I interviewed David Dalton in 1998 for the oral history of the early days of Rolling Stone magazine, which I titled, “The Jann and the Restless.” David was a founding editor of Rolling Stone and has since written twenty-four books, including biographies of James Dean, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Sid Vicious, the Rolling Stones, and, in 2010, a critically acclaimed biography of Andy Warhol. Dalton is the coauthor (with Jonathon Cott) of Get Back, the only book ever commissioned by the Beatles,
This is one of my favorite interviews because all of the great stories that David has. Within the interview he discusses his friendship with Linda Eastman (later Linda McCartney), how he started writing for Rolling Stone, interviewing people like Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood and what it was like working in the early days for Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone’s publisher and editor, Jann Wenner.
For me the best story is about how he and David Felton wrote a cover story about Charles Manson in 1970. That story won the Columbia School of Journalism Award after it came out. David lived with Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys who was friends with Manson and his family and then had a falling out with them before the murders started. So he had an inside track on the story and the whole Helter Skelter side of it. When he started the story he thought Manson was innocent and was staying at Spahn Ranch with the Manson family while he was writing the story. It was during this time he figured out he was guilty and the story of him leaving Spahn Ranch sends a chill down my spine!
We also discussed what a mess Woodstock was, how lame the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of fame is and my magazine fishwrap. Click on the audio links below to listen to the interview.