I suppose I should start this foreword by explaining that the publication of the following text is in direct conflict with the advice of many lawyers, including my own, as well as my peers in the publishing industry, the Los Angeles Police Department, the friends and family of the author, and my own wife. I do not take the judgement of so many well-informed people and institutions lightly, nor do I claim to have any greater insight into the matter, save for my access to the unedited version of the text.
In my defence, I remind the reader that the interest and demand of the general public is the only force a successful publisher ever need respond to, especially in a case which has been so widely followed and yet for which so little reliable information is available; furthermore, in presenting this document to the world, I am following what may turn out to have been the last request of its author, an act with which I intend to honour his spectacular life as well as raise awareness of the unusual circumstances around his departure from the world stage. I can only hope that wherever he is, his explicit instructions to me concerning the release of his memoirs, if such they might be called, still marry with his desire that his adoring public understand the pressures under which he laboured for so long.
Billy Ray Jetson, more commonly known as ‘RayGun Jetson’ by his fans, began his rise to fame with soft rock band DarkThrob, which signed with Universal records in 1972, the same year in which Aerosmith were signed to Columbia records. This year was to be the start of hugely successful careers for both bands, as well as a temperamental and competitive relationship between the two. One of the many popular folk-tales of that era refers to the impossibility of having both bands on stage in the same night, owing to the refusal of each to open for the other; a lesser known but more strongly believed story suggests that RayGun refused to allow Universal Studios bosses to sign Aerosmith when their contract with Columbia ended, threatening to quit the label.
Such stories form the bedrock of a labyrinthine mythology spanning four decades, the same number of doomed marriages, several prolonged and ultimately futile periods in rehabilitation clinics, fights, flings, and nights in jail; his simultaneous relationships with three different Bond girls is still a favourite anecdote on the Sunset Strip, and the resulting catfight at the 1982 Oscar ceremony is YouTube’s highest rated video from any award ceremony ever. In this much at least, the elements, if not the scale, of RayGun Jetson’s story are entirely typical of any lead singer in a rock band at that time.
RayGun’s long-term drug addiction in particular brought him much unwanted attention from the press, largely due to his inability to perform on stage throughout the late 1980’s; Steve Tyler, RayGun’s counterpart in Aerosmith, commented in ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine in 1986: “It’s bullshit what some people are saying about RayGun Jetson man, making out that he’s some kind of wild drug fiend like no other… the only difference between him and me, or him and Slash, or him and the other guys in his own band… is that he can’t take drugs and just get on with it. He gets completely out of his mind, every time.” 1
There is a startling and heretofore unknown level of detail regarding this aspect of RayGun’s existence to be found in the following pages, with the details ‘blurred’ only so far as is necessary to protect the innocent. In fact, part of the extreme controversy surrounding the release of this material is due to RayGun’s uncompromising confessional style, not only unburdening himself but implicating swathes of the Hollywood elite in the most bizarre and improbable illicit practices. The resulting unrest among the L.A glitterazi, and their aforementioned hordes of legal representatives, has come close to preventing this publication and may yet prove to be the end of my career.
Of course, such wild lifestyles were very much the norm in the period of DarkThrob’s fame, a period which saw the drug and alcohol related deaths of Ian Curtis, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon and many others; nothing here is remarkable about RayGun Jetson, save perhaps that he didn’t die. Throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s, when the band was still among the most commercially successful performing acts around, RayGun, though seriously endangering his health, managed to avoid the trend for overdosing; the band’s short-lived revival in the late 1990’s, which opened them up to a new generation of fans, was still marred by heavy drugs use which nonetheless did not seem to seriously incapacitate RayGun.
Little had been seen of him the singer after 2000, when he moved to Los Angeles; his only national media appearance revolved around a brief and controversial association with the Church of Scientology. It was in this period that I first met RayGun, at a time when he was bouncing between would-be publishers with the hope of sharing his written work with the world. Like most of my colleagues in the industry, I was initially excited by the prospect of that rare gem, a guaranteed commercial success; and, also like my colleagues in the industry, I was dismayed by the work RayGun had to show me. As I have mentioned, the age of his universal stardom was over, so while he still had the potential for popularity with an older generation of readers, his fame was not sufficient for me to overlook the glaring faults of his surreal and seemingly hallucinatory writings. I sometimes envy that younger, untroubled version of myself, the man with enough ambition to avoid the risk involved in being attached to this publication. I wonder if perhaps I wouldn’t be a happier man for obeying my first instinct, and binning the book, but I can only leave it to posterity to judge me as it will.
It is impossible for me to imagine that you, the reader, are unfamiliar with some of the more outlandish rumours which started receiving minor publicity, predominantly in the U.S.A., at the turn of the millennium. A story began to circulate that RayGun Jetson claimed to be able to see into the near future. Specifically, he insisted that he was always aware of the exact details of the next day of his life, and that he was able to alter events in order to make their outcome beneficial to him. This became public knowledge after RayGun discussed his ‘ability’ with an undercover music journalist at a party in Keith Richards L.A. Mansion, and later featured in an unflattering ‘Kerrang’2 column about ‘partied out’ musicians of the past.
The episode was seen by many as the inevitable consequence of the life RayGun had led, and on the face of it, seemed no stranger than the tales of his binge weeks with Ozzy Osbourne and Tommy Lee.
