Books chart the rock of ages

STILL GOT IT: Mick Jagger performs live with The Rolling Stones at 02 Arena on November 25, 2012 in London, England.
STILL GOT IT: Mick Jagger performs live with The Rolling Stones at 02 Arena on November 25, 2012 in London, England.

The year 2012 will be remembered for numerous surprise trends.

Who would have predicted that a South Korean pop song would be a worldwide hit? And who would have foreseen that 2012 would be the year of the rock bio?

It seems as if every old rocker is doing it. Rod Stewart's Rod: The Autobiography continues to be the No 1 selling international non-fiction book in New Zealand. Other autobiographies, including Pete Townshend's Who I Am, have also been selling well.

But why this year? Why so many new biographies and autobiographies, including Leonard Cohen, Kenny Rogers, Mick Jagger and even Kiwi veteran John Rowles? Maybe, like the Rowles' hit, they no longer have the excuse of If I Only Had Time. Many of them are in their 60s and 70s and instinctively looking back on having lives less ordinary.

Or, it could be as Neil Young said earlier this year around the release of his autobiography Waging Heavy Peace: "Writing is very convenient, has a low expense and is a great way to pass the time," said the musician, who plays Wellington in March.

"I highly recommend it to any old rocker who is out of cash and doesn't know what to do next."

So why do we want to read about the lives of rock veterans? Undoubtedly to know about the music. But let's be honest, it's only part of the equation. Sociologists pointed out long ago that we are attracted to rock stars not only because we envy their success and adulation, but because they take risks with their behaviour - including drug use and promiscuity.

Most of us aren't prepared to take those risks, but are fascinated by those who report from the front.

The three magnets are sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.

With that in mind, here's our shortcut guide to recent bios of Stewart, Jagger, Rogers, Rowles and Townshend.


MICK: When police raided a country home they were alarmed to find Mick "wearing makeup" and his girlfriend Marianne Faithful seated next to him only wearing a fur rug pulled from a bed.

ROD: On meeting future wife Rachel Hunter for the first time: "I awoke the next morning glowing with excitement . . . [then] I remembered, with a cold feeling abruptly passing across my kidneys, that I had arranged an airborne marriage proposal for that lunchtime."

PETE: "I woke in the night, still in a trance, with Danny's hands all over my body . . . I wanted to be someone who felt at ease with an unconventional sexual life and I realised I was probably bisexual."

KENNY: "I came home unexpectedly one day after being on the road, and a young guy had his clothes in my closet."

JOHN: "If there are any young men out there wondering how to attract women: start singing."


MICK: When Brian Jones and Keith Richards experimented with LSD for the first time they urged Jagger to try it. The health-conscious Jagger preferred to hold back for a while.

ROD: "Anything that had to be smoked was out of the question because I wanted to protect my voice."

PETE: "Deciding that cocaine would continue to help me with my work, I got one of our crew in London to score me a large quantity. It turned out to be cut with rubbish that made me ill."

KENNY: "My brother-in-law was a great athlete, but he was also something else: a drug addict . . .

" He asked [me] for a solemn pledge to avoid drugs and I gave it to him. And, with a few infractions along the way, I have largely kept that pledge."

JOHN: "I never got into the coke, although I did get into the marijuana a few times. But the coke was ugly in those days. It was turning people into monsters."


MICK: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction began life as a filler for their next album. The famous opening guitar riff was to have been played by a horn section.

ROD: "In 1971, when Maggie May came out I had to go on Top of the Pops to promote it, [band] the Faces came along for a laugh and we tried - and failed - to break into the dressing room of Pan's People, the show's resident female dance troupe."

PETE: "My left ear stopped functioning . . . already damaged by [drummer] Keith [Moon's] explosion on the Smothers Brothers' show, it would never be the same again."

KENNY: "We took a minibus from Dunedin to Auckland and did concerts in about 13 cities along the length of the country. We were treated like superstars. They loved us in New Zealand."

- Mick Jagger by Philip Norman, HarperCollins, $36.99; Rod: The Autobiography by Rod Stewart, Random House, $37.99; Who I Am by Pete Townshend, HarperCollins, $44.99; Luck or Something Like It: A Memoir by Kenny Rogers, HarperCollins, $34.99; If I Only Had Time by John Rowles with Angus Gilles, New Holland Publishers, $49.99.

The Dominion Post