NEW YORK – This is the story of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The story of a rising star who hit the pinnacle of musical fame and seemed to have it all — until the whole dream came crumbling down. The story of a fallen star who managed to rise up again.
Sound familiar? It's not only the same plot of just about every episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music,” it's also the stuff of tell-all books about bygone rockers which are popping up more and more on bookstore shelves.
“People love to read about how their pet stars from way back when have fallen off the wagon and gotten back up,” said Tom Moon, the music critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer. “There’s a certain element in pop culture that wants to know every lurid detail of what’s happened to people since they were famous.”
While plenty of ink is spilled about musicians currently in the limelight, there's still a fascination with juicy biographies about singers whose heyday was in the 1960s, ‘70s or ‘80s.
“It’s sort of weird,” Moon said of the trend. “Even people who have no juice in the marketplace can generate a certain amount of interest, book sales, et cetera.”
The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz has a new version of his co-written “I’m a Believer: My Life of Monkees, Music and Madness” coming out next month. Unauthorized biographies on Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne will follow soon after. And books on Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Tina Turner and a host of others have appeared in the last year or so.
In Dolenz’s book, co-written with Mark Bego — one of the most prolific writers of oldtime rock star biographies who also penned the Mitchell and Browne books — readers will be treated to tales of LSD trips with John Lennon, behind-the-scenes pot-smoking and a steamy affair with British TV actress Samantha Juste, who is now Dolenz’s ex-wife.
The Mitchell book contains dirt about Joni’s many affairs and the story of the daughter she had out of wedlock, put up for adoption and then reunited with years later.
"Part of the appeal of the books I write on rock and roll stars is the allure of reading about all of the sex and drugs and rock and roll,” said Bego. “Part of the panache about becoming a rock star is all the partying, the groupies and the sudden overwhelming feeling that everything you touch will spell success.”
And it’s equally titillating to read about celebrities’ failures.
“My readers want to find out just how far into the deep end these stars have fallen,” Bego said. “In some cases, they are able to recover from it. In other cases, they cannot.”
Dolenz, for his part, denies that his book falls into the “scintillating smut” category — and a once-over of “I’m a Believer” backs up his claims.
“It’s not dirty, tabloid rubbish,” Dolenz recently told FOX News Channel’s “Fox and Friends.” “The editors wanted me to pull up some more dirt, and I said, ‘I don’t like that.’ I don’t like it when I read it in other people’s books.”
Not surprisingly, the authorized books memoirs are often much less juicy than the unauthorized biographies.
Still, the appeal of reading about the sordid lives of stars from the past escapes some people.
“I have no idea why someone would want to buy those books unless they’re fans,” said Laura Miller, the book critic at Salon.com. “I wouldn't want to read someone's bitter ruminations on the wild life of their past and their resentment of the people they worked with.”
Ultimately though, the tales of oldtime rock legends or pop music has-beens tend to be snapped up by their aging fans who are still hungry for tidbits on their favorite singers.
"It appeals to the same instinct as all gossip does," Miller said. "People are pretty sure rock bands behave really badly and even if it's not always kept a secret, they still want to know all the gory details."