Terence Spencer/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Those kids selling maps to movie stars’ homes in LA didn’t come upon that business model out of the blue. It’s been proven a subset of human nature to want to peek behind the curtains of the lives of our idols, something that a whole new generation of ethically-challenged social and entertainment media have only been too willing to exploit.
But it’s not all just shameless titillation. Indeed, Rock Stars at Home, a new book (from Apollo Publishers) that documents exactly what you would expect from the title, surfs the culture of vicariousness in a more reverential way – giving us a view of the distinctly not humble abodes of 30-odd million-selling rockers, and chronicling their lives during the time they lived in them.
Most of the book’s subjects are from the golden age of rock and roll, the ’70s and ’80s – and so we get a more personal look at the lives of Led Zeppelin, Freddie Mercury, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Ozzy, Guns N’ Roses, even Elvis. At 51, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher is the youngest of the bunch, proving our oft repeated point that real rock stars are a dwindling breed. (One dreads the insufferable boringness of a possible Part II, starring Coldplay, Imagine Dragons and Greta Van Fleet).
UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 1986: Musician Ozzy Osbourne (R) at home with (L-R) son Jack, wife Sharon, daughters Kelly & Aimee. (Photo by Terry Smith/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Penned by a small coterie of noted music writers, including Bryan Reesman and Simon Spence, the book moves chronologically on from Frank Sinatra (actually not really a rock star, as he once referred to the burgeoning genre as “the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear”), and divides its subjects into two distinct camps; those with fancy houses, and those whose habitats at the time coincided with a significant period in their lives.
In the first camp we have George Harrison, whose three-story, 25-bedroom former school on a 62-acre English estate vies with Barry Gibb’s sprawling Miami compound and Elton John’s Old Windsor mansion, which was once owned by King George III. In the latter category there’s Deborah Harry and Chris Stein’s grotty 2-bedroom on the Bowery, where the seeds of Blondie first sprouted, as well as the communal LA practice/storage/living space where Axl and Slash pounded out the chords that would make GNR a household (dirty) name.
Monsieur Mercury’s tale is particularly poignant, in the fact that his charming but ordinary two-story house (granted, on a quarter-acre garden in the center of London’s posh Kensington) was willed to his life-long friend Mary Austin on his death from AIDS in 1991 (not covered in the recent biopic Bohemian Rhapsody). Bowie’s bourgeois flat in Berlin was equally unremarkable, except for the fact that it’s where he kicked cocaine and wrote “Heroes.”
Rock Stars at Home won’t make you like Axl if you’ve always hated him; but it will probably elevate your already towering love for Debbie, David and the rest. Though perhaps best of all, it will decisively cure any irrational impulse to take Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up even slightly seriously.