Music has the ability to change a person’s mood in seconds, making a foot start tapping to a beat or evoking memories of days gone by. Everyone has a favourite song, but few know the stories behind them or what was going on in the artist’s life when they were written and recorded.
Today we are sharing some of the best new books on the market that uncover amazing stories behind the music we love. Brace yourself, it’s a fascinating ride.
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ‘n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things. Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road. Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realises that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.
The Book of Daniel by Jeff Apter
When Silverchair shuddered to a halt in 2011, there was no swan song, no farewell tour, just a brief statement and then they were gone – after more than fifteen years of brilliant music, five hit albums, legions of fans, millions of record sales, scores of awards and the odd controversy. Three teenagers from Newcastle had taken the world by storm within the time it typically takes most bands to record their first single. Over their stratospheric career, Daniel Johns developed into a performer and songwriter with few peers in modern music. After the end of his marriage to Natalie Imbruglia and the break-up of his band, he became the focus of sordid headlines and whispers of wayward behaviour. People feared what might happen next. But at the same time a new Daniel Johns emerged. His debut solo album, Talk, appeared to rapturous reviews in 2015 and raced to the top of the Australian charts, and then 2018 saw the advent of DREAMS, his long-awaited collaboration with Luke Steele. This was a vastly different Daniel Johns to the grungy, guitar-blazing teen of the 1990s. His new sound and image were sophisticated, brilliant and sexy as hell. It was a remarkable creative makeover, perhaps the most ambitious ever undertaken by an Australian rockstar. Former rockstar. The Book of Daniel documents how the reclusive Johns also battled many personal demons, including life-threatening anorexia and crippling reactive arthritis.
Drawing on more than fifteen years of documenting the life and times of Daniel Johns, author Jeff Apter has brought his story to life, revealing the struggles and triumphs of one of Australia’s most distinctive and dazzling talents. The book also includes a collection of exclusive photographs of Johns by eminent rock photographer Tony Mott.
Unmasked by Andrew Loyd Webber
In Unmasked, internationally acclaimed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber looks back over more than five decades in the spotlight as he recounts his fascinating life and remarkable career. Webber goes back to his origins, illuminating his charming, offbeat family, including his bohemian mother and her pet monkey; his grandmother, who was a founding member of the Christian Communist Party; his zany aunt, who authored the first gay cookbook; and his richly talented younger brother Julian Lloyd Webber.
Lloyd Webber recalls the musicals he created as a child, his school days at Oxford, his artistic influences, including Tim Rice and David Niven, and how he made the decision to leave school to pursue the musical career that would make him a global superstar. Webber illuminates his creative process and takes us behind the scenes of his productions, sharing fascinating details about the shows and the rich cast of characters involved with making them hits.
Full of colourful characters and rich storytelling and illustrated with sixteen pages of colour photos, Unmasked at last reveals the true face of the extraordinary man beneath the storied legend.
Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins
Technically this book wasn’t released in the past year, but it’s been so popular we thought we’d include it for you. This is the roller coaster journey from Phil Collins’ beginnings as a child actor to his domination of the charts both as a solo artist and as part of Genesis. His success is astounding, his music has global reach and his story is legendary. Not Dead Yet is Phil Collins’ candid, witty, unvarnished story of the songs and shows, the hits and pans, his marriages and divorces, the ascents to the top of the charts and into the tabloid headlines. As one of only three musicians to sell over 100 million records both in a group and as a solo artist, Collins breathes rare air, but he has never lost his talent for crafting songs that touch listeners around the globe. This is the story of his epic career to one of the most successful songwriters of the pop music era. A drummer since almost before he could walk, Collins received on-the-job training in the seedy, thrilling bars and clubs of 1960s swinging London before finally landing the drum seat in Genesis. Later he would step into the spotlight on vocals after the departure of Peter Gabriel, and compose the songs that would rocket him to international solo fame with the release of Face Value and ‘In the Air Tonight’. Whether he’s recalling jamming with Eric Clapton and Robert Plant, pulling together a big band fronted by Tony Bennett, playing twice at Live Aid, or writing the Oscar-winning music for Disney’s smash-hit animated film Tarzan, Collins keeps it intimate and his storytelling gift never wavers.
Pink Floyd All The Songs by Jean-Michel Guesdon
Ahem…yep, this one wasn’t released in the past year either…but it’s Pink Floyd so how could we not include it? The newest addition to the best-selling All the Songs series details the unique recording history of Pink Floyd, one of the world’s most commercially successful and influential rock bands. Since 1965, Pink Floyd have been recording sonically experimental and philosophical music, selling more than 250 million records worldwide, including two of the best-selling albums of all time Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. While much is known about this iconic group, few books provide a comprehensive history of their time in the studio. In Pink Floyd All the Songs, authors Margotin and Guesdon describe the origin of their nearly 200 released songs, details from the recording studio, what instruments were used, and behind-the-scenes stories of the tensions that helped drive the band. Organised chronologically by album, this massive, 544-page hardcover begins with their 1967 debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the only one recorded under founding member Syd Barrett’s leadership; through the loss of Barrett and the addition of David Gilmour; to Richard Wright leaving the band in 1979 but returning; to Roger Waters leaving in 1985 and the albums recorded since his departure, including their 2014 farewell album, The Endless River, which was downloaded 12 million times on Spotify the week it was released. Packed with more than 500 photos, All the Songs is also filled with stories fans treasure, such as Waters working with engineer Alan Parsons to employ revolutionary recording techniques for The Dark Side of the Moon at Abbey Road Studios in 1972 or producer Bob’s Ezrin’s contribution in refining Water’s original sprawling vision for The Wall.
Chopin’s Piano by Paul Kildea
In November 1838 Frederic Chopin, George Sand and her two children sailed to Majorca to escape the Parisian winter. They settled in an abandoned monastery at Valldemossa in the mountains above Palma, where Chopin finished what would eventually be recognised as one of the great and revolutionary works of musical Romanticism – his 24 Preludes. There was scarcely a decent piano on the island (these were still early days in the evolution of the modern instrument), so Chopin worked on a small pianino made by a local craftsman, which remained in their monastic cell for seventy years after he and Sand had left. This brilliant and unclassifiable book traces the history of Chopin’s 24 Preludes through the instruments on which they were played, the pianists who interpreted them and the traditions they came to represent. Yet it begins and ends with the Majorcan pianino, which during the Second World War assumed an astonishing cultural potency as it became, for the Nazis, a symbol of the man and music they were determined to appropriate as their own. The unexpected hero of the second part of the book is the great keyboard player and musical thinker Wanda Landowska, who rescued the pianino from Valldemossa in 1913, and who would later become one of the most influential musical figures of the twentieth century. Kildea shows how her story – a compelling account based for the first time on her private papers – resonates with Chopin’s, while simultaneously distilling part of the cultural and political history of Europe and the United States in the central decades of the century. Kildea’s beautifully interwoven narratives, part cultural history and part detective story, take us on an unexpected journey through musical Romanticism and allow us to reflect freshly on the changing meaning of music over time.