Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book: The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones 30th Anniversary Edition by Stanley Booth (Chicago Review Press, 2014)

Author Stanley Booth had an opportunity that a writer would never have has before or since, a chance to be part of the Rolling Stones as they toured the United States successfully in 1969 and then crashed and burned at the infamous Altamont Festival. Booth chronicles everything from the ever present drugs to groupies, managers and hangers on. He does stall the narrative on a few occasions to talk about his own problems of getting his book deal and advance, but for the most part stays on topic. He will juxtapose the narrative of the 1969 tour with vignettes of the Stones early tours, where they were mobbed by fans, some of which are beyond belief as fans are driven to near-psychosis, attacking band members and their entourage for any scrap of memento that they can get their hands on. Also portrayed is Brian Jones, the ill-fated founding member of the group that went from rising star multi-instrumentalist to drug casualty with an early death. It is fascinating the way that drugs are handled back then too, as the police raid the members homes and they face multi-yrear jail terms for the possession of marijuana. But in the end it comes down to the music, and Booth's portrayal of the tour from the inside is fascinating with a hard to beat lineup that featured the Stones along with B.B. King and Ike & Tine Turner. Booth had full access to the group and the behind the scenes banter is fascinating as well, with the band members talking about their musical influences, recording sessions and aspects of their personal lives that were never before revealed. But then it all went wrong: the band liked the idea of playing a free concert like many of the American west coast bands like the Grateful Dead had done, and settled on the Altamont Speedway in California for the event. This is one of the most famous events in rock & roll history and Booth is right there to cover it all - the madness of the Hell's Angels as they kill a man right in front of the stage and savagely beat and maim others. The band's desperate and eventually futile attempts to calm the crowd, a restless mass of over 300,000 people in a truly anarchic state of tragic lawlessness. In the end the book works quite well, and the first-person narrative carries a lot of the weight of this heavy time very well. Despite some flaws, this is a must-read from rock & roll fans. The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones -

Send comments to Tim.