Sunday, August 14, 2022

Lesley-Ann Jones's "The Stone Age"

Lesley-Ann Jones is a bestselling biographer and broadcaster. She is the author of The Search for John Lennon; Bohemian Rhapsody: The Definitive Biography of Freddie Mercury; and Hero: David Bowie. A childhood friend of David Bowie, Jones has interviewed many of the world's most-loved artists, including Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Madonna, and Prince, often forming lifelong friendships with her subjects. Jones lives in England.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her latest book, The Stone Age: Sixty Years of The Rolling Stones, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Stone Age drops us in on a dilemma of Marianne Faithfull’s. It is April 1965. Mick Jagger’s teenage future beloved is pregnant again. Her fiancĂ©, undergraduate John Dunbar, has returned to the University of Cambridge. Bob Dylan has landed in London. Marianne, who worships him, contrives to get to him and offer sex as a symbol of her adoration. Bob writes a poem for her. She tells him she is pregnant, and he throws her out: possibly fearful that she might be planning to pin the deed on him. She marries Dunbar, they honeymoon in Paris, and she gives birth to their baby Nicholas just before her nineteenth birthday.

Brian Jones, meanwhile, is with Anita Pallenberg. Who lures Marianne under her wing. Bored and trapped by young motherhood, Marianne leaves her baby at home with the nanny and spends more and more time round at Brian’s and Anita’s place. Keith Richards comes too. When Anita is away, Brian and Marianne get together. But he is too spilled out on Mandrax to perform. Marianne then falls for Keith Richards. They will go on to have what she will later describe as ‘the best night’ of Marianne’s life. Then Mick starts finding his way round to Brian’s place too. It doesn’t say so on the page, but over it: we know already that Mick too will soon find his way into Marianne. The only Stone she never had was Charlie. Didn’t make her one of the band, though, did it.

‘How fucked up was all this, how drugged, how detached, how dismally sixties,’ I write.

Yes, this page is coolly representative of the content and tone of the whole book. Debauched, decadent, self-serving, careless of the feelings of others, the Stones proceed to wench and wassail their way through the next five decades, using and abusing folk (not ‘just’ women) willy nilly. There are many casualties, some of them fatal.

But: there is a comprehensive musical dimension to the book that is not touched on here on page 99. Otherwise, in a nutshell, here you have it. Ladies and gentlemen, the contradictory, disturbing, granitic and unstoppable Rolling Stones.

The test works.

But the book is no mere dish-fest. I have gone to considerable lengths to see the Rolling Stones in the round; to present them in context at every stage of their existence. What they were, at the beginning, was a bunch of tykes from nowhere who copied musicians they admired, and who got lucky. Success, fame and money honed them into creatures worthy of global adulation. They have kept on keeping on because they are incapable of doing anything else. The Stone Age delivers the scandal and the gossip, all under one roof, as it were. But I also strive to capture the essence of what makes a working rock 'n' roll band tick. I conjure a primal image of the group, ‘captured in mono and preserved for all time, to remind the reader that Ground Zero for any musical fusion is the groove. ‘From such innocence and hope are legends made,’ I write. In the end, when they are dead and the Stones are long buried, we will still have, and we will always have, the music.
Visit Lesley-Ann Jones's website.

--Marshal Zeringue