OLD GODS ALMOST DEAD by Stephen Davis

OLD GODS ALMOST DEAD

The 40-Year Odyssey of the Rolling Stones

KIRKUS REVIEW

A detailed biography of the Rolling Stones, emphasizing musical minutiae and salacious recollections.

Davis (Jajouka Rolling Stone, 1993, etc.) leaves no “stone” unturned in this close examination of the Stones’ early-1960s formation and rapid dominance of rock culture, despite strife that would end the careers of most. Davis insists, sometimes pretentiously, that the confluence of events that brought together Brian Jones, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger among postwar British blight represents a quasi-religious, signal cultural moment: “The Rolling Stones story does have a pantheistic mythos about it.” Davis acknowledges the crucial transformation of Missisippi Delta blues into the amplified urban variety played by Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson, which provoked a late-’50s European cognoscenti cult. It was on this early blues-worshipping circuit that the Rolling Stones formed, out of various cobbled-together R&B combos. Davis hones in on how their distinct personalities—Jones’s curiosity and sadism, Jagger’s raw sensuality and business acumen, and Richards’s dark appetites and assured playing—along with the talents of relatively “normal” drummer Charlie Watts and pianist Ian Stewart, formed a surprisingly adaptive rock-’n’-roll juggernaut. Between 1962 and 1966, they conquered “Swinging London,” and then became British teen sensations—somewhat incongruously, given their borrowed American R&B stylings. The Stones responded to 1960s turmoil with a remarkable series of albums and singles (Let It Bleed, etc.) that competed with Dylan, Hendrix, and the Beatles for rock primacy, despite a descent into debauchery that included Jones’s mysterious death, the murderous debacle of Altamont, Jagger’s participation in the doomed porn-art film Performance, and Richards’s alcoholism and heroin addiction. Yet the ’70s and ’80s saw the Stones become an increasingly profitable, corporate rock warhorse, their personal, legal, and tax difficulties notwithstanding. Davis skillfully recreates this brittle milieu of sleazy fame, in which figures like Andy Warhol, Gram Parsons, Chuck Berry, and Marianne Faithfull appear alongside the Hells Angels, underage groupies, and seemingly every hustler who ever nourished the band’s dark desires.

An engrossing cultural narrative, riddled with bombastic prose.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 2001
ISBN: 0-7679-0312-9
Page count: 624pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001




10 BOOKS ON THE ROLLING STONES:

Nonfiction LIFE by Keith Richards
by Keith Richards
Nonfiction OLD GODS ALMOST DEAD by Stephen Davis
by Stephen Davis
Nonfiction EXILE ON MAIN STREET by Robert Greenfield
by Robert Greenfield
Nonfiction FAITHFULL by Marianne Faithfull
by Marianne Faithfull

MORE BY STEPHEN DAVIS

NonfictionMORE ROOM IN A BROKEN HEART by Stephen Davis
by Stephen Davis
NonfictionLZ-’75 by Stephen Davis
by Stephen Davis
NonfictionTHIS WHEEL'S ON FIRE by Levon Helm
by Levon Helm

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionTHERE GOES GRAVITY by Lisa Robinson
by Lisa Robinson
NonfictionMICK by Christopher Andersen
by Christopher Andersen
Nonfiction50 LICKS by Pete Fornatale
by Pete Fornatale