Best music books of 2009: After the excess comes the time for sober reflection...

Live fast, slow down a bit, write your memoirs. As rock'n'roll slogans go, it may not pack the same punch as the old beautiful-corpse chestnut, but at least this year's crop of music books proves that the thoughtful ruminations of survivors can hold their own against the army of picking-over-the-bones biographers.

Better still, specialist musical knowledge is not necessarily required. Is Luke Haines' Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in its Downfall (Heinemann, £12.99) a better read if you own all of Haines' records? Possibly, but what sets the book apart is the author's couldn't-give-a-toss attitude that spares no one, least of all himself. Haines charts his part in the 1990s British music scene that culminated in "annoying" Blur versus "crap new comedy band" Oasis. Haines is perfectly placed to sneer: his band, the Auteurs, along with Suede, had been clever forerunners of the scene he can't (aside from the subtitle) bring himself to name, and he can only look down on an era in which "art is replaced by popular culture".

Less embittered but equally at odds with the modern world, Jah Wobble gives a heartfelt account of himself in Memoirs of a Geezer (Serpent's Tale, £12.99), a beautifully observed record of much more than his time in the post-punk spotlight with John Lydon's PiL. Wobble and Lydon meet at college and are drawn together by a mutual love of Hawkwind. When the Pistols collapse, Lydon turns to his old friend, but theirs is an uneasy and short-lived musical alliance. Which is just as well for the reader, for Wobble's memoirs are at their most revealing when dealing with the end of another era, working-class life in east London, and at their most moving when he muses on how he can give his children the sense of "coming from somewhere" he grew up with.

Sombre reflections are also to be found in Ozzy Osbourne's I Am Ozzy (Little Brown, £20), the story of another working-class lad who dragged himself up by the rock'n'roll bootstraps. And though the years of textbook heavy-metal excess have taken their toll, the former Black Sabbath frontman can still, mostly, recount the drug-fuelled debauchery with a wry twinkle.

Peter Hook's The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club (Simon & Schuster, £18.99) forgoes the personal touch to tell the story of how an iconic nightclub came to encapsulate a time and place. In light of the films Control and 24 Hour Party People, Hook, the Joy Division and New Order bass player, is free to focus on the legendary Northern nightclub and the part it played in turning the post-punk rockers into ravers. Along the way, there are miserable gigs, gangs and run-ins with the police. What there isn't is anyone with any idea of how to run a business. Still, as Hook concludes, "If you're going to waste an opportunity there are a few important things to remember. Do it in style. Do it in public. And, above all, do it in Manchester."

While such "I was there" books dominate, the year threw up other titles worthy of mention. Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and his Cosmic American Music by David N Meyer (Bloomsbury, £12.99) proved that if the subject matter is strong enough, much can still be done with the standard biographic form. For all its writerly conventions, Twenty Thousand Roads is, at last, the biography its subject deserved: a sweeping and insightful look at a troubled star whose work gains in stature with every passing year.

And while we're on the subject of country, Always Been There: Rosanne Cash, The List, and the Spirit of Southern Music by Johnny Cash's biographer Michael Streissguth (Da Capo Press, £13.99) elegantly tells the story of how, 35 years after her father gave her a list of "100 songs she ought to know", Roseanne Cash whittled it down to an album's worth of material as an exercise in "song preservation".

Gazing through the microscope at one album to tell the wider picture of musicians at work is also the modus operandi of Route 19 Revisited: The Clash and London Calling by Marcus Gray (Jonathan Cape, £20). Gray, who has already offered up the definitive Clash biography, The Last Gang in Town, this time turns his gaze to the sprawling album the band made in 1979. Unlike many of the books on this list, Route 19 is aimed squarely at those keen on obsessive details.

Classic Ephemera: A Musical Miscellany by Darren Henley and Tim Lihoreau (Elliott & Thompson, £9.99), on the other hand, is a Schott-like take on the world of Sibelius. Mixing user-friendly lists ("Famous Operas: What is Actually Going On") with short guides to composers, the book is an ideal primer and also provides some perfect cistern-side asides ("I thought Goldberg Variations were something Mr and Mrs Goldberg tried on their wedding night" – Woody Allen).

The idea to give readers something to listen to as well as read is taken to its logical conclusion in Jazz by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux (WW Norton, £27.99). This triumph for novice and aficionado alike is intended to be read alongside a four-CD collection. As the story lurches from New Orleans to New York and beyond, the authors offer up not so much a guide to jazz as an extended lesson in how to listen to it. It is an enthralling journey, and though it is littered with musicians whose lifestyle never allowed them to slow down and write their memoirs, the authors, for once, shun such detail in favour of an appreciation of what they left behind.

What was the most memorable arts event of 2009? In the comments form below (or via email to arts@independent.co.uk) nominate your favourite - in film, music, theatre, comedy, dance or visual arts - with a brief explanation as to why it tops your list and we'll print a selection in The Independent Readers' Review of 2009.

Arts and Entertainment
music

Arts and Entertainment
Creep show: Tim Cockerill in ‘Spider House’

TVEnough to make ardent arachnophobes think twice

Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tvThe Apprentice contestants take a battering from the business mogul
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain