Music Books News (October 2018)

Brian Boydell

Music Books News (October 2018)

A round-up of new and recent books, featuring Brian Boydell's memoir, Ed Vulliamy's 'When Words Fail', Michael Azerrad on rock critics, and the making of John Lennon's 'Imagine'.

Please send information on new music books to newreleases [at]

Rebellious Ferment: A Dublin Musical Memoir and Diary
Brian Boydell and Barra Boydell
Cork University Press
September 2018

Composer, performer, broadcaster, agitator for music, musicologist, and Professor of Music at Trinity College Dublin, Brian Boydell (1917–2000) was a leading figure in Irish musical life. 

In his later years he wrote his memoirs focusing in particular on the 1940s and early 1950s (but extending to the early 1970s) when he was involved in what he describes as ‘that remarkable period in the history of artistic development in Ireland during the Second World War and shortly afterwards’, a period he also refers to as one of ‘rebellious ferment’.

Brian Boydell’s memoir, together with extracts from the diary he kept for part of 1950, have been edited by his son Barra Boydell, Emeritus Professor of Music at Maynooth University. It presents a portrait not only of artistic life (including painting, poetry and theatre as well as music) but also of politics, religion, infrastructure, education and society in mid-twentieth-century Ireland.

Barra Boydell discussing his father in 2016.


When Words Fail: A Life With Music, War and Peace
Ed Vulliamy
Granta Books
13 September 2018

Can music make the world a better place? Can it ‘belong’ to anyone? Can the magic, mystery and incertitude of music stop wars, rehabilitate the broken, unite, educate or inspire? From Jimi Hendrix playing ‘Machine Gun’ at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 to the Bataclan under siege in 2016, Ed Vulliamy’s When Words Fail: A Life With Music, War and Peace asks can music change the world.


Rock Critic Law: 101 Unbreakable Rules for Writing Badly About Music
Michael Azerrad
23 October 2018
Dey Street Books

Developed out of his Twitter feed @RockCriticLaw, rock journalist Michael Azerrad, author of the books Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana and Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991, turns his attention to the art of rock writing, skewering 101 of the genre’s hackneyed phrases and tropes: ‘Please feel free to deny an artist’s individuality and say they are “the new [x]”’; ’If a band pioneered something, you must say they are “seminal.” That is the Seminal Law of Rock Criticism.’ and more. All 101 Rock Critic Laws are accompanied by illustrations from Ed Fotheringham.


Imagine John Yoko
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
9 October 2018
Grand Central Publishing

Compiled and curated by Yoko Ono, Imagine John Yoko is the inside story of the making of the 1971 album Imagine and all that surrounded it: the locations, the creative team, the artworks and the films. The book features hitherto unpublished archive photos and footage sequences, together with lyric sheets and Ono’s art installations, and personal testimonies from over forty of the musicians, engineers, staff, celebrities, artists and photographers who were there – including Julian Lennon, Klaus Voormann, Alan White, Jim Keltner, David Bailey, Dick Cavett and Sir Michael Parkinson. Ono says: ‘A lot has been written about the creation of the song, the album and the film of Imagine, mainly by people who weren’t there, so I’m very pleased and grateful that now, for the first time, so many of the participants have kindly given their time to “gimme some truth” in their own words and pictures’.


Please send information on new music books to newreleases [at]

Published on 17 October 2018

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