Charles White, The Life And Times Of Little Richard: The Quasar Of Rock (New York: Harmony), 269 pp., 33 black and white photographs, complete discography.
What’s this about “The Quasar of Rock”? Little Richard was always the Queen of Rock—as this deft assembly of taped interviews with those who knew, mostly Little Richard himself, makes abundantly clear. Conventional scandal-bios or tell-alls pale in comparison: “One time we were playing at the Paramount Theater and Buddy [Holly] came into my dressing room while I was jacking off with [my friend] Angel sucking my titty… Buddy took out his thing. He was ready, so she opened her legs and he put it in her. He was having sex with Angel, I was jacking off, and Angel was sucking me, when they introduced his name on stage!… He came and he went!” There’s wonder in that story (told well after Richard most recently gave up the Devil’s music for the Lord’s work); what one takes away from this book is a sense of how inevitable it was that the Black Liberace would tell everyone in the world all about it—in ” Tutti Frutti,“ in “I Don’t Know What You Got (But It’s Got Me),” in “Keep A-Knockin’.” British rock fanatic, physician, and DJ Charles White balances recording-session detail with orgies; after a while you can’t tell one from the other. No ideas, but they can wait.
Artforum, December 1984
It’s a terrific book in the words of the guy who wasn’t just there at the beginning, he WAS the beginning. But do yourself a favor; don’t eat or drink while reading. As outrageous as the snippet above may seem, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for “Life and Times”.
I read “Mystery Train” while going to college in the mid-70s. Along with “Sound of the City” by Charlie Gillett, it is a terrific gateway to the times when rock was fresh and important.