Not the greatest, perhaps, but Beyer’s music stories intrigue

book-cover-greatest-never-toldThe newest entry in Rick Beyer‘s “Greatest Stories Never Told” series is The Greatest Music Stories Never Told. It’s a selection of (as the subtitle explains) “100 Tales from Music History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy.” I’d agree with two of the three. You’ll certainly be astonished to learn some of the facts behind certain songs or musicians, and the stupefaction at certain stories not being common knowledge is a regular occurrence as you make your way through the book.

However, you will never be bewildered by The Greatest Music Stories Never Told. That’s a good thing, and a complement. Every story is a two-page spread, neatly and concisely told to the reader. Beyer manages to create the occasional sense of wonder or suspense in just two or three short paragraphs. It’s rather pleasant to read about something, and then discover that it’s 180 degrees from what you thought it would be.

This does leave certain sections of the book with a definite pattern, however. Many of the biographies have a Paul Harvey, “and now you know the rest of the story” quality to them. By the third or fourth one, you realize that the story being told is going to be about somebody with whom you’re quite familiar, and this will be an aspect of their life about which you didn’t know. The story’s still intriguing, of course, but the surprise is gone.

A few of the stories aren’t exactly of the “never told” variety – the “Louie, Louie” investigation by the FBI, the Rite of Spring rioting, and the fact that Leadbelly was pardoned because he wrote a song for the governor are pretty standard popular music tales. However, many of the stories that aren’t about people actually end up being the most surprising, as are the ones that predate the last century of music. The segment with which the book begins goes all the way back to Babylonian times, and describes the oldest written music ever discovered. Seeing the image of a millennia-old clay tablet is rather awe-inspiring.

This is a fun book. If you’re a real music nerd, about half of this is going to come as no surprise to you, but for most casual music fans and readers, the 100 stories told within the pages of The Greatest Music Stories Never Told will inspire a trip to the library (or, more likely, Google) to find out more, as well as a trip to the record store (or, more likely, YouTube) to hear what some of these songs sound like.