"Probably the most powerful and well known outlaw motorcyclist in the country." So began one of Ralph "Sonny" Barger's many police rap sheets from the 1970s, and for good reason. Barger, immortalised in Hunter S Thompson's book Hell's Angels
and star of the biker movie Hell's Angels 69
has, and to many people remains, the de facto "Chief" of America's Hell's Angels bikers. In Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club
, the biker from hell finally tells the whole story of nearly 50 years riding at the head of the Angels.
Hells Angel is a very brutal, honest book, and isn't for the politically sensitive or those who want a romantic account of post-war American subcultural life. It is, however, a fascinating story of Barger's life and scrapes. Growing up in Oakland, northern California, Barger was kicked out of the army for enlisting underage, and then set up his own Hell' s Angels in 1957, with the sole intention "to party and ride". "As our membership grew, we began to look like an army", and the stories pile up thick and fast of the increasing controversy that gathered around the Angels from the early 60s onwards. The use of Nazi regalia, the fights, the booze, the parties and the "old ladies" of the 1960s give way to the darker side of the Angels, with charges of beatings, kidnappings, murders and drug dealing in the 1970s (all of which Barger has been charged with at some time or another, as his helpful appendix of arrests, "The Rap-Up"). The later stages of the book are as Barger admits "one big blurry court trial" as the police tried to nail him for conspiracy throughout the 1980s, but the most interesting moments come with Barger's vivid (and often scathing) accounts of Hunter S Thompson, Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, Jack Nicholas, and Mick Jagger, during the infamous Rolling Stones concert at Altamont in 1969. Hell's Angel is quite a story, and told by quite a survivor. --Jerry Brotton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
The autobiography – the dangerous life and wild times – of Sonny Barger, the legendary leader of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club.
Keith Richards walked over to me after finishing 'Love In Vain' and told me the band wasn't going to play any more until we stopped the violence. 'Either these cats cool it, man, or we don't play,' he announced to the crowd. I stood next to him and stuck my pistol into his side and told him to start playing his guitar or he was dead. He played like a motherfucker.'
Sonny Barger is the Hell's Angel of all Hell's Angels, the motorcycle club's de facto leader for nearly thirty years, the man immortalised by Hunter S. Thompson in the classic Hell's Angels as 'nothing short of Winston Churchill when it comes to leading people'. He's feared and revered by people on both sides of the law. Now Hell's Angel sets the record straight – from the club's formation in the 1940s to the height of their notoriety twenty years later, from Sonny's first-hand account of what really happened with the Rolling Stones at Altamont to his lengthy periods of imprisonment, from his fights with rival gangs and the police to his own battle with cancer. Sonny Barger has ridden with the Angels for forty years, obeying no law but that of the HAMC. For the first time, this is his own – and their own – story.