Written by Bill German   
Monday, 13 June 2011 01:38

I just got my hands on the Brazilian edition of "Under Their Thumb."  It was published a few weeks ago, translated to Portuguese, and is available through Saraiva (Brazil's version of Barnes & Noble).  The Stones have a huge following in Brazil -- evidenced by their 2006 concert in Rio, which drew a million people -- so I'm pretty excited.

I don't speak Portuguese, so I don't know how certain Americanisms translated, but I do see that the book contains a handful of clarifying footnotes.  In chapter 6, for instance, when I liken a conversation I'd had with Keith to an Abbott & Costello routine, they've got a footnote that reads: "Serie animada que contava a historia dos comediantes Bud Abbott e Lou Costello."  I guess "Who's on first?" didn't have the same impact on Brazilian culture as it did in America.

The biggest difference, as you can see below left, is that they changed the cover image.  I've always felt that the photo on the U.S. edition (and British edition, below right) captured the book's essence: You've got Keith and his bottle of Jack, walking the streets of Manhattan, with 17-year-old me behind him (handing an issue of my fanzine to an off-camera Ronnie Wood).  It demonstrates the Stones' accessibility during a magical time and place in their history.  Even the truck and "No Parking" sign in the background scream New York City.  But I didn't object to this new cover photo because I fully understand that, to market a book to a lot of young fans in Brazil, they've got to put Mick on the front instead of just the author and Keith.  (By contrast, I got a kick out of how the British publisher played up the book's author -- by adding an arrow and the word "Me!")

It's also interesting to note that "Brooklyn" was removed from the Brazilian edition's sub title.  While Brooklyn still holds some cachet and/or piques curiosity in certain parts of the world (including England), it's apparently waning, or never existed, in others.

Translating between cultures can be a tricky job, no doubt.  I remember how Ricky Ricardo would yell in Spanish whenever he got upset.  Most of us Americans -- including Lucy Ricardo -- had no idea what he was saying, but that's part of what made it funny.  So my question is, when the show was dubbed into Spanish, did they dub Ricky's rant into English?  Like I say, translating cultural humor can be a tricky proposition.

I'm told that France is next on the "Under Their Thumb" translation schedule.  Maybe they'll keep the original cover image and Photoshop the Eiffel Tower behind Keith instead of that "No Parking" sign.

Cover of the Brazilian edition. Cover of the British edition.

Written by Bill German   
Friday, 03 June 2011 14:44

It's going to be a tough Father's Day for me.  My first one without my dad.  Bernie passed away three weeks ago from diabetes, at the age of 77.

Whenever someone marvels at the fact that I didn't become a drug addict while hanging around the Stones, I tell 'em I owe it all to Bernie.  As I explained in "Under Their Thumb," my dad possessed a sense of self-discipline that he passed on to me by example.  He might have had a drink after work, but nothing more.  He might have gambled in A.C. or Vegas twice a year, but, win or lose, that was enough for him.  And when his doctor told him to give up his beloved cigars, he did so the next day, cold turkey.

Bernie took some tough jobs during the 1970s recession -- like driving a delivery van during the freezing New York winters -- just so he could put food on the table for me and my family.  I learned by watching him that you could have fun and pursue your dreams, but that you couldn't shirk your responsibilities and commitments.

I mean, here was a guy who let me quit college to follow the Rolling Stones.  While other parents were going, "My son the doctor," he was left to say, "My son the fanzine publisher."  I easily could have messed it up and thrown my life away with drugs and booze.  But I knew I couldn't let my parents -- or the subscribers to my fanzine -- down.  I may have hung out with Keith and Woody till sunrise, but I never forgot that there was work to be done when I got home.  Ultimately, I kept my 'zine running for 17 years, thanks to that strong sense of commitment I inherited from Dad.  In fact, today (June 3) would have marked his and Mom's 55th wedding anniversary.

