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Book Review And Giveaway : Rollaresque By Simon Goddard

  • Published in Books


“That some gentleman are born to be estimable Sparrows and set their store in etiquette and epaulettes, shiny buttons and shoe polish, white collars and whiter gloves, ‘Please Sir’ and ‘Thank you, Madam’, strict codes and unbreakable conditions. And others are born to be Rolling Stones and grant nature liberty to curl their hair, scruff their heels, loosen their collar, wet their whistle and bulge their breeches with blissful disregard for all stipulations as might be printed, displayed and brought to their attentions by the scowling sentries of enforced decorum.”

The Rolling Stones' rise to fame came with a heavy batch of debauchery. ‘The bad boys of the music industry’ came with a bad reputation, a drug bust and multiple prosecutions. Rollaresque by Simon Goddard gives a unique picture of life in 1962 for five men in adolescence and the beginnings of a rock and roll band.  

The book falls into four parts: ‘Heirs’, ‘Orgy’, ‘Gaming’ and ‘Madhouse’. The content of each section does not mirror its title. ‘Heirs’ gives a brief insight into what the five were like before the band and consequently the first meet and formation of the Rolling Stones. The other three parts do merge into one, as they all follow themes of what I can only imagine was the common antics of a rock and roller.

From the book you can draw the conclusion that a common trouble the Rolling Stones had with the people of the '60s is the fixation with their shaggy hair doo’s, so much so, that a section of one of the four parts should be dedicated to it. It would then leave the rest of the biography to be about other things, like their music, which coincidently is what is missing from Rollaresque. For the avid music fan, it may come as a disappointment to read that there is a lack of tales about how songs were written or how relationships were formed. The majority of tales are about romantic encounters, run ins with the law and travelling to places like America and Morocco, which at times become repetitive and regrettably easy to flick through. Some of the tales though are at least humorous and do provide a detailed look into the world of a Rolling Stone, one of which stems from the weak bladder of Jagger and another from the bed sheets of his once lover, Marianne Faithfull and a fellow band member.

The book does look back honestly into the beginnings of Brian Jones’ descent into drug abuse and his fight with his own personal demons. The struggles of a rock star seem to always stem from their battle with fame. Jones hated how the media saw the Rolling Stones which went hand in hand with his jealous tendencies. Jones is however the only character that is truly explored; Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and even Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are left to be just unruly figures within the band.

The fast pace of the book is quite melodic and the chapters are relevantly short. This does draw you closer to each page and it does make it harder to put down because it feels like you are half way through an untold story. If you do not enjoy the workings of writers such as Dickens or Thackeray then this book may not be to your liking as it does mimic their writing style. Simon Goddard has written in a style that pays homage to such great writers which he does rather well. At times however, the style and the context clash and it becomes a little too contrived and you find yourself rereading pages to see what you missed.

Rollaresque is a unique take on the traditional biography. Its detailed complexity and unusual writing style is accompanied by eight impressive ink illustrations which add character to the pages. It takes a while to get used to the way of wording in the first opening chapters but the prose does become entertaining as the book continues. Rollaresque is an interesting read and provides exciting tales of the first five years of antics and bad behaviour, it is just a shame that stories of the band's actual music are lacking.

Rollaresque is published on August 6 by Ebury Press and is available from amazon and iTunes.

Should you though want a copy for free the first UK-based person to tweet @musosguide with the hashtag #MusosStones will be contacted by us and a copy sent along (not open to anyone connected with the site of course, sorry).


DVD Review: The Rolling Stones - Crossfire Hurricane

The Rolling Stones - Crossfire Hurricanes

It’s sometimes easy to forget that The Rolling Stones are even a band any more. They seem more like a monument, a piece of nostalgia with little value in the modern world, like typewriters or Betamax. So when the first incarnation of the Stones roar out some belting blues numbers in the opening minutes of this film it seems like an impressive, even vital piece of film-making. This is an illusion created by the band’s modern day image; Mick is singing about things a man his age should really keep to himself, Ronnie is peering out of gossip columns looking like a perverted crow, while Charlie and Keith have mostly disappeared from the public view into what we can only assume are some bloody big houses.

But once the sensation of “holy shit, they really were great” wears off, the documentary’s flaws come thick and fast. In fact the main problem with this film is made clear to the viewer within a matter of seconds: there is no new footage. The interview with the band, which is the focus of the two hour feature, is done without any talking heads or any other visual representation.

It’s lucky then, that the interview itself is quite good. The band don’t reveal anything to make it required listening, but Mick and Keith are their usual charming selves and the addition of Mick Taylor gives a valuable perspective on their most artistically rewarding period. They are especially interesting on the subject of Brian Jones, who was the band’s founder and a talented multi-instrumentalist up until his death in 1969. They are also on top form when discussing the now infamous Altamont free concert, where a mixture of overcrowding and of the presence of Hells’ Angels as security led to the stabbing of fan Meredith Hunter during a performance of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. Unfortunately for Crossfire Hurricane, the event was covered so well by the earlier, powerful documentary Gimme Shelter that it casts a large shadow over this section of the picture.

Another issue that arises from the interview-based narrative is that the film can only really cover what the band felt like talking about at the time, which means there are major gaps in their musical history. Considering that a large part of the film is about Brian Jones, it seems a great shame that the albums that featured his best playing (Aftermath, Between the Buttons, Their Satanic Majesties Request) are almost entirely ignored. Indeed, with the sole exception of a great scene showing Mick and Keith penning their first self-written song ‘Tell Me’, the same can be said for any section of their discography which isn’t part of their regular live set.

It therefore fails to do what any documentary should strive to do: teach us something new. If you only know the Stones for their major hits there is little you will learn from this picture, which can only serve to frustrate those who care, and bore those who don’t. Crossfire Hurricane hasn’t the material to show us anything new about the men involved, nor the drive to teach anything new about the music. It exists to give people a helpful reminder of their big hits in time for the release of their latest greatest hits album Grrr and, in that task, it serves as an inoffensive but unremarkable success.

The Rolling Stones – Crossfire Hurricane is available on amazon and iTunes now.

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