There are a pair of sentences on the first page of Lisa Robinson's memoir, There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll, that make you think her book is going to be a gift, in a Nora Ephron meets Chrissie Hynde sort of way.
"I will always remember 1973 as the year that Eugene from Cinandre ruined my summer because he cut my hair too short," Robinson writes. "That summer, I also met Mick Jagger for the first time." OK, I thought to myself, I'm in.
In 1973 Robinson was a young writer for Creem magazine and the British weekly New Musical Express. She met Jagger at an Eric Clapton concert. He walked over to mock her obsession with rock fashion. In a campy voice, Jagger said, " Jimmy Page was wearing a pink satin jacket. " Robinson replied by telling him that his sequined shoes were tacky.
Robinson seemed to be everywhere in the rock world of the 1970s and '80s, often as the only woman in a roomful of boys.
She wrote for, or was an editor at, several early rock magazines. She understood fashion and was an eye-popping presence herself. She liked flared jeans and halter tops and huge sunglasses and rarely went to sleep before 4am. She travelled with the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin on tour; she spent a vast number of nights wedged into clubs like CBGB and Max's Kansas City. She carried a tape recorder that was nearly always clicked on.
Robinson wasn't a rock critic, one of those "boys who had ambitions to become the next Norman Mailer," as she puts it. She wrote gossip columns; she did interviews. She was a press liaison for the Stones while writing about them herself. "'Conflict of interest' was not a concept in the rock press at that time," she says. She got up close because bands weren't worried about her. "I was with them to get a story," she says about going on tour with Led Zeppelin, "not to judge."
There Goes Gravity is her attempt to put her busy life into context, to tell some good stories, to speak about being a rare female journalist in rock's early period. She gets some of this done. But There Goes Gravity is an oddly desultory book, often a joyless data dump, padded with long quotations from stale interviews. Robinson frequently reminds us how much time she's spent with musicians.
When Robinson interviews a rock star, she tells us, she sets up not one but three cassette recorders. No technical malfunction is going to thwart one of her sessions. In There Goes Gravity, it becomes clear she has it all on tape. You wish she'd gotten more on the page.