10 Essential Rock Criticism Audiobooks

These days, rock music criticism seems to have largely lost the element of criticism. Real analysis of the music has been replaced by either glorification of certain genres or artists or their complete disqualification. This may be due in part to great critics like Lester Bangs and Ian McDonald not being around anymore. It also seems many people have given up on reading detailed print books that go beyond everyday music reviews or artist biographies.

Still, some great rock criticism titles exist, and for those favoring their books as listening material, they are available as audiobooks. Here we present to you ten of the best rock criticism and analysis audiobooks.

The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs

By Greil Marcus. Read by Henry Rollins.

Greil Marcus is considered one of the best and most profound rock critics around. The book is read by Henry Rollins, a well-known punk rock singer, songwriter, and poet. Rollins himself describes Marcus as a poet, probably because of his excellent writing style. Using Marcus’ words, Rollins describes how songs such as “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” by Buddy Holly, “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson, and “Money Changes Everything” sung by Cyndi Lauper changed music and changed lives. Essentially, Marcus and Rollins turn rock music into magic.

Revolution In The Head 

By Ian McDonald. Read by multiple narrators.

Late Ian McDonald is considered as one of the bards of British rock criticisms who was the leading figure of the British weekly New Musical Express magazine in its heyday. Here, McDonald talks about The Beatles, but instead of recounting the band’s history, he goes into deep analysis of each and every song The Beatles recorded with style, flair, and imagination.

Psychotic Reaction and Carburetor Dung

By Lester Bangs. Read by Ramiz Monsef.

Another late great, Lester Bangs is deeply embedded in the history of rock criticism, with a writing style and imagination that many other writers attempted to copy but rarely were able to. The selection of essays here was prepared by Greil Marcus (Bangs’s first editor at Rolling Stone, in 1969), presenting him as one of the most distinctive voices in rock music criticism.

The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

By Jessica Hopper. Read by Mozhan Marnò and Ella Turenne.

The title is actually a content giveaway from this fiercely feminist and revered contemporary rock critic. Throughout her career, spanning more than two decades, Jessica Hopper, a revered and pioneering music critic, has examined women recording and producing music, in all genres, through an intersectional feminist lens. The collection also includes profiles and reviews of some of the most-loved, and most-loathed, women artists making music today: from Fiona Apple, and Kacey Musgraves, to Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey.

A History of Heavy Metal

By Andrew O’Neill. Read by the author.

Heavy metal is one of the most revered rock genres around and O’Neill attempts to cover as much ground here as is possible in the over the eight hours detailed look at the genre and its main progenitors and proponents. An example of how to cover the history of a genre and analyze it at the same time.

Last Train to Memphis

By Peter Guralnick. Read by Kevin Stillwell.

More of an analysis of the rise of one of the biggest stars in rock music ever than a biography itself, as Guralnick covers only the early years of Presley’s career with 10 years of research involved. Bob Dylan said the following about this book: “Elvis steps from the pages. You can feel him breathe.”

Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys 

By Viv Albertine. Read by Jasmine Blackborow.

Albertine initially made a name for herself as a guitarist in the all-girl punk band The Slits.  This gave her a chance to look at the punk boom from the inside, being friends with big punk names such as Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols. The book was also converted into a stage play.

Our Band Could Be Your Life

By Michael Azzerad. Read by multiple authors.

Azzerad also discusses some of the key punk bands but his scope is much wider and goes more deeply about the development of the US rock underground scene and its influence on what is now known as indie rock. In that respect, Azzerad covers the key eighties acts like Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Mudhoney, and Fugazi among others.

1971: Never A Dull Moment

By David Hepworth. Read by the author.

If you haven’t, or even if you had a chance to see the excellent Apple TV+ docu series 1971: The Year Music Changed Everything this book is essential, as it served as the basis for the series itself. The key Hepworth’s idea here is that 1971 was rock’s greatest year, supporting that not only by presenting the key artists, music, or events, but also by giving a broader cultural and political aspects that support his thesis.

Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music

By Greg Prato. Read by the author.

Grunge Is Dead digs deeper than the average grunge history, starting in the early ’60s, and explains the chain of events that gave way to the grunge movement. The end result is a book that includes a wealth of previously untold stories and insight for the longtime fan, as well as its renowned story for the newcomer. Grunge Is Dead collects the whole truth of grunge music in one comprehensive volume.

What’s your favorite rock criticism audiobook?

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