Simon Grigg: The Best Books I Never Wrote
Mansion on the Hill
Despite its age this is perhaps the best book on how the music industry works at an artist to management level and one that broke new ground when it appeared in 1997, telling the story, as it did, of the intrigues and manoeuvrings as the counter-culture collided with commerce.
Ed Sanders was the poet/musician/writer leader of a bunch of crazies called The Fugs, a band so far out on the edge that the word niche was too embracing for them. Thus he was the perfect person to write the twisted story of the bloody Manson family and the wider social maelstrom they grew from.
His book rambles, fascinates, and at times veers off on often perplexing tangents, but because of all that it encapsulates the dark breakdown of American society in the post-Kennedy Vietnam era USA. Terrifying.
The story of a city from its early beginnings in the sixteenth century until the five boroughs were combined in the 1890s to create what we now call New York City. This is the very best history – gritty, often complex and yet he has given the tar and cement of the Big Apple a personality – one that grows over its never sprawling 1368 pages. I think I understand the why in New York a little better now.
The Dark Stuff
I have long wanted to be a music writer and this book was the reason why. Before the likes of Kent and fellow 70s scribes like Lester Bangs and Charles Shaar Murray we had no real rock and roll journalism. These guys invented the genre. This book is a collection of utterly brilliant pieces that appeared in the UK music press. The story of Brian Wilson in his dark years is worth the price of entry alone.
Return of a King
Asian history mostly remains untold – at least to Western eyes – but Dalrymple's books are, for want of a better word, captivating and should be compulsory reading for anyone who champions Western involvement in the Middle East or Central Asia. I defy anyone to put down this tale of the very first, disastrous, British military jaunt into Afghanistan. It is in equal parts frustrating, harrowing, horrifying in its detail and a warning not to go when others have tread and failed before.
How Bizarre: Pauly Fuemana and the Song that Stormed the World by Simon Grigg is published by Awa Press, $38.