The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








Del & Dawg. Courtesy photo.

Make a fan happy
Holiday gifts for the music-lover

By Michael Witthaus

 Losing David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey and Leonard Cohen made 2016 a tough year for music fans. What’s needed under the tree, then, is something soothing, a source for reflection. 

Let’s begin with books. 
To remember lost lights, there’s the just-published Prince: Purple Reign by Mick Wall (Trapeze, $30) and David Bowie: The Last Interview (Penguin, $17). Although it’s a few years old, fans of Leonard Cohen will savor Alan Light’s The Holy or the Broken (Simon & Schuster, $15), a scholarly study of the late songwriter’s oft-recorded “Hallelujah.”
On many Top 10 lists is Marc Myers’ Anatomy of a Song (Grove Press, $26), a collection of 45 essays about groundbreaking songs spanning from the late 1940s to early 1990s. The right kind of reader will delight in learning that Robert Plant’s echo effect on “Whole Lotta Love” was an accident turned into a feature by Jimmy Page, or that Donna Summer was Debbie Harry’s role model for “Heart of Glass” and Merle Haggard made an old friend and tour bus driver rich by giving him half the royalties for one of his biggest hits because a complaint he made was the song’s inspiration. 
Joel Selvin’s Altamont (Dey Street, $27) tells the full story of the 1969 free Rolling Stones concert that became “rock’s darkest day.” Selvin goes beyond the sanitized version in the documentary Gimme Shelter and the veteran San Francisco rock critic also reveals how music itself changed in the show’s wake. The Grateful Dead moved toward country rock following their untimely role (their manager recommended Hell’s Angels for concert security), while the Stones lost their souls.
If CDs are still on anyone’s list, it’s likely a deluxe box set stuffed with extras that can’t be downloaded. The best stop for the really special stuff is Popmarket, a members-only site (, and don’t worry, signing up is free and easy). There you’ll find items like alt-J Live at Red Rocks, with two blue vinyl records, a photo book and a limited-edition necklace, and Badmotorfinger 25th Anniversary Edition by Soundgarden, with rare tracks and a bevy of collectible extras. Don’t dawdle, though; some items, like an AC/DC box containing a working amplifier, tend to sell out fast.
To really make a fan’s day,  give them an Amazon Echo, a cool countertop device that plays music on demand. Get hooked up with a Spotify account, and hearing the new A Tribe Called Quest album is easy as shouting, “Alexa, play ‘We the People’” — plus, it also keeps track of grocery lists, sets timers and reads the weather report.
Streaming is great for national acts, but buying physical product at the merch table is a better way to put money in a local musician’s pocket, while giving a great gift. If you want to do your bit for the regional music scene, hit a show at places like Shaskeen Pub, Penuche’s, True Brew, Riverwalk Cafe, Union Coffee Co. or the Press Room, and buy a CD. 
Nashua singer-songwriter Justin Cohn released the fine All Aglow earlier this year, and he’s out playing almost every night of the week. A couple of Granite State institutions have multiple disc sets on offer — Roots of Creation made Livin’ Free, with a Man in the Mountain cover, and Truffle celebrated three decades with its 30th Bandiversary Bootleg Anthology.
Speaking of live shows, concert tickets make great gifts. Season passes for Bank of NH Pavilion at Meadowbrook are sold out (sorry), but how about a pair of seats for the venue’s kickoff show by Home Free April 28 at Concord’s Capitol Center? 
A better instant-gratification gift might be tickets to the Dec. 29 I Love The 90’s concert at SNHU Arena, starring Vanilla Ice, Salt N Pepa and a few other decade favorites.
Tupelo Music Hall is moving to Derry in the spring, and doubling capacity. The inaugural Peter Frampton Raw show on April 11 is sold out, though meet-and-greet tickets are still available. Don’t fret, as many more shows have been announced at the new location; any of them make a great gift. Early on, there’s Del and Dawg on April 14 and Almost Queen April 21. Further out are  concerts by the Oak Ridge Boys (May 20) and ’70s stalwarts Ambrosia (June 4).
These are just some of the ways to make the holiday rock for your special fan. While you’re shopping, be sure to hum a few bars of “Merry Christmas, Baby” or “Run Run Rudolph” to keep your spirits high. 


®2019 Hippo Press. site by wedu