2019 Classic Rock Holiday Gift Guide
Being a classic rock fan is often expensive. Each year brings another round of reissues, multi-disc box sets, tell-all books, tour T-shirts and mountains of merchandise — and much of it winds up being an unnecessary cash-grab.
For the people buying presents for those classic rock fans, it can be exhausting wading through it all. Here's our latest attempt to help out: UCR's 2019 Classic Rock Holiday Gift Guide, which rounds up noteworthy products from the Beatles, Rush, Motley Crue, Kiss, Van Halen and more.
Rush: Geddy Lee's Big Beautiful Book of Bass
Console your family's prog-nerd over the probable death of Rush with this 408-page tome, a deep-dive into the evolution of rock's most overlooked instrument. Lee explores the history of over 250 famous and obscure bass guitars — a fun read for the kind of diehard fan who can recite the frontman's preferred string gauges. For everyone else, it's worth the investment for Lee's revealing, charmingly low-stakes interviews with Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, the Rolling Stones' Bill Wyman, U2's Adam Clayton and Primus' Les Claypool, among other low-end legends.
The Rolling Stones: "No Filter" Tie Dye Pullover Hoodie
A man of wealth and taste may not pull the trigger on this hippie-friendly Rolling Stones hoodie, designed for the band's 2019 No Filter Tour. But it's pretty slick nonetheless: foggy red, white and blue tones hovering behind the band's iconic tongue-and-lips logo. Sure, it's never quite as fun wearing tour-specific gear when you weren't at the shows listed on the back, but just pretend if someone asks. "I was at the Chicago show," one might say. There, it's that easy.
Van Halen: Eddie Van Halen's Striped Series Shark Electric Guitar
Eddie Van Halen's recently unveiled signature electric guitar, the Striped Series Shark, is a Burgundy and silver beauty, outfitted with a Pau Ferro fingerboard, a maple neck with 22 jumbo frets, white dot inlays and a hockey stick headstock. To Van Halen's non-musician fans, it's a work of axe art, modeled with startling precision — down to the jagged "shark teeth" edges — after the instrument he personally designed and unveiled onstage during the band's first world tour in 1978. With a price ($2,069.95) higher than a David Lee Roth's wail on "Running With the Devil," you might want to make sure the recipient knows their Van Halen from their Van Hagar.
Kiss: Hottest Brand in the Land Book
Kiss were marketing geniuses, plastering their faces and logo just about anywhere they could fit them: clothes, lunch boxes, comic books, even trash cans. And their recent coffee table photo book, Hottest Brand in the Land, documents that merch mania all its vivid, painted-face glory. Over 390 pages, the book explores mammoth fan collections from across the world, even glimpsing the band's correspondence and financial records with their licensees. With the band still in the thick of its farewell tour, it's an ideal time for nostalgia.
Jimi Hendrix: Songs for Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts Box Set
This massive Jimi Hendrix box documents the guitar legend's (tragically) short-lived tenure with Band of Gypsys, the hard-hitting funk-rock trio he formed with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles after the implosion of his former band, the Experience. Across five CDs and eight LPs, Songs for Groovy Children collects all four shows the band performed on New Years Eve 1969 and New Years Day 1970 at the famous New York venue — including material featured on 1970's Band of Gypsys and later compilations, along with numerous previously unheard cuts. The unedited songs, mixed by Hendrix's engineer Eddie Kramer, is packaged with a book featuring extensive liner notes and intimate photos — enough to make this essential even beyond audio.
Tool: Fear Inoculum Book Edition
The Tool fan in your life may well already own a lavish package built around the prog-metal band's fifth LP: The original edition was a limited-edition CD paired with a rechargeable screen, video footage, massive booklet and two-watt speaker. (Not exactly convenient for a road trip, but Tool made us wait 13 years for this album, so we'll take whatever we can get.) Now there's another massive physical product for your media room: a book edition, out Dec. 13, including the CD, a 56-page booklet with new artwork, a download of the "Recusant Ad Infinitum" visual and five 3D lenticular cards with exclusive graphics. If recent history is any indication, we may be waiting another decade for Tool's next album — let's savor anything they give us, even if it takes up a lot of shelf space.
The Grateful Dead: Ryder Beach Towel
There's one at every beach: a shirtless, good-natured, long-haired dude reclining under a rickety umbrella, tossing back a couple beers and cranking out some vintage Grateful Dead bootlegs on his Bluetooth speaker. Here's the perfect gift to make that hippie happy: the Dead's official Ryder beach towel, which features a trippy, purple tie-dye pattern behind the classic lightning bolt skull logo. (Environmental bonus points: The product was created with sustainably sourced cotton.)
Yes: From a Page Box Set
It was easy to write off the Yes lineup that hit the recording studio in 2010: The revamped prog-rock act featured keyboardist Oliver Wakeman (son of their own ex-member Rick) and former tribute singer Benoit David in place of former frontman/co-founder Jon Anderson. But that ragtag group were productive, even if not all of their music wound up released at the time. Though Wakeman wound up playing on several tracks from 2011's Fly From Here, most of his compositions wound up on the cutting room floor. From a Page rectifies that error, bundling four unreleased cuts — recent single "To the Moment," "Words on a Page," “From the Turn of a Card” and the band-composed “The Gift of Love” — with the 2010 live LP In the Present: Live From Lyon.
