Book review: The Stones, the acclaimed biography
By Philip Norman
Published by HarperCollins
Reviewed by Veronica del Valle
“As a journalist I’d interviewed the Stones only once, in 1965 when I was on a small evening paper in north-east England and they appeared at the ABC cinema in Stockton-on Tees… I talked to Mick Jagger sitting on a cold backstage staircase, he wore a white fisherman’s-knit sweater and swigged from a Pepsi-Cola bottle…”
With this first portrayal of the front man of the Rolling Stones, Philip Norman opens a truthful, genuine and gripping book that recounts the history of the legendary band that celebrates their 50th anniversary this year.
In The Stones, the acclaimed biography, writer Philip Norman engages the reader with countless anecdotes, vivid details and refreshing nuances about each member of the band and their singular personalities. This is a written account of a series of events that made up a rock band’s journey. With a brilliant level of sophistication, this biography unravels, with a haze both nostalgia and euphoria, not only their career, but also their lifestyle. The special appearances of David Bailey, Marianne Faithfull, Christopher Gibbs, Anita Pallenberg and the ravishing Bianca Jagger, among others, make the tale much more glamorous, dramatic and enticing.
Norman does not over-analyze. Instead, he lets his skills as a researcher and journalist plainly depict the facts, without unnecessary decoration. He describes the development of unexpected actions and puts into words the significance (and the consequences) of the accomplishments and the mistakes in the lives of the protagonists.
Thorough biographer that he is (he also wrote the Beatles biography Shout!), Philip Norman writes with the personal knowledge and trust of the leading players in this story. The fact that he knew the band almost since their birth and that he toured with them during the American leg of the 20th anniversary world tour in 1981 reflects in the seduction of the narrative and the depth to which the reader is taken as the pages are turned.
Norman is able to draw us into a particular time and place, and he is able to shine a light on what made this group of Londoners so fascinating. The book delves into the events that shaped the band’s career and scrabbles around to show what traits, peculiarities and talents were there to change their lives. Across each chapter one is able to see the obstacles they had to overcome, the part played by luck and fate on that journey to success as the dice tumbled one too many times, the decisions they made to become who they are, the risks they took in order not to fade away, and simply let it rock.
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