Music For Your Eyes 

Positively Yeah Yeah Yeah's Annual Rock N' Read Hip New Picks

'Tis the season for publishing companies to offer up a tall stack of terrific music-related books, easy to wrap as gifts, and a whole lot deeper than E's True Hollywood Story. Backbeat Books has just issued Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970-1982, now featuring a bonus 24-track CD of interviews with Stiv Bators, Gary Numan, XTC, Oingo Boingo, DEVO, The Cult, and many more by the author, George Gimarc. This new expanded edition nearly tops 750 pages as a day-by-day history of surprising anecdotes, recording session info, tour dates, and press scoops concerning every band that ever mattered from the era, and then some. What's so amazing is how fresh everything was back then, as punk broke down the walls of music and commerce, and there were still new sounds and styles to be created. Yes, brace yourself, you crunk-dancing, DJ culture club kids, as it truly was much, much better back then. No file stealing, no Clear Channel, no Photoshop, no computerized vocal tweaking in the studio. Indie record releases flourished. For those who remember poring over issues of England's NME or Sounds magazines and dreaming of the unimaginable concerts listed weekly in their back pages, opening this book anywhere and poking a digit on the page is a serious "wow" moment, peppered with album and single cover art, gig posters, buttons and newspaper ads.

The tasty Warman's brand has issued another small but mighty book in its Field Guide series,but unlike the bird and wildlife guides of the past, these one-inch-thick pocket pals are all about identifying the rarest species of rock 'n' roll animal and his elusive droppings. At over 500 pages, the new KISS Collectibles Field Guide is a glossy, extensively researched tour of over 1,500 listings, from Johnny Lightning cars, pajamas, neckties, international magazines, and every unique variation of records and CDs released worldwide. Not known for saying no to a crazy promotional novelty, the band's memorabilia history is revealed in a bonus interview with their manager, Bill Aucoin.

A nifty gift for the working musician on your list is Fox Tax Service's Creative Tax Planner, which poses as a black leather, three-ring, zippered day planner, but focuses on collecting all those pesky details like advertising and touring expenditures, the rent for band rehearsal space, and other pluses and minuses of making a business out of your art. Written and designed specifically to guide musicians and artists on how they can get organized and get refunds, the tips and entry pages are laid out so smoothly that even all those years of daydreaming in math class over your band's bitchin' logo won't come back to haunt you. Are all your receipts in a jumble of one-quarter inch jacks and duct tape? No problem, as half the smartly styled "man-purse" is a zip-tight compartment for all such papers, separating them like a giant coupon organizer.

Fresh from his acceptance of the Century Award at this past week's Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Tom Petty's personal memoirs are collected in a new book by Paul Zallo, spun like stories told best around a card table or a camp fire--crazy funny, wickedly insightful and often tearfully poignant. Entitled Conversations With, the 448-page interview follows Petty from his meeting Elvis as a young child and playing in his first professional bands at age 14, through his superstar, top hat wearing status in the lively MTV era, and the deep love and affection between his band mates in the Traveling Wilburys. Can you imagine--in the same afternoon you meet Roy Orbison, he gets under the hood of your new car, and later, along with Jeff Lynne, the three of you sit around and write, "You Got It?" Or having Bob Dylan and George Harrison want to join your band? Wow is an understatement. With sober advice for young musicians, surprising anecdotes and secret song craft discussion, this is a terrific page-turner packed with over 100 photos. And I'd forgotten what a fair play hero Petty was, back in the 1980s, when he took on MCA Records in a retail price dispute over his Hard Promises LP. Thumbs up to you, Mr. Petty, as I feel the love. Look for it under the Omnibus Press imprint.

More love is shared openly in another new book, Neil Young Nation, as Canadian writer Kevin Chong faces his personal midlife crisis by rounding up a few slacker buddies for a soul-searching road trip across North American, as they trace the same path Neil Young took in the mid 1960s, leaving his native northern homeland for the happening Los Angeles scene. Listening for traces of the energy he left along the way, Chong tracks down Young's childhood home and other significant addresses that dot the map, and finds a few old friends who shared the original, fateful journey in that glorious 1953 Pontiac hearse. Issued by Vancouver's Greystone Books, this very funny highway diary proves that even if you don't get to meet your hero, often the journey itself is all that really matters.

Seattle native and Northwest music historian Peter Blecha shares his true-life adventures in search of pop culture antiquities in his new book, Rock and Roll Archaeologist, from Sasquatch Books. As the former curator of the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, Blecha took his record collecting interests to stratospheric new heights, scouring for rock 'n' roll treasures like Bob Dylan's first guitar to Janis Joplin's paisley pants and pink feather boa. Highlights include the auction chase for Eric Clapton's "Layla" guitar and gaining Kurt Cobain items from a difficult Courtney Love. Got grunge? How about the original chipped and crusty Superfuzz stompbox that defined Mark Arm's signature guitar tone in Mudhoney? From chasing the wild report of a tree that naturally casts an eerie shadow of Jimi Hendrix, to hunting down Hendrix's own personal record collection, Blecha donned his pith helmet and charged fearlessly after the scent of a rare artifact. If you're lucky enough to visit the house of rock worship that displays these items today, you'll get to enjoy them without even breaking a sweat.

You can purchase Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970-1982 at www.backbeatbooks.com, Rock and Roll Archaeologist at www.sasquatchbooks.com, the Creative Tax Planner at www.creativetaxplanner.com or you can visit www.amazon.com to find these and the other books listed above.

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