ROLLING WITH THE STONES, by Bill Wyman with Richard Havers (Dorling Kindersley)

ROLLING WITH THE STONES, by Bill Wyman with Richard Havers (Dorling Kindersley).

 

In his first memoir Bill Wyman proved himself to be the moaning Stone. His 1990 autobiography Stone Alone reflected his obsessions – pulling birds, diarising the banal daily minutiae, collecting receipts and balancing the books. He made 31 years in historyŐs most outrageous pop band seem dull, confirming in hundreds of pages what Charlie Watts said in one sentence: ŇLife in the Stones has been five years playing and 25 years hanging around.Ó

 

If Stone Alone concentrated on the hanging round, Rolling With the Stones is where WymanŐs obsessions come in useful. ItŐs a lavish coffee table book, produced almost on the scale of the BeatlesŐ Anthology, with about 3000 images of the Stones as war babies, as spotty R&B purists, mod gods, court defendants, glam rock barnstormers and the current corporate cash-cow. While some of the tedium of Stone AloneŐs text is retained, this works as a chronological history and a reliable reference book, but itŐs most fun as a sumptuous scrapbook.

 

Generous dollops of recollections from the hundreds of people involved keeps you engrossed, and the photos and ephemera are fascinating: old restaurant bills, girlfriends, posters and press clippings. ItŐs packed with trivia that keeps you dipping back in for more. Factoids such as the numberplate of Brian JonesŐ first Rolls Royce (DD 666) sit alongside odd snippets such as the NZ Herald reporting that they were on their way here in 1966, sharing a bill with Roy Orbison and ŇnegressÓ singer Dionne Warwick (who never actually made it). On this tour the Stones were shocked to find support act the Searchers all were regular churchgoers. Itineraries and set lists from every gruelling tour are doggedly listed – and the galling, one-sided sets of accounts sent to them by shyster manager Allen Klein (which somehow were never accompanied by cheques).

 

Mick and Keith may be the most famous Stones, Wyman the wry bookkeeper and Charlie Watts the enigma, but there is one figure who dominates this book. It is Brian Jones, the doomed Stone who got the band together, gave them a name, and lead them into musical territory more creative and saleable than their early R&B. His alienation and paranoia escalates until his demise becomes inevitable; if WymanŐs litany of destruction didnŐt tell the story, the photos show JonesŐ physical decay to be chillingly apparent.

 

But the book wallows in the Stones heyday of the 60s and 70s; the miserable 80s and the greedy decade since, without Wyman, are merely glanced over. No matter; the first 490 pages will make you blow the cobwebs off the stylus and recall the spirit that exuberantly celebrated Ňthe sunshine bores the daylights out of meÓ.

CHRIS BOURKE