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 Lomax – Mister Jelly Roll Jelly Roll Morton’s spoken autobiography for the Library of Congress, with linking passages by Lomax. Fabulous.
Nick Tosches – Hellfire 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 Cage – Silence 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.