5 Books About Music - Recommended by Lauren Gribble
Lauren Gribble is the owner of Listen Here Reviews, a site that features news, album reviews, live show reviews, and much more. The site covers all genres and artists at all levels of music, from the indie band in the garage, to some of music’s most well known bands. Music is Lauren's biggest passion and today we chat about the top 5 books about music that she would recommend.
Tell us more about your site?
Listen Here Reviews is a music website focusing on all genres of music, featuring artists all around the world, from bands in the garage to the industry’s biggest acts. It’s been going since 2012 and started as a school project to end my time in college. I majored in music business and had a difficult time deciding what exactly I wanted to do, even though I knew I wanted to do something in music. My advisor eventually told me I had to do something, so I began e-mailing different companies around Austin, Texas where I live, and I ended up interning with a company who was looking for someone to write album reviews. Keep in mind that I never reviewed anything in my life, especially for the whole world to see. If I remember right, I think my first review was a country band. I enjoyed writing it so much, that I started to seriously think about entering music journalism as a profession.
I began reviewing bands each week around town as well as bands I liked. That eventually led to more opportunities and the site began to grow steadily in 2013 once I started posting music news. Since then, I’ve made contacts throughout the industry and have gotten to work with people who work with big bands. My main readership is based here in the United States, but there is a large readership in the UK. Aside from those two areas, Listen Here Reviews has been read by people in every corner of the globe It’s a fun ride!
What inspired you to start writing about music?
Music has and always will be my first passion. Music’s in my genes and I’ve been playing drums for well over half my life. It’s something I live, eat, and breathe. I’m always up for talking anyone’s ear off about it. Writing about it seemed the most natural thing to do aside from playing it.
What music genres do you prefer listening to?
I’m a big punk rock fan, though almost any genre has something I’ll listen to, though I’m still warming up to the newer country stuff. I have a soft spot for pop punk bands like New Found Glory and Fall Out Boy’s older material. I’m also a huge fan of One Direction. There’s a huge variety of bands that I listen to that I can’t really pick one. I’d say it’s definitely diverse. If you want to follow me on Spotify, my playlist is called Sounds Good Feels Good. I’ve got about 5,000 songs on there and the idea behind this playlist is that the music never stops.
Your first pick is Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia. What drew you to this book?
Well, I can talk about The Grateful Dead for a while. They were my first introduction to music. When I was about five years old, my dad had this VHS tape of the band’s show at Radio City Music Hall in 1980, which aired on PBS. Being five, I didn’t sit for very long, but when I sat down and watched it, I was completely mesmerized. That was how my love of music started, and I just knew that music was for me. Being from the Bay Area, The Grateful continue to be a huge band to this day. Of course, you can’t talk about them without mentioning Jerry Garcia. He consistently gets ranked as one of the best guitarists of all time and for good reason. His skill is absolutely off the charts, there really is no one else like him. Dark Star is a great introduction to Garcia’s life and music. He was the true rock star while also truly having a real aptitude for music. Dark Star gives you a great perspective on Garcia and his career, while going deep into his life.
The Grateful Dead is arguably one of the most popular rock bands of all time. What set them apart from other bands, would you say?
Well of course, the band had plenty of talent, more so than a lot of musicians, but it was really their innovative tendencies that set them apart. Unfortunately, I never got to them live, but from all that I heard, you immediately saw something special the second they got on stage and started playing. It takes a lot of work to be that good every night while often doing more than one set. They had an innate ability to trust and listen to each other while performing that not all bands have. They were the best without being snooty, and they knew exactly what their fans wanted. They had a connection with their fans that were unmatched, particularly in a time without the internet. Going to a Grateful Dead show always seemed like family affair, and if you liked what you heard, you more than likely could get a bootleg of the show afterwards, something that never happens today unless the band is into that sort of thing.
This book gives a behind-the-scene look at the making of an icon - and the price of fame. Why does it often come at such a high cost?
They were a band who wanted to play music and not worry about the pitfalls that often come with fame. Once you have to start touring to pay the bills, there is a chance that it no longer becomes fun anymore. In Jerry’s case, I think that’s what happened. He had the fame and the money, but at the end of the day he was a musician, he didn’t care about either, but it came to him anyway. With a fan connection like theirs, it would difficult for people not to pick up on that and not have the music spread around to different cities and countries. In cases where a band becomes huge, they are often in a bubble, and it can be very difficult to keep yourself grounded, and in the case of The Grateful Dead and Garcia there is always the possibility that you will turn to things that can derail you and take down your career.
Next up is Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly - why did you pick this one?
I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to Buddy Holly. I discovered his music in college and since then, I haven’t been able to dig myself out of the Buddy Holly hole, if you will. His life was ultimately a pretty simple one, living in Lubbock, Texas. His passion for music and his pursuance of playing music was truly infectious and it leapt off every page. The book was engaging while also telling the truth, something that has become a bit of a trend with Buddy Holly books, particular with the one by Ellis Amburn, which is littered with inaccuracies and false stories. Thankfully, people have done their research on Holly since then.
Why can Buddy Holly be considered the Father of Rock and Roll?
