The best books about rock and roll

Jeff Apter Author Of Bad Boy Boogie: The true story of AC / DC legend Bon Scott
By Jeff Apter

Who am I?

I’m an Australian author, staring down the barrel of middle age. I’ve been writing about music for the past 30 years. I’ve written 25 books; my subjects have included Keith Urban, the Bee Gees, Angus and Malcolm Young, Daniel Johns of Silverchair, among others. During my career, I’ve also had interesting encounters with such legends as Aretha Franklin, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan and Helen Reddy. I live (currently in lockdown, yet again) with my very tolerant wife, my two children, and a house full of animals. (Real animals, that is, not the kids.)


I wrote...

Bad Boy Boogie: The true story of AC / DC legend Bon Scott

By Jeff Apter,

Book cover of Bad Boy Boogie: The true story of AC / DC legend Bon Scott

What is my book about?

You’re not a fully-fledged music writer in Australia until you’ve had a crack at the Bon Scott story. Bon was the swaggering, hairy-chested frontman of rock legends AC/DC, and he died in 1980, just as the band was about to explode internationally. It may sound like a tragedy, and ultimately it is, but Bon squeezed more living into his 33 years than most of us will manage in our allotted three score and ten. When once asked if he was AC or DC, Bon smiled and replied: ‘Neither. I’m the lightning flash in the middle.’

You can buy this book only in Australia currently

The books I picked & why

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No One Here Gets Out Alive

By Jerry Hopkins, Danny Sugerman,

Book cover of No One Here Gets Out Alive

Why this book?

This was the book that inspired me to start writing. It’s a page-turning bio of the short life and very fast times of Jim Morrison from The Doors, and it made me realise you could write about music without resembling some giddy fanboy — Morrison comes off as a rock and roll poet and a drunken bozo. It rates with the best biographies I’ve read, regardless of topic or genre.

On the Road with Bob Dylan

By Larry Sloman,

Book cover of On the Road with Bob Dylan

Why this book?

For me, it’s the ultimate snapshot of what it’s really like to be a writer on the road with a band (in this instance Bob Dylan’s remarkable Rolling Thunder Revue of 1975). Sloman documents it all: the editorial pressures, the hassles of trying to gain access to Dylan, the egos, the enablers, the claustrophobic hotel rooms, wacky ole’ Alan Ginsberg — and the exhilaration of seeing a legend, on a creative high, from close range, night after night. Not a bad gig, all things considered.

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'n'roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'n'roll

By Lester Bangs,

Book cover of Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'n'roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'n'roll

Why this book?

Lester Bangs was a great writer: funny, erudite, fearless — to be honest, he was probably slumming it writing about rock and roll in the 1970s. But his one-on-ones with Lou Reed, who Bangs revered and despised in equal proportions, make for some of the best rock writing of Bangs’, or any other, generation.

The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce

By Fred Goodman,

Book cover of The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce

Why this book?

It’s a real insider’s view of what it took to make turn such artists as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen into money-spinning superstars. Interestingly, some of the back-room kingmakers — Albert Grossman, David Geffen, and the rest of them — prove to be just as interesting and complicated as the music makers they represented.

Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside of AC/DC

By Mark Evans,

Book cover of Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside of AC/DC

Why this book?

Mark Evans was the bassist for AC/DC and played on such classics as ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ and ‘Long Way to the Top’. He was a resident of the ‘Prahran Hilton’ — a public housing estate in Melbourne — when he joined the band, and within a year he was in London mixing it up with Ozzy Osbourne (‘the plumber of darkness’), Marc Bolan, the Sex Pistols and the rest of them. This is a real boy’s own, working-class, rock and roll adventure.

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