The 26th April 2012 sees the re-release of one of the greatest Rock Books of all time – The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth.
The book mixes a history of the band with a first hand account of being The Stones’ live-in writer at the height of their notoriety. Extraordinarily, it took fifteen years between writing and its eventual publication in 1984, (my copy is a Sphere paperback dated 1985) and even more bafflingly, subsequently went out of print for fourteen years, (due to disputes with publishers – according to Booth’s postscript in this new edition) hence the possibility of this re-release.
Stanley Booth travelled with The Stones during their 1969 tour of America, which ended with the ill-fated free concert at Altamont in front of 300,000 people, during which an 18 year old man, Meredith Hunter, was stabbed to death by Hells Angels, who were employed by the band as “security” instead of the police.
Booth was on the stage surrounded by Hells Angels that night, and saw everything the Stones saw. It is difficult to imagine a closer portrait of The Stones than the one painted here.
We have a young but careworn Stones on tour in 1969. Scared cops beat the stoned audience with clubs. Richards looks like “an insane advertisement for a dangerous carefree Death”. Watts is friendly, Mick Taylor shy and Wyman predatory.
As Booth looks back at the history of the band in a fascinating couple of chapters he interviews Brian Jones‘ mum and dad in Cheltenham not long after the guitarist’s death…
We follow the band to Laurel Canyon, then look back to Redlands – Richards’ country house – where that 1967 arrest took place. We travel to the Whisky-à-Go-Go to see a “brooding-eyed” Chuck Berry play sloppily as Keith watches on, once more the schoolboy when he first heard “Sweet Little Sixteen“. The band travel to Sunset Sound recording studios as Jagger smokes a huge joint “looking like Theda Bara” during an illicit recording session of Midnight Rambler….and then we go across America supported by BB King and Ike and Tina Turner. Mick dates an Ikette. Ike seems displeased.
If you hadn’t guessed by now, the whole book is just reeking in atmosphere – in one scene Booth shares heroin with Keith – this is not a book for the faint-hearted.
The band are bitchy and unguarded. They tell of how the band started, of old fights – such as the time Keith punched Brian in the eye for stealing his bag of chicken. The band were on tour supporting Bo Diddley at Southend Odeon when Brian ate the bag of fried chicken Keith had left on the side whilst the latter had been, er, passing time with a groupie. Never mess with a man’s chicken…
They tell of the time in 1964 when cops forced Keith to pour his Coke down the drain at gunpoint because they thought it contained scotch. Keith bought a .38 revolver the next day, in case he might want to drink a Coke backstage again sometime. I’d have stuck to Pepsi…
But most fascinating of all – and the climax of the book – is the Altamont gig. An extract is in this month’s issue of Uncut magazine and it is amazing reading even now. The picture painted is of a band entering hell, of a tense atmosphere and an accident waiting to happen. If you have seen the film Gimme Shelter you’ll have an idea…
If you have any interest in 60’s pop culture, The Rolling Stones, or rock music in general this book is unmissable.
The True Adventures of The Rolling Stones features in my new list of the Top 50 Music Books of all time which is now a permanent feature on the Every Record Tells A Story site. Do check it out for a comprehensive list of the greatest rock biographies and music books.
Record #36: The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
Categories: Rock Music