ROCK BOTTOM by Pamela Des Barres

ROCK BOTTOM

Dark Moments in Music Babylon

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Loving plunges into 26 abruptly curtailed or epically depraved rock 'n' roll lives. I'm with the Band (1987) and Take Another Little Piece of My Heart (1992) were Des Barres's commendably trashy memoirs of groupiedom and its aftermath. The salacious but good-natured biographical sketches into which she inserts herself here spotlight the bouncy, absurd charms of her prose. On Jimi Hendrix: ``I was a little virgin girl the first time I met Jimi Hendrix.'' On Led Zeppelin's road manager: ``I tried not to watch as Richard Cole carried a skinny, wailing girl around upside down . . . then had abandoned sex with her on the liquor-covered tabletop while the rest of the band observed like it was no big deal.'' Des Barres has interviewed many of her subjects' family members and friends, which fleshes out what are sometimes slapdash rÇsumÇs of fornications, hotel- room trashings, and drug binges. Marvin Gaye's brother discusses Gaye's cocaine addiction; Janis Joplin's guitarist and fellow heroin user Sam Andrew talks about her fatal insecurity and capacity for fun; Gram Parsons's ex-wife muses about his ``dark and willow-hung'' southern-gothic past. Des Barres interviewed two of her surviving subjects: Jan Berry of Jan and Dean, permanently disabled after a '60s car crash, and former crackhead Rick James, whom she visited in prison. Toward the end, the tone changes from sympathetic fandom to sheer creepiness: Those pulled out of the muck include the schizophrenic drummer (and matricide) Jim Gordon, New York gross-out king G.G. Allin, and (in some of the most appalling anecdotes ever printed about a public figure) the apparently coprophagous rock 'n' roll giant Chuck Berry. As with Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon, to which the subtitle pays homage, there's loads of entertainment here for those who can stomach it. (100 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14853-4
Page count: 360pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996




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