Once again the Rolling Stones follow the Beatles. Several years after the Beatles released the documentary and coffee table oral history of the band, Anthology, the Rolling Stones released According To The Rolling Stones.
It’s about as imaginative as the title suggests, but the title is really inaccurate.
With Anthology, the Beatles set out to tell their side of the story, and they did it in exhaustive detail. While I might have preferred more information from the Fabs on their fascinating recording sessions, both the documentary and book were a treasure trove of stories. Every vacation, tour, and album were discussed in some length (more in the book than the film). But Paul McCartney has always been very conscious of, and protective of, the Beatles.
The Rolling Stones, on the other hand, don’t really seem to care all that much about their history. Mick Jagger especially is much more comfortable talking about their latest album/tour than he is talking about Exile On Main Street and the 1972 tour. Keith Richards tells the stories you want to hear, but the self-mythologizing can be excruciating. Charlie Watts is reticent to discuss much of anything. That leaves Ron Wood who is, at best, an unreliable narrator (as his own autobiography proves).
According to The Rolling Stones is excellent for what it is: a book that was used to cross-promote the Forty Licks tour and CD. It’s not dissimilar to 25 X 5, which was a mediocre documentary that was great if you recognized it for what it was: a promotional piece for the Steel Wheels tour. As a far-reaching, well-thought history of the band, 25 X 5 fell short. So does According to The Rolling Stones.
The Beatles Anthology was done while George Harrison was still alive, so it featured both old and new interviews with the three surviving Fabs, and pertinent pieces of old interviews brought Lennon into the mix. But where are old interviews with Brian Jones? Or new interviews with Mick Taylor or Bill Wyman? These three played essential roles in the Rolling Stones, but they are no longer in the band and have thus been whitewashed out of existence for the creators of this book. Wyman especially could have been a goldmine of information since he kept extensive diaries and notes about every note the band ever played.
But that’s the dirty secret here: this is not a history of The Rolling Stones in their own words. This is a promo piece for a CD and tour. You want proof? The Sticky Fingers album barely gets mentioned. The Forty Licks tour gets the last two chapters.
If you take the book for what it is, it’s very good. If you really want the complete history of the Stones from the band members themselves…well, have fun waiting. I just don’t see it coming.