Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rolling Stones Gear - Stones Fans and Guitar Lovers Rejoice!

"Keith explained the unconventional origins of "Paint It, Black" and how it came together: "Mick wrote it. I wrote the music, he did the words. Get a single together. What's amazing about that one for me is the sitar. Also, the fact that we cut it as a comedy tack. Bill was playing an organ, doing a takeoff of our first manager (Eric Easton), who started off his career in show business as an organist in a cinema pit. We were doing it with funky rhythms, and it hadn't worked, and he started playing it like this and everybody got behind it. It's a two-beat, very strange. Brian playing the sitar makes it a whole other thing." ~ Chapter 6 - page 221

Of course, then Bill Wyman goes on to tell a quite different story completely concerning the organ part, the story of the sitar use is fleshed out superbly, we read about the acoustic guitars that Brian and Keith used (Gibson Hummingbirds, with Keith using a Guild Freshman M-65 for his lead), we find out who played what rhythm instrument, all adding up to, "a great sound... like a Hungarian polka."

This goes on for almost 650 pages - if there was only words, this would be the best Rolling Stones book you've ever read, but in addition to story after story after story, and enough musical instrument facts to fill a music store, there are well over a thousand pictures (most of which I've never seen), and to top it off it is all delivered in an easy to digest and entertaining fashion.

And so it goes with Rolling Stones Gear: All The Stones Instruments From Studio To Stage. Authors Andy Babiuk and Greg Prevost worked over nine years on the book's creation, and they've blown mw away. Unlike most coffee table books, this is actually a great read - the pictures are almost a given in this style of collection, but to have such exceptional editorial content is a tremendous joy, and a boon to any dye-in-the-wool music lover. Even hardcore Stones experts will rejoice to find such a sterling collection of quotes, stories, legends, and facts in one place. This may be the pinnacle of the art at this point, and I'm almost shocked that anything this elaborate and well done could get written and printed in the day and age.

Andy Babiuk, of course, made his name as an author with his 2002 tome, Beatles Gear: All The Fab Four's Instruments From Studio To Stage, the first book of its kind, in which he spent over six years and conducted over 400 interviews piecing together the tale of what the fab four used and when they used it. Legend has it that Babiuk became inspired to write the first book when he was trying to emulate Beatles-esque sounds for his legendary garage rock band, The Chesterfield Kings, and he's joined this time around by the band's founder, and self-stated Stones obsessionist, Greg Prevost. Prevost is a longtime music journalist who has written for such publications as Goldmine and Record Collector magazines (he's currently a staff writer at Ugly Things magazine).

Together the pair have combined to create a document that can only be called a huge achievement. Just compiling the photographs and the carefully annotated tales and quotes must be seen as a tremendous task, but they've managed to do the almost unthinkable in making it incredibly readable. I can't begin to tell you how many rock 'n' roll coffee table books I've picked up, glanced through, and set aside. I'm guessing over a thousand dollars worth, and this is the very first time that I can honestly say I've enjoyed the prose more than the portraits. And that says a bunch, because as a book of photographs, this is a great one.

The attention to detail and accuracy are truly mind boggling though out, and I'll be months digesting the myriad details, facts, and often politically incorrect tales (it is a book about The Rolling Stones, right?). Every page has something worth reading, and more often than not, it's the whole page. When was the last time you could honestly say that about a rock book?

More often than not, the large guitar photographs are the actual instruments used and owned by The Stones, but even when the originals aren't available, the authors have gone to pains to get models, colors, and even relative condition correct. The authors have been given tremendous access to the band's instruments, amps, drums, and keyboards, even down to Bobby Keys' Selmer Mark VI Saxophone used to record Brown Sugar, and many other classic tracks. Even the photo captions are well done.

Every period is lovingly covered, there's never a sense of the authors liking Brian more than Woody, or Woody more than Mick Taylor, and every tour, every album, and every pause in between seems to have been considered and covered. There are copious notes on nearly every song - who played what, and quite often who didn't. Much of the Stones legendary history is finally clarified and catalogued in one volume, and that's a huge contribution to the accurate telling of the history of what many consider to be the greatest rock 'n' roll band of all time.

I could go on for a long time making the case for this book, but to be honest it would be time better spent to simply say that if you are a fan of The Rolling Stones, a guitar geek, or even just a lover of the music of the last 50 years, you should get yourself a copy of this book and settle in for a great many hours of enjoyment. I can't say enough about how great of a job Babiuk and Prevost have done here, again, this is definitely the best rock 'n' roll coffee table book I've ever held, and it's amongst the best music books I've ever seen, period.

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