Elton John: Me, Rocket Man Books
The man once recorded seven consecutive No. 1 LPs in the 1970s, but 2019 has still somehow felt like The Year of Elton John — mostly because of his ongoing farewell tour and the cultural conversation surrounding the Rocketman biopic. Riding that momentous wave, two books about the singer-songwriter hit shelves just in time for the holidays: Chris Roberts' unofficial biography Elton John: Rocket Man (featuring rare memorabilia and previously unseen images) and John's own autobiography, Me, which balances inside-baseball celebrity tales (about John Lennon and Freddie Mercury, among others) with reflections on more momentous topics like drug addiction and gay rights.
The Beatles: Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Box Set
Fab Four fans who paid up for the White Album and Sgt. Pepper's box sets won't want to skip on Abbey Road. This 3-CD/Blu ray package, released to mark the album's 50th anniversary, doesn't offer as many hidden gems and sonic surprises as its predecessors — but diehards should enjoy sifting through the numerous alternate takes ("I Want You (She's So Heavy)," with a bigger boost from Billy Preston's organ) and demos (Paul McCartney's solo renditions of "Goodbye" and "Come and Get It").
David Bowie: Pharaoh Poster
They can't all be fancy box sets — and for David Bowie fans, the late singer's website is full of solid budget options. At $35, the sharpest poster is Bob Masse's signed "Pharaoh" poster, which depicts the journeyman art-rocker as a psychedelic Egyptian ruler. Runner-up: a $15 ceramic mug featuring an image of Bowie posing with a saxophone. Who wouldn't want to sip coffee from that?
The Who: Who Album, Pete Townshend's Age of Anxiety Book
December is typically a wasteland for album releases, but one notable exception: the Who's dynamic 12th LP, a return to form after the mixed bag of 2006's Endless Wire. You can make it an even Who-ier holiday with Age of Anxiety, the debut novel from the band's guitarist/mastermind, Pete Townshend. (A publisher statement described the book as “an extended meditation on manic genius and the dark art of creativity.” What else would you expect from the dude who wrote Tommy and Quadrophenia?)
Fleetwood Mac: Classic Penguin T-Shirt
Remember the good old days before Fleetwood Mac's public drama and lineup turmoil? Oh, wait, that's always been part of the band's turbulent story. Anyway, something about this vintage-styled raglan T-shirt, which features their classic penguin logo, still offers a soothing nostalgia.
Pink Floyd: Later Years Box Set
Pink Floyd were never as edgy or experimental after bassist/lyricist Roger Waters left the lineup in the mid-'80s. But under the guidance of guitarist David Gilmour, the band carried on for a string of LPs that offered their fair share of hypnotic moments. The 16-disc Later Years box set documents the Floyd's underrated final run with previously unheard material, concert films and newly mixed tracks (including 1987's A Momentary Lapse of Reason and their 1988 live LP, Delicate Sound of Thunder).
For those equally delighted by bruising riffs and dad-joke zingers, may we present this immaculate AC/DC doormat, which greets visitors with the pun-tastic message, "For Those About to Knock," alongside the band's logo lightning bolt and the cannon featured on the cover of their 1981 LP, For Those About to Rock We Salute You.
Mötley Crüe: Dr. Feelgood 30th Anniversary Box Set
The suddenly un-retired glam-metal quartet reissued their blockbuster fifth LP for this campy 30th anniversary box set: A colored vinyl copy and three picture discs are included alongside medicinal-themed extras like a doctor's bag, bandages and prescription notepad.
Led Zeppelin: Robert Plant's Digging Deep Box Set / Jimmy Page's The Anthology Book
The Led Zeppelin reissue campaign is firmly in the rear view, but the band's singer and guitarist both have noteworthy items up ahead: Robert Plant compiled hit songs, B-sides and deep cuts for his upcoming remastered vinyl box set, Digging Deep; and Jimmy Page gathered photos of rare items from across his six-decade career — including shots of guitars, posters, stage costumes and other archival material — in his signed, limited-edition book The Anthology (now available to pre-order and tentatively shipping in February 2020).
Black Sabbath: The Vinyl Collection 1970-78 Box Set
With the nine-LP vinyl set The Vinyl Collection 1970-78, Black Sabbath look back to their iconic initial era with Ozzy Osbourne. In addition to the metal pioneers' first eight LPs (from 1970's Black Sabbath to 1978's Never Say Die!), the package also features a mono single collection, a 7" single of “Evil Woman”/“Wicked World" and replica tour books from that decade.
Guns N' Roses Holiday Sweater
Now that tacky Christmas sweaters have become requisite wardrobe for any holiday gathering, it's hard to tell if dressing up in a goofy thrift store find is even fun anymore. One solution is to look outlandish while repping one of your favorite bands —and Guns N' Roses have entered that business. This gloriously ridiculous knit sweater, decked out with skeleton renditions of the band members, sets a new standard for Yuletide kitsch.
Freddie Mercury: Never Boring Box Set
Late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury only released two solo LPs before his death in 1991, and they've both faded into relative obscurity over the years. This five-disc package rights the ship, bundling a newly mixed version of 1985's Mr. Bad Guy, a 2012 orchestra-infused take on 1988's Barcelona, a 12-track compilation of solo performances and a Blu-ray/DVD featuring music videos and live spots. There's also a hardback book of photos, alongside an introduction from Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek. Nothing boring about it.