His songs were simple not to mention catchy, but it was his voice that really grabs you. It was distinctive and memorable, and he always gave off this feeling that he was totally invested in what he was doing, while being completely unstoppable. He was determined to get to the top and in the 1950’s you either got there or you didn’t. I’m glad that he was able to share his talent with the world, given the short time he had to do so.
A reader of the book asked: "what if?" Buddy Holly hadn't have gone on "The Winter Dance Party" tour in 1959? How different would popular music had been in the early 1960's and afterward? What would your answer be?
Wow! This a great question. Throughout his short career, he was innovative while also dreaming big. After he had hits with “That’ll Be The Day,” and “Oh Boy!” You could tell that he wanted to do something different. On songs such as “True Love Ways,” he became experimenting with strings, something he wanted to incorporate into his music more as his career progressed. He wanted to create his own studio, recording his favorite acts and newcomers, and collaborate with gospel musicians, with all of this being centered in Lubbock. If he hadn’t gotten on that plane, all of this most likely would have happened, given the vision that he had. For someone so young, he certainly had it together, and in interviews with his family they always said that he felt that “he didn’t have time” as the reason for him rushing through life, whether it was his marriage or writing the next hit. I think his ideas for the next chapter of his life would have saved his career from completely falling apart, but that’s really difficult to say. Back in those days, you had to have a hit to be relevant, and The Winter Dance Party was a way to do that. From the accounts from those who were there on February 3rd, no one had forgotten about him and they were just as excited to see him as they were about Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.
Tell us more about your next pick: Paul McCartney: The Life
I’ve read a few books about The Beatles and this is by far the most detailed book about an individual member of the band I’ve ever read. I love how it dug down deep and took you to places and told fans stories that maybe they didn’t already know. The research done for this book was an incredible amount. I can only hope that I can write a book like this someday!
This book touches on McCartney's childhood and life changing events like ending up in a Tokyo jail and nearly getting murdered in Africa. Did this make you see him in a new light?
Those experiences that Paul had didn’t make me see him in a new light, after all as a Beatle he was living the ultimate rock star life for a musician during that time period. There’s bound to be plenty of wild stories when you reach that level of fame.
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis is next up. What makes this such a great read?
The Red Hot Chili Peppers is one band that I’ve been listening to for the majority of my life, and as a front man, Anthony Kiedis has always been a fascinating figure. Throughout the book, you could tell that Kiedis was a smart, innovative, and below the surface a driven guy, however it was the dark side of music that got him. The way that he wrote about his life and the band was deeply engaging. With every crazy story he told, he kept you wanting to know more. When the Chili Peppers started, there was no other band like them. The way they blended genres to create something entirely unique was unheard of at that point, and the fact that they’ve kept this core characteristic as part of their music for so long is incredible.
Some readers were surprised by the detail and honesty in this book. Were you?
Yes and no. When it comes to music, musicians, and the music industry there is almost always going to be an element of unhinged madness, as bands try and juggle everything that happens with their music. When you can’t handle something, you may surround yourself with the wrong people and in Anthony’s case, the wrong substances. Thankfully he was able to get himself help and pull out of that part of his life.
Last on your list of recommendations is Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. Why did you pick this book?
I remember when I read this book how struck I was reading about Rob’s passion for music and how he had a playlist for nearly every activity, including the most mundane ones, like washing the dishes. You could tell he approached his job with plenty of passion and heart, something every journalist needs to do, particularly when they are talking about artistic expression such as music. I think a lot of people forget that writing about artistic things like music is not just something you are passionate about, but its also a job. Not all creative journalists get paid, or get paid an adequate amount of money, but everything has to be approached with heart and skill. Great journalism wouldn’t exist if journalists didn’t love what they do.
Many people today don't even know what a mix tape is. Why is this a fitting title for this book?
Mix tapes go back to a simpler time. I’m a bit too young to remember mix tapes myself, but the way people would choose the songs, the artwork, and who they would end up giving the tapes to, I think says a lot about the person. In the book, he talks about the simple times with his wife, and how much they bonded over music, despite having varying degrees of success as music journalists. Music was the thing that brought them together and it was beautiful watching their lives unfold over this shared passion.
What makes Rob Sheffield so unique as a music critic?
Throughout the book, you can tell that he really knew music and that he had a real feel for it, which you have to have if you are going to be a journalist or blogger in this area. You have to know what’s going to move the listener and how they are going to relate to it, and I think Rob knew this instinctively. When you spend a lot of time around music, you start to learn what’s good and what’s not very, very quickly.
What are you working on now?
I’m actually working on my first movie review for a new music documentary titled I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story. It came out about a year ago and is now on fuse.tv streaming. It follows four women in Australia and America who are huge fans of boybands, notably One Direction, The Backstreet Boys, Take That, and The Beatles. They each offer something different to add to the boyband obsession, but their obsession and devotion is something that all fangirls can relate to whether you remember The Beatles or grew up in the days of The Backstreet Boys. The love for boybands is a hard one to understand if you didn’t grow up with groups like this as your teenage backdrop, but all women will most likely find something to relate to in this movie.
I’ve never done a movie review before, so it’s something new and different, but I hope it works out well and that readers will enjoy it!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Listen Here Reviews is my main platform these days for checking out my work, but you can also interact with me on social media including Facebook (@listenherereviews,) and on Twitter at lauren_gribble. I love hearing from readers and reading what they enjoy most about my work.