Tuesday 18 June 2019

Rock writer Green gathers moss galore

Memoir: The Only Girl, Robin Green, €24, Quercus

Robin Green's 'The Only Girl' is a raucous and fascinating memoir
Robin Green's 'The Only Girl' is a raucous and fascinating memoir
The Only Girl
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

The proverb 'a rolling stone gathers no moss' suggests that a peripatetic lifestyle will not gain responsibility, knowledge, experience. Nothing could be further from reality in Robin Green's path of perpetual movement, kicking off a career as the first woman on the masthead at Rolling Stone magazine in 1971.

She describes founding editor David Felton as the 'man who had been my editor and whom I'd loved and slept with and run away to Chicago with - until he ditched me to go back to his wife and kids in LA'. Her first piece to appear in Rolling Stone was a Dennis Hopper interview which she declares was 'so good that it's in a compendium of Ten Interviews that Shook Hollywood. Green declares that "pretty much every story I wrote from then on at the very least stung my subjects and at the most cost them their careers and landed them in prison".

Now 73, Green has built a successful career as a writer and executive producer of The Sopranos and other TV series. From her detailed recollection of who was taking drugs, who she slept with, or rather graphic descriptions of who she had sex with, there are many incidents of being in the right place at the right time to boost her network.

By chapter five, there is a dense history of immigrant Jews in the 1940s, and her loving and strict childhood in Rhode Island.

It is a stimulating, personal history that describes an attitude towards women that we know a little of from the TV series Mad Men. From teenager Robin Green's perspective, life is lush and highly planted with mescaline and cannabis. Her tale adds up to Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.

The open and honest revelations about herself and everyone she knew implies there is nothing to lose. That openness and lack of fear is the foundation of her successful writing, as she exposed everything about her subjects, no holds barred.

She recalls traumatic meetings with Hunter S Thompson, who wrote a two-part piece on a drug-addled road trip for Rolling Stone that would become the cult classic of gonzo journalism when published as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I shall never forget reading that myself.

There are many dramatic episodes and enthralling aspects of Californian nature in the memoir. At a Rolling Stone 'Big Sur Editorial Conference' in 1972, she describes a phenomenal level of drug and alcohol taking, naked lunging in mineral rock pools in caves on the beach, with waves crashing the cliffs around her.

Her 'peak experience' of pure ecstasy was seeing "shiny and sleek black creatures, big as Cadillacs propelling themselves out of the water up and into the air… whales fluking one after the other".

Another engaging aspect is the insight into the counter-culture attitude of her generation. As she explains, "we had plenty to be p**sed off about, had lost both Kennedys, Martin Luther King Jr, Che, and Malcolm X. We were pissed off, someone like 'I am not a crook' Nixon was president, pissed off about the war and Nixon's lies about Cambodia and what we rightly saw as power turning an increasingly blind eye to Eisenhower's warnings of a military-industrial complex".

It is 47 years since she began writing for Rolling Stone - where she contributed for three years before being forced to quit - a lifetime spanning renting rooms to acquiring a stylish home in LA: a classic American dream come true.

Many in the book have died from drug overdose or suicide. It makes Green more than a survivor.

For young journalist hopefuls, who have no idea what writing involved before social media, this memoir of a female writer with guts is an essential read. Not that you have to copy her!

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