A funny, personal, and professional history of the Rolling Stones.
The facts are well-known and have been reported ad nauseam: English poor boys (except for Mick Jagger) form blues band, forsake modest ambition for global domination, soar to immortality on the strength of great songs and classic albums, enjoy enough highs (girls, cars, mansions, drugs) to weather the lows (busts, divorce, addiction, death), and are still going at it, a chugging machine as indestructible as it is increasingly irrelevant. So what does longtime journalist and author Cohen (Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, 2013, etc.) bring to this sodden, sordid tale? The passion and disappointment of a fan who knows (and reports) the facts but can’t stop cherishing the myth. As a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, Cohen toured with the band and got close to them, and he seems to have read every single book about the subject; by his own admission, he has studied the Stones “as the ancients studied war. It’s my Hemingway, Dickens, Homer.” Cohen weaves together the peak events with a supple sense of the band’s inner dynamic and unbreakable bonds, and he captures their public and private evolution—whether it’s the way producer Andrew Loog Oldham ratcheted up the band’s hoodlum mystique or how Jagger and Keith Richards mapped out a strategy for long-term success, which ultimately meant wresting control from founder Brian Jones, thus setting in motion the latter’s demise. Cohen sees them up close, such as when he describes Richards literally convulsing his way to sobriety, and far. Here is his succinct overview of the band’s 1969 Altamont disaster: “Mick Jagger had long pretended to be the devil. Then one night he threw a party and the real devil showed up.”
A compact and conversant history that makes the story new again, capturing the Rolling Stones in all their Faustian glory.