Rock & Roll Books
Becoming Almost Famous: my back pages in music, writing, and life
by Ben Fong-Torres
Backbeat, 272 pp., $16.95
Anyone who's ever wondered how writing about rock music has progressed in the last 30 years needs to read Becoming Almost Famous, the latest from former Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres. A collection of the veteran writer's best articles, previously published in Rolling Stone, GQ, Parade, CMJ, and Gourmet, provides a fabulous history lesson. Fong-Torres offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of Paul McCartney, the Band with Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, the Grateful Dead, Dusty Springfield, and Lou Reed, but also opens a window into a time when writing about rock was still new. The longtime San Franciscan composed brief introductions to each article that also shed light on the writing process from assignment to printed form. His offbeat style, attention to detail, and obvious love of the music sparkles, even in pieces that chronicle happenings more than three decades ago. A visit to San Antonio with Cheech and Chong in 1972, when comedians could be the equals of rock stars, is an absolute time trip. The title piece, pulled from the 2000 Cameron Crowe flick Almost Famous, not only explains his role in working with burgeoning writer Crowe, but his ability to laugh at himself and the out-of-the-ordinary situations working at Rolling Stone often presented.