Dad was blind for the last few years of his life, so he never got to read "Under Their Thumb."  But I'm glad he'll live on in its pages.  I partially dedicated the book to him, and I've got a photo in there (different than the one below) of the time he and my mom met Keith.  Dad didn't care about the Stones -- "Fiddler on the Roof" was more his speed -- but he appreciated that Keith was an important person in my life and wanted to thank him.  He introduced himself at a party -- "Hey, Keith, we're Bill's parents" -- and they got along swimmingly.

Dad taught me to view the glass as half-full.  Whenever he'd reflect upon his poor vision -- which he'd struggled with since childhood (unrelated to his diabetes) -- he wouldn't complain.  "Well," he'd say, "at least my bad eyes kept me out of the Korean War."  He tried to see the good in every person and in every situation, and that's a trait I'll carry with me the rest of my life.  So maybe I'll use this Father's Day to celebrate my dad's life, not to lament his death, and it won't be so tough after all.

Bernie and Sylvia party with Keith, 1988.

Written by Bill German   
Wednesday, 23 February 2011 17:53

My favorite Stones concert of all time -- no, wait, my favorite concert, period -- took place twenty-five years ago tonight, February 23, 1986, at a small nightclub in London.  And no one, not even the Stones, knew in advance that it was going to take place.

The Stones -- who were not getting along at the time -- agreed to gather at the 100 Club to memorialize Ian Stewart, one of the band's founding members.  "Stu" had passed away two months earlier of a heart attack, at age 47.  Two hundred people were invited to the memorial, including yours truly.  In order to attend, I rushed to the passport office to obtain my first-ever passport.  I knew that all five Stones would be there, but there were no plans for them to actually play.  The only expected entertainment was Rocket 88, the boogie woogie jazz group that Stu helped form in the late '70s.

But shortly after Rocket 88 left the stage, they were replaced by Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and Bill.  Charlie showed up late, so Simon Kirke of Bad Company sat in on drums.  "Let's do some songs Stu would want to play," announced Mick.  They launched into "Route 66," followed by "Down The Road Apiece."  "This is totally improvised," added Mick.  "Any requests?  Yell 'em up."

Charlie eventually showed up, marking the first time that the five Stones had played onstage together in four years.  (It would be another three years before they'd play again.)  Seeing the Stones in a small nightclub (for free) was mindblowing enough for me, but it reached surreal proportions when some of their mates joined them onstage.  Eric Clapton hopped up to play "Key To The Highway," "Confessin' The Blues," and "I'm A Man."  And Jeff Beck crammed in for "Bye Bye Johnny."  Clapton then made way for Pete Townshend.

I wrote extensively about this show in Volume 2, Number 9 of Beggars Banquet and a bit about it "Under Their Thumb" (pages 104-105; photo on page 100).  But for now, here's the set list, with guest guitarists in parentheses.  (Note that Charlie didn't replace Simon Kirke until after "Little Red Rooster."  Also note that Chuck Leavell played piano on several songs.)  The thing I love about this set is that it included no Jagger-Richards compositions, emphasizing that this night was about Stu, not the Stones.  In fact, the other remarkable part of this night is that the Stones didn't make a dime.

Rolling Stones (and guests) at the 100 Club, London, 2/23/86:

  1. Route 66
  2. Down The Road Apiece
  3. Key To The Highway (Clapton)
  4. Confessin' The Blues (Clapton)
  5. I'm A Man (Clapton)
  6. Bye Bye Johnny (Beck, Clapton)
  7. Harlem Shuffle (Townshend, Beck)
  8. Little Red Rooster (Townshend, Beck)
  9. Meet Me In The Bottom (Townshend, Beck)
  10. Dust My Broom (Clapton, Townshend)
  11. Little Queenie (Clapton, Townshend; Jack Bruce replaces Bill Wyman)

Visit the News page at Beggars Banquet Online for details of a 2011 Stu tribute involving all the Stones.


