Bill German was a fairly normal teenager growing up in Brooklyn - frustrated at girls, frustrated at school, but mostly frustrated at the poor reporting in magazines and on the radio of his favorite band, The Rolling Stones. So, on his sixteenth birthday, dressed in his pajamas, he set out to, well, set the record straight on Mick, Keith, Ron, and Charlie.
Beggars Banquet started as a simple fanzine, but as luck would have it, the band was living only a subway ride away. After chasing them around, forcing issues into their hands, and following their every move in the column "Where the Boys Go", he broke into their inner sanctum. He started to get on guest lists, invitations to parties, and eventually became more than just a fan, and, more importantly, more than just a journalist.
When Bill was 21, Beggars Banquet became the official Rolling Stones newsletter. He went on tours around the world, watched shows backstage, co-wrote a book with Ron Wood, drank Jack Daniels with Keith, spilled orange juice on Mick's Persian rug, partied at Eric Clapton's London flat, and was considered a friend of the biggest band in the world.
Under Their Thumb is a true life Almost Famous, but instead with the biggest names in rock 'n roll. Bill German's only job ever was working with the Rolling Stones. Sounds like a dream; but his story quickly causes him to heed Keith's fatherly advice (which was dispensed over whiskey, of course), and to reconsider this dream. You want to hang with the Stones? Be careful what you wish for....
©2009 Bill German (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
If you're a Rolling Stones fan, you will identify to some degree with Bill German. As a teen in the 70s, he launched a homemade Stones fanzine and soon transformed his rabid fandom into a dream career of covering his favorite band full time. He got to follow them around the world on tour, and even became close friends with Keith Richard, Ron Wood, and various other members of the Stones entourage.
But be careful what you wish for. Or as Billy's teacher warned him, if you make your work feel like fun, your fun will eventually feel like work. It takes Billy 17 years to figure this out. His fellow Stones fans may envy him for getting in with their idols, getting into their shows and parties, but he eventually comes to envy them their freedom to just be fans and enjoy the music.
Billy makes the Stones -- Keith and Woody, at least -- seem like real people. There are few tales of sex and drugs, since Billy, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, didn't participate in that side of it (though he doesn't whitewash it either). Instead, they come off as family men and good friends with their hearts in the right place. All except Mick -- if you're a big Jagger fan, you are not going to like this portrayal at all. If it's always Keith vs. Mick, Billy is with Keith, and for good reason.
What really hits home is Billy's constant insecurity, one foot inside the inner sanctum, one foot as the perpetual outsider, always the independent journalist and the opportunistic fan, rarely a trusted and welcome member of the greater Stones family (except in his personal relationships with Keith and Woody). I relate to this, having gone through a similar exercise (at a more advanced age) with my favorite sports team, publishing a magazine and website for my fellow fans, trying to act like a professional sportswriter, but never fully accepted as such by the team (though there were notable exceptions among some of my fellow writers).
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I knew Billy German. Of course, he was just ten years old, I was just a teenager -- he was friends with my little brother and sister, and remains in touch with them. I haven't seen him since then and was surprised to learn upon the publication of this book that he had spent the better part of his life working so closely with the Rolling Stones. I have to say, recalling that sometimes bratty tow-headed little kid, I am impressed.
So this is Billy's story. As I said, I had my own brief experience as a fan-journalist covering the NY Rangers (I wrote a book about it, but the only way it will ever see the light of day is if I self-publish). And then there is Larry Sloman, an acquaintance via the Rangers, who started his own career as a writer by going on tour with his favorite artist, Bob Dylan, so pricelessly chronicled in his book, On the Road With Bob Dylan. And don't forget Nick Hornby's debut was about being an Arsenal fan (no, I don't know him). It's a great genre for the fan in all of us.
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