THE LIFE OF BYRON JAYNES by James Howard Kunstler


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Rock journalist Rick Sears, once of Rolling Stone and now in limbo, is in a New Hampshire supermarket one day when he spots the most famous musician of his generation, Byron Jaynes, also wheeling a cart down the aisles. This is electrifying--since Jaynes was found dead, of heart failure, ten years earlier in a London hotel. But Jaynes it actually is--nose surgically altered, wearing New England mufti; he never died at all, you see, but just had it (expensively) arranged to seem that way. On Sears' tape-recorder, then, the smoked-out Jaynes (Jim Morrison appears to be the main prototype) remembers and tells all. Born Peter Greenwald, with an unloving dad (the Westchester D.A.) and an alcoholic mom, Peter/Byron goes to a liberal college during the '60s and there discovers rock music. As ""Byron Jaynes and The Romantics"" he and his college-pals go on to become one of the time's most revered bands. The rich-and-famous rock life, however, quickly undoes him: drugs; decadence, loss of wife Catherine to a heroin habit; break-ups of friendships; competition; crazy acts (exposing himself on stage); and finally the death--by crushing--of infant son Jesse. Kunstler (The Wampanaki Tales, A Clown in the Moonlight) uses real names to lend conviction to Byron's taped confessions: ""I saw Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, Leon Russell--still leading Joe Cocker's backup band--Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Country Joe, Arlo, Melanie, Leslie West, Havens, Bob Hite, John Fogarty. And the really creepy thing was that all of them fell absolutely silent when we walked in."" And, with a welcome absence of sentimentality (especially in a scary, anti-mythic view of Woodstock), he manages to produce a solid cautionary tale about fame and life-style--primarily for those already familiar with the Sixties/Seventies rock scene.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1983
Publisher: Norton