Written by Bill German   
Saturday, 11 December 2010 02:42

People have been asking me what I think of Keith's book, "Life."  So far, I've only had the chance to skim through it, so I don't feel entitled to give a full review.  I've enjoyed the little I've read -- mostly jumping to the stories I personally witnessed -- but have caught several chronological errors.  Nothing too egregious, but some of the mistakes present a problem for anyone who's read "Under Their Thumb."  Who got it right, German or Richards?

To be fair, I've caught a couple of errors in my own book since its publication.  On page 257, I state that sax man Bobby Keys began touring with the Stones in 1972.  It's true he made his American debut with the band that year, but he'd already joined them for their 1970 and '71 tours of Europe and the UK.  I've long enjoyed bootleg recordings from those tours, so I should've caught my error sooner.  But I didn't, and it made it into my book.

My other inaccuracy comes on page 214.  I'm telling Keith's friend Freddy Sessler that the Stones have never announced an audience member's birthday onstage.  "The Stones aren't Willard Scott," I tell him sarcastically.  "They don't do birthday announcements.  They've NEVER done a birthday announcement."  Well, I recently watched the film "Ladies and Gentlemen" and was surprised to hear Mick deliver such a shout-out during a 1972 concert.  I'd seen that film several times as a kid, but didn't remember that part.  (And of course, when you think about it, the Stones must have regularly done birthday announcements when they were playing school dances in 1962.)

But speaking of Freddy Sessler: A lot of people tell me he was their favorite character in my book.  I have a chapter in "Under Their Thumb" about him getting busted in Las Vegas during the 1994 "Voodoo Lounge" tour.  Keith alludes to that same incident in "Life," but says it was on the 1999 "No Security" tour.  It's no big deal and doesn't change the outcome of the story, but I can assure you that "Under Their Thumb" got it right, and "Life" got it wrong.  I was with Freddy that day, and Keith wasn't.

You want another "Life" error?  Well, I feel funny correcting Keith about the date of his father's death, but that's another place where our books disagree.  On page 345 of "Under Their Thumb," I state that Bert died in 2000, while on page 546 of "Life," Keith states it was 2002.  Granted, Bert was Keith's dad, not mine, and Keith's the one who snorted him, not me.  But I'm right, Keith's wrong.  Maybe he just blocked it from his memory.

Like I said, Keith's errors are of no significance to most of his readers, and they are far from the most controversial parts of his book.  I mention the two examples here only because they clash with "Under Their Thumb."  I mean, Keith has that bit in his book about the size of Mick's genitalia, and I can offer no personal knowledge about that.


Written by Bill German   
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 16:00

It's hard to believe that 30 years have passed since the assassination of John Lennon.  I was an 18-year-old journalism student at NYU, living with my parents in Brooklyn.  I was on the phone with a friend, shortly before midnight, when my mom said that WNBC-TV news had just broken in to the Johnny Carson show.  "They're saying that someone shot John Lennon, right in front of his house."

The story didn't sound believable to me.  What are the chances that a mugger would pick John Lennon?  And even if it did happen, someone like John would hand over his wallet, end of story.  I told both my mother and my friend that it had to be a mistake.  "Some idiot thinks it's John Lennon, but it's not."  I was either in denial or exhibiting my newfound journalistic skepticism.

I tuned in to WNBC-TV and phoned another friend.  The news soon came that John Lennon had not only been shot, but that he was pronounced dead.  My friend and I knew there was only one place we needed to be.

Within ten minutes, he picked me up in his dad's car and we zoomed up to the Dakota, the building where John lived and died.  We stayed there until 4 or 5 a.m., alongside hundreds, if not thousands, of other New Yorkers and music fans.  For one night, the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West was the center of the universe.  Some folks sang Beatles songs, some folks had their ears pressed to the radio, and some folks simply stood there and cried.  But we all experienced it as one.  It was a sense of community that I'm not sure we have in our culture today.

