RAGE & ROLL by John Glatt


Bill Graham and the Selling of Rock
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 A balanced, if redundant, account of the life and times of rock promoter Bill Graham, by English-born investigative journalist Glatt. Born in 1933 in Germany, Graham escaped the Holocaust, coming at age ten to the US, where he was adopted by a Jewish-German family but suffered psychological problems adjusting to American life. Progressing from running crap games at a Catskills hotel, he settled in San Francisco, where he managed a trucking company while yearning for a life in the arts. Taking a big pay cut, Graham became the manager of the San Francisco Mime Troupe; soon after, he began promoting rock concerts, using an old theater in a bad part of town as his venue. Graham built his empire on the Fillmore, eventually opening an N.Y.C. branch while moving into band- management, record production, and the lucrative business of rock souvenirs. He eventually closed both theaters but remained a force in the rock world, organizing charity events like Live Aid and the first Amnesty International tour. Although Graham was professionally successful, his personal life was often a shambles: He treated women poorly and was often strung out on cocaine, Ecstasy, and sleeping pills. Glatt relies mostly on others' written accounts and magazine interviews in compiling this bio (he even uses Graham's own Bill Graham Presents, 1992, which covers much of the same ground), but he did talk to a few Graham associates, particularly one of the promoter's ex-girlfriends, Regina Cartwright, who sheds some new light on Graham's fiery temperament. Glatt's British roots lead him to odd mistakes (he describes Kesey's Magic Bus as ``a brightly painted van''), and he's weak when discussing 60's social trends. In any case, Graham's life was so downbeat (he died in 1991 in a helicopter crash following a decade of new personal declines) that one wonders why we need another bio to supplement his own: for rock completists only. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-55972-207-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Birch Lane Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1993


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