Thompson and Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Pentangle (with Bert Jansch) and on to The Beatles and Pink Floyd.
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Author: Robbie Robertson
Few guitarists have had a better grasp of the changing cultural landscape of the 20th century than Robbie Robertson, the fulcrum of The Band and Bob Dylan’s first electronic guitarist.
From joining The Hawks at 16, to his early encounters with Dylan, to a torrent of roller coaster anecdotes, it’s packed with insight – and even details some of the gear used on those legendary sessions.
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10. It brings me home, this curved track
Author: Ian Penman
This collection of musical lyrics by famed British critic Ian Penman offers a series of portraits of artists who created a kind of common understanding across racial lines, “black artists who were innovators, white musicians who copied them for the mainstream”.
It’s not just focused on the guitar, but there are extensive and insightful tracks about The Mods, Steely Dan, Prince and the hugely influential but little-known John Fahey.
Buy It Gets Me Home, This Curving Track on Amazon (opens in new tab)