The media was a different animal back then, so the Stones didn't feel the need to release any kind of press statement.  But in an interview some years ago, Keith claimed he spent the night armed with a gun, searching the city for John's killer.  I assume he started in the vicinity of the Dakota, but I know I didn't see him there.

Written by Bill German   
Friday, 01 October 2010 14:02

If you attended any of my book signings in 2009, you may have had the good fortune to meet Dessie, my live-in girlfriend.  She accompanied me for most of my book tour.  I dedicated "Under Their Thumb" to her because she was there for me when I began writing it and was there for me when I completed it.

We first met in 1997 at a Stones concert in Port Chester, New York.  By coincidence or fate, we wound up sitting right next to each other.  It was a fairly exclusive concert (only 1200 seats) and we were in the VIP section, so she assumed I was only there to make the scene.  "Are you even a Stones fan?" she asked me indignantly.

Dessie was a Stones fan since childhood, and she got into the Port Chester show through a scalper.  When I explained to her that I'd spent 17 years of my life publishing a newsletter about the Stones, I think I answered her question.  We went on our first date a few days later.

At the time, I had a "non-Stones-fan" policy when it came to choosing girlfriends (so as to separate my work life from my love life), but I made an exception for her.  We went to several Stones concerts together in 1998, and I let her read the embryonic passages of what would become "Under Their Thumb."

We dated for a year before breaking up, but we then reconnected in 2006.  We resumed dating like no time had passed.  But unfortunately it had.  She was now a stage-4 cancer patient.

In September 2007, she moved into my cramped studio apartment on Manhattan's upper west side.  We tried to not let her cancer get in our way.  She read the final drafts of my book and was thrilled about its publication in 2009.  I think the excitement of it all -- watching me finish the book and joining me on the tour -- added some quality (and maybe some quantity) to her life.

Meanwhile, she was teaching me to appreciate every breath.  She celebrated all of life's milestones -- from friends' kids' birthdays and grade school graduations, to Super Bowl Sunday, to the latest Stones release -- and never stopped going to concerts, dinners, museums, and movies.  On certain days, we'd watch the sun set in Riverside Park and she'd literally get me to stop and smell the roses.

There were a few times when her chemotherapy schedule made it impossible for her to escort me to a book signing event.  If it was a local event, she'd be waiting up for me when I got home.  And if it was out of town, I couldn't wait to phone her as soon as I got back to the hotel.

Dessie was hospitalized in February of this year and never came home.  I visited her every day, until she passed away on May 9, at the age of 49.  It was days shy of the "Exile on Main Street" re-release and of her daughter's 21st birthday (from a previous marriage).  Two milestones she would have loved to celebrate.

We buried her in her Rolling Stones jacket (the tuxedo that was given out at the Buffalo '78 show) and in one of her Stones blouses.  Almost like she was dressed up for another concert.

I've got some book signings coming up soon and I'm looking forward to them.  But it's going to be tough not being able to call her from the hotel or having her here for me when I walk through the door.


Written by Bill German   
Sunday, 27 June 2010 01:51

It's hard to believe that today marks thirty years since I first met the Stones, outside a nightclub in New York City.  June 26, 1980.

I've written extensively about that day in "Under Their Thumb," but a new thought just occurred to me:  My encounter with the Stones that day foreshadowed my future relationships with them.  Mick was moody and aloof, Keith and Ronnie were friendly and inviting, Bill Wyman was quiet yet pleasant, and Charlie was absent.

I was 17 years old when I met them, and it was two days after my high school graduation.  You might say I experienced TWO graduations that week -- and I don't need to tell you which one had the bigger impact on my life.

Written by Bill German   
Saturday, 02 January 2010 23:30

Used to be, the Stones would only get busted for drugs.  So when I heard last month that my ol' pal and co-author Ronnie Wood got hauled in for assaulting his 21-year-old girlfriend in England, I knew it was cause for alarm.  In all the time I spent with the Woodman, I never saw him display a tendency toward violence.

