by Cara on October 11, 2015

A Musical Education through Vroman’s Book Inventory

by Waylon Bacon

I’ve noticed that a lot of my favorite music has often been recorded by people who weren’t terrifically popular. Some of this has to do with the fact that music which hasn’t reached a wider audience is always going to be more exotic and therefore (to me at least) more interesting. As well, the stories behind these artists are always fascinating, (as the Oscar winning ‘Searching For Sugarman’ can attest) which can lead to some seriously obsessive music collecting.

Here at Vroman’s, we have a fantastic selection of books on these fringe music dwellers. Below are three of my favorites, which I highly recommend you check out:

 
RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN
Simon Reynolds

There have been many books written on the subject of Punk Music, but only one as far as I can tell on the subject of ‘Post Punk’.
Post Punk was the music that came after the Sex Pistols shook up England and in 1977. The bands that followed took the basic idea of the raw energy of punk and evolved it into something more arty and varied.

‘Rip It Up and Start Again’ goes into great detail about dozens and dozens of bands that you have probably never heard of, but definitely should check out. Some of my personal favorites include Pere Ubu, Gang Of Four, and The Raincoats. The music created between 1978 -1985 is some of the most experimental, smart, and groundbreaking music ever created, and if you’re looking to dive into this period (which turned into the much tamer ‘New Wave’ in the 80’s) this is THE book to get.

 
Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head
Rob Chapman

I know it’s odd to see the name ‘Pink Floyd’ anywhere on an article about unknown musicians, but that’s because it was founded by one of the best; the very talented Syd Barrett. Before they hit it big with ‘Dark Side Of The Moon,’ Syd Barrett was the chief songwriter and architect of their sound, as well as lead guitar and singer.
The songs Syd Barrett contributed to the band’s first album (‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’) were very different from the serious and brooding work the band became famous for; Syd Barrett wrote about subjects like cats and bicycles, conveying whimsy and a hint of madness. By the time ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ was released, Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett where already huge stars in England. Unfortunately, around this time Syd Barrett started to collapse, succumbing to a combination of pre-existing mental disturbances, drugs, and the pressures of fame. He was kicked out of his own band, which obviously went on to greater things.
A Very Irregular Head is the latest and definitely the best biography on Syd Barrett I’ve read; it dispels a lot of the myths surrounding him, presenting a more balanced look a brilliant creative mind who was unfit for the world of super-stardom. It also goes in depth regarding his two solo albums, which many music fans have championed over the years; unlike the sonic assault of his Pink Floyd work, ‘The Madcap Laughs’ and ‘Barrett,’ are quiet, ragged folk albums with a hint of psychedelia.

 

Say No To The Devil; The Life and Musical Genius Of Reverend Gary Davis by Ian Zack

Reverend Gary Davis is one of my all time favorite blues artists, who specialized in Gospel music. Accompanied only by his distinctive, staccato guitar playing and his throaty, soulful voice, he was one of the most unique blues artists to ever live. However, I’ve never been able to find out much more about the man other than that he went blind and was abandoned as a child, and that he was swept up in the 60’s folk revival shortly before his death, playing festivals and appearing on Pete Seeger’s television show ‘Rainbow Quest’.
So I was really excited to see this book in the music section the other day, which explores as much of the Reverend’s life as is possible. Although I haven’t yet sat down to give this a read, I will very soon and can’t wait to learn more about a man whose music has been stopping me cold since the first time I heard it.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

 

Nick Drake: Remembered For A While

A beautiful coffee table book which gives you a visual glimpse at the enigmatic Nick Drake, who tragically passed away after recording three absolutely beautiful and haunting folk albums. I assure you you’ve heard his music at some point, even if you didn’t catch his name. Get it!

 
Richard Hell: I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp

Although not necessarily unknown, Richard Hell doesn’t get half of the ink as fellow NY Punk musicians like The Ramones or Patti Smith as he should. In fact, he was one of the very first artists to play at CBGB’s, and as a songwriter he brought a real lyrical intelligence to a genre that is often thought of as just angry and stupid. Obviously, his interest in writing has continued, as evidenced by this terrifically written account of his all too brief years as the king of NY Punk.