Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bill German's "Under Their Thumb"

Bill German met the Rolling Stones while he was a teenager, shortly after launching his Stones-only magazine, Beggars Banquet. The publication lasted for seventeen years, during which time he traveled the world with the Stones, stayed at their homes, and witnessed their recording sessions. He lived the dream of every Rolling Stones fan, until he eventually had to leave the life behind.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Under Their Thumb: How a Nice Boy from Brooklyn Got Mixed Up with the Rolling Stones (and Lived to Tell About It), and reported the following:
The bitter and the sweet. Both are represented on page 99 of Under Their Thumb -- as they are throughout the book.

In 1978, as a 16-year-old Rolling Stones fan and aspiring journalist, I launched a newsletter about my favorite rock band by sneaking into my high school's mimeograph room in Brooklyn. My fellow students weren't interested -- in 1978, Brooklyn was in the throes of Saturday Night Fever fever, and every kid wanted to be Tony Manero, not Mick Jagger -- so it was ironic that the Stones themselves were the ones embracing my little creation. As detailed in the first 98 pages of Under Their Thumb, the "greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world" took me under their wing and allowed me into their inner circle.

On page 99, I bring my readers to the Manhattan home of Stones guitarist Ron Wood. It was December 1985, and we were sitting in his dining room at 4 in the morning. Ron had just been hired to write a book about his life and he needed a co-author. I was hoping he'd consider me -- even though I was a 23-year-old novice -- but he hired me in his dining room before I had the chance to bring it up.

As I write on page 99, "This was the biggest thing that ever happened (to me). ... I was going to be the first person on earth to co-author a book with one of the Stones. I was so excited, I couldn't sleep when I got home. This was better than sex. I wanted to call everyone I knew, but had to wait. It was 6 o'clock in the morning."

Two hours later, I received word that Ian Stewart, one of the founding members of the Stones, had died in London that morning. Everything would get put on hold for awhile, and the Stones would obviously shift their focus.

I conclude page 99 by saying, "The air was instantly let out of my balloon. What should have been the most joyous day of my (writing) career turned out to be its gloomiest."

But that was typical of my time with the Stones. Whenever I felt too comfortable around them, I'd get a slap in the face that'd bring me back to reality. By befriending the Rolling Stones, I may have lived the dream of every baby boomer rock fan, but, as I state in my book, "Be careful what you wish for."
Read an excerpt from Under Their Thumb, and learn more about the book and author at Bill German's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue