Lisa Robinson — rock journalist, author — talks Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page


Lisa Robinson, right, is responsible for introducing David Bowie to Lou Reed, left. Here, Robinson and Reed hang in 1976 New York.

Your boyfriend’s sister’s best friend went to college with that girl on “Glee?” That’s cool. Lisa Robinson once took shots of tequila with Annie Leibovitz at a Bob Marley concert and is responsible for introducing David Bowie to Lou Reed. As a pioneering music journalist in the 1970s (working for Creem, Hit Parader, et al.), Robinson rarely left the house without a VIP pass dangling from her neck. She shares a lifetime’s worth of backstage escapades and intimate insights on rock royalty in her new book, “There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll” ($28, Riverhead Books). On Thursday, Robinson will discuss the dossier at the W Hotel’s POV rooftop lounge with NPR Music’s Bob Boilen followed by a DJ set from the Post’s Chris Richards.

The book is full of rich anecdotes. You must have a great memory.
My memory is very good because I didn’t take drugs. I also have envelopes full of notes from every [Rolling] Stones concert from the ’75 tour and the five Led Zeppelin tours I went on in the ’70s. I have 5,000 cassettes filled with hours and hours of all the interviews I ever did. When I was writing the book I was listening to a lot of these tapes and, honestly, it was like John Lennon was in the room. That’s how much they’ve held up.

You got a lot of serious rockers to open up to you.
I was not a serious music critic looking to trash them. I was trying to find out their personalities. I wanted to write about the style and the scenes behind the scenes, and I just think having a chatty conversational style is much more effective rather than sitting down with a serious rock critic who comes in with a list of questions.

It seems Jimmy Page is pretty sensitive about reviews.
To this day, Jimmy complains about bad Led Zeppelin reviews. Here we have one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll bands of the last 50 years with millions of millions of albums sold and he’s still bitching about their reviews from the ’70s.

Have you ever been starstruck?
No, not really. I have been in awe of people’s talents. But did I fall down in a dead faint when I met Mick Jagger? No. The first thing I said to him was, ‘Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.’ I think when you’re born and brought up in New York City you have this feeling like you were the center of the world, so I was a little more cynical or jaded or sophisticated.

Do you remember your very first concert?
I snuck out of my house when I was 12 to see jazz musicians. I don’t know how I got into these clubs at the age of 12. I plopped my hair on top of my head, wore high heels, put makeup on and I got in. I saw Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis.

Some of the rockers were pretty misogynistic. How did you deal with it at the time?
I didn’t really see a lot of the sleazy stuff because I was careful to separate myself from that. I was very professional. I went back to my room every night. I was newly married to someone who was much cuter than any of these guys were.

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of The Washington Post Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at holley.simmons@wpost.com.
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