The old saying “if I could only be a fly on the wall,” defined the yearning of many rock fans wanting to know what really went on backstage, or in the hotel rooms, from an uncensored non-biased view. Yes, there have been some great books written by groupies that delivered on that desire. Yet, even those books tended to glamorize the rock star life from starry eyes. There have been books written by promoters, agents and the sort, but they also tended to be biased based on their relationships with their past clients.
Recently a new rock and roll book entitled Babysitting A Band on the Rocks has been released that somehow finds a way to define the rock and roll life from a viewpoint in between the eyes of rock stars, agents, roadies and groupies.
The book’s author G.D. Praetorius, was neither a rock star, groupie, producer or agent. The man fell somewhere in between, while also bearing the title of a production manager of an old concert hall on Long Island. Perhaps the best way to describe G.D. Praetorius was with the title of handler. From the book title, it seems appropriate to label G.D. Praetorius as a handler. However, the man was far more than just a handler. He was a fan, a knowledgeable one at that, but he also was a professional stagehand and assistant concert promoter. Those jobs fueled the premise of the book, Babysitting A Band on the Rocks. The book is an unbiased first-hand account of what it was like to work with some of classic rock’s greatest bands such as Aerosmith and Van Halen.
While there is much focus on witnessing the fall of Aerosmith and Steven Tyler, what really separates the book from other rock tales is the behind the scenes stories on what it’s like setting up a rock and roll concert and all the issues surrounding tours. G.D. Praetorius takes the reader behind the scenes into the not so glamorous world up setting up the arenas. The issues of unions, stagehands, truck drivers, hauling gear and spending the entire day setting it all up, only to break it down and do it again the next day is very compelling reading. The chapter on dealing with the weight of AC/DC’s set piece; the two ton Hell’s Bell is hilarious.
G.D. Praetorius found his way into the rock and roll world as a college student producing shows at Hofstra University in New York. The University was located not far from an old movie theater that had been converted into a concert hall called the Calderone Concert Hall. G.D. Praetorius’ work at the hall dealing with tour managers demands and other sorts makes for fascinating reading. Eventually, G.D. Praetorius began working at the Nassau Coliseum and dealing with some of the biggest acts in rock and roll. His work at the Coliseum and other venues stemmed from his association with the concert promotion company Freefall.
The book is aimed towards classic rock fans which are for the most part men and women 50 years old and above. It’s an audience that spent many years attending great rock and roll concerts in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Everyone remembers sitting in those arenas an hour before the show staring at all the equipment and gear, watching the stagehands preparing for the show. The book’s accounts of this are an eye opening read on that process. It is probably an even more compelling part of the story than G.D. Praetorius thought it would be. The book is promoted as a story of the experiences dealing with Steven Tyler and other rock stars, but it’s the stories about dealing with the promoters, agents and arena issues that this reader found extremely fascinating.
The book Babysitting A Band on the Rocks is a great presentation of the story of classic rock in the 1970s and 80s. While it’s not narrative in its presentation, the author’s commentary on classic rock bands is dead on. This is where the fan aspect comes into play wonderfully. Like many of us who grew up as teenagers in the 1970’s, G.D. Praetorius was a hardcore rock and roll fan. That meant he brought all the albums and saw all the concerts he could. He lived rock and roll just like most of us old time rock fans did as teens. When you lived rock and roll, you knew your stuff. G.D. Praetorius’ commentary on the world of rock is incredibly well written. It’s so well done; the book can actually stand as reference guide in many forms. In no way is it a complete narrative of classic rock, but it does offer an outstanding commentary on many of the era’s classic rock bands.
One of the elements that defines why the book is such an enjoyable read is the lack of critical snobbery that we usually see from rock critics. The book is honest, but it also displays an empathetic tone. G.D. Praetorius stood in the middle of the rock and roll world and saw why certain stars behaved the way they did. Even at times when he was attacked himself by the star’s own inflated egos or lack of understanding, G.D. Praetorius understood the code of professionalism that is required by those who work with rock stars. Even in the writing of the book, that code seems to still stand.
We don’t want to give away any of the juicy stuff in the book, but we will admit that one of our favorite chapters had to do with an enraged Steven Tyler wanting to tell off the owners of a nightclub called Hammerheads on Long Island after the power went out. The result of that meeting played out like an episode from the Sopranos. Big time New York night club owners are usually people not to be messed with.
At times, while reading the book, I was reminded of the film Green Book. G.D. Praetorius was not a tough guy like Tony Lip played by Viggo Mortensen, but he was utilized in the same fashion at times. The story that G.D. Praetorius tells about driving Pink Floyd around is one of the most memorable sections of the book.
G.D. Praetorius’ book Babysitting A Band on the Rocks is written from a voice that all of us who are rock fans can relate too. The book’s title does not give the work justice. This is a book that is far more than just about witnessing Steven Tyler’s drug addictions and rock star excess. The stories about Tyler and Aerosmith are indeed very interesting. However, there are many great stories including G.D. Praetorius’ encounters with a snobbish cynical Ian Anderson, a bitchy Chrissie Hynde, David Lee Roth and the entire Van Halen juggernaut, The Ramones, a suspicious Billy Joel and many others. Another highlight of the book is G.D. Praetorius’ tale of the night he and his wife Pam hung out at a desolate bar with Keith Richards.
Babysitting A Band on the Rocks is a book about rock and roll in the 1970s and 80s written in a prose that is exciting, honest and full of substance. It’s an articulate well written book that defines the passion of rock and roll fans through the eyes of one who got the chance to get up close and do the dirty work without complaint. Don’t miss this one!
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