Is there a hole in your stocking, or pink slips paper-clipped to the tree in a festive display? Times are tough, but the simple joys do survive. Pile on the blankets and give a gift to yourself this season, in the pleasure of a new book from the Dewey 780.9 section of your public library or your hip local bookseller.
The top of my suggestions is The Rock Bible, a devastatingly funny and shockingly observant "Little Red Book" from the skewer-thrusters at Chunklet magazine. This faux-leather, gold-embossed petite little Book of Psongs fits in the hand like the church hymnal it is, laying down the begat-whoms and the thou-shalt-nots of the religion of popular culture, particularly the Hard Rock Branch Davidian Secularists we know and love. Like the television commercials of the 1970s for Scope, in which the anonymous gift of a bottle meant "wise up, stink-breath," there's a long list of folks who need this witty, don't-be-a-doofus admonition. From verse one of "The Psalm of the Guitar Player": "The Fender is rock. The Gibson is slightly louder rock. The Ibanez is ponytail rock." Ouch! The 12-page "Genesis" opener is simply amazing, tracing its life spark at Edison's invention of the phonograph to today's scene in an explosive chain of fatherhood that connects beautifully like a Pachinko highway. Looking to write a song, start a band, or take your show on the road? Lest ye be called a fool, best study "The Gospel According to the Singer," the "Golden Rules of Band Merchandise," and "Blasphemy: Forbidden Words When Naming Your Band." Fans get there own gospel, guided by "The Seven Commandment of Appearance" ("Anyone who wishes to buy any Ramones-related merchandise must be able to name all members of the original lineup and a minimum of five of their songs") and "Cardinal Rules" ("You can't listen to a band on your way to their show. Conversely, it's absolutely acceptable to listen to them on the way back").
Warner Bros. Records celebrates its golden anniversary in style with a massive 240-page history, Revolutions in Sound: The First Fifty Years. Almost as big as a record-album sleeve, the visual delight chronicles the label's birth in 1958 with the soundtrack to For Whom the Bell Tolls, stereophonic thrills utilizing the Vitaphonic process, and celebrity-based singles from Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, Tab Hunter, and Jack Webb. From Sinatra to the Grateful Dead, and onward through Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Madonna, Jane's Addiction, Green Day, and beyond, the WB, Sire, or Reprise logo is as cool as it gets. Fascinating essays pepper the tale, with Dr. Demento recalling those budget-priced two-LP "loss leaders" that popped up in used-record bins through the 1970s, and Bob Merlis' memories of working as the publicist for Alice Cooper's School's Out album, featuring a foldout school desk and a pair of pink panties wrapped around the vinyl LP. Written by Warren Zanes, founding member of the Del Fuegos and former vice president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, the book features many recording artists sharing what it was like to be at the right place at the right time, including Perry Farrell, Flea, Billy Gibbons, Elvis Costello, and Wayne Coyne. A deluxe edition of the book is available, featuring a snappy USB memory key in the shape of the company's logo. Holding as much as a 20-CD set, the device has 320 songs selected as a companion to the book.
With the subtitle of Outrageous Rumors, Legends, & Raucous True Tales of Rock & Roll Icons, Jon Holmes' new Rock Star Babylon is a wild ride through the most debaucherous stories that rock stars can't dodge - or hope the public doesn't find out about. From Stevie Nicks and drinking straws to Bill Wyman's cure for the gout, the Plume Books release collects the anecdotes that are often passed between hotel managers, roadies, recording engineers, and babysitters to the stars. Everyone is fair game in this collection of the chemically disabled, hostile, and promiscuous, from Keith Moon to George Jones to Simply Red's Mick Hucknall. Highlights include Liam Gallagher's revelation about Spinal Tap, the flaming demise of Brinsley Schwartz, and the bodily functions of pigs when Black Sabbath is played loudly.