Nik Cohn shares his favourite albums and books

Posted on 13th January 2015 by Nik Cohn
As his seminal piece of rock criticism, Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom, is re-released as a Vintage Classic, music journalist Nik Cohn shares a list of his favourite albums and books
Considered by many to be the father of rock journalism, Nik Cohn wrote his first collection of rock criticism, Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom, when he was just 22 years old. It was ablaze with attitude and passion - and overnight, Cohn became the  voice of a generation.

The book captured the "language of rock 'n' roll" and comprised pithy biographies of all the most famous pop and rock stars of the 1960's - from Chuck Berry to The Rolling Stones. Each entry was crafted out of Cohn's acerbic wit and astute observation, his adoration and his disgust: and like that, a new style of journalism was born.

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom was fearless, unflinching and broke on through to the other side when it was released in 1969 - now re-released by Vintage in their Classics series, the book is just as audacious and as colourful a read today. 

Nik Cohn's  favourite books and albums:


Alan LomaxMister Jelly Roll Jelly Roll Morton’s spoken autobiography for the Library of Congress, with linking passages by Lomax. Fabulous.

Nick ToschesHellfire At one level, the story of Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousin, the mega-preacher Jimmy Swaggart, it’s really about the twining of good and evil that has always given rock & roll its sacred/profane juice.

John CageSilence A collection of Cage’s essays and lectures, rambling, sometimes baffling, often profound. No easy read but richly worth the toil.

Ben Ratliff – Coltrane Ratliff is the finest music writer extant, and his survey of John Coltrane’s ever-evolving style comes closer to capturing the nature of sound – what we hear, and how it affects us – than anything I know. 



Rachel Podger – The Rosary Sonatas:Biber’s massive baroque master-class, monstrously difficult to play, yet Podger makes it sound as natural as breathing. Radiant stuff.

Elvis Presley – The Sun Sessions: The King as a raw and greasy punk, hot off the streets. Pure sex. Or impure, which is even better.

Prince – Sign O’ The Times: The first album I’d grab up if my house caught fire.

Quatuor Ebene – Faure Piano Quintets: Late Faure, when the composer’s hearing was going, is famously elusive – sonorities and harmonies that never stop shifting, so you seem to be hearing him through water. The Ebene come closest to bringing him into focus.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly: I’d just about given up on rap, then along comes Lamar with a brand new gospel: everything I ever hoped hip-hop could deliver, and more. A classic case of too much being just enough.

Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet: Without Chuck D, there’d be no Kendrick Lamar. A quarter-century on, this still punches through steel-enforced walls and topples temples.


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