There was however a second article on the same theme, which, for reasons that shall become obvious, never made it to print. On the 10th of September 2001, RayGun appeared in a local office of the L.A.P..D., utterly inebriated and apparently terrified, raving about ‘attackers’. He became belligerent when asked to leave, and was quickly arrested after verbally abusing the desk Sergeant; a search revealed him to be in possession of three grams of crack cocaine, and he was detained overnight pending bail. The arrest report makes for interesting reading; it describes RayGun as being ‘… totally, almost incoherently intoxicated…’ and notes, with a hint of amusement, ‘…the detainee is convinced that the United States will come under attack within forty-eight hours.’
Obviously, the fallout of the September 11th attacks meant that no newspaper, even one on the West coast, was going to run a comic celebrity interest story, especially when that story raised such uncomfortable questions about how much RayGun knew of the terrible events which were to befall America.
Much has been made of this incident on certain online forums, and theories abound, often claiming that RayGun did indeed have some kind of precognitive ability. Many supporters of this theory point to RayGun’s strange behaviour during a 1992 appearance on ‘Tonight with Jay Leno’, when the singer seemed distracted and refused to talk about anything other than the DL State football game scheduled for the following day. Leno and the audience mocked RayGun’s certainty that Colorado would knock New York State out of the tournament in the first round, citing the one-hundred to one odds being offered by the bookies. As football fans will recall, Colorado won that game for the first time in a century, allowing RayGun to pocket a cool $200,000 from the insight.3
Likewise, great significance is leant to RayGun’s apparent aptitude for manipulating the stock market as, despite having no formal education or background in investment, he chose to organise the majority of the accumulated wealth of DarkThrob into risky portfolios on the one-day trading floor of NASDAQ; the band subsequently profited by unprecedented margins. These accounts, tied in with the retrospective analysis of album titles such as ‘Foresight’, ’24 Ahead’ and ‘Let me Tell you Tomorrow’ have birthed a tranche of conspiracy theories ranging from the thought-provoking to the downright wacky.
Whatever ‘evidence’ is bandied about is more likely to be the result of a very human desire for the inexplicable than a compelling argument for a seer-singer-songwriter; the book is composed of the largely verbatim writings of RayGun Jetson, and it contains many more such examples of his apparent precognition, some more and some less compelling than those I’ve already mentioned. I have read it many times, and spent long, wistful nights preoccupied with both the decision to print it and with the plausibility of its content, so I advise you to enter into it with a spirit of healthy scepticism; there is nothing to gain from either your disdain or your naivety, and at the very least the collection offers a fascinating insight into what an independent psychoanalyst has described as ‘…a quite standard, but abnormally resolute form of schizophrenia.’4 The content of this book seems to support that theory, but only as much as it supports any other; it’s rambling in places, obsessed with minor details and interactions with seemingly random people; most of the prophetic moments have lost their meaning now that the events they refer to have already occurred, and it’s often impossible to tell whether RayGun documented them before or after they actually happened. What we are left with is not quite a novel, nor a diary. Perhaps it is best viewed as a curiosity, presented to the world without an objective- but then again perhaps it is, as many have suggested, a kind of suicide note meant to further the cult of personality which built up around the performer in his latter years.
Billy ‘RayGun’ Jetson was last seen in the front garden of his Venice Hills house in California at 10:30am, on the 22nd of February 2012, by a neighbour who was leaving to walk his dog. One other person, his housekeeper, saw him earlier in the morning, but could not say whether his behaviour was more or less unusual than at any other time. He continued writing his compelling account of life with precognition until that same afternoon, at which point he seems to have vanished; nobody reports having seen him leave his house, his cars were safely locked away in the garage, and there were no personal effects missing from his home. Police on the scene could not identify any sign of violence or forced entry; extensive forensic investigation turned up only the wholly expected drugs caches; the only unusual thing in the entire house was a thick, hand written book on the kitchen table, an extended version of the copy he had brought to me some years before with a view to getting it published. There was a note attached, addressed to me, which simply said, “Wilco- today, I can’t see. It all ends at 2.42 pm. Publish it if you want to.” It would be vain of me to believe that RayGun gave me such a significant role in his end purely to punish me for my previous lack of faith in his work, although that was how I felt immediately after I was told, and how I still feel on occasion. The police ultimately decided that this note was sufficient grounds to assume suicide, and when a short search of the local area turned up nothing, the file on Bill ‘RayGun’ Jetson was closed.
So, if you’ve just picked up a copy of this book in your local store, and you’re still unsure whether or not it appeals to you, I recommend to you its grand themes: the ultimate party lifestyle, an unsolved mystery bigger than ‘Elvis Lives’, and a Cassandra complex rock’n’roller who disappeared off the face of the Earth. Enter this madhouse then, with my compliments.
1 Terunga Elsapora, ‘Dude I’m Like, Totally…’, Kerrang, 312 (2001), 4-5.
2 Bobby Bozna, ‘Who’da Thunk It?’, Illustrated Sports Weekly, 189 (1992), 12-13.
3 Harry Maxwell, ‘Aerosmith and the 80’s’, Rolling Stone, 42 (1986), 22-26
4 Verity Westwode , PsychoUnlogical: The Uncharted Depths of the Human Mind-Maze (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 59.