In 2006, when I was taking a year off from university and working some of the final months at Tower Records before the chain's nation-wide heartbreaking close on 26 December 2006 (our store - Tower Fairfax - closed that day, but most others closed a day or two before) when I was first introduced to a worn copy of this glossy, oversized book. It was the night shift, and, at almost midnight on Monday, hardly anyone was perusing the massive store, so I carried Rock Dreams with me to the register I was to man, and began to carefully turn each luscious page. At the time, I thought I had uncovered some rare treasure, some book that I assumed (though I don't know why - chock it up to being a 19-year-old idiot) few people had ever seen or knew existed. I mean, what was this thing? It seemed too cool and too weird for mass consumption, although our store was sometimes a treasure-trove of little rarities (I got the audio CD of Cyrinda Foxe's awful autobiography there, some Gn'R and Stones bootlegs, etc). Rock Dreams is a book of amazingly real-looking but made-up illustrations of rock stars from the early days of Frankie Laine and Fats Domino to the contemporary gods of Marc Bolan and Lou Reed (the book was published in 1973) by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert. What's so interesting about the pictures is that they really are rock dreams - it isn't as if Peellaert is simply looking at a photo in Muziek Express and drawing it; he's visualizing, daydreaming, and fantasizing, he's creating the images of pop icons that we want to see, images that represent all the things - good, bad and ugly - that we as a culture have projected on the artists. They're all based on facts, of course - Janis Joplin passed out on a bed clutching a bottle of whiskey isn't even shocking or taking creative license at all, but stuff like Jerry Lee Lewis's 13-year-old bride toying innocently yet suggestively at her lingerie-looking wedding dress is a perfect example of the often poignant yet semi-uncomfortable underworld of decadence that makes this book so appealing. The illustrations are aided by the captions/text of Nik Cohn, who is the great artist's verbal counterpart, bringing to life these strange fascinations that exist somewhere between reality and fantasy - the very place, of course, that rock 'n' roll fans like me hold closest to our hearts.
This is only Part 1 and features a sample of 30-some illustrations from the book, but there are a lot more, so a Part 2 (and perhaps a Part 3) will inevitably follow. The Rock Dreams that I bought in 2006 was not, of course, a first edition, rather a reprint by Taschen. Many of the images spanned two pages, which is most unfavorable for scanning. I knew there must be a version that featured my absolute favorite photo in the book on a single page rather than a double, so that I could scan it completely and without that hideous spine down the center. In June of last year (god, I can't believe it's 2012 already), I spent arguably the most romantic 30 hour stretch of my life with a man who also owned Rock Dreams, and I was delighted to find that he indeed had an older copy that featured said photo on one page. It was easy enough to find on eBay (a site I spend countless hours on buying most of the stuff I feature on this blog), so I got one for myself (although even in this one, some of the images are spread over two pages).
Sound as ever,