Sean Egan

'The Rough Guide to the Rolling Stones'

(Rough Guides)

MARK: 96/100


Don't expect to find little new here. After reading or simply consulting other similar guides and essays about the same topic, I can state this probably rightly claims the palm of most in-depth and updated one, often giving details absolutely unknown or misknown by journalists, fans or even other critics. For example did you know that in origin the Stones placed lots of emphasis about the fact they were a Rhythm and Blues band, not a Rock 'n' roll one, indeed the greatest as they intrduced themselves later in the 70's? Or that Wyman's true family name is completely different or that the Beatles had worse contracts than Jagger's gang? Or more, the story behind the lapping tongue symbol?

This book offers a wide gamut of topics briefly divided in 3 main categories analyzed throughout time (The story, The songs, The scandals), explaining the purport of the phenomenon, later only equalled by the explosion of Punk. But Punk and Emocore are dead... In addition, the Stones are still touring and they don't want to leave Deep Purple steal their sceptre. The breaking of some commercial rules considered to be a suicide turned out to be smart, fresh and successful ideas, helping the scene to regenerate itself and wiping out previous stagnant patterns, at the same time pioneering much of what mattered in music business during the following two decades.

For a fan there're hours to spend enjoying the behind-the-scenes that dealt with recording sessions, legal troubles, love affairs, management relationships, decisions, nuisances, cultural influence and so on. The Rolling Stones are clearly more than a legendary band: they were and are a lifestyle still unmatched; they made up rock stardom with a bit of luck and most of all a very sharp sensitiveness for deciphering what people wanted and liked at any historical time; this goes beyond artistic prostitution: this is mind-reading psychology at its highest levels and mainly comes from the members and not the managers or experts surrounding them.
Although I would've preferred a more comfortable A4 format for storing, my opinion about the contents - of course generous with photos and curiosities as a vivid book has to contain - remains unchanged: if you wish to invest your money on one guide, then acquiring the present one may reveal a well-guessed choice, avoiding the unpleasant feeling of 'something lacking' that unavoidably leads to a further purchase sooner or later; that's why I feel like recommending in particular the following books as well from the same publishing company: the Beatles, Heavy Metal, Pink Floyd, Punk and Rock (but there are other 15 covering the rest of music genres for those who concern).
More than a standard guide, this proves to be a printed documentary for maniacs desiring to learn about unreleased tracks and much more, an analogic movie to bring with during a holiday for the most, or a vital reference to look up in in order to better contextualize what brought to birth the lyrics and the attitude composing their major classics, such as "Jumpin' Jack Flash", "Paint it Black", "Angie" or "Brown Sugar", just as one does with a painter, a sculpturer or a director, die-hard fans speaking.
After a physiological decline in the 80s, the Stones of the 21st century still seem far from the image of a typical retired, serene and society respectful grandpa. Of course you can't compare the British lords to their more extreme spawn (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Marylin Manson, Deicide, Burzum, Berzerker?), instead ask yourself the right question: are they going to be there in 10 years? Will they be remembered as much as them? Think about it: when even your (grand)parents know the name of a real Rock band, when this band hasn't become the riduculous shade of itself and when even national media dedicate them services, then it means they have become as important as Madonna, Michael Jackson or Shakira. But the big difference is that...(merely summarized in a Beavis & Buttheadian manner) the latter suck!

MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - 20th August 2006

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