Rock & roll books from Austin to Beijing
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Dec. 16, 2011
Backstage Pastby Barry Fey
Lone Wolfe Press, 270 pp., $24.95
The rock bookshelf has long been due a juicy, warts-and-all promoter's story, and here's Barry Fey to fill that slot. A genuinely legendary promoter out of Denver with a love of rock & roll and a taste for money, Fey was an overweight geek who came up West Coast old-school, first under then away from Bill Graham. Fey snorted coke with Jagger, almost passed on then famously booked Led Zeppelin in America, put U2 in Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and held a gun to Axl Rose's head. Well, that last one's a rumor, writes the now-retired Fey in short, bombastic blasts, with insider photos and helpful lists ("Pricks"), stressing the gun was simply in his pocket. That style works because Backstage Past reads like you got bumped up to first class on a cross-country flight and your seatmate is one of rock's A-list. The glittery names and glamorous nights and trunks full of cash abound, but Fey loved the testosterone-fueled gamble of arena and stadium spectacles (he introduced Red Rocks as a rock venue). Life was about making money, breaking acts, and maintaining relationships like the one he developed with the Rolling Stones after Graham blew it. Fey's beyond candid about his dislike of Graham, accusing the late impresario of selling black market T-shirts and sending suitcases of money out of the country; Fey even attempted to contract a Mafia hit on the Fillmore magnate. When apprised of Graham's death in 1991, he writes, "I felt like jumping up and dancing." That's real rock & roll, my friend, and they don't make 'em like Barry Fey anymore.