For 17 years, German recorded the comings and goings of the Rolling Stones in his fanzine Beggars Banquet
; in this surprisingly lifeless memoir, he documents his relationship with the band. German's fandom with the Stones began when he was 12. When he heard songs like Bitch and Sweet Virginia, he was inexplicably hooked on the band's music, and he envied the DJs who got to play their music and the journalists who covered the band. By the time he was 16, German had decided to produce a newsletter devoted to his favorite group, printing the first 100 copies of Beggars Banquet
on his Brooklyn high school's mimeograph machine in 1978. Although his classmates were unenthusiastic (they were more interested in disco and Saturday Night Fever
than Exile on Main Street
), the Stones and their management eventually became aware of German's efforts. By 1983, the Stones wanted to make Beggars Banquet
the official fanzine of their fan club and stuffed the record sleeves of their new release, Undercover
, with it. When the Stones' manager reneged on his promise of payment, German learned a hard business lesson and ended the arrangement, but he never lost his affection for the band. He chronicles his close relationships with Keith Richards and Ron Woods (with whom he coauthored a book) as well as his lukewarm relationship with Mick. Richards emerges from German's memoir as a sweet and loving guy, while Jagger appears an arrogant prima donna who has little time for his band mates or his family. (Feb.)
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From Rolling Stone
"The hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking tale of a fan who got too close to his heroes."
From the Newark Star-Ledger
"[German's] proximity to the action makes this an essential Stones book, while his casually engaging writing style will appeal to non-fanatics as well."
From the Montreal Gazette
"Impossible to put down. ... Under Their Thumb is filled with priceless, often laugh-out-loud anecdotes. ... [Here's] what makes the book so compelling: German is one of us. ... We identify with his every small victory ... and feel some kind of personal rejection over his setbacks. ... Under Their Thumb is a cautionary tale, but a hugely entertaining one."
From the New York Times
"Under Their Thumb offers some memorable details from the [Stones'] inner sanctum. … In 1978, the 16-year-old German started sneaking into the mimeograph room at his high school to print the first copies of Beggars Banquet, a newsletter devoted to the Stones. He published it for the next 17 years before finally letting go - or at least letting go enough to gain perspective and write this affable account of chasing the world's biggest rock band. … Miraculously, German retained his innocence [around the Stones] and he never once went near any of the easily available cocaine. ... Under Their Thumb is a story of retaining faith, of keeping a flame burning through bad records and band squabbles and even through discovering that your heroes aren't Golden Gods."
From Booklist (starred review)
"German is party to all sorts of Stones' doings, many of which are enjoyable, quite a few of which are scandalous. Great rock 'n' roll Babylon stuff."
From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
"German's anecdotes are often priceless - whether it's spilling orange juice on Mick Jagger's rug and watching the singer clean it up, or recalling when Richards stopped his limousine after a concert to give a limping fan a ride home. But there was also a price to be paid. ... Under Their Thumb is a cautionary tale about life on the edges of rock 'n' roll."
From the Sunday Times of London
"This [is an] unassuming but highly readable memoir. ... Hypnotized by his idols' 'sexuality, sarcasm, and rebelliousness,' German gives up his education 'to interact with the Stones directly.' He spends the next 17 years following them around the world. ... German is, to a degree, an innocent abroad. ... As a devout non-druggie, he arouses the hostility of the dealers swarming around Ronnie Wood, who suspect him of being an undercover cop. ... This [is a] remarkable tale."
From the Greensboro News-Record
"Spanning a 15 year insider/outsider roller coaster ride, and, of course, dishing up great stories and solid journalistic research about the Stones. … This [is] one of the best rock memoirs ever written."
From the Ottawa Citizen
"Under Their Thumb [is] essential reading for any Stones fan. … German lived the story seen in Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous - a teenager who finds himself on the road with rock royalty. [German's] stories don't have the icky, self-aggrandizing voyeurism of most backstage books. ... He was just the guy behind a tiny mag that grew out of a bedroom. He never pretends to be more."
From Kirkus Reviews
"First-rate, firsthand account of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band, and a disenchanted chronicle of its increasingly crass commercialization."
From Andrew Loog Oldham (Sirius-XM Radio; former manager of the Rolling Stones)
"This book is absolutely great. … I think it's possibly the best book I've read about the Rolling Stones ... since [1979's] Up and Down with The Rolling Stones."
From Mojo magazine
"An endearing tale ... something we can all relate to. ... German, an A student who discovered the Stones through his sister, wrote a newsletter (typed in his bedroom, printed at school) that showed immense flair. The band definitely thought so, and soon he was spilling orange juice on Mick Jagger's 16th-century Persian rug and sitting in on sessions. He heard how Woody [Ron Wood] shagged Chrissie Hynde but couldn't remember it, and how Bill Wyman was convinced Jagger wanted him out."
From Michael Smerconish (CBS Radio)
"I'm lovin' it. It's Under Their Thumb. It is a great book and it's such a departure. I think people will really be taken in by this. My listeners know if I weren't into it, I wouldn't say it. … This is a fun, fun read."
From the Grand Rapids Press
"Chockablock with anecdotes. ... Fans of the Stones and their music need this behind-the-scenes look at one of the longest lasting groups in the history of rock and roll."