12 Great Oz Rock Books For Your Summer Holidays

12 Great Oz Rock Books For Your Summer Holidays

great aussie rock books
Great Aussie music books.

Thankfully books have survived the e-reader heat and are thriving, and the season has seen the release of another substantial slew of quality Oz Music books. ILYOS presents a dozen of the best that'll fill that stocking nicely and provide some excellent Summer reading.

Tell Me Why by Archie Roach (Simon & Schuster)

One of Australia's most soulful singer-songwriters, and a man who has helped changed the course of the national conversation, Archie Roach is a proud but humble man, and his long-awaited autobiography is a profoundly moving story of hardship, tragedy, resilience and love. Of being part of the stolen generation, of lost identity, of life on the streets, and of love and family. And of course, music - some of the most beautiful this country has ever produced. Archie's finest songs will be listened to for generations to come, and this book will no doubt have a similar impact.

Love Is Strong as Death: Poems Chosen by Paul Kelly (Penguin)

Not a music book per se, but a selection of poetry chosen by Archie Roach's old mate PK. Paul's most recent album, Nature, was a collection of favourite poems set to music. Here he presents his favourite poems in their pure form, from people like William Blake, Bertolt Brecht, Emily Dickinson, John Keats, Les Murray, Sylvia Plath, William Shakespeare (possibly not the "My Little Angel" guy), Walt Whitman, W.B. Yeats and many more. Get your Oz rock-loving other-half some culture for Christmas!

Songs by Don Walker (Black Inc Books)

Before Paul Kelly, there was Don Walker; indeed, Don helped Paul find his feet when he first moved to Sydney. But Paul beat Don to the book of lyrics thing though. Songs is a beautifully presented collection of Walker's lyrics, interspersed by autobiographical sketches and anecdotes, and a beautiful companion to his first book Shots, as well as to PK's similarly inclined collection of lyrics Don't Start Me Talking from some years ago.

JPY: The Autobiography by John Paul Young (New Holland)

Yet another Australian icon. John Paul Young has lived a full life of music, from his days as Vanda & Young and Alberts' premier hitmaker in the 70s, to the ongoing revival of his fortunes thanks to Strictly Ballroom decades later. One of several Scottish immigrants to make an indelible impact on the local music scene, JPY has avoided the excesses of at least one other working-class Glaswegian. So his memoir is more of a feel-good affair, and fans of the Countdown era and beyond will find much to enjoy. 

Malcolm Young: The Man Who Made AC/DC by Jeff Apter (Allen & Unwin)

Sticking with the big names for the moment, this biography of AC/DC's late leader and rhythm guitarist is the latest AC/DC tome by esteemed music writer Jeff Apter. It follows his Angus bio High Voltage, Mark Evans' book Dirty Deeds, which he helped Mark write, and a book on the early days of the band titled 1973-1980 The Bon Scott Years. A reclusive figure whose significance is not as clearly seen as that of his brother Angus or old mate Bon, Malcolm Young's story is one that needed to be told, and Apter does a good job shining a light on the man and his particular part of the music.

Nine Parts Water, One Part Sand: Kim Salmon and the Formula for Grunge by Douglas Galbraith (Melbourne Books)

Of course, Australian music is not all Countdown and A Long Way To The Top, and while he did unexpectedly appear on the former in 1980 as a young man in the early days of the Scientists, Kim Salmon is underground through and through. Indeed he's one of the leading players in Australia's rock'n'roll underground, and has made a global impact with his music over the last 40+ years, with the Scientists, the Beasts of Bourbon and other projects. The Scientists have been credited as a seminal influence on the Grunge sound that was born in Seattle in the late 80s – hence the book's title (which also refers to the Scientists' much-loved "Swampland" song) - and Salmon's story, written by first time author Douglas Galbraith, covers the early days of punk in Perth and soon moves on to the thriving Sydney scene of the 80s and beyond, telling an essential Australian music story as it goes.

