Rock 'n roll Christmas

In this season of hope, family, and … Oh, screw it.

These books, CDs, and DVDs came out in 2009 and are my personal shopping recommendations for the holidays. You know what to do with them.

Visit the Curblog at for a few more items and details.

Queen: The Ultimate
Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock

Phil Sutcliffe

(Voyageur Press)

The “ultimate” book on Queen, arguably the most underrated (in the U.S.) rock ’n’ roll band ever, had to be as bombastic and colorful as the band itself. Everything Queen is, is here: Rare (and not-so-rare) black-and-white and color photos, biographical and chart info, detailed discography and tour history, and album-by-album reviews. The book has an obvious fan appeal, but it’s objective enough to deal with the most delicate issues in Queen’s history intelligently: Paul Rodgers ain’t no Freddy Mercury, but the albums he did with Brian May and Roger Taylor weren’t as bad as we think; 1982’s Hot Space, justly vilified when it came out, is now considered semi-classic by some; and Mercury, unfairly criticized for keeping his illness a secret during his last days, became a champion for AIDS awareness in death. Sutcliffe understands why Queen was great: Yes, they may have betrayed their own “no synthesizers” mantra when it was convenient to do so, but any band that can play and sing that well, and that can produce so many hits, ranging from hard-rock to metal to silly but instrumentally intricate music-hall and operatic gems, has the right to break its own rules. A must for Queen fans and latecomers.



(Sony Legacy)

AC/DC liked things simple and to the point — pure no-bullshit rock ’n’ roll. I’ll try to emulate them: Option 1 offers three CDs of live and studio rarities, two DVDs (including Family Jewels 3), a vinyl LP of studio collectibles, a coffee-table book, and a bunch of authentic memorabilia, all boxed in a “working guitar amplifier” (which I haven’t seen). It’s a limited edition, and you can only get it at (it was $199, now $172, but hurry). Option 2 (which you can buy anywhere) is two CDs of studio and live rarities, the Family Jewels 3 DVD and bonus videos, and it also comes in an amplifier box (but this one you can’t plug in, unless you’re nuts). The band is still kicking ass on tour, and this is a good reminder of how powerful their minimalist rock ’ n’ roll swagger was, and is.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum LIVE

(Time Life)

“It’s slightly ironic that tonight you see us on our best behavior, but we’re being rewarded for 25 years of bad behavior,” said Mick Jagger when the Rolling Stones were inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame in 1989. It’s one of the many memorable scenes in this must-have nine-DVD collection with the best moments of the R&R Museum and Hall of Fame’s history. Nothing fancy here, just a bunch of induction and acceptance speeches and performances put together, plus a few rehearsals and backstage footage as bonus material. But the performances make it all worthwhile. Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins performing “Tie Your Mother Down” with Queen; Paul McCartney inducting John Lennon (“You made it,” he said) and Bruce Springsteen and Axl Rose doing a highly praised rendition of “Come Together” (I hate it, but can’t stop watching it). Green Day does rock a superb version of “Blitzkrieg Bop” in honor of the Ramones’ induction (Johnny thanked President Bush and Dee Dee congratulated himself). And on and on. You can do no wrong with this one.

The Complete Recordings

Louie and The Lovers

(Bear Family Records)

The great lost gem of Chicano rock, Rise was the Doug Sahm-produced 1970 debut (and farewell) of Salinas Valley, California, foursome Louie Ortega, Frank Paredes, Albert Parra, and Steve Vargas. Or was it? They actually recorded a second album, but it never saw the light of day until now. Danish label Bear Family has just remastered and reissued both albums, and there isn’t a single bad song on the entire 27-track CD. Imagine a cross between country, folk, rock, Byrds guitars, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Crosby, Stills, & Nash harmonies, and you get the best album you never heard. None of the members were older than 20, and the first album was recorded in 18 hours, with two takes at the most for each song. It’s a glorious historical document, but it’s mainly a great collection of music that still sounds heavenly 39 years later.

Live at Reading


(Geffen Records)

This long-awaited double-CD, single-DVD collection documents Nirvana’s August 30, 1992 concert at UK’s Reading Festival, perhaps the most bootlegged album in history, and Nirvana’s finest live hour. It includes practically the whole Nevermind album, plus In Utero’s “All Apologies,” “Dumb,” and the first-ever performance of “Tourette’s,” all of which would come out two years later. The band also played a few tracks from Bleach (“Blew,” “About a Girl,” “School,” “Negative Creep,” and “Love Buzz”) plus two covers (Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In” and the Wipers’ “D-7”). Only two of the 25 songs from the concert have been released before, and the DVD looks and sounds great.

I Slept With Joey Ramone:
A family memoir

Mickey Leigh and Legs McNeil


This is the story of the Ramones from the unique perspective of Joey’s brother, Mickey Leigh (the Rattlers, Birdland with Lester Bangs, STOP), co-written with Punk magazine founder Legs McNeil. It is candid, informative, funny, but also heartbreaking. Joey battled a severe obsessive-compulsive disorder throughout his life, but he also had to put up with Johnny Ramone, who was a complete asshole, to say the least. Ultimately, this is a loving brother’s tribute. Joey was no saint, and he didn’t always get along with Mickey, but everyone agrees he was a sweet, well-meaning individual. “Joey was the ultimate underdog who soared to a place far beyond mere overachievement,” Mickey concludes. “As low as he’d been, he never let it prevent him from setting sights on astronomical heights. His brave plight was inspiring, as I intend this story to be.”

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