Published by Villard, February 2009
As a teenager, Bill German knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life: chronicle the career and adventures of his favorite rock band, the Rolling Stones. And in 1978, on his sixteenth birthday, he set out to make his dream a reality. Feverishly typed in his Brooklyn bedroom, and surreptitiously printed in his high school’s mimeograph room German’s Stones-only newsletter, Beggars Banquet, was born. His teachers discouraged it, his parents dismissed it as a phase, and his disco-loving classmates preferred the Bee Gees, but, for German, this primitive, pre-Internet fanzine was a labor of love. And a fateful encounter with his idols on the streets of New York soon proved his efforts weren’t in vain.
Impressed with Beggars Banquet, the Stones gave the ’zine instant cred on the rock scene by singing its praises–and by inviting German to hang with the band. At first a fish out of water in the company of rock royalty, German found himself spilling orange juice on a priceless rug in Mick Jagger’s house and getting pegged as a narc by pals of Keith Richards and Ron Wood. But before long he became a familiar fixture in the inner sanctum, not just reporting Stones stories but living them. He was a player in the Mick-versus-Keith feud and was an eyewitness to Keith’s midlife crisis and Ron’s overindulgences. He even had a reluctant role in covering up Mick’s peccadilloes. “In the span of a few months,” German recalls, “I’d gone from wanting to know everything about my favorite rock stars to knowing too much.”
In this warts-and-all book, which includes many never-before-seen photographs, German takes us to the Stones’ homes, recording sessions, and concerts around the world. He charts the band’s rocky path from the unthinkable depths of a near breakup to the obscenely lucrative heights of their blockbuster tours. And ultimately, German reveals why his childhood dream come true became a passion he finally had to part with.
Under Their Thumb is an up-close and extremely personal dispatch from the amazing, exclusive world of the Rolling Stones, by someone who was lucky enough to live it–and sober enough to remember it all.
"...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, but actual people."
--Alan Light, The New York Times
"Offers an engaging bottom-rung perspective on how rock-and-roll became increasingly corporatized in the late '80s and the '90s."
"Most misspent youths don't bear re-telling. But a visit to Bill German's lost years is a riveting side trip through rock and roll's loftier heights. And some of its chillier depths."
-- Chet Flippo, former contributor to Rolling Stone magazine, and author of On The Road With the Rolling Stones
"Most people who get to hang with the Stones are either musicians, drug dealers, or groupies. Bill German was a fan who started a magazine for other fans, and ended up becoming good friends with the band. His book tells stories from the inside, a view that few real people ever get to see. And he's not English, or even German, he's from Brooklyn. This book really drew me in."
-- Ian McLagan, keyboard player (Small Faces, Faces, the Rolling Stones, and the Bump Band)
"I've read every word ever written on the subject, and can confidently say that this is the sweetest, funniest, least prurient or cynical account of life with the Rolling Stones. It excels as an insider's history, of both the Stone's waning era of creative untouchability, and of pre-blog fanzine culture. But it's also a romance; why can't a great, expansive literary love story -- recounting giddy highs, crushing lows, and sobering realizations -- concern a boy and a band?"
-- Marc Spitz, contributing writer, Spin magazine, and author of How Soon Is Never
“First-rate, firsthand account of the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, and a disenchanted chronicle of its increasingly crass commercialization."
-- Kirkus Review
Bill German was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1962. His life turned upside down when, at age ten, he first heard the Rolling Stones' Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out album. By age sixteen, he was chronicling the Stones' activities in Beggar Banquet, the fanzine he launched from his bedroom. The band took note and eventually declared Beggard Banquet their official newsletter. German traveled the world with the Stones and was welcomes into their homes. He co-authored The Works with guitarist Ron Wood, and wrote about the group for Rolling Stone and Spin. He's been profiled on MTV and VH1, and has reported on the Stones for various radio stations across the United States, such as WZLX in Boston, KLOS in Los Angeles, WCSX in Detroit, and both WNEW and K-Rock in New York. German majored in journalism at New York University until he dropped out to follow the Stones. He lives in New York City, where he refers to his Manhattan studio apartment as "the House the Stones Built."