Wednesday, June 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW! THERE GOES GRAVITY (a life in rock and roll) by Lisa Robinson (Riverhead books, 2014)

Unlike the Nick Kent autobiography-cum-seventies rock history tome from a few years back, I wasn't that interested in reading about Lisa Robinson's own excursion into the front lines of rock criticism. After all, next to the likes of Kent as well as the rest of what unfortunately in sanctimonious retrospect has become known as the "noise boys", Robinson never was that much of a big rockscribe deal, she having come from a disgustingly upper class New York background more or less "falling" into the bigtime rock scribing game after she met her husband Richard (a greater talent and subject for a bio in my humble opinion). It wasn't like she was a dogged-down junkie like Kent nor a boozo white trash schlub like Lester Bangs, nor was she a slummoid dabbler in the performance realm like R. Meltzer. At least according to my own suburban slob tastes, Robinson came off like just another bigtime bigcity glorified groupie who was "in" on the new trends and got to go to hep places with alla the big stars she schmoozed up to, best of all getting the opportunity we all wish we had to write about her heroes and exploits in a whole slew of magazines and talk about it on radio and tee-vee just so's us backwoods dolts could bask in her jetset glory. Imagine if Christopher Reeve was a rockcrit and change the sex, and you'd get Lisa Robinson no bout a doubt it.

But then again it wasn't like Robinson, even for all of her Studio 54 chicness and atrocious penchant for namedropping just the right names at the most opportune time, was just a higher-class rock snob lording it over us midclass doofuses. She hit the nail on the thumb more'n a few times with and with addled grace, what with her "Eleganza" column (which Charlotte Pressler gracefully swiped as her own with "Pizzaz" in Cleveland's ZEPPELIN) giving the lowdown on not only what the biggies were wearing, but the tough strut stylings of alla them Iggy types which is something you wouldn't have seen in ROLLING STONE for quite some time. In fact, Robinson's article on the new breed of mid-seventies rock to be found in New York (entitled "The New Velvet Underground") was one of those pieces that I'm sure got more'n a few of us ranch house kiddies all set to head out to that burgh in order to get in on some of that punk action ourselves! And true, Lisa's mug was often espied smack dab next to Mick Jagger's, Robert Plant's and Clive Davis' at least once per issue of the tres boffo ROCK SCENE, but then again she could also be seen with David Johansen, Lenny Kaye and Iggy Pop with just about the same regularity so it ain't like I wanna off her like I wanna do with Anastasia Pantsios and the rest of the sixties flower child peace through pop brigades who have overrun the music biz to the point of ipecac-inducing nausea.

Like I said, hubby Richard woulda made for a better subject matter (I remember that thrill watching him do his illusionist schtick on DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT back in the late-seventies thinking "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT---HE'S THE GUY WHO PRODUCED THE FLAMIN' GROOVIES!!!!") as would fellow ROCK SCENE scribe and Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye (who I always wished I coulda look as cool as...and that's even as much these days as I did inna seventies!), but this is Lisa's book and I guess it'll have to do until either one of 'em decides to pick up pen and let their recollections be known to one and all. And hey, even I gotta admit that it's not a bad book at all. Well I gotta admit that it ain't perfect because frankly the book is only as good as its subject matter (which varies from interesting to downright dull), but it sure coulda been a whole lot worse and thankfully it wasn't and given that I dished out the hard-begged $$$ for this "uncorrected advance proof" I'm sure glad I got my moolah back not only in info but downright entertainment value

Being a seventies-sorta rock 'n roll enthusiast (meaning that I'm intelligent to know that the more powerful years for the form were from 1964 until 1981, at which point you could smell the death rot of all that was underground and deadly in the music), its the chapters on the Stones, Zep and New York punk rock that grab me the most. Not that Robinson divulges any downright salacious or addled information that we didn't already know (as if you could possibly say anything that would shame the legacy of Keith Richards this far down the line) but it is as they say "refreshing" to read Robinson's take on these groups' backstage antics and personal up-front feelings in a gossipy fashion that woulda driven Hedda to jealousy-induced tears. And although there ain't anything which I would call "revealing" here, it's at least fun to read about those days which sure sounded swell back when I was stuck inna middle of Zilchville wishing I could be in En Why See having fun every night instead of trying to find interesting and suggestive images in the tile on the bathroom floor.

Considering how snoozaroonie the eighties were (only to be topped by the nineties and oh-ohs right up until this very second!) the chapters on the likes of Lady Caga and U2,who Robinson makes into the logical 80s/90s end result in the Velvet Underground evolutionary scale, don't exactly tickle any ribs around here! However, I surprisingly was able to sit through the one on Michael Jackson, though I'm not quite sure if that was because of the grotesque nature of the subject at hand or Robinson's ability to give some dimension to a performer who always used his P.T. Barnum autobiography as a career guide. Actually liked that 'un, though maybe I liked it the same way I used to like looking at fresh roadkill with their intestines glistening in the warm summer sun.

So hey, this is actually a good 'un worth it for the breezy style and hipster patter sprinkled throughout. However I must admit that I have a few "reservations" if they could be called why so little on hubby of fortysome years and spiritual guide Richard not to mention his production chores for the Flamin' Groovies, Andy Zwerling and Hackamore Brick? Where's all of the hot scoop on Lenny Kaye and the inside lowdown on getting those issues of ROCK SCENE out? And nary a mention of Man Ray, the Robinson/Kaye grouping that Lisa was so eager to namedrop for being some precursor to the entire Patti Smith/Television catharsis as early as 1969??? That's the kind of hot flash I was looking for, not the umpteenth saga regarding the groupie life of Jimmy Page or the dental disasters of the entire English rock scene!!! Before this one gets published for real, would someone please edit 'em all in!!!!

1 comment:

Bill S. said...

A little slip-up in the first refer to RICHARD Robinson as DAVID.
(No need to print this, obviously.)

Hey, considering what came later, Lisa Robinson ain't that bad....although I totally agree that RICHARD's story would have made a much more interesting book...