SIMON WELLS – She’s a Rainbow – The Extraordinary Life of Anita Pallenberg
The paperback edition of "She’s a Rainbow" was recently published by Omnibus Press and so I figured that this would be the ideal opportunity to write a few words about this illuminating piece of work and its subject matter, the incredibly colorful character that was actor, model, fashion designer, and Swinging Sixties icon Anita Pallenberg.
Author Simon Wells guides us expertly through the early years of Anita’s life in Italy and her upbringing and further on to her subsequent infatuation with the worlds of rock ‘n’ roll, fashion, art, modeling, films, and traveling. Given that Pallenberg became intimately familiar with The Rolling Stones and a part of their inner circle in the mid-sixties, it should come as no surprise that the narrative casts a fascinating and thought-provoking light on the inner dynamics of the group and how the raunchy rock ‘n’ roll ensemble functioned in all manner of different settings and contexts. The mechanics of the dysfunctional relationship with troubled founding member Brian Jones are laid bare and makes for a riveting reading experience and quite the emotional rollercoaster ride. When Pallenberg fell out of love with Jones and hooked up with Keith Richards, things obviously changed for her but it certainly did not make her life any less complicated or mundane. These 306 pages leave very few stones unturned and are as action-packed as her life was – to the point where it occasionally defies belief. If you are curious as to the nature of the drug use and spiked drinks, the London parties that never seemed to end, the grueling tours and countless hours spent in recording studios with the Stones, the psychedelia and the flirtation with the occult, the encounters with the vanguards of Pop Art in New York, the combustible personas and egos that she surrounded herself with, and her career in modeling and film, Wells’ literary excursion into all things Anita is for you. The utterly bleak years of her existence when her drug abuse spiraled out of control and the devastating blows life dealt her along the way are neither glossed over nor sugarcoated, which underlines the fact that Pallenberg was merely human and made some terrible decisions and choices along the way. Quite often one feels antipathy and disgust at some of the more despicable or hedonistic events outlined in the book whereas others are either heartwarmingly funny or steeped in sweet melancholy. In other words, Wells’ book never fails to make us feel something for its subject, and the fact that it does not skirt around the painful aspects of Anita’s life and covers her toxic relationships and addiction issues leaves one feeling that it captures the heart and essence of who she was and her fierce creativity and determination.
The book draws on a wealth of information and numerous interviews with friends, relatives, and associates of Pallenberg, which works for the most part, but there are instances where it feels as if Anita’s voice is strangely absent and the piece relies too much on the unreliable memories and hazy recollections of others. Not that this makes it any less exciting as such and the good thing is that "She’s a Rainbow" steers clear of melodrama and sensationalism and instead strives to provide the reader with the most balanced and nuanced overview of events possible. Given that she had profound effect on the vortex of madness that was and is The Rolling Stones, it should come as no surprise that she made as many enemies as friends along the way and as the book perfectly illustrates, she was a complex individual. What makes this such a fun and inspired read is its energetic pace and its ability to keep us entertained and engaged from beginning to end. It goes without saying that this is absolutely essential to anyone familiar with The Rolling Stones in their 60s and 70s heyday. A moving story for sure.