Picks and Pans Review: Rock Wives

updated 02/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Victoria Balfour

"The biggest problems with rock marriages," says Frank Zappa's wife, Gail, "are drug abuse, insecurity and confusion about what the f—- you're doing." Balfour, a New York free-lancer, says you can also throw in infidelity, loneliness and lack of commitment. Balfour interviewed current and former wives and girlfriends of such music icons as Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison to find out what it's like to be involved with a rock star. Their answer: not great. While some of these performers come off as heartily respectable, most seem like little boys who never grew up—moody, pampered superbrats surrounded by sycophants. Some are even downright mean. Jerry Lee Lewis' third wife, Myra, whom he married when she was 13, recalls that when she threatened to leave him, he called her ugly—"no Liz Taylor" was how he put it—and warned her, "You better come back because nobody else is gonna want you." The women (some admit to being ex-groupies) come off as so unflaggingly patient, understanding, sensitive and down-to-earth that you have to wonder how distorted a picture they're presenting. But they do offer some intriguing comments. Linda Lawrence Leitch, once the girlfriend of original Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, says her presence caused a fuss among the other members of the group because "they didn't like girls going with them because they wanted to meet other girls." Gail Zappa reports that when she met Frank in the late 1960s, he had "every social disease that's possible," excluding AIDS and herpes. Bob Dylan's early 1960s flame, Susan Rotolo, remembers people always asking her, "Can you tell me what God is like? How did you like living with God?" ("It was," she recalls, "Woodstock. People were still praying to the great Allah, Dylan. I hated it.") And Angie Bowie, ex-wife of David, remembers that on their wedding eve he invited her to join him in a ménage a trois with another woman. "It promised," she says, "to be something special. And it was." Unfortunately the author gets bogged down in irrelevant biographical details about the women and doesn't analyze how (or if) they were changed by these relationships. There are also some notable exclusions: Christie Brinkley, Jerry Hall (she's peddling her own memoir), Bianca Jagger and Julianne Phillips Springsteen. And too many of the interviews (given that some of them recount tales of 20 years ago) seem obsolete. Still the book manages to provide an intimate glimpse of some decidedly unglamorous sides of rock, with enough gossipy tidbits to satisfy most rockophiles. (Beech Tree Books, $12.95)

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