WADE GOODWYN, HOST:

Our next guest knows most of the biggest names in music personally. In her four decades as a music journalist, she's interviewed everyone from John Lennon to Kanye West. Now, Lisa Robinson has written a memoir, an insider's look at the major personalities of rock 'n' roll. It's called "There Goes Gravity," and it starts in 1975, when the Rolling Stones ask her to join them on tour.

LISA ROBINSON: The Rolling Stones were starting to be considered a dinosaur band then 'cause it was at the time of the punk rock scene. So I think Mick wanted me along partly to sort of whisper in his ear, to tell him who he should talk to, partly to write about him, and also partly 'cause he just liked having me around 'cause we gossiped about other people together. Keith, of course, was very secluded and not really in great shape, at that time. And I finally did get a bit of a - sort of slurred, slightly incoherent interview with him. But when Keith cleaned up, he is without question one of the most lucid, hilarious, just insightful, smart guys I've ever, ever talked to.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE T&A")

GOODWYN: I found it amazing that while he would regularly be so blasted he could barely talk, he would walk out on the stage night after night no less blasted, and be perfect.

ROBINSON: Once he got that guitar in his hands, something else took over. I just think it was like, his soul just went right through his hands, right to the strings of the guitar.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE T&A")

ROLLING STONES: (Singing) She's my little rock 'n' roll, oh. Oh, she's my little rock 'n' roll...

GOODWYN: You don't dwell on it a great deal, but there's just a tremendous amount of drugs and sex, and an occasional bout of nasty violence. And you wrote: (Reading) I was here to tell a story, not to judge, and that it was understood that in exchange for access, these subjects were off the table.

At the time, did you kind of see the world as divided into us and them, us being the world of rock 'n' roll, and them being everybody else in Peoria who wouldn't understand?

ROBINSON: Well, you have to understand something. Ever since Little Richard yelled out a whop bop-a-lu a whop bam boom, people have hated rock 'n' roll. People have portrayed musicians as criminals, drug addicts, outlaws, you know. And I just loved the music so much that I wasn't really judging the people. I don't know, it's funny. It's - Pete Hamill, the writer and journalist, once said about me: Everybody else who writes about rock 'n' roll is the prosecuting attorney, and Lisa Robinson is the attorney for the defense.

GOODWYN: You talked about how Mick Jagger was worried in '75 of being thought of as a dinosaur - which, looking back now, seems ludicrous - which then reminded me of Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant at the end of Zeppelin. It's not exactly like boxers who can't let go even though they're finished because of course, a musician is theoretically never finished. But there can be a feeling of desperation.

ROBINSON: You know, they're musicians. What else do they do? I mean, interestingly enough, Keith Richards never talked about age. Keith Richards never cared. The front man, I think, has a different position. Mick Jagger was such an androgynous, gorgeous beauty. You know, when they get older, it's hard. But you know, I don't think that when you're 20 or 30, you should be saying, oh, I never want to sing this song when I'm 40 - 'cause then comes 40, and you're still singing "Satisfaction."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SATISFACTION")

ROLLING STONES: (Singing)...I try, and I try, and I try, and I try. I can't get no, I can't get no...

GOODWYN: You were a woman in a very male profession. How was it?

ROBINSON: In what way?

GOODWYN: Oh, I mean, from the pictures, it looks like you were one of the boys.

ROBINSON: Yeah, you know, I wasn't one of the boys because I wasn't sleeping with groupies and I wasn't taking drugs. I just kind of skipped it on a certain level. I was very newly married. I was madly in love with my husband. He was cuter than any of these guys. I just also knew I wanted to get these stories. I wanted to be professional. And as much as I could gossip and fool around and laugh and kid around with them, it wasn't something that was going to be any kind of a problem.

GOODWYN: What would you say is the state of rock 'n' roll currently?

ROBINSON: I think it's harder now for bands because there's so many of them. You have to understand - when I started to do this, even at CBGB's, for example, there were maybe 10 bands. Maybe five were good, and three were great. You know, now there's hundreds of thousands of bands. But I think great bands do manage to get through. And I've been hearing that rock 'n' roll is going to die now since - oh, I don't know, 1950s, this has been going on? I think it's fine.

GOODWYN: Lisa Robinson is the author of the new book about her life in rock 'n' roll, called "There Goes Gravity." Lisa, thanks for being with us.

ROBINSON: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S ONLY ROCK 'N' ROLL (BUT I LIKE IT)")

ROLLING STONES: (Singing) I said, I know it's only rock 'n' roll, but I like it...

GOODWYN: You can read an excerpt of "There Goes Gravity" at NPRMusic.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Wade Goodwyn. Scott Simon is back next week.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S ONLY ROCK 'N' ROLL (BUT I LIKE IT)")

ROLLING STONES: (Singing) I like it...

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.