Good biographies of musicians and bands?

I’m in the mood to read about some musicians and bands but I have no idea what’s good.

Off the top of my head I’d be interested in bios of The Beatles and The Stones, but really any good biographies of musicians would be worth looking into.

Anyone have a favorite or two they could recommend?

I’ll try.

On the Beatles, there’s so many books to read, most of which are pretty decent. Still, I think there’s general consensus that Phil Norman’s biography SHOUT is the definitive and most-accurate retelling of things. CAN’T BUY ME LOVE: THE BEATLES, BRITAIN AND AMERICA is also very good, and a little more recent. Avoid: Peter Brown’s biography of the band, THE LOVE YOU TAKE. It might more accurately be titled THE LIBERTIES YOU TAKE, as he gets a number of very well-known and verifiable facts (like press conferences, recording dates and places) wrong.

The Stones are a cipher, mostly because they’ve had so many different “eras” as a band. I would start with the very flawed, but very good UP AND DOWN WITH THE ROLLING STONES by Tony Sanchez. It came out in the early 1980’s, and Sanchez was only with and around the band until the mid-1970’s, but “Spanish Tony” has all the inside dope (kinda literally) about the 1960’s Rolling Stones, and his book is the best one for having that insider’s perspective of the formative years of the band, which to me are the most fascinating and tough to find anything accurate about with regards to the Stones. Be forewarned: Sanchez isn’t a great writer, and the narrative has a tendency to wander and the organization is occasionally quite lacking. Still–Spanish Tony has details that no one else does. At the time of publication, the Stones pulled an ALMOST FAMOUS on this book, denying all of it. In the 30 years since, Keith especially has admitted that pretty much everything in here is accurate. If you want a better, if drier, overview of things. Stephen Davis’s OLD GODS ALMOST DEAD is much more comprehensive and well-written…but it’s also a little less charming and seat-of-your-pants crazy than the other book.

For The Who, the only really comprehensive biography you’ve got a chance of finding is Dave Marsh’s BEFORE I GET OLD, which is very solid, but almost too workmanlike at times. If you really love The Who, try to track down a used copy of the amazing MAXIMUM R&B, which is more pictures and photos than anything else, but utterly worth it.

For The Kinks, again there’s really only one comprehensive biography, and it’s been out of print since 1986–THE KINK KRONIKLES by John Mendelssohn. Since I doubt you’re willing to pay $95 for a used copy–and since you can’t have mine–I’d go with the 33 1/3 series on the recording of The Village Green Preservation Society album, and Ray Davies’s various biographies like X-RAY or NOT LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE are probably your best bet here.