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Book review: RS50 by Jagger, Richards, Watts & Wood

| 3 September 2012 | Reply


The Rolling Stones 50
Jagger, Richards, Watts & Wood
Thames & Hudson, $49.95

By Shane Pinnegar

As a celebration of the half century reign of “The Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band In The World”, this lavish coffee table book curated by the four remaining members of the Rolling Stones is an amazing document of their roller coaster ride through a musical landscape – and a society – which has changed so dramatically during their five decades together.

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The 60’s and 70’s take up most of the book, of course – that’s when the band and the music industry were more relaxed, looser. These candid photos make RS50 the treasure it is, whereas the latter decades are more “official” – live and promo photos taken from their ever-more-infrequent albums and ever-longer-and-huger tours.

Part of the thrill here is seeing the transformation from fresh faced innocence, through jaded, drug-affected cynicism, ego inflated neo-deitism, to uber-controlling businessmen. It’s one hell of a ride and, famously, there have been casualties along the way – Brian Jones was tragically lost to drugs, ego and misadventure; Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman both jumped ship to save their souls; original pianist Ian Stewart was deemed “uncool” and relegated to the side of stage and after decades running a tight ship as road manager, passed away.

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The four Stones contribute an introduction and occasional commentary to the photos themselves, and some of these comments are as illuminating as the candid early photos.

Personality wise, the four characters confirm to type – Jagger is mostly offhand and businesslike, often sounding like his contributions are dictated whilst otherwise occupied. Watts is borderline grumpy (“Ten years of working… forty years of hanging about!”, his intro page opens with), though his soft spot for, and sense of obligation to the band shines through. Woody is the excited fan who struck gold and joined the band – the boy who never grew up.

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Keef, a diamond in the rough if ever there was one, provides the cherries on this cake – always engaging, a metaphorical twinkle in his piratical eye, his self deprecating (yet always completely confident) sense of humour remains undiminished after 50 years of being The Human Riff, the best friend AND part time nemesis of his frontman Jagger, a solo star, and the man most likely to not be around next year.

Herein lies the secret to The Stones – as Ronnie quotes Kate Moss in his intro, they are “a band full of diverse characters who each have so much to offer in their own right, yet when we are together we make something even more fascinating”

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In short, The Rolling Stones are “The Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band In The World” for a combination of reasons. They blazed a trail musically that was rawer and rockier than The Beatles, who slightly pre dated them. It was their relentless tours of The States that changed the way rock shows were presented worldwide – from management, security, venues, staging, production and media perspectives. They influenced the people who helped change societal values and society itself over the 60’s and 70’s. Almost all of them have survived, pretty much gracefully too.

And above all, they made some of the best damned music ever.

Viva le Stones.

Category: Book Reviews

About the Author ()

Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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