Uncut’s best music books of 2018

Definitive tomes, secret histories and inspired autobiographies

10
ALL GATES OPEN: THE STORY OF CAN
Rob Young & Irmin Schmidt

Half forensic biography, 
half “cultural symposium”, 
All Gates Open is pretty close to the book Can deserve. Erudite and in-depth, as well as over-reaching and frustrating at times, its mix of aesthetic stringency and exploratory zeal underscores why this music continues to resonate.

9
ASTRAL WEEKS: 
A SECRET HISTORY 
OF 1968
Ryan H Walsh

Using the largely undocumented genesis of Van Morrison’s classic album as a skeleton key, Walsh unlocks 
an eccentric, entertaining tale of Boston’s cosmic underbelly and burgeoning freak scene, including the eye-popping antics of Mel Lyman’s dubious Fort Hill cult.

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8
LET’S GO (SO WE CAN GET BACK)
Jeff Tweedy

As you’d expect from a songwriter of Tweedy’s reach, Let’s Go offers rich rewards concerning his craft and the extremes of life 
in Uncle Tupelo and Wilco. It’s the longing light he shines on childhood, however, and the tender tributes to his family, that truly hit home.

7
TROUBLE SONGS: MUSIC AND CONFLICT IN NORTHERN IRELAND
Stuart Bailie

A humane, humorous and – the border being once again a live political issue – instructive exploration of 
the relationship between popular music and decades of turmoil 
in Northern Ireland, with key contributions from Bono, the Undertones, SLF, Christy Moore 
and David Holmes.

6
THE GIRL IN 
THE BACK
Laura Davis-Chanin

As drummer in CBGB hopefuls Student Teachers and teen lover of Blondie’s Jimmy Destri, Davis-Chanin rubbed shoulders with Bowie, Iggy and Talking Heads in late-’70s New York before illness halted her ambitions. Her account of missed opportunity and proximate fame hums with rueful insight.

5
THE STORY OF TROJAN RECORDS
Laurence Cane-Honeysett

Celebrating 
the 50th anniversary of the legendary reggae label, this big, beautiful artefact combines artist biographies and interviews with wonderful evocative images of Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, the Maytals, 
Bob Marley & The Wailers et al, plus record sleeves, labels, ads and other archive material. Tighten up!

4
MEMPHIS RENT PARTY
Robert Gordon

A sparkling greatest-hits compilation from a thoughtful writer diving deep into his specialist subject. Though Gordon’s essays include intimate encounters with Townes Van Zandt, Alex Chilton and Jerry Lee Lewis, it’s his brushes with Memphis’s lesser-known blues and soul survivors that give the book its poignant, piquant flavour.

3
WHEN WORDS FAIL
Ed Vulliamy

Rooted in his experiences as 
a war reporter, Observer journalist Vulliamy 
explores the nature and effect of “oppositional” music intent on challenging the “apathetic acceptance of power”. Assisted by Graham Nash, Joan Baez and Robert Plant, he movingly ponders music’s purpose in turbulent times.

2
HARLEM 69: THE FUTURE OF SOUL
Stuart Cosgrove

A novelistic account of soul’s late-’60s ascent, portraying a NYC ghetto throbbing with sound and fury. Connecting the hard-edged innovations of Harlem to R&B’s future moves, 
it’s a magnificent conclusion to Cosgrove’s soul-centric trilogy.

1
BEASTIE BOYS BOOK
Mike Diamond & Adam Horovitz

It’s hard to recollect another book that so successfully maps the entire world of a band. Seven years after their final album, and six from the untimely death of Adam Yauch, Beastie Boys Book is a valedictory last hurrah. The 600-page doorstop covers the trio’s roots in early-’80s hardcore, their Great Rap Scare notoriety, the hyperactive pan-genre sprawl of their greatest work, and scrapes with everyone from Madonna to Lee Perry. A narrative spine of sorts is provided by the conversational tug-of-war between Diamond and Horovitz, while cartoons, Korean recipes, photo essays, playlists and guest pieces from Amy Poehler, Spike Jonze and Colson Whitehead add limbs, heart and head. The result? A full-bodied triumph.

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The March 2019 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with New Order on the cover. Inside, you’ll find Pete Shelley (RIP), our massive 2019 albums preview, Sharon Van Etten, Mark Knopfler, Paul Simonon, John Martyn, Steve Gunn and much more. Our 15-track CD also showcases the best of the month’s new music, including Bruce Springsteen, William Tyler and the Dream Syndicate.

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