The Exclaim! Holiday Gift Guide: Books:
● Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, The Music, and the World in 1972
By Dave Bidini
Possibly the least conventional book on this list, Writing Gordon Lightfoot (pictured above) takes a look at the week leading up to the 1972 Mariposa Folk Festival on Toronto Island. Less biography than an examination of the changing cultural climate in the country at the time, Bidini frames the book as a series of letters he's written to Lightfoot, documenting the fiercely private artist's life and career through his own eyes.
● I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
By Sylvie Simmons
With all respect to Neil Yong, Leonard Cohen is Canada's most respected songwriter, not to mention poet and novelist. Sylvie Simmons, one of the few women who made a name for herself during rock criticism's 1970s halcyon days, was blessed with the opportunity to dig through Cohen's personal archives and even managed to convince the man himself to contribute to a definitive bio on one of Canada's most important cultural heroes.
● How Music Works
By David Byrne
In the same year he dropped the excellent Love This Giant LP with St. Vincent, the revered musician also published this beautiful tome about music: why we love it, and the importance of context to a medium as ephemeral as it can be life-altering. By examining the production of music and the sociological aspects of it that shape the ways in which we hear it, Byrne gets at the at the root of the book's title for readers, whether they're familiar with his personal oeuvre or not.
● SNFU: What No One Else Wanted to Say
By Chris Walter
If they'd been dealt a better hand, SNFU could have been legendary. Yet band break-ups, hiatuses and drug habits haven't prevented these Edmonton punks from making some of Canada's most potent punk rock over their 30-year career. Having already written band bios for Personality Crisis and Dayglo Abortions, it's hard to pick a better writer for their story than Chris Walter, who's also written over a dozen novels documenting his life in the Canadian punk rock scene.
By Jian Ghomeshi
CBC host, Moxy Früvous member and self-proclaimed David Bowie fanatic Jian Ghomeshi has been a cultural force in Canada for over 20 years. He offers up a memoir about his relationship with music and his teenaged quest to make it the centre of his life. As far as teenage aspirations go, we'd say he's doing a pretty good job.
● A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths
By Tony Fletcher
There's no shortage of books on the Smiths, but this 600-page tome is the one fans want, and rightly so. Newly published on this side of the Atlantic, Tony Fletcher's book features the input of three of the former band's five members (the ever-obstinate Morrissey is, expectedly, not one of them), managers, crew, other musicians, and all three of the producers the Smiths recorded with: John Porter, Stephen Street, and Steve Lillywhite.
● Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake
By Dalton Higgins
Many would argue that it's far too early in Aubrey Graham's career to be warrant a biography, but given Higgins' resume — he's one of the foremost experts on hip-hop in Canada — it's a good bet that Far From Over will become the definitive book about Drake for years to come.
● Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream
By Neil Young
Despite over 40 years in the spotlight, Neil Young remains one of music's most enigmatic figures. Whether Young's autobiography will give fans a peak behind the curtain or simply reinforce his stature as one of music's most talented and mysterious figures remains to be seen. But it's a safe bet that Waging Heavy Peace is one of the season's must reads for music fans.
● Too Much Trouble: A Very Oral History of Danko Jones
By Stuart Berman
How can an artist be a star in Europe, respected by his peers, yet remain a rock'n'roll also-ran at home in Canada? This is the jumping-off point for Stuart Berman's examination of hard rocker Danko Jones. The follow-up to Berman's Broken Social Scene bio, Too Much Trouble follows that book's format mixing photos and interviews with friends, admirers and the man himself to piece together Jones' one-of-a-kind career.
● Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk
By Sam Sutherland
Recent years have seen a flood of material documenting the early years of punk in Canada, but those were focused on regional scenes. Exclaim! contributor Sam Sutherland set out to tie the country's myriad scenes together in Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk. "There was this amazing punk scene that existed in Canada that was every bit as good as its American or British counterparts," he says. While Sutherland points to bands like the Skulls who spent time in Toronto before returning to Vancouver and morphing into D.O.A. as evidence that there were elements of cross-pollination, he says isolation is what tied Canada's scene together. "There's this particular type of Canadian cultural isolation that happens," he says, whereas in the States even Ohio's the Dead Boys could move to New York, sign a record deal and become famous. "No one in Canada had that in the back of their head." Instead bands like Personality Crisis in Winnipeg or the Hot Nasties in Calgary were left to their own devices. "This ended up creating this really unique and creative approach to punk that I think is distinctly Canadian."
Expect our list of the best gear and technology to buy a music fan tomorrow (November 22), in our ongoing Exclaim! Holiday Gift Guide.