Obviously, this was the booze working, but not by itself.  Woody, at 62, is going through something of a midlife crisis.  He's thrown away his marriage to Jo, one of the few stable people in his life, and that explains why the Woody of today is different from the Woody I knew in the 1980s and '90s.  (Today would have been their 25th wedding anniversary.  They'd been with each other since 1977.)

As I recently told an interviewer for the Wall Street Journal, Ronnie has a touch of ADD.  He's all over the place, mentally and physically, and it's hard for him to say no to anything.  Which is exactly where Jo would come in.  She'd try her best to keep him away from the bad influences and from taking things too far.  She's also the one who threw him into rehab several times.  He could not have survived the last three decades without her.

I'm not sure who he'll listen to at this point.  (The judge, by the way, let him off with a slap on the wrist.)  Reports say that Keith hasn't spoken to him in a while, but I have no idea if that's true.  All I know is that I haven't had an in-person conversation with him in five years.  (I was about to send him a note with my book recently, but he moved into a love nest with his cocktail waitress and I couldn't get their address.)  My fervent hope, however, is that after years of having people take care of him (his wife, his roadies, his managers, his co-authors), he'll finally take care of his own damned self and get back into rehab (among other long-term therapies).

My blind optimism tells me that he'll straighten himself out, which will be a good thing for him and his family, and that he'll be well enough to tour with the Stones in 2010/11, which'll be a good thing for the rest of us.  The blogosphere and British tabloids, however, are currently rampant with rumors such as "Stones to replace Wood."  They're all baseless and premature, but hopefully those rumors will help scare him straight.

Woody, the ball's in your court.

Written by Bill German   
Saturday, 10 October 2009 12:59

After taking the summer off, I'm excited to be doing a few more discussions and signings.  First up is the Brooklyn Museum on Saturday, November 7, where "Under Their Thumb" will be featured by the museum's Book Club.  I'll be speaking/signing at 9 o'clock that night, and it's part of the museum's monthly First Saturday series, where admission is free.  My appearance will coincide with the museum's "Who Shot Rock & Roll?" exhibit, so it'll be a unique opportunity to view some great rock 'n' roll images (including photos of the Stones) and everything else the museum has to offer, free of charge.  (They do sell food and booze.  And parking's just 4 bucks.)  Check the Events page or the museum's web site for more info and directions.

I want to convey my gratitude to everyone who showed up to my events in the spring.  I was overwhelmed by the turnouts at chain stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders (in New York and Philly), as well as indie stores like Book Soup (in Los Angeles) and the Book Revue (in Long Island).

At some of the events, I was thrilled to reunite with the characters from my book.  People I hadn't seen in years -- like the guy who sneaked me into my high school's mimeo room to print the first copies of my fanzine (see page 6) and the guy who called to tell me about the Stones' "Out On Bail" bootleg while I was in the process of almost losing my virginity (see page 5).

But there were bittersweet moments, too.  At one book signing, I was approached by the sister of Lisa, the wheelchair-bound girl from page 284.  Lisa had MS, and won my contest in 1993 to see Mick's private club gig at Webster Hall.  She was so eager to see the show, she didn't care that the club wasn't wheelchair accessible.  "I'll climb the stairs on my hands and knees," she told me back then.  (The end of that story is on page 294.)  Sadly, Lisa died a few weeks before my book signing near her town in Long Island.  Her sister said that if Lisa were still alive, she would definitely have been there.  So she and Lisa's best friend came in her stead.

At Book Soup in Los Angeles, a stranger handed me a note during the Q & A portion of my spiel.  His note said that he was unable to speak, but that he still had a question for me.  I read it aloud to the audience.  He was asking whether I'd ever performed my Stones impersonations in front of the Stones.  (At each of my book signings, I usually throw in a couple to amuse the audience.)  I relayed the story (from page 90) about how I tried to do Mick in front of Mick but sounded more like Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Later, when the guy approached me to get his book signed, he handed me another note.  It said that he couldn't speak because he had tongue cancer.  I told him to "hang in there."  And yes, in light of the Stones' famous logo, he does recognize (on his own blog) the irony of a Stones fan getting tongue cancer.

