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Book Review: Straight Whisky

straightwhisky1.jpgSo I finally read Straight Whisky: A Living History of Sex, Drugs and Rock 'N Roll on the Sunset Strip by Erik Quisling and Austin Williams (Bonus Books, 2003). The book is about the history of the Whisky A Go-Go, The Rainbow Bar and Grill and the Roxy Theatre. Sadly, I was a little disappointed by the time I'd turned the last page on my hardcover edition.

Straight Whisky attempts to tell to the story of rock n' roll on the Sunset Strip over the past four decades. Some stories are interesting and others leave a lot to be desired. The book spends a ton of time on Johnny Rivers - explaining how he and the Whisky eventually became intertwined. That's fine - but no other artist gets nearly as much treatment in the book, save for maybe Led Zeppelin.

The stories about Led Zeppelin are probably my favorite part of the book. It's pretty cool hearing how the biggest rock band in the world traveled all the way from Europe just for a night of food and debauchery courtesy of the Whisky and the Rainbow.

There are factual errors and I don't really like the photos selected for the book either. There are many photos to be sure, but none of them are in color! I know color costs a little more when printing, but these are details that actually sell books.

The authors of Straight Whisky don't spend enough time on the 80s Glam scene. Of the decades of rock, 80s Metal is probably most synonymous with the Whisky A Go-Go, so the extra short chapter on this time period leaves me baffled. Sure, Poison is mentioned and Bret Michaels is quoted...but that's about it. There is one page on Motley Crue and about one sentence on Van Halen! Anyone who knows anything about 80s Metal knows that the Strip was the place to be seen - and be made. I would have loved a few more stories of bands getting discovered and signed in their natural habitat.

Maybe I'm too picky, but I have a lot of high hopes when it comes to books about sleazy rock n' roll.  This book didn't quench my thirst for rock history.

Another note: there is a giant historical inaccuracy surrounding Charles Manson and the Tate/LaBianca murders. I read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi when I was in high school. I'm pretty sure Bugliosi - who prosecuted Manson and the rest of the Family - knows the facts surrounding the case. Straight Whisky describes an inaccurate timeline involving a confrontation between Mario Maglieri (Whisky owner) and Charles Manson. This is a large portion of the book - so I think a little fact checking is in order.

Despite the flaws, I appreciate the efforts of  Erik Quisling and Austin Williams. We need more books about rock n' roll on the Sunset Strip.

Someday I just might write a rock history myself.

Reader Comments (3)

I bought this book when it first came out..I agree not much on the 80s glam scene at all..and ive even read where mario maglieri said how the 80s glam scene was probably his biggest money making era in the clubs..Also I agree they could have had better pictures..Have you ever see "Hoolywood Rocks?"..It's an awesome book all bands from the strip and cool photos.
April 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Hollywood Rocks*
April 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
i didnt think the book was too great either. the best parts were the sections they ripped off from my interviews with Mario Maglieri in Rock City News -- but at least the authors listed me in the Acknowledgments!
April 2, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergerry gittelson

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