It’s been said too many times to count, but there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues. There is a way to medicate however, and it involves packing up, heading to the cottage and rocking out. If you find yourself sitting lakeside this summer, try and track down one of these books so you can learn a little something about what it means to rock and roll.
Billion Dollar Baby – Bob Greene (1974)
“He held the baby doll up so the audience could see it. He began to rub his hands along the doll’s body. He felt the baby’s legs, stuck his hand up its dress. He pressed the baby to his stomach and rubbed the doll against him. Slowly, he undressed the doll. At the end, he began to rip the dress off with his teeth…”
Long out of print and very expensive when it turns up online, this eye-opening original details the inner workings of a touring machine like no book before or since..” Chicago Tribune columnist Greene joined the Alice Cooper band on its 1972 Billion Dollar Babies Holiday Tour and, dressed at St. Nick, became a part of the nightly stage show. Titular frontman Cooper was at his diabolical height during this era and the parental back-lash against the group was enormous. As part of the “crew” Greene was privy to the good, the bad and the ugly. Diehard Cooper fans rebelled against the book, as they felt it was a one-sided smear of Alice. Long before the days of YouTube, the internet and instant access to everything, this book was essential reading — as “insider” as it got.
Diary of A Rock’n’Roll Star – Ian Hunter (1974)
“Angela Bowie rings up arranging a tentative party with Bowie, The Spiders and ourselves after David finishes recording but it’s not certain, just a maybe. David rings Mick too, to find out how Roxy (Music) went. He never misses keeping up the tabs on the competition. Tony’s out Christmas shopping with Melanie and it’s been decided that Stuart and Zee, David’s heavy men, will now accompany us on the remainder of the tour owing to the St. Louis incident”
As a rocker in his early thirties, Ian Hunter, lead singer for legendary glam rockers Mott The Hoople, chronicled his band’s 1972 American tour in this insightful and introspective diary. As opposed to a sleazy story of sex and drugs and rock`roll, this is more of a Brit`s take on his first major tour of the U.S.A.. Bad shows, bad food, cheap pawn-shop guitars and the occasional crossing of paths with David Bowie make for a compelling and honest look at America in the early seventies. It’s also a wonderfully refreshing look at a rock star who’s living the life, but still has a grip.
Dark Victory – Ronald Reagan, MCA And The Mob – Dan E. Moldea (1987)
“MCA helped to make its client, actor Ronald Reagan, a multimillionaire; and the favors that were returned by Reagan, the former president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the former governor of California, have helped to transform MCA into a billion-dollar empire and the most powerful force in the entertainment world today”
For those who think Stiffed is the ultimate insider industry book, think again. Dark Victory tells the story of the rise of both Ronald Reagan and MCA as they moved from struggling actor and struggling booking agency to the most powerful man on earth and one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world. As MCA groomed Reagan for his political career they kept a tab on favours owed and called in every marker.
Dakota Days – John Green (1983)
“Yoko struck a dissonant chord on the piano and cut loose with one of her famous caterwauls. It was July 1980 and we were sitting in the office in the midst of one of our many readings to select a group of her songs to be recorded for her joint project with John, the album that became Double Fantasy. The procedure was that she would sing each piece for me and then ask me to read the cards and predict which ones would be hits. It was a process that made for long afternoons”
From the literally hundreds of books written about John Lennon and The Beatles, who would have thought the one of the most interesting would be written by the band’s in-house tarot reader? Dakota Days deals with the last six years of Lennon’s life, the birth of his son Sean, his ‘lost weekend’ in Los Angeles, his sanctioned affair with May Pang and all of Yoko`s quirks and superstitions. Fascinating.
Black Vinyl, White Powder – Simon Napier-Bell
“Pamela Des Barres, Zeppelin’s favourite groupie, described Jimmy Page dressed in Nazi uniform touring transvestite clubs in each city they went to, picking up drag-queens and doing drugs with them in the toilet. If he got too riotous, tour-manager Richard Cole, himself a junkie, would padlock Jimmy to the toiler in his hotel room where he would sit, obediently jailed, until the tour manager thought he was ready for release”
If anyone is qualified to write about British rock over the course of four decades it is Simon-Napier Bell. As one-time manager of everyone from The Yardbirds and Marc Bolan to Japan and Wham!, Bell has seen it all and has no difficulty in exposing limitless flaws in both the music industry and human nature. Alongside Andrew Loog-Oldham’s Stoned, this is the read for true insight into the dawn of the British Invasion.
Image courtesy of Pernell.