The November 7 event at the Brooklyn Museum should be a lot of fun.  If you live in the New York area, I hope to meet you there.  Tell me your stories and I'll tell you mine.

Written by Bill German   
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 12:36

I was surprised by how much media attention the Charlie-to-quit rumor got last week.  Some web site in Australia claimed that Charlie was leaving the Stones and that the band was already looking for his replacement.  As soon as I read it -- a ton of people sent me the link -- I knew the whole thing was preposterous and not worth dignifying with a response.

But the story got picked up by media outlets around the world, forcing the Stones' publicist to release an official statement: "Contrary to a fabricated story that ran this morning on a small music web site in Australia, drummer Charlie Watts has not left the Rolling Stones."

I may not be in the Stones loop like I used to be -- and even when I was, the one Stone I never got to know was Charlie -- but I can tell you one thing: No single member of the Stones will ever unilaterally break up the band -- which is what would happen if one of the original three quit -- because no one wants that on their head.

Keith considers Charlie the "engine room" and would never step onstage as the Rolling Stones without him.  If Charlie leaves, it's over.  Same with Mick and Keith, of course.  The Stones may have lost a member here and there in the last 40 years, but those three guys are the core.  None of them will ever go to the others and say, "I quit, go on without me."  If the Stones ever do officially announce a retirement -- which I personally don't think will happen -- they'll make that decision as a group.

As Keith likes to say, "No one leaves the Stones except in a coffin."

Written by Bill German   
Thursday, 14 May 2009 05:00
A lot of people have been asking me what stories I left out of "Under Their Thumb." The final version of the book is about half the size of my original draft. But take heart, Stones fans: The stories I cut had little or nothing to do with the Stones themselves -- including the one about Andrew Loog Oldham.

Considering that Andrew was the guy who "discovered" the Stones and served as their first real manager and producer, it seems ironic that my Andrew story wouldn't be relevant to my Stones-related book, but such is the case.

I first met Andrew when I was 16 years old at a New York City nightclub called Trax. It was June 1979, and it was the first time I'd ever gone to a "grownup club." (The drinking age was 18, but they didn't card me.) I went to see a singer named Neon Leon, who was a black punk rocker -- a friend and neighbor of Sid Vicious's -- and who was rumored to be the next act on Rolling Stones Records. I heard that Andrew was going to be at the show, so I geekily brought my Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra LP for him to sign. He did so graciously, as you can see from the photos below.

The next time I made contact with Andrew was in 1982, when I was 19. I was doing free publicity work for an unsigned band from Brooklyn, called L.A. Trash. They were friends of mine, so I was sort of their manager-until-they-got-a-manager. They had a gig at a nightclub on the Bowery and were determined to lure as many industry people as possible. We scoured issues of Billboard and came up with 80 bigwigs to invite. I wrote up a press release and, along with the guitarist, hand-delivered it to all 80 offices. We knew someone whose dad owned a messenger service, so we were able to dress up in official-looking caps and use official-looking delivery labels. We hit places like Atlantic Records and told the receptionist, "Please see that Mr. Ertegun receives this."

To make a long story short -- it'd take me a dozen pages to tell it all -- we delivered a press release to Andrew's residence on 57th Street. The guitarist, pretending to be a messenger, got Andrew to sign for it.

Of the 80 industry people we invited to the show, Andrew was the only one who turned up. Even after his success with the Stones -- and a 1970s period where he describes himself as being "out to lunch" -- he was still musically curious and adventurous. (Very rare traits in the music biz.) He enjoyed the band's set that night and, when he recognized the guitarist as the messenger from the day before, he knew he'd found a diamond in the rough. He told me how he loved the band's pretentiousness and determination.

