When talking about lists of inevitable things, my buddy Riff will always include, "...and the Rolling Stones are going on tour." This year marks the Stones 50th Anniversary. While Keith Richards said that there probably wouldn't be a 50th anniversary tour, tickets have allegedly gone on sale for a September 1 show in Berlin. It would seem even Keith Richards can't fight the inevitable.
In that same spirit, LIFE books has come out with a book on the Stones, similar to the Dylan book covered on May 11. Once again, the book is full of amazing pictures, some that have been well-exposed, some fairly rare. The main difference between the two, apart -- obviously -- from their subjects is the amount of hype applied to each. Writer and editor Robert Sullivan, who waxed positively volubly about Dylan, has somewhat less to say about the Stones, and much of what he does have to say comes from Keith Richards' landmark autobiography "Life" (not to be confused with the publisher of this book), all properly attributed.
"If I had been writing a Mick Jagger book," Sullivan said, "there might have been more prose, or a Keith Richards book. God knows in 'Life' he wrote more than 400 pages. This is a band story, and I find it more interesting to tell the band story."
As with the family angle in the Dylan book, Sullivan takes some different directions in the way he portrays the Stones. Being a "band story," this book is the sum of the group's members, the ones who stayed and the ones who went. The idea of the ones who left seems to intrigue Sullivan.
"Right away, I became even more fascinated with the Ian Stewart story and the people who were left behind," he said, "because it wasn't the Beatles. It wasn't all of this stuff happened in Hamburg, and all of this stuff happened. George Martin insisted that they kick Pete Best out of the band, and Brian Epstein did, and then it was John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and then they broke up a very few years later."
In other words, the Stones, by their very longevity have avoided the kind of folklore that surrounds their alleged 1960s English rivals. Beatles history is finite. Stones history keeps on going.
"The Stones has been a mutative organ, with Mick and Keith at the core, but also Charlie," Sullivan continued. "It's fascinating to me how they never let the new bassist into the band, and Darryl Jones has been with them for years. Ron Wood gets in because he's famous, and Mick is tight with a penny. So much of this is about business."
For that, the Stones and how the personalities rub together make for far juicier reading than most stories in rock. Ian Dury might have sung about "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll," but the Stones invented it. It was the downfall of Brian Jones, the thing that did not kill Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the thing that ultimately made them stronger. Much of that drama happened during the band's founding in 1962 and their settling into a groove circa 1975. As such, the last 30 years of the band play out in the last eight pages.
"Dealing with the Stones as a band was more interesting for all the incidents," said Sullivan, "for all the crazy stuff and nut case melt-downs, but also for the sidemen, like Ian Stewart, like Brian Jones, even though everybody knows that story, or Mick Taylor, though everybody knows that story. Those things interested me more, so I really branched off in those ways."
If you don't know the stories -- and Mick's is still a little obscure -- check out the book, on better coffee tables everywhere.