Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mick, Bill, Keef, Charlie And The Rest

Let me recommend 50 Licks: Myths & Stories From Half A Century Of The Rolling Stones.  It's an oral history of the Stones, told by the band itself as well as numerous associates, with lots of in-between stuff from author Pete Fornatale, a true student of rock music (who unfortunately died before the book came out).

The books moves quickly from one highlight to another, as the band moves from blues covers to original singles (forcing out original leader Brian Jones and replacing that slot with Mick Taylor and Ron Wood) to major albums to gigantic concerts.  We also see them going from scary young thugs (actually, they started middle class--the Beatles started as thugs) to huge (drug-addled) stars to respectable millionaires.  The story is generally in chronological order, with occasional sidebars and doubling back.

It's hard for me to compare it to other books on the subject, since I know the Stones' music pretty well but, unlike the Beatles, don't know their story backwards and forwards. It's a wild story, and a fun one.  Better, Fornatale seems to know which licks matter: 75% of the text deals with the early years--from their formation to the release of Some Girls in the late 70s--leaving the final few chapters to sum up the last three and a half decades.  No one, I think, would want to dwell too much on those years, where a gang of middle-aged rich guys do one huge concert tour after another while releasing an unmemorable album every now and then.

By the way, each title is the name of a song they recorded. So I suppose I should end this by saying something like how the book will give you Satisfaction, or sometimes You Can Get What You Want, or It's Only The Rolling Stones (But I Like It).  But I won't.


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