The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones By Stanley Booth Chicago Review Press, 416 pp., $18.95
Reissued for its 30th anniversary -- though it chronicled events that took place 15 years before that -- The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones is, simply put, one of those essential texts of music journalism.
Groundbreaking, insightful, funny and tragic, it's a piece of reporting that could never take place today. And from a journalist whose level of access to the band seems shocking in a time when the norm today to interview rock stars is a 15-minute phoner, scrunched in among a dozen other journo talks and with a publicist listening in on the other end of the line.
Georgia-bred music scribe Booth first met and talked to the Stones in 1968 while on assignment, some months before the death of founding member Brian Jones.
But a seat-of-his-pants pitch for a book (and the subsequent convincing to the band's various factions and potential publisher) would lead to Booth's traveling across the U.S. for the bulk of the Stones' 1969 tour. He spent time with the band and its extended entourage on stage, backstage, in the recording studio, on airplanes, and many, many hotels.
And Booth is there with scattered notepads offering his reportage (and opinions) about the music, the band's interaction with each other and those around them -- his snippets on dry, wry drummer Charlie Watts are particularly amusing -- and the fans who come to the shows.
However, Booth makes no bones about offering a straight, objective eye for the at-times decadent behavior. Though, given the fact that this is the Rolling Stones in 1969, "decadent" is a relative term...
Over the course of the tour, he also forms an especially close relationship with Keith Richards to the point that they do heroin together while contemplating old blues musicians. Booth would go on to write a couple of books on Richards later.
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Booth also adds snapshots of his own life, and the Stones place in the wider scope of the '60s and changes in the culture and the music to round out a portrait.
And when the tour ends with the disaster that was Altamont, it provides an unexpected -- but rich -- context. Booth was in the copter that whisked the Stones away after their set which, of course, saw a man stabbed to death in the audience.
Ultimately, it took Booth 15 years to produce the book and for it to come out, far longer than anyone originally thought. Booth explains about the gap, placing much of the blame squarely on him and his life and actions since the tour.
By the time it appeared, the Rolling Stones of the mid-1980s were a far different band than lives in these pages musically, image-wise, and status in the greater rock world.
The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones works on so many different levels with its music reportage, character snapshots, novelistic approach, and fly-on-the-wall insight.
And, as the Rolling Stones now enter their sixth decade as a performing unit, a reminder of the good (and bad) old days for the old boys...
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