You can’t count on the rich and famous to write their own memoirs. They’re either too drugged out to remember what happened, too ego-tastic to believe their decisions require any explanation, or deathly afraid of over-exposure.
But everyone who dates, marries, or just spends too much time around extremely famous rockers is bound to learn a few lessons that wouldn’t be obvious to the idols themselves. The most obvious recurring theme in all five of these classic tell-all memoirs is this: If you aren’t invited on the tour, you have become persona non grata. Pack your bags and don’t be surprised if you read in some other woman’s memoir 20 years from now that you weren’t the only groupie your rock star was banging at the time.
Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie by Angela Bowie with Patrick Carr
You know Angela Bowie was pissed about how her marriage to David Bowie turned out because she kept his fake last name and waited out a 20-year gag order to publish this catty memoir. In it, she claims a lot of the business and styling credit for his early success. You would think that Angie would have seen the writing on the wall when she recounts proposing marriage to David, under the guise of a business proposition, and he replies by asking her, “Can you deal with the fact that I’m not in love with you?” Really, being bitter about him boinking other ladies in an open marriage seems like a moot point after that, but Angie lays it bare and name checks everyone she can think of who David slipped it to.
This is the trashiest, most gossipy, and least self-aware of the consort memoirs, but it is all worth it when Angie reveals her memories of the Bowies in LA; this is the time period when they exorcised a demon from the bottom of a pool and David fell in with a group of witches. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
Life with My Sister Madonna by Christopher Ciccone with Wendy Leigh
Christopher Ciccone isn’t the same sort of consort as the other writers on this list, but he’s the closest person to the inner world of Madonna to record his eyebrow-raising opinions on her every little move, from childhood through second marriage. That adds nearly 50 years of putting up with a superstar older sister, who he contends is a cheapskate and emotionally stunted. So, little brother’s got a big axe to grind.
Christopher had a front-row seat to a lot of key times in Madonna’s life, from dancing with her in the ’70s and ’80s to attending her weddings to both Sean Penn and Guy Ritchie (and meeting every important boyfriend in between) to getting sucked down the Kabbalah Celebrity Center rabbit hole. In the way that only your family and your gay best friend can do, he constantly cuts Madonna’s behaviors down to size, but you get the feeling it would be a lot more meaningful if he weren’t so obsessed with her money. Between bitching about not being paid enough and psychoanalyzing why Madonna made various decisions to not involve him in her life, he ends up sounding just as scorned as any former lover.
Faithfull: An Autobiography by Marianne Faithfull with David Dalton
Marianne Faithfull is the Boomer generation, UK invasion good-time gal. She was once Mick Jagger’s girl, and maybe you know about her dalliances with Keith Richards as well. But the litany of famous men she’s gotten it on with is kind of astounding… and at times a little shocking. I mean, Roy Orbison? Even in his younger years you would have to be pretty hammered to hit that. And that, in fact, turns out to be Faithfull’s secret: she’s always bombed out of her mind. That she even remembered enough to write this book is a miracle.
She offers a more lighthearted look at the inner sanctum of the ’60s Rolling Stones, with nice dollops of her own time as a performer on the crazy tour circuit and glimpses at her encounters with luminaries like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Even though she seems to find herself in impossible situations, Faithfull never seems embittered and is more than willing to take her fair share of the blame for becoming a heroin addict/hippie vagrant as the ’60s roll into the ’70s. The highlights include her recounting of the infamous “naked except for a rug incident” and the way she unwittingly puts in perspective how shitty the ’60s free love movement could be for women.
Of all these memoirs, Rotolo’s is the only one to incorporate both feminism and communism into a worldview that centers largely around time spent with a rock legend (in her case, Bob Dylan). She offers honest and thoughtful recountings of what was going on in the NYC scene when Dylan moved from West Village clubs to uptown concert halls and plugged in. She also manages to highlight her own opinions and observations on political and social movements of the time, not necessarily reflected through the bright glare of Dylan. There are multiple rants about the stupidity of people who treat her like she’s nothing more than the girlfriend or the muse. (Eventually, she went to college in Italy to escape the lady trap.)
If it’s the inside juice on early Dylan you want, though, it’s all in here — from how Rotolo found out he was cheating on her with Joan Baez to stories of the crazies who tracked their address down to come chat with their folk singing messiah to examinations of Dylan’s eccentric preferences in everyday life.
Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me by Pattie Boyd with Penny Junor
Woe is Pattie Boyd. Never has a woman been so publicly loved by so many and so privately screwed over by a misguided sense of love. Apparently, what a woman needs to inspire multiple hit singles (George Harrison’s “Something,” Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight,” Cream’s “Bell Bottom Blues” — oh, the list goes on) is the patience of a saint, zero hobbies or interests of her own, and the face and body of Helen of Troy. You get the feeling writing this book was an exercise Boyd’s therapist encouraged after the fact to help her wrap her head around the men who went from worshiping her to cheating on her, while she tried and failed to meet their insane expectations.
If any memoir were ever going to put you off your dreams of dating a rock star, this is the one. Boyd’s uncomfortably low self-esteem and the childish behavior of the men she’s with are put on display. Lowlights include: finding out George Harrison had an affair with Maureen Starr, Ringo’s wife; learning that Eric Clapton is a junkie with the impulse control of a toddler; and discovering that she is broke and has no idea what to do with her life now that she’s not considered sexually viable anymore. Buy a copy of this book just so the poor woman doesn’t become the old lady who lives in a shoe.