Long-time readers here will probably recall that I like to read biographies and autobiographies. These are wide-ranging, though mostly of late they are of the musical variety, everything from blues to folk to classical to rock, and predominately, the last.
A biography is a story of a person's life written by somebody else. An autobiography is one written by somebody about him- or herself.
Several of those I've read in the realm of rock are less about a single person and more portraits of the band as an entity. Thus while Don Felder's autobiography is from his viewpoint and covers his own upbringing, it is centered around, and focused more upon, his time with the Eagles.
Most of these I've read focus upon bands or groups that were popular doing my coming-of-age and young adult years, from about 1960 until the late 1970's. (Once disco became a major part of the music scene, I switched to the oldies station ... and left it there ...)
The music you hear when you are young tends to stick with you. Not that you can't enjoy newer stuff when it comes along, but that song you were listening to just before you got laid the first time is ever so much more memorable than any you hear when you are fifty.
Unless, of course, you didn't get laid until you were fifty ...
Um. Anyway, mostly what I've done in the past is put up the name of the book, the author, and then reviewed the work, from the writing to the content. I'm not gonna do it that way this time. I'm not telling you the name of the book, who wrote it, or who the group was featured at the center. But I bet anybody who wants to can figure it out without having to work at it.
There's a reason for this, and it involves me being able to say what I want to say without worrying about libel ...
I prefer a warts-and-all painting to a hagiography. And a lot of times, especially in autobiographies, the writer spends a fair amount of energy trying to justify his bad behavior, so you don't see many of the warts. Yeah, yeah, I toked up now and then, but just, you know, to be one of the boys.
And yeah, I indulged in some, ah ... partying with the young girls who came back stage and to our rooms, but, you know, a man would have to be a saint to resist and I really tried, but ...
Well, yeah, I got hooked on heroin, but I wasn't using the needle, I was just snorting it, and I was able to do my job, so it didn't really affect me ...
And so on. This is a natural human tendency, to offer up the "Yes, but–" explanation. We've all done that.
Keith Richards probably did the best job I've read recently of telling it like it was without spending too much of the telling justifying his self-destructive actions. Keef, as you read, you realize, is a pretty smart fellow in a lot of ways.
The latest book about which I am going to speak is more of an all-warts-all-the-time picture, and apt to make the one Dorian Gray kept in his attic (even after much debauchery) look like big-eyed children on black velvet by comparison.
This writer and this group–and you know who they are, and their music–had the gold and platinum records out the wazoo. They came out of the late sixties and at their peak, were the hottest act on the road. Some classic rock songs you would know unless you just got here from Mars. I liked their music.
And if half the stuff in the book is true, these guys were atop the pyramid of self-centered, pea-brained asshole rock stars.
It's not just that they drank enough booze to float a battleship; nor that they took enough drugs to stone every sailor onboard that battleship into a coma; nor that they liked their groupies particularly young–thirteen? fourteen? hey, big enough, old enough! Nor is it just that they trashed hotel rooms, tore up the furniture, threw TV sets out the windows, and behaved like manic two-year-olds whenever they weren't on stage. Nor that they were cruel to everyone around them—and each other.
Not just young and stupid, they were stupid first ...
All those things clumped together would be enough, but the real clincher is that past that, there was nobody home. Other than their music, they didn't appear to have any redeeming qualities. They didn't love dogs or children, they weren't self-aware. They were greedy, surly, ill-mannered, under-educated, felt entitled to whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it. They had egos to put small planets to shame. They didn't seem to care about anything except themselves.
And when karma slouched round and began to beat the crap out of them, I had trouble feeling any sympathy for any of them. ODs, injury, deaths, these are terrible things, but in the back of my mind, that little voice kept nodding and saying, "Yep, yep, serves you right."
Eventually they disbanded, went their separate ways, and they all have enough money to live rich forever. But a great example of how power corrupts.