Roots: How Melbourne Became the Live Music Capital of the World by Craig Horne (Melbourne Books)

Another book that looks at less mainstream threads of music, the new book by Craig Horne (who wrote last year's fab Daddy Cool book) looks at the roots music scene that has thrived in Melbourne since the '60s. Artists discussed include the likes of beloved players like Andy Baylor, Peter Luscombe and Rick Dempster, blues perennials like Kerri Simpson, significant but overlooked figures like original Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons guitarist and songwriter Wayne Burt and the Dingoes' Kerryn Tolhurst, and a few folks who have popped up into the mainstream, like Ross Wilson, Joe Camilleri and Vikka & Linda. Fascinatingly it starts with the jazz and folk scenes of the 60s – providing detail of the early days of Margret RoadKnight's career, and that of jazz singer Judy Jacques – showing the real depth of this scene. 

Blues Portrait: A Profile of the Australian Blues Scene by Pauline Bailey 

Sticking with the rootsy stuff, this beautiful, independently made book features 46 Australian blues artists in their own words, talking about themselves and the music they love. Artists featured include the late and great Chris Wilson, Kevin Borich, Dave Hole, Phil Manning, Matt Taylor, Ash Grunwald, Jeff Lang, Lucy DeSoto, Dom Turner and Rob Hurst of the Backsliders and more, and there's a forward is written by 3RRR's blues guru Max Crawdaddy. At 386 pages, it's a lot of great reading. 

The Bondi Lifesaver by Craig Griffiths, with a foreword by Glenn A Baker

Another independent publication, and one that doesn't actually exist yet – it's the subject of a Kickstarter campaign which needs just a bit more support to become a reality. This is something everyone fan of Oz rock is going to love. The Bondi Lifesaver was Sydney's home of sex, drugs & rock'n'roll in the late 70s, and this deluxe, colourful book tells the stories and features the artists in stunning previously unpublished photos and memorabilia. AC/DC, the Oils, Chisel, Dragon, Rose Tattoo, punks X and La Femme, Richard Clapton, The Angels, Skyhooks and more will all be featured. Check out the website and help make it happen

Dogs in Space: A Film Archive by Richard Lowenstein, Ann Standish and Helen Bandis (Melbourne Books)

Heading back to Melbourne town, Dogs in Space, the 1986 film by Richard Lowenstein and starring Michael Hutchence, is one of only a few Australian rock films. It was based on a particular part of the inner city Melbourne music scene of the late 70s, and it's where Hutchence met pioneering post-punk artist Ollie Olsen, thus giving birth to their project Max Q. Long revered, the film is finally the subject of an exhaustive book, featuring Lowenstein's candid 'shoot diary' and numerous unseen images. Required reading for fans of Michael Hutchence and/or the Australian post-punk scene.

Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch

There's a lot of action on the Melbourne music literary front this year! Clare Bowditch is one of Melbourne's favourite daughters – ARIA Award-winning singer/songwriter, actress, occasional broadcaster, and mother. This is her story, and it goes way beyond the music: "Reading this book felt as intimate as having a long, heartbreakingly vulnerable yet hilarious conversation with Clare by a fire with wine in hand. It is a celebration of the human struggle, how we can learn to befriend (and say "f@#k off" to) our demons, and ultimately write our own story. There is so much hope in this book." – Missy Higgins

Surf by Day, Jam by Night by Ash Grunwald (Pantera Press)

A great beach read, the first book by Melbourne based contemporary blues artist Ash Grunwald explores a passion that he shares with quite a few other musicians, surfing. In fact, he has interviewed not just other surf-loving musicians but some music-loving surfers as well, to explore the interface between the two cultures and look at commonality between the two experiences. Includes conversations with Kelly Slater, Steph Gilmore, Jack Johnson, Dave Rastovich, Jaleesa Vincent, G. Love and many more.

Love Oz Rock? Get stuck into our Glory Days Of Aussie Pub Rock playlists here. 

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