Review: The Rolling Stones: The Stories Behind Their Biggest Songs

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The Rolling Stones: The Stories Behind Their Biggest Songs
By Steve Appleford
Carlton Books UK

In the rapturous prose of a true fan, Los Angeles-based music writer (and former editor at Option) Steve Appleford tells the story of The World’s Greatest Rock-n-Roll Band through the prism of 13 classic albums (The Rolling Stones through Black & Blue).

After a thoughtful introduction that places the Stones in an historical context, Appleford provides a track-by-track exegesis of the highlighted recordings, describing the instrumentation, divining the meaning of the lyrics, and throwing in some making-of lore. The subtitle’s promise of “the stories behind their biggest songs” (the book is part of the publisher’s series of annotated album guides) falls a little short, but is made up for by an abundance of intelligently observed commentary.

Appleford bolsters his annotations and personal opinions with quotes (both new and contemporaneous) from band members, friends, engineers, and other people on and around the scene. More valuable perhaps than the individual song write-ups are the recaps that introduce each album, where Appleford struts his journalistic stuff. Fans of the 33 1/3 book series or MOJO magazine will appreciate the fine historical details.

Purists may question the album selections–surely December’s Children (though covered here in part by the tracks it shares with Out of Our Heads), Some Girls, or any of the less-heinous ‘80s recordings would lend some texture and perspective to a discography-as-biography like this. But it’s a minor quibble, considering the amount of research and insight that went into the writing. Here’s hoping this slender compendium gets a Volume II to cover the later years.

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