You don’t have to be a die-hard or wonky music fan to enjoy rock journalist, Lisa Robinson’s new book, There Goes Gravity. If you love music, or ever fantasized about what it would be like backstage, hanging out with your favorite rock star, you’ll live vicariously through Robinson’s 45 years covering rock royalty up close, and often very personal.
The book is a career memoir– not a personal one– so all the juicy details– from groupies on the road with the Stones to Lady Gaga’s private home life– are about the artists. Robinson started writing in 1969, touring with the Stones and Zeppelin, and has interviewed every big name in the business while writing for several music magazines, the New York Post, and now as the music editor for Vanity Fair.
She was a central figure in the punk rock scene in both New York and London, claiming she got The Clash and Elvis Costello their first record deals after hearing them live.
The book has only 10 chapters, honing in on only a dozen or so major stars who Robinson thinks have been the most influential. She shares fascinating interviews with artists including Keith Richards, David Bowie, George Harrison, Patti Smith, and Eminem. In many ways, she’s telling the story of American culture through music.
Here’s an excerpt from my review:
Even the most media-wary artists come to trust Robinson because she’s more fan than a critic, able to keep secrets, and industry savvy. One of the few journalists to sit down with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, she offers fascinating quotes, but her rose-colored glasses are off when describing their reclusive, self-centered life in New York.
Robinson has a knack for getting subjects to share revealing personality traits that speak volumes. After interviewing Michael Jackson several times in his rise to stardom, she notices he has two voices: one high and soft for the public, another normal and commanding for his inner circle.
When she asks U2’s Bono how he handles home life after being on tour, he answers candidly. “In a very, very, very deep place I’m secure. And on the surface, secure. But somewhere in there, I need 20,000 screaming people a night to feel normal.” Tracing the evolution of U2, Robinson shows how, despite talent and good intentions, a band can lose its way in the tornado of success. In the group’s ’90s “Popmart” phase, they let celebrity and philanthropy get in the way of the music.
Robinson writes affectionately about most rockers but does get in a few jabs. She describes Lady Gaga as a gifted singer and musician who’s connected to her audience, unlike Madonna, whom Robinson calls driven, humorless and lacking passion.
You can read more of the review here.
Robinson wrote the cover story for last November’s Vanity Fair on the media-wary Jay Z, whom she called “the new Chairman of the Board.”
In this modern era of publicists and celebrity overexposure, her stories seem even more extraordinary because they came from a simpler time when covering rock was about the music, not the image.
Robinson is a terrific writer whose access and insight make There Goes Gravity a great read. It’s sure to be a staple in many beach bags this summer.