Still looking for a perfect gift for the classic rock fan who already has everything? Well, maybe this article can help.
One of the problems with obsessive music fans is that they do not wait to get what they want. They want whatever product is being offered immediately because they want to experience it as soon as possible, or at least before their friends.
So, what to do? Well, below are some items released or published this year that may have fallen between the cracks in the collection of all but the most avid collectors.
I’ll start with two items I recommend above all others: The audiobook of Pete Townshend’s memoir, “Who I Am,” and George Harrison’s album, “Early Takes Volume 1: Music From The Martin Scorsese Picture Living In The Material World.”
The unabridged “Who I Am” audiobook is read by Townshend himself. It lasts 19 hours and is spread over 15 CDs. It probably takes longer to listen to this than the Who’s entire released studio output. The packaging isn’t much, but hearing one of rock music’s greatest talents, and most astute and literary rock critics, go over his life in excruciatingly truthful detail will keep your attention way past the 1978 death of drummer Keith Moon. If fact, that’s when the book gets really interesting! Despite a few factual errors (Mick Jagger and Keith Richards did not play “Wild Horses” at the post 9/11 Concert For New York), I wished there were more CDs to enjoy after I had finished, even after listening for 19 hours. While a fan may already have the book, it is quite possible that your classic rock fan did not have this on his/her radar.
The George Harrison “Early Takes” album was originally released as part of a U.K. box set for the Martin Scorsese documentary, “Living In The Material World.” This year it was made available as a separate album. The 10 tracks barely last 30 minutes, but the music is sublime, featuring mostly stripped down versions of material re-recorded for 1970s “All Things Must Pass” album. Everyone I know who has heard this album has also given it rave reviews, and it was the LP I’ve listened to the most this year. “Early Takes Volume 1” was not given much publicity or airplay, so it is possible many fans do not yet own this. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Speaking of a Beatle, this holiday season’s merchandise features the Blu-Ray of Scorsese’s documentary, the reissue of the Fabs films “Yellow Submarine” and “Magical Mystery Tour,” the latter available as deluxe box set with a 60 page book and replica of the double 7″ EP as originally released in the U.K. However, the one that may be the best gift idea is “The John Lennon Letters,” a collection of correspondence and more from childhood through Beatlehood to just before his murder. Each letter is alternately humorous, clever, political, angry, touching, or insightful, but almost always passionate and entertaining. While the presentation is not the best (a larger picture book would have been more effective), reconnecting with Lennon’s “voice” again is a bittersweet pleasure.
For something a bit more obscure, you may want to check out Scott Parker’s privately published books on Frank Zappa, Kiss, and others. Parker documents, in minute detail, many of the artist’s recordings, including different LP pressings and other details. He also transcribes and reviews bootleg recordings. I’ve only seen two of Parker’s books, but the intense passion displayed is jaw dropping.
A left field choice might be Jonathan Lethem’s contribution to the esoteric 33 1/3 book series. For those unfamiliar with 33 1/3, each volume concentrates on a single album, and Lethem, a novelist, essayist, short story writer, and Bob Dylan interviewer, chose the third LP by Talking Heads, 1979’s “Fear Of Music,” on which to focus. Lethem writes like an obsessed fan and music nerd, albeit an intellectual, well read one. Quite funny as well. One of the best of the series.
For the Bob Dylan fan who has everything, you may want to seek out MarketWatch’s media columnist Jon Friedman’s self help book, “Forget About Today: Bob Dylan’s Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution.” Friedman’s unique approach uses Dylan as an example of a self help “guru,” combing through his unorthodox career for examples for following your own instincts, and taking chances, to blaze your own career path. Probably the most fun “self help” book ever starring a music icon. A nice stocking stuffer, and helpful as well!
My final two suggestions are comedic, not musical, yet both should appeal to fans of classic rock.
In the 1970s, nothing was funnier than Steve Martin and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. “Steve Martin: The Television Stuff” is a 3 DVD collection of the banjo-playing comedian’s television appearances from 1966 to 2005, but focuses on his brilliant late 1970s-early 1980s period. The 1976 cable stand-up special “On Location With Steve Martin,” recorded live at L.A.’s Troubadour club, is worth the price of the box set alone.
For the Python fan, there’s “Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Complete and Annotated…All the Bits,” a very, very, very big book containing everything you’d ever want to know about all 45 episodes of the (mostly) British comedy troupe’s BBC television series. Author Luke Dempsey has really outdone himself here. After skimming through the book, one is inspired to watch the original series, completely, in order.
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