A numbingly familiar look back at the Stones’ 50-year career.
Pete Fornatale (Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock and How It Changed a Generation, 2010, etc.), who died in April 2012, was a longtime host at New York’s WNEW, an FM radio power with access to some of the biggest names of the classic-rock era. Old on-air interviews with most of the Stones conducted by the author and his colleague Dave Herman serve as the foundation for this fawning oral history, much of which will be old news to fans of the band. The biggest problem with any rehash of the group’s career at this point is that nearly everyone with a tale to tell has already told it at full length. Band members Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Ronnie Wood have all published their own books, some of which are excerpted here. Mick Jagger hasn’t taken pen in hand yet, but he is already a past master of the interview that says nothing. A lengthy sit-down with Pete Fornatale, conducted in 1989 on the launch of the Stones’ clothing line, is a main attraction here, and it could not be more vacuous. Is there anything new to be gleaned about the band’s early history from Andrew Loog Oldham or Marianne Faithfull after their fine memoirs? Can journalist Robert Greenfield offer any fresh insights about the band’s 1972 tour not found in his definitive report STP? At the other end of the interview spectrum, the writer offers wince-inducing recollections from the hoi polloi: co-author Bernard Corbett on his junior high years as a Stones fan, radio engineer Jeremy Rainer on his duty as an extra in the concert movie Shine a Light. Dully told and messily designed, the book is a dutifully assembled piece of anniversary product that does little to illuminate the Stones' saga.
The Stones’ dog-eared story is better told in a dozen other accounts.