Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Rolling Stones: In the Beginning by Bent Rej

I have always preferred the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, though I have come to appreciate the music of the latter more as I have aged. This is funny because author Bent Rej says in The Rolling Stones: In the Beginning that no one over thirty liked the Stones in 1965. Well, I'm way beyond that now as are many Stones fans. I still perk up when I hear "Jumpin' Jack Flash" or "Satisfaction." It must be my lateblooming rebellious urges.

The title is slightly misleading. Rej spent a year photographing the Stones, March 1965 to the summer of 1966. They had already been together a couple of years, so it was not really the beginning. Because Brian Jones liked him, he was given almost unlimited access to their concerts, rehearsals and travels. Rej even shot a photo story for a fan magazine in their homes (mostly apartments and hotel rooms) for which all the members cooperated, though Mick Jagger did so grudgingly. (They did not have much in their living spaces. All were pretty bare.) Rej says that he forgot about the photos until 40 years later. They now form a sort photobiography of five very young men serious about their music and learning how to appreciate their wealth.

He contends that it is the period that group found its identity. Their brief try at wearing matching suits had passed and their confidence was growing. Brian Jones, who founded the group, was in decline as a leader already, and Mick Jagger was becoming the focus of fan attention. Though they drank excessively, no one was taking drugs yet. It was a cleaner and softer time, though innocence is not a word that I would use.

I recommend the book in my book as another title to offer when readers like The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz. There is a lot less detail than the Beatles book but the photos really draw you back to the time. Putting the Stones on the CD player helps, too.

Rej, Bent. The Rolling Stones: In the Beginning. Firefly Books, 2006. ISBN 9781554072309

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