The True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones
By Shane Pinnegar
In 1969 The Rolling Stones were bravely going where literally NO ONE had gone before them. The music industry had grown exponentially, and their organisation was struggling to keep up, still scheduling concerts in college gym halls. Their naivette hadn’t yet been crushed, though – it would take this tour to do that…
Booth tells the story of The Stones’ ’69 tour across America intertwined with his own tale as his, and The Stones’s, lives go steadily off the rails. Drug use escalates, sleep deprivation becomes the norm, and flawed decisions, poor associations, and inept management abounds. A further parallel narrative goes into great detail about the band’s origins and the demise of original guitarist and one-time driving force, Brian Jones, a man destined to shine incandescently, however briefly.
As the tour heads towards Altamont on December 6th, 1969, dark clouds are gathering and, just as history tells us that nothing was the same after the acid-fuelled Hells Angels brutally beat and stabbed Meredith Hunter to death during The Rolling Stones set, Booth reminds us that this was no sudden, unconnected moment of violence – the prevailing mood in America was of a society about to fracture, a counter culture who couldn’t possibly live up to its lofty ideals and were about to fall flat on its face. From this moment forth the Hells Angels would always be violent outlaws, the hippies would always be naïve stoners, and the rockstars would always be egotistical, vain and out of touch with reality.
“The True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones” took Booth almost fifteen years to write, and includes the history of the band up to 1969, pieced together through priceless intimate interviews with band members, family members, and key figures in their inner circle as he travelled with them on the ’69 tour.
It’s a roller coaster – perfectly paced from the parallel narratives of the promising, bright start of the ’69 tour and the pure, music loving days when the band was first formed, right up to the dark and violent end of the tour, alongside the descent of the band into drugs and the expulsion and mysterious death of Jones.
A 1999 epilogue explains that Booth made nothing from his epic 552 page tale, details some of his own post-tour drug and personal problems - he amusingly tells of a Playboy interview he did with Keith Richards in the late 80's, in which he wrote "It now costs Keith and me one hundredth of what it used to to get through an evening...". That is the upper echelons of drug buddies, right there, and you want to tread very lightly if you aim to live through that kind of use. He also discusses some of the problems he had "making the manuscript work".
But work it does – it is an un-put-downable train wreck of a story, never short of fascinating as Booth peels back the veils for what is quite possibly the definitive expose of the decadence and danger of The world’s greatest rock n’ roll band as they – and the world – changes forever. Described by Keith Richards himself as “Yeah, that’s how it was”, and critics as “a masterpiece” and “both the general reader and the most devoted fan will find an epiphany on almost every page”, this is an essential read and a work of true insight and dark, dangerous beauty.
Review posted 31 July 2012