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For those of a certain age, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles are woven into the tapestries of their lives.
You know how a scent or a bar of music instantly takes you back to a moment, an event? Reading this is like being in a time machine or having a near-death experience: your life flashes past your eyes as fast as you’re able to read.
At the height of their powers, the two bands were like the yin and yang of a musical paradigm shift. They both rocked the Establishment to its very soul. Even Elvis Presley, who was the great ’50s rebel, the man who gyrated his (shock!) pelvis, hadn’t really prepared the ’60s for what was to come.
For the older generation, the long, traumatic and lean post-war years were easing. They never had the time, the luxury nor the energy to rebel.
In Britain, the major social change had been the crumbling of centuries of class distinctions. The upper-class no longer held the masses in thrall as they once had. The great unwashed were stirring and rebelling.
In the US, there was the election – and the shattering assassination – of the young, vibrant president John F Kennedy with his glamorous wife, Jackie.
The Vietnam War was building, and more young men were shipping out. In the mid-Sixties, more young Americans were returning in boxes and their angry contemporaries were hitting the streets in protests unseen before.
The civil rights movement, under the leadership of the charismatic Martin Luther King jr, was getting louder – and grew more so when he was also assassinated.
It was a time, for the older generation, of anarchy.
For the youth, it was a time to break free.
Into this tumult stepped the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.
The Beatles were perceived as a bit “cleaner” than the scruffy Stones, in their early days at least.
Once the oldies got past the noisome “yeah yeah yeah yeahs”, the Beatles, in the beginning at least, were basically singing lots of love songs.
The Stones were angrier, raunchier, lascivious, louder and more abrasive. They were even “grubbier”, as evidenced in the extract on this page.
The young men of both bands existed happily enough together on the charts, and personally, according to the book, with the Beatles slightly ahead in the groundbreaking stakes. Beatlemania, rather than Stonesmania, was coined first.
But the Stones have managed something not achieved by any other group: while the Beatles fell apart in a bitter divorce, the Stones have never dissolved. Today, 50 years ago (July 12, 1962), the teenagers who were the core of the Stones performed for the first time.
The now-ageing rockers had planned a 50-year anniversary tour this year, but Keith Richards told Rolling Stone magazine in March that it was more likely to happen next year. Rubber lips Mick Jagger put on a show for Obama at a White House celebration of blues in February alongside BB King. Their last tour, Bigger Bang, was in 2007. A major documentary is in the pipeline, according to the same March report in Rolling Stone, with unseen footage and extensive interviews.
And, man, are there some stories to be told!
Hanspeter Keunzler has done a remarkable job of doing so. The highs and lows, drugs and arrests, an abundance of sex, drugs and booze, marriage (or, shockingly then, not) and divorce, a murder, and music that will never die are recorded here for long-time fans to reminisce and for new fans to discover.
The joy of this compilation is that it is not a chronologically linear, fact-filled “history”. It has been cleverly constructed by using old interviews, newspaper reports, album analyses and, another memory stirrer, lists of major albums released by other artists in the same periods.
What was fascinating about these lists was many of the artists were heavy-hitters themselves, and they serve to highlight the longevity of the Stones.
None is still around…
These are the voices of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, who remain the core members and have survived the sex, drugs, and rock n roll. Brian Jones, an original Stone, did not, having drowned in his swimming pool; other Stones were Bill Wyman (until 1992); Ian Stewart (1985); Mick Taylor (from 1969 to 1974).
This is more than the history of the greatest rock n roll band ever; it is how the talent, drive and musical ambitions of a group of middle-class teenagers changed the world they lived in.
As they roll on to a third generation of fans, their legacy makes a mockery of many of today’s young celebs created by plastic reality shows in the pursuit of fame for its own sake.
* The e-book can be bought from www.theebookpeople.com or all platforms such as Amazon and itunes. Part 2, which is also expected to come in at 1000 pages, will be available in September.