He signed them to a management deal and took them into the recording studio, where he produced their cover of "The Last Time." (It was my idea for them to do that song.) I worked with Andrew for almost a year, between 1982 and '83. This, of course, was at the same time I was developing my relationship with Keith, who was living at the Plaza Hotel. (See chapters 5 and 6 of "Under Their Thumb.") I was 20 years old and I was the only person in the world who'd speak to Andrew Loog Oldham and Keith Richards on the same day. And of course, I didn't tell one about the other. (At the time, Andrew was still semi-employed by the Stones' arch enemy, Allen Klein.)

In the end, nothing came of L.A. Trash's relationship with Andrew. He moved to Bogota and Vancouver , and I didn't see him for almost 25 years. But we reconnected recently, and he invited me to his radio show. I'll be on with him this Saturday, May 16, over Sirius-XM's "Underground Garage" station, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern. (That's channel 25 if you've got the Sirius unit, and channel 59 if you've got XM. Oh, and the show will be repeated on Sunday the 17th, at noon Eastern.) We'll discuss our "previous life" together and maybe spin some interesting records -- like my Neon Leon 45 (a cover of "Heart of Stone" featuring Mick Jagger on back vocals) and L.A. Trash's "The Last Time" (produced by the inimitable Andrew Loog Oldham).

By the way, I'd recommend Andrew's show whether I was set to appear on it or not. He's worth the price of a Sirius-XM subscription alone.

Written by Bill German   
Tuesday, 10 March 2009 15:14

I'm headed to California at the end of this month for book signings in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But first I want to thank everyone who showed up to my first-ever book signing, which took place on February 26 at Barnes & Noble in Brooklyn. The turnout was overwhelming, and I was thrilled to meet and to reunite with some of my old Beggars Banquet subscribers. The event exceeded Barnes & Noble's expectations, so I'm both happy and sad that they sold out of books before everyone could get one. One of my old subscribers came all the way from New Hampshire and had to leave empty-handed! (And he didn't even win the award for coming the furthest. An old subscriber surprised me by flying in from London. Like I said, it was a truly gratifying and overwhelming experience for me.) The photos below were taken at the event by legendary rock photographer Chuck Pulin.

To California. I'll be at Book Soup in Hollywood on Tuesday, March 31, to discuss and sign the book. 8818 Sunset Boulevard. Kicks off at 7 p.m. I first learned of Book Soup in 1987, when I accompanied Ronnie Wood during his book tour for "The Works" (the book I co-authored with him). The line went around the corner, and I was flattered when some people asked for my signature, too. (I actually mention it on page 138 of "Under Their Thumb.")

After Book Soup, I'll be headed north to sign books at the San Francisco Art Exchange on Saturday, April 4. I first learned of them that same year, 1987, as they were one of the first galleries to exhibit Ronnie Wood's artwork. They've never stopped. They're the only gallery in the world to show his work for 22 years straight. They've got his old stuff, his new stuff, plus lots of Stones images by other artists and photographers, such as Sebastian Kruger, Michael Cooper, Dominique Tarle, and Ethan Russell. Images that'll blow your mind. So, after you get me to sign your book, stick around, feast your eyes on what they've got on the walls, and maybe take a piece home with ya. They're located at 458 Geary Street, and the event begins at 2 p.m.

I can't wait to come out there and see as many of you as possible.

bnleft bnmiddle bnright

Written by Bill German   
Sunday, 15 February 2009 14:36

I've begun doing interviews for the book and have enjoyed chatting with my fellow journalists. One of them said that he loved my book, but had a single complaint. He didn't like how I used the word "alright" because the correct spelling is "all right." "It's two words," he said. "Not one."

I told him that I chose to spell it as "alright" -- above the protests of my editor at Random House -- because it felt more "Stonesy." The first place I ever saw that spelling was on the Stones' "Got Live If You Want It" album when I was ten, and, ever since that day, I've spelled it that way. (My dictionary says that although it's incorrect, it has become somewhat acceptable -- as long as your reader knows it's "a token of willful unconventionality rather than a mark of ignorance.")

