WIYE’s Best Music Books of 2020

This was the year when writing about music continued to move from glossy magazines and went into hard covers. These are ten we’d recommend if you’re looking for something to buy for Christmas. And don’t forget to support your local bookshop in whatever way you can. We’ll be posting videos about each of these books, which will be initially available exclusively to Patreon supporters.

Broken Greek Pete Paphides

This moving, hilarious account of an early life spent living above a chip shop, looking to pop music to explain the world, will appeal to the people who grew up in the 80s and way beyond to lovers of great autobiography.

Graceland Bethan Roberts

All pop stars want to make their mothers proud. Nobody wanted that more than Elvis Presley. Bethan Roberts tells the tragic story of him and his beloved Gladys with a novelist’s feeling for the big themes and an Elvis fan’s respect for the facts.

In the Court of King Crimson Sid Smith

When the final accounting is done we may well decide that in pursuing his own path for fifty years with the twin aims of artistic satisfaction and profit Robert Fripp is the winningest rock star of all. This exhaustive, newly refreshed story from King Crimson’s equivalent of Mark Lewisohn tells how he did it.

The Life & Times of Malcolm McLaren Paul Gorman

McLaren was best-known for his time with the Sex Pistols. In fact it could be that was the least interesting and the least influential period of a life and career which saw him put his fingerprints all over the cultural map. For the first time a book covers the full range.

Nothin’ But A Good Time: The Spectacular Rise and Fall Of Glam Metal
Justin Quirk

You probably know the music of Bon Jovi, Kiss, W.A.S.P. and the other heavy hitters and high hair wearers of glam metal. For the first time there’s a clever, perceptive book suggesting these people deserve more respect than they are traditionally given.

One Two Three Four!: The Beatles In Time
Craig Brown

There are certain people so famous that anybody whose paths they cross write about it and their collected reflections allow an author to look at their careers through a different lens which gives some idea of their impact at the time. Brown made this approach work with Princess Margaret. Now he makes it work with the Beatles.

Overpaid Oversexed and Over There: How A Few Skinny Brits With Bad Teeth Rocked America
David Hepworth

At a time when the United States seems like a very foreign country indeed there’s never been a better time for a tour d’horizon of the twenty year period when it was the ambition of every Limey plank spanker to become Big In America and what the experience did to them, both as musicians and as people.

Ready Steady Go! The Definitive Story of The Show That Changed Pop TV
Andy Neill

This reassuringly expensive large format memento of the short but highly documented life of the most influential pop programme of all is impeccably, lovingly done. For fans of the swinging sixties this is not so much history as time travel.

Small Hours: The Long Night Of John Martyn  
Graeme Thomson

This book suggest the rock biography may be entering a new and more mature phase with authors prepared to confront the fact that people like Martyn, who made music of surpassing beauty, could betray an altogether more ugly side in their own private life. Will it make any difference to your feelings? Read it and decide.

Sweet Dreams: The Story Of The New Romantics 
Dylan Jones

In which a man who was there at the time and taking names finally gives the scene makers of the mid-80s  – from the musicians through the designers to the DJs and the emerging stars of club culture – chance to tell the story of the movement that did more to change Britain than punk rock ever did.