Sunday, February 11, 2007

Midnight Riders: The story of the Allman Brothers Band by Scott Freeman

In reading a recent book about Layla, the author mentioned that Scott Freeman’s book, Midnight Riders: The story of the Allman Brothers Band was probably the best on the subject so, since I know little about the story of the Allmans (although I know their music well) I figured I’d give it a look. I’ve written before about Duane Allman and how the band’s Fillmore East album was practically the soundtrack to my freshman year of college but I was surprised at how little I knew of the story of the band, particularly after Duane died.

Freeman tells the story well but it is such a convoluted tale of drugs, fame and wasted opportunity that it’s a bit depressing. This is a band that had the world by the tail and blew it mostly because of immature behavior, drugs and alcohol. (Haven’t there been enough bands now who have had this happen to them that the young ones might say “hey, that’s a trap – I better be careful!” Books like this ought to be required reading at the school of rock.)

I have to say that I was quite turned off to the band (especially Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts) after reading about their story. I wasn’t surprised at the excesses because the band Stillwater in the film Almost Famous was based them to some extent so I had a bit of warning. It is interesting when I read books about bands because if I’m already predisposed to like the people I usually find myself focusing on their more recent good behavior (Clapton, McCartney) but if I don’t have a real fondness for them going in then I often have the other reaction. In the case of Phil Lesh I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt because I think he’s cleaned up a lot lately and saw the error of his drug ways so when I read Searching for the Sound (his autobiography) and I reviewed it in this blog I wasn’t critical of his drug use but rather the way he seemed so casual about relationships – something that he now ought to know better about.

So it might not have been a good idea for me to read Midnight Riders. It gave me a more accurate but much less flattering view of the band than I had before and, since the book was written before the current incarnation of the band, I have no way of knowing if the members have gotten their lives together or not. I hope so because they can sure play!

(By the way, the hardcover edition has a lot more subtle cover than the one I'm showing on this post - I'm not a big fan of the one shown here.)

1 comment:

MusicFanatic said...

I'm a huge ABB fan, particularly Gregg. I've seen the Brothers more times than I can count since the early 70s. While a lot of the events portrayed in Scott's Book are true, there are several incidences that are highly disputed among the ABB organization and family. I'm happy to report that the Brothers do not allow alcohol or drugs anywhere near the stage or backstage area, not even by fans and friends. They are amazing! I'm sure Duane is proud.