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Fall music books offer insight, gossip about -- and from -- big names

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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nce skittish, the publishing industry has warmed to the idea of music books, particularly memoirs. The fall has been, per usual, busy. Here's a look at some of the season's key titles.

• "Me" by Elton John (Henry Holt): The "Rocketman's" voice rings true in chatty, unapologetic and occasionally bitchy fashion, telling tales and skewering sacred cows — including himself. It only makes us love him more.

• "Prince: The Beautiful Ones" edited by Dan Piepenbring (Spiegel & Grau): This hodgepodge of manuscript abruptly halted by his death, lavish illustrations and Piepenbring's account of their collaboration cut short adds to but is not (and can't be) the definitive story.

• "Face It" by Debbie Harry (Dey Street): The New Wave icon offers plenty of revelations, including a harrowing encounter with David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, and lots of looks inside the musical world Harry and Blondie slugged their way through.

• "The Beatles from A to Zed" by Peter Asher (Henry Holt & Co.): Asher, a famed producer and artist manager, has the credentials to biography the Beatles. For nearly six years his sister dated Paul McCartney, who wrote songs for his duo, Peter and Gordon. This is idiosyncratic and personal, which only makes it that much more engaging.

• "Hard To Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes — A Memoir" by Steve Gorman with Steven Hyden (Da Capo): A detailed, pull-no-punches look inside the flight of a band that soared high and crashed hard, mostly, according to the drummer and co-founder, by its own hand.

• "Come and Get These Memories" by Eddie and Brian Holland with Dave Thompson (Omnibus); "How Sweet It Is" by Lamont Dozier with Scott B. Bomar (BMG): Motown's 60th anniversary comes to and end with this pair of thoughtful and insightful memoirs from the label's most successful songwriting team. There's plenty of detail, some revelatory, and combined they provide maybe the best account yet of Hitsville's heyday.

• "Time Is Tight: My Life Note by Note" by Booker T. Jones (Little, Brown): The (mostly) keyboard-playing legend takes stock of a long and varied career, with some insightful revelations about race relations even in a soul music capitol like Memphis.

• "Jeff Buckley: His Own Voice — Journals, Objects and Ephemera" edited by Mary Guibert and David Browne (Da Capo): The closest thing we're likely to get to a memoir from the late singer-songwriter, carefully and lovingly compiled and handsomely presented.

• "For You: Original Stories and Photographs by Bruce Springsteen's Legendary Fans" edited by Lawrence Kirsch (Lawrence Kirsch Communications): Keep your Deadheads; Springsteen's fans are among the most loyal and exuberant in rock -- and they can remember what happened, often in great detail. This 206 page love letter is packed with hundreds of remembrances from around the world (and not always in English) as well as candid crowd photography that helps set it apart from the many other Bruce books out there.

• "The Age of Anxiety" by Pete Townshend (Hachette): The Who guitarist and composer's first novel, part of a larger multimedia project, documents the life of, yes, a rock star, from the pen of someone who certainly has the credentials for the job.

• "Acid For the Children: A Memoir" by Flea (Grand Central): Not a go-to to learn a great deal about the Red Hot Chili Peppers (yet — as another book is coming), but a fascinating examination of how Michael Balzary became one of the best players and most colorful (sometimes to a fault) figures in rock.

• "Supreme Glamour" by Mary Wilson with Mark Bego (Thames & Hudson): Motown's Supremes were nothing if not fashionable, and there's no one better than Wilson, who maintains a traveling exhibit of the group's gowns, to examine the subject.

• "Guitar King: Michael Bloomfield's Life in the Blues" by David Dann (University of Texas Press): A long ’un at nearly 750 pages (and very small type), but a rich and definitive presentation that will enhance the converted and convert the unfamiliar.

• "Buddy Rich: One of a Kind — The Making of the World's Best Drummer" by Pelle Berglund (Hudson Music): A deep and scholarly dig into a guy whose playing certainly lived up to the title.

• "Tegan & Sara: High School" by Tegan Quin and Sara Quin (MCD/FS&G): The Canadian twin sisters take a dueling but complementary — and fearless — look at their formative teens that will send you back to their earliest music with more informed and understanding ears.

• "1973: Rock at the Crossroads" by Andrew Grant Jackson (Thomas Dunne Books): You can find a good story in just about any year of music, but Jackson makes a good case for this as one of the most pivotal in terms of the art, commerce and personalities.

• "To Feel the Music: A Songwriter's Mission to Save High-Quality Audio" by Neil Young and Phil Baker (BenBella): Young is nothing if not a zealot for the best sound quality possible, and the passion and detail in this 259-page treatise may just win you to his side.

• "The Show Won't Go On: The Most Shocking, Bizarre, and Historic Deaths of Performers Onstage" by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns (Chicago Review Press): The title says it all, and the stories in these 224 pages -- from magicians to musicians -- are often harrowing but memorable, and chronicled with impressive detail and range.

• "Raising Hell: Backstage Tales from the Lives of Metal Legends" by Jon Wiederhorn (Diversioin): One of hard rock's most prolific journalist opens his notebooks and memory banks for an oral history of stage snafus, transportation travails, drug misadventures and much more. It will rock your world.

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