And More...

Then, of course, there’s the issue that leads straight to the decision to play the free show, that is and to wit ticket prices.

The hip critics are down on the Stones for prices that are too high, though given another forty years of establishing what the market will bear by anyone with aspirations to sell out a major tour, what they were asking for the Stones plus supports (in most cases Terry Reid, B.B. King and Ike & Tina Turner) seems pretty reasonable, even allowing for the effects of inflation.

Still, there are countercultural street cred issues at stake here, so there’s an agreement to play a free show for the kids, and in the wake of the previous year’s utopian peace and love vibe and events in Woodstock a couple of months earlier there’s no perceived need to hire security personnel. 

From his spot on the inside "writer-in-residence" Booth ends up becoming Keith Richards’ friends and late-night sparring partner and there probably isn’t a better source to verify the accuracy of Booth’s account in The True Adventures Of The Rolling Stones than Richards’ assessment that it’s the only one I can read and say, "Yeah, that's how it was." 

That story is told against a framework of gigs, travel and Booth’s attempts to sort out the contractual side of his book project, something that isn’t an issue as far as the Stones are concerned but is an issue for assorted hangers-on with their own irons in the fire.

As far as the mayhem, violence and murder that went down at Altamont and effectively killed off whatever remained of the late sixties’ peace and love vibe there isn’t a lot that can be said and hasn’t already been reported. Booth’s approach to it, gradually unfolding the detail as he works through the book’s other strands works, and his from the stage insider’s perspective and eye for detail delivers a gripping account of the ugliness that culminated in the death of Meredith Hunter, stabbed and kicked to death by the Hells Angels who were supposedly providing security right in front of the stage where the Stones were performing.

Booth's account, however, goes further than that. He points out that the Stones carried on for another hour and a half, delivering a brilliant performance in a setting where it seemed safe to assume that several people had been killed and things would become substantially nastier if the band had cut and run. Along with Gram Parsons, he’s one of the last to board the chopper that got them away from the scene, No one, he points out, could say that the Rolling Stones couldn't play like the devil when the chips were down.

More than that, he’s able to point to the way Altamont changed the Stones’ approach to performing, claiming that reasons of self-preservation prompted a turn toward comedy. Jagger would disagree, but it’s fairly obvious the whole tour experience, not just Altamont but the whole shambolic procession around the States shaped the way the band approached future tours.

Booth was in a position to note and feel the change. Following Altamont he’d lived in England at the Richards’ residence until a certain weekend [when] I decided that if Keith and I kept dipping into the same bag, there would be no book and we would both be dead, retreated to Memphis to begin working on the first draft of the book (uncapitalized, unspaced, uncorrected), that Stones’ assistant Jo Bergman’s astrologer reportedly suggested would cost him everything except his life.

It took a while to finish. A drugs bust in 1971 could have resulted in up to 140 years in prison, but thanks to an enlightened Attorney General he escaped with a fine and a year’s probation. Thanks to a a family inheritance, he got by in an Ozark mountain log cabin owned by his parents, where he spent the best part of the next 10 decade, emerging to return to the road for the Stones tour in 1972.

Having done the ’69 tour, he was in the right place to note the difference as socialites like Princess Lee Radizwell and Truman Capote climbed aboard an ugly scene full of amyl nitrate, Quaaludes, tequila sunrises, cocaine, heroin, and too many pistoleros. Booth, predictably, headed back to the hills and avoided the ’75 tour completely, dealing with clinical depression, drug problems and domestic upheaval as he attempted to finish True Adventures, which he eventually succeeded in doing in 1984.

Along the way he broke his back and smashed his face falling from the top of a waterfall while high on acid in 1978, went through three divorces and ended up addicted to painkillers. 

While True Adventures was a success as far as the critics were concerned, contractual disputes with agents and publishers meant Booth ended up making nothing out of it, and hopefully this republication, coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the Rolling Stones, will deliver something substantial into his pocket. 

There are plenty of books about the Stones out in the market place, and while I haven’t read them all I’ve read enough to realise that this is the one to get if you have to limit yourself to a single volume. If you want to double that, go to Life, but that’s probably all you really need...

© Ian Hughes 2012