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Stoned: A Memoir of London in the 1960s
Andrew Loog Oldham
St. Martins Press
400 pp.



The Wag Chats with
Andrew Loog Oldham

Rolling Stones impresario Andrew Loog Oldham discusses the structure of his new autobiography and tells us why writing it was more a celebration than a catharsis.

What made you decide to write an autobiography?

Oldham: I had been writing my autobiography most of my life. I must have been through umpteen different starts and stops. Some were derailed by my drug and alcohol use and inability to complete cycles begun, whilst others got put aside due to offers to produce recordings with talent in locations that I could not resist.

WAG: Stoned includes long passages from other people--either through interviews or print excerpts from their own books. Why did you choose this format over a more traditional one with a single narrative voice?

Oldham: This format, apart from my being clean, is what made it possible to remain engaged and complete the book. I am a fan of the medium in which I have succeeded, and thus I have a tale to tell for some amount of people. I love me—but I would have got bored with a simple "I did this, I thought that, and then I" format. I am challenged and engaged by communication with others' deeds and therefore have to ask the reader to share my interest. Pete Townshend, John Paul Jones, Nik Cohn, Chris Stamp, Vidal Sassoon and Mary Quant were all part of the two hundred and fifty people who screamed "the swinging Sixties" loudest and first; therefore, I wanted their voices and experiences in my story. I think they help me explain the time better, and in a world where we all have our own truth I might give the reader a wider one. Jean Stein's Edie: American Girl (edited by George Plimpton) has always seemed to me to be the way to go, especially when serving up a world dominated by spark, drugs and ego. The device is also an assist to help you Be There Now.

WAG: Did you find that putting the book together with so many voices was something like producing a record?

Oldham: Exactly. I am the basic track, my guests are the overdubs, and the time and events are the lead vocal.

WAG: Did you have a clear understanding that the book would take this shape from the beginning or did it change as you worked on it?

Oldham: I always had in mind a choice of three endings for this first book. The first was "And then I met the Rolling Stones," which might have been deemed a bit cheeky in the ego department. The second was "And then we recorded 'Satisfaction,'" but that process brought America into the game, which is a separate story. Post-Beatles music, and therefore mine with the Rolling Stones, has two lives. The first is making it in Britain when America was a fantasy and not a possibility; the second is the world that opened up for all of us once the Beatles had hit. Before that, America was not even a holiday possibility, just a field of dreams we survived on via its films and music. The only British pop records that made it in the States were one-off freaks like Acker Bilk's "On The Shore"—not even Cliff Richard could get a look in.

WAG: Stoned seems cathartic. What was writing the book and reviewing that period of your life like for you emotionally?

Oldham: Catharsis is a process of " getting rid of." I had nothing to get rid of. I'm applauding the time and the people. Stoned is a celebration and a history. It's a time that is often overlooked by those on the left side of fifty by the accordianing in of those years, as if we kicked off with peace and love. That only came about when the fame and money weren't working. Stoned tells of the ride up, when every waking day had us beaming at not having had to settle down and work for the Man. Most of the people in Stoned were war-babies who'd been told to tow the line for the sacrifices of our elders. Thank God, we didn't; thank God, we rocked the boat. Thank you, Eddie Cochran ! Thank you, James Dean!

WAG: The Rolling Stones have a running habit of turning down interviews, and they avoid discussing the period your book covers. Why do you think that is?

Oldham: I can't see any valid reason for discussing your yesterdays unless it's part of your work process today. I certainly would not make a habit of it. It's a very dangerous box to allow yourself to be fitted into. The Rolling Stones have to be engaged in tomorrow or it's over. I'm certainly not interested in Bill Wyman or Mick Jagger except as present-time objects in this wonderful world of words, and I understand them not being interested in me. They are in my life, at the moment, but I'm not in theirs.

WAG: What do you think was your greatest accomplishment as a producer in the 1960s? And what do you think was your greatest failing?

Oldham: Providing the environment in which the Stones could produce their music, cheer leading them into "go," making enough valid suggestions that ended up as recorded moments and knowing when to leave the room. I did not have "a greatest failing"—the work worked.

WAG: Will there be other volumes in your autobiographical output or did Stoned sum up everything you want to say?

Oldham: Well, your reader will know we haven't met. I'm not done by a long shot. I'm nearly through 2Stoned, and if the reader will have me, there could be Stoned Free. 2Stoned basically covers 1964 to 1967 and our coming to America. As you know, Stoned ends just as the Beatles have taken America, and the Stones are getting ready to go. It's a heady time, and this one may qualify as cathartic. I seem to be clearing my universe in the process of getting it done. Finally, if Oscar Wilde were alive today, he'd have just finished a CD of duets with Leonard Cohen, Beck and Marianne Faithfull.

—Interview conducted by William Shinault IV

Posted June 1, 2001


Photo Credit: Crispian Woodgate

In 1963, Andrew Loog Oldham met the Rollin' Stones, which at that time was a blues combo. Soon hired as their producer and manager, he added a 'g' to 'Rollin' and, more importantly, shaped the band into a bad boy alternative to the Beatles. Mr. Oldham's Stoned: A Memoir of London in the 1960s is the first volume in a projected three-volume autobiography. He currently lives in Bogota, Columbia.



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