1. MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM Lizzy Goodman (Faber & Faber)
In Meet Me In The Bathroom, Lizzy Goodman brilliantly chronicled the noughties New York rock scene which bought us such brilliant groups as LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio and Liars. It was all here: the drama, controversy, booze, bust-ups, sex, drugs and – of course – copious amounts of unforgettable rock and roll. The book made an immediate impact, with Ryan Adams getting into a Twitter feud with The Strokes, after the group said in the book that he was to blame for guitarist Albert Hammond Jr’s heroin problem.
There was also a notable Irish element to Meet Me In The Bathroom, with Dublin producer Marcus Lambkin (aka Shit Robot) and David Holmes leading roles in the scene surrounding James Murphy’s DFA label. Indeed, in a book full of fantastic stories, perhaps the most memorable anecdote had Holmes lamping Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson in LA after he referred to the producer as “an English cunt”.
Racy, brilliantly entertaining and wonderfully insightful, Meet Me In The Bathroom is the definitive account of one of the 21 century’s most important music scenes.
2. ART SEX MUSIC Cosey Fanni Tutti (Faber & Faber)
The memoir of former Throbbing Gristle member Christine Newby, aka Cosey Fanni Tutti, Art Sex Music offered compelling reflection on her lengthy career as a rebellious provocateur in the world of art and music. Starting with Cosey’s working class upbringing in Hull (which this year extensively celebrated TG as part of its European Capital of Culture remit), it moves on to her time as a member of artistic collective COUM and finally her extensive work in the musical avant-garde.
The book also explores Cosey’s volatile relationship with Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge, and her work in erotic movies and magazines.
A notable element of the COUM and TG story was how truly countercultural it was – not just in the music and art, but also in the lifestyle, with the group and their associates living in communes and totally rejecting mainstream society. Indeed, as Cosey relays in one of the book’s most remarkable stories, their awesome 1976 ICA exhibition, Prostitution, led Tory MP Nicholas Fairbairn to brand them “wreckers of civilisation”. It remains possibly the greatest endorsement any band has ever received.
3. FROM CRADLE TO STAGE Virginia Hanlon Grohl Coronet
What makes a rock star? Quite literally their mother. Mums of famous musicians are surely proud of their children but there are other feelings that stir throughout the journey of stardom.
From Cradle to Stage tells the fascinating and intimate tales of mothers Verna Griffin (Dr Dre), Carolyn Williams (Pharell Williams), Janis Winehouse (Amy Winehouse), Patsy Noah (Adam Levine), Donna Haim (the Haim sisters), and Hester Diamond (Mike D of The Beastie Boys), among others.
No one has known you longer than your mum – rock stars no exception. Crack open this eye-opening book by Virginia Grohl, mother of Dave Grohl, which tears down the facade of celebrity personalities and reaches into the pure heart of family relations. Grohl drives her story forward with a humanising sweetness sure to leave you grinning at the stars you thought you knew.
4. DAVID BOWIE: A LIFE Dylan Jones (Preface Publishing)
A writer who has experience in compiling thoroughly-researched, erudite accounts of his chosen subjects, Dylan Jones’ biography of David Bowie is probably the most comprehensive picture of the singer yet, if not always the most salacious.
Drawn from over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers and collaborators – some of whom have never before spoken about their relationship with Bowie – Jones documents Bowie’s artistry and rise to stardom, while trying to make sense of the man through insightful discussions with the people who knew him best.
As well as being thorough, it might also be the closest we’ll get to understanding the interpersonal David Bowie. Jones takes a serious, mature look at the singer’s relationship with his schizophrenic half-brother Terry, as well as his sometimes cold attitude towards people whom he no longer valued.
5. THE TALE OF TWO IMAGINARY BOYS: CURED Lol Tolhurst
Ex-Cure man Tolhurst’s memoir offers a fascinating insight into life in the goth-rock icons. Filled with memorable anecdotes and excellent insights, it was manna from heaven from fans of rock memoirs.