"I'm Alright," which appeared on the "Got Live If You Want It" LP, was the Stones' take on a Bo Diddley song. And it was because of the Stones that I fell in love with Bo and his music. They covered a lot of his songs (like "Mona," "Diddley Daddy," "Crackin' Up") and would talk about him in their interviews.

People may know Bo for the "Bo Diddley beat" and for his influence on artists like the Stones, but some people don't realize the impact he had on gender relations. In a world (1950s America) where females were relegated to the kitchen, and in an industry full of misogynists, Bo showed respect for women by employing them in his band. Peggy Jones was his guitarist in the 1950s, and a woman known as The Duchess was his guitarist in the '60s. For the last 25 years of his career, his bassist was Debby Hastings, and his keyboard player (who also served as his manager) was Margo Lewis. (In the 1960s, Margo played in Goldie and the Gingerbreads, who were, to my knowledge, the first all-female band to play their own instruments. They opened for the Stones in 1965.)

When Ronnie Wood introduced me to Bo in 1987, I was beyond honored. It took place at Top Cat Studio in New York, when Woody and Bo were rehearsing for their "Gunslingers" tour. Bo was wearing his trademark black Stetson and thick-rimmed glasses. He shook my hand and said, "Pleased to meet you, young man." (I was 25.) He then reached into his pocket and handed me his business card. It read: "Kids, don't do it. Stay drug free."

I got to spend time with Bo along the Gunslingers tour, and he was nicer than I ever could have hoped. Unlike Chuck Berry, his old label mate at Chess, Bo never had a chip on his shoulder. He was phenomenally courteous, gracious, and you could sense the respect he had for women, whites, and for young people like me.

I saw him a few times in the 1990s and he never disappointed, both onstage and off. The last time I saw him was in February 2007 at BB King's nightclub in Times Square. He had to sit throughout his concert, but still exuded his old magic. He was sharp as a tack and still full of energy. Backstage before the show, he told me how he'd recently looked into the mouth of an alligator and how he'd recently saved his granddaughter from choking. He even offered to give my girlfriend a gold coin that he had. (She refused.) Despite his physical aches and pains, he was the same sweet guy I met in 1987.

Below are mementos from my first and last meetings with him, twenty years apart. On the left is the business card he gave me, and on the right is a photo from 2007. (We're flanked by Margo and Debby.) Three months after this photo was taken, Bo suffered a stroke. He never fully recovered, and he died in June 2008, at the age of 79. He was truly one of a kind, and I treasure every moment I spent with him.

I recently saw the film "Cadillac Records" and mostly enjoyed it. I was delighted that a bunch of African American kids were sitting next to me in the theater. They need to know that their culture contributed a lot more to popular music than Puff Daddy and Jay-Z. But at the end of the film -- a biopic about the founding of Chess Records -- I realized that it never mentioned Bo. And that is not alright in my book.

Bo's business cardBackstage with Bo, 2007

Woody Gets Bushed
Written by Bill German   
Monday, 02 February 2009 07:00
Amidst all the hoopla of the recent inauguration, I was reminded of the one Stones connection to the festivities.  It happened twenty years ago, when Ronnie Wood appeared as a guest performer at George Bush Senior's inaugural ball.  He played behind Bo Diddley, Percy Sledge, and Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame).  At one point in the proceedings, the new president took the stage.  I've got a picture in "Under Their Thumb" of Ronnie standing next to Bush, and you can see how befuddled he looks.  Also in the photo (and on guitar!) is Bush's late campaign manager, the controversial Lee Atwater.  Following their onstage collaboration, Ronnie became Atwater's pal, despite their differing political views. Atwater used to play in a band with Percy Sledge and had recorded with Sam Moore, so Ronnie felt he had some rock 'n' roll credibility.  (Moore, by the way, supported McCain in '08, and got annoyed when Obama used "Hold On, I'm Coming" as a campaign theme song at some rallies.)
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