Monday, February 05, 2007

Blown Away: The Rolling Stones & The Death of the Sixties, by A.E. Hotchner

(hb; 1990: non-fiction)

From the inside flap:

" 'The sixties generation came to an abrupt, tragic end on a desolate, barren field in Livermore, California, with the Rolling Stones presiding over the demise.' What had started a decade earlier by an idealistic generation filled with romantic notions of love and peace ended up 'ugly, brutal and bloody.' The scene was the infamous Altamont concert, and there in the space of a few hours of madness and killing, Mick Jagger and the Stones ushered the sixties to a frenzied close.

"On a July night just months before, Brian Jones had been found spread-eagled on the bottom of his mansion's swimming pool. The mysterious circumstances of his death were never solved, and the case was quietly filed away as just one more rocker's drug-soaked death. The generation would certainly have its share of them: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Alan Wilson, among scores of others less well known. The Vietnam War was raging, the Manson murders had stunned the world, and the disaffected, angry 'Jagger generation' had begun to devour itself in an orgy of violence and drugs.

"It was the violence, not the drugs, that killed Brian Jones. Hotchner reveals here how Brian was murdered.

"Blown Away begins with the rise of the Rolling Stones. Hotchner leads us from the scrappy boyhoods of Mick Jagger, Keith richards, Charlie Watts, Billy Wyman, and Brian Jones through their meteoric ascent to near-gods. He explores their notorious sex lives, exorbitant drug habits, explosive creativity, and grinding careers. Finally, Hotchner unravels the mystery of Brian Jones's death and exposes the turmoil within the rock group that led to a struggle in the final days of Jones's life."


Blown Away is a fantabulous overview of the Stones and their first riotous decade together, and how Brian Jones -- moody, hypersensitive and possibly the most talented of the Stones -- was eventually ousted from the band that he'd brought together, named and nurtured through their early deprivated years. Jones's drowning at Cotchford Farm, given the hazy and compelling evidence provided by various witnesses, is conspiracy-worthy and intriguing, more than fodder for the tabloids. Not only that, but Hotchner links Jones's death to the decline of the Stones' creativity, and the decline of the Sixties. Burnt out by that decade's spiritual, sexual, political and chemical excesses, the Stones, and their fans, missed a chance at remolding society into something better.

Some of Hotchner's ideas in this latter argument may read as pie-in-the-sky idealism to some readers, but that idealism (and resulting disappointment) is appropriate, considering the themes and subject matter of the book. One of the things I appreciated about Blown Away was how Hotchner avoided unnecessary salaciousness (which worked for Neil Strauss and Motley Crue in The Dirt), salaciousness that would've sabotaged Hotchner's integral arguments and themes.

Great comprehensive rock read, one of the best I've read in a long time. Worth your time, especially if you're an early Stones fan.

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