“Dark Side Of The Loon”

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From a review by Rich Bunnell in The Daily Californian Online of R Garry Patterson’s Take A Walk On The Dark Side: Rock And Roll Myths, Legends And Curses

When “Take a Walk” works, it’s when Patterson sets aside the vapid LSD-driven glorified mystical conspiracy theories and concentrates on genuinely interesting anecdotes about the creepier face of rock stardom. The idea of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page purchasing the mansion of Aleister Crowley, professional hedonist and one-time “wickedest man alive,” is actually fun to read about in a way that doesn’t inspire head-smacking out of profound disbelief.

Read the whole review at The Daily Californian Online.

Dark Side of the Loon
A Rock History of Redundant Myths

By RICH BUNNELL
Thursday, July 15, 2004

In spite of what a generation of ex-hippies and baby boomers might tell you, playing Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in sync with “The Wizard of Oz” honestly isn’t all that revelatory of an experience. It’s pretty neat when Dorothy puts her ear to the Tin Man’s chest right as the album fades out to the pulse of a heartbeat, but the affair as a whole amounts to little more than a Me-Generation gift bag filled with vague coincidences.
Rock historian R. Gary Patterson, on the other hand, apparently thinks that vague coincidences like these are the bee’s frickin’ knees. His latest book, “Take a Walk on the Dark Side: Rock and Roll Myths, Legends and Curses,” essentially serves as a compilation of all of those twisted and Satanic rock and roll tales about Jim Morrison and Robert Johnson that always pop up on VH1 features. Unfortunately, in the end these tales wind up being every bit as sketchy and bland in print as they are on the idiot box.

The problem with Patterson’s approach is that as a classic rock nut obsessed with the vice and mythology surrounding his favorite artists, he’s just a little too willing to say “Wow!” He gleans a mysterious “Buddy Holly Curse” out of the fact that a lot of people connected to Buddy Holly died over the course of the 20 years following the rockabilly star’s tragic death, but human beings are fragile creatures, rock and roll stars doubly so. It’s not like Beelzebub personally supplied Bon Scott with the seven double shots of whiskey that caused him to choke on his own vomit.

The scores upon scores of numeric coincidences wallpapering the book’s later chapters are even more arbitrary and befuddling. Patterson drags out the tired and worn-out notion of the “27 Club,” citing that rockers as diverse as Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix all met their untimely dooms at the ripe young age of 27. But what about all of the rockers who died when they weren’t that age? Like John Lennon, for example, heir apparent to a mysterious Satanic curse forecast by the recurrence of the number “9” throughout his life?

When “Take a Walk” works, it’s when Patterson sets aside the vapid LSD-driven glorified mystical conspiracy theories and concentrates on genuinely interesting anecdotes about the creepier face of rock stardom. The idea of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page purchasing the mansion of Aleister Crowley, professional hedonist and one-time “wickedest man alive,” is actually fun to read about in a way that doesn’t inspire head-smacking out of profound disbelief.

It’s not difficult to see why Patterson would undertake a work like this. He was previously responsible for “The Walrus Was Paul,” which covered the almost hilariously intricate rumors concerning Paul McCartney’s suspected death in the ‘60s. Admittedly, his prose is confident and solid, despite a tendency to misuse the word “irony” like the devil spawn of Alanis Morissette. Still, try as he may, he just can’t make the material he works with seem any less crackpot.

The very fact that Patterson names the book after a Lou Reed song but fails to provide any legends related to that perennially interesting rock star is emblematic of the problem with the book as a whole. He aims to inform and entertain, but to anyone who listens to classic rock radio even on a sporadic basis, “Take a Walk on the Dark Side” doesn’t deviate enough from general knowledge to amount to anything more than number-crunching arena-rock redundancy.

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