GONE CRAZY AND BACK AGAIN: The Rise and Fall of the Rolling Stone Generation by Robert Sam Anson

GONE CRAZY AND BACK AGAIN: The Rise and Fall of the Rolling Stone Generation

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Some solid, magazine-style reporting on druggy whiz-kid Jann Wenner and his driven, Machiavellian rise to mogul-dom via Rolling Stone magazine--padded out with tangential anecdotes, undermined by sentimentality, and mired in a sappy glut of vague, groundless amateur social-history. Anson's doomed, fatuous premise here is that the Rolling Stone story is a ""moral and a metaphor for the fate of a whole generation. . . . These were the people of the Sixties, and Rolling Stone was their magazine."" But he can only cling to such gross overstatements by remaining fuzzy about facts and figures (not until the last third of the book does he casually note that ""more than 90 percent of the early Rolling Stone readers were male""). And the Jann Wenner who emerges here, right from the start--trend-follower, ""star-fucker,"" opportunist--never fits with Anson's often-laughable recycling of all those Sixties-nostalgia ""failure of a dream"" clichÉs. Still, savvy readers may want to weed out the blather and enjoy the engaging, seamy details of Wenner's climb: starting out, a non-hippie into rock and drugs, with $7500 in 1967 San Francisco (""They were so alike, the editor and his readers--rootless, cut off from their pasts,"" etc.); the notorious groupies issue, the boost from Woodstock, the downer of Altamont (""the killer of the dream""); the swing from rock to politics in the '70s (""the Sixties were over. The protesters were headed for law school""); the shift into high, glossy, rock-biz gear with Clive Davis, slick ad solicitation, Wm. Randolph Hearst III, cocaine, celebrities, and the inevitable move to N.Y. And, throughout, there are profiles--often worshipful--of such Rolling Stone stars as rock critic Jon Landau and ""gonzo"" journalist Hunter Thompson (""an old-fashioned moralist trapped in a world that, by its very immorality, continually threatened to destroy him""), plus juicy low-downs on feuds, deals, back-stabs, and sell-outs. But Anson's naive insistence on the ""generation"" metaphor and the dream-that-failed scenario never allows the reportage to sharpen, never allows a real examination of the place of Rolling Stone in the period so crudely generalized about here. Fundamentally questionable then, with a good deal of muckraking diversion along the way.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1981
Publisher: Doubleday