Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll – “A generat-ional thing.”October 13, 2009
Brand new from our friends at Omnibus Press
Height: 12, Width: 9
The cover promises “X-Rated Photos” and there are plenty of bare breasts and occasional limp penises, but this piece of pop history is interesting for other reasons depending upon who you, the reader are… For my generation—the first to embrace rock music—it recalls the rebellion of those days. For my parents, who shook their finger in warning at “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” it was the unraveling of the status quo, something they had always aspired to. I remember my dad going fishing so he wouldn’t have to endure Elvis’s first appearance on the hallowed Ed Sullivan show. He knew I would watch it, and to his credit didn’t forbid it, but for mom and dad it was against everything their values stood for. (As it turned out, Elvis wore a tux and the camera didn’t show him from waist down.) If my parents were alive today and saw a book like this, they would say, “I told you so.”
On the other hand, I don’t think my children would see these antics as anything but scraps of past decades they had moved beyond. Would they want to see Miley Cyrus topless, The Jonas Brothers without pants? I think the questions might seem irrelevant to them. And studying many of the pictures, they could just be right. There are a few photos that transcend voyeurism: Elton John with Freddie Mercury of Queen obviously drawn to each other, a smoke-screened Bob Marley with a bong as big as a cheap cigar, David Bowie and a German transvestite, the full-frontal of Iggy Pop, Ozzie Osbourne sitting bare-ass on a toilet having a smoke plus an intriguing picture of a nude girl with this painted across her body, ”LESSON 2. ESTABLISH THE NAME SEX PISTOLS.” And, is that really a picture of Princess Di, lowering the top of her dress on page 65? Many of the photographs, such as naked Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, show they are more than aware of the camera, of making a statement, than of each other. On the other hand I find the most appealing pictures are of naked flower-children at the French Pop and Isle of Wright festivals in 1970. Of course they would be in their 60s today. And it’s that kind of perspective that makes me wonder.
It’s just as well there isn’t any text. Whatever this frenetic behavior was about, words couldn’t do much more than the pictures. The publisher had done a nice job of packaging the material, and the chapter headings themselves are amusing, “Sometimes Things Get a Little Out of Hand,” “Meanwhile Back at the Hotel,” “Backstage Passes” and “Feeling Itchy.” The first edition of this book appeared in 1985. It spawned a sequel and the current edition combines both. You might take it from your coffee table if your parents or your sophisticated teens are around, but on some night it is worth turning down the lights, putting on a classic rock album, opening Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll and taking a little trip. A trip back to a time when even decadence was simpler.
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