Fitting into the Rolling Stones’ Legacy
It’s been a big year for the world’s longest running rock band, not least because they celebrated their 50th year making music under the Rolling Stones moniker in July. But the anniversary has brought more than just renewed press attention: in addition to their own official 50th anniversary manuscript, the Stones have a documentary (entitled Crossfire Hurricane) planned for fall release, and rumors have begun circulating that a new album and world tour (the first since 2005’s A Bigger Bang) are in the works for next year.
In the midst of a legacy year for a legendary act, Hanspeter Kuenzler and Matthias Würfl decided to use their own experiences with the band, as well as their roots in music journalism, to provide a unique, comprehensive, and essential account that even the official materials will not quite duplicate. Both gentlemen have interviewed members of the Stones at some point in their careers, but when it came to fitting their own work into the year-long celebration, the band’s record label had other plans.
“We tried to get in touch, but the label told us that the band was not interested in giving a celebrity endorsement since they had their own printed book released in July.” Würfl said. “We aren’t really in the circle (of the legacy and celebration), we just have our own view and opinion. We’re on the outside looking in.”
Still, despite Würfl’s inability to associate the book with the Rolling Stones’ brand, 50 Years is an essential document of Stones lore, and just another component of what has been a very exciting year for fans of the band. In addition to 50 Years and the official biography, simply titled The Rolling Stones 50, the past year has seen a treasure trove of band-related merchandise, including a slew of other books, films, and a reissue of their 1978 classic Some Girls.
Interested in watching for updates on the rumored album and world tour? Keep an eye on the band’s official site at www.rollingstones.com.
Indie Groundbreaking Book
Indie Groundbreaking Book: 50 Years: The Rolling Stones – Views from the Inside, Views from the Outside
The eBook People make a splash with first release
On the evening of July 12, 1962, a band called The Rolling Stones took the stage at London’s Marquee Jazz Club to play their first gig. Fast forward fifty years, and that band is still together and going strong, bringing in massive tour grosses every time they go out on the road, and continuing to wield influence on young bands everywhere. 50 Years: The Rolling Stones—Views from the Inside, Views from the Outside, a new 2,000-plus page eBook by Hanspeter Kuenzler, is a towering celebration of that legacy. It plays out like a documentary in written form, compiling press articles and feature interviews “with everyone from girlfriends and wives to the Stones themselves,” and the result is a fascinating, raucous, bloated, and scatterbrained account of one of the greatest bands in rock ‘n’ roll history. While some of those adjectives may not sound like a recipe for success, a Rolling Stones biography done in any other fashion would be missing part of the point. After all, each description could also be applied to the band themselves, as well as to their vast, eclectic, and often challenging body of work.
The text acknowledges all of this, but there’s more to 50 Years than just an up-to-the-minute personal history of the band and its musicians. The Rolling Stones, their members, and their albums were synonymous with the evolution of pop and rock music in general: they pushed The Beatles to greater creative heights and delivered records like Exile on Main Street and Let it Bleed that still sit on “greatest albums of all time” lists today. They stuck together through thick and thin—even as the rest of the bands from their era disintegrated around them. And along the way, they became an iconic force that transcended art altogether and sent cultural and social shockwaves through history.
Kuenzler is always conscious of both the musical and social importance of the band, positioning his own essays at the outset of each chapter that contextualize the press materials, or providing lists of “Considerable Albums” that remind readers what was going on in music at each moment of the Stones’ development. The book may read “Rolling Stones” on the cover, but make no mistake: this is a historical account that any music fanatic should read. 50 Years is certainly a tribute to Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Brian Jones, Billy Wyman, and all of the other Stones members, past and present. But Kuenzler also uses them and their accomplishments (or blunders) as a lens with which to examine cultural history.
But as stirring as the content of 50 Years: The Rolling Stones is, equally groundbreaking is the manner in which Kuenzler and publisher Matthias Würfl chose to distribute it. Stretching on for over a thousand pages, and with another half (encompassing the second 25 years) still to come next year, 50 Years is the kind of sprawling encyclopedic account that is traditionally published as a full-color “coffee-table book” that readers can flip through at their convenience. Indeed, Würfl even noted that the biography was partially designed with that idea in mind.
“It’s not like a novel you have to read from page one to 1000,” Würfl explained. “You can jump to different years and have a look at different interviews. We chose to do an eBook because we are a start-up company, not backed be venture capital. We needed to keep costs down, and we understand that the biggest expenses you face in publishing are printing, storage and distribution costs. All of those can be avoided by doing an eBook.”
50 Years is the first book Würfl has released as the managing director of a new independent publishing venture. The German-based company, appropriately dubbed “The eBook People,” has had a banner year, dropping their Rolling Stones document to coincide with the band’s July 12 anniversary, and planning to release another eBook revolving around the massively successful Twilight films in time for their series conclusion this fall. Both projects center around specific dates and events, as well as the public buzz surrounding them, suggesting that The eBook People believe in an the old mantra that timing is everything. But Würfl knows as well as anyone how easily scheduling plans can go awry.
“We had no chance to finish the whole thing before the anniversary,” he said of the 50 Years project and the decision to split it into two parts. “We had to get licensing fees from different content providers for all of the articles, features, and interviews, and it took us half a year to finalize the first part. We released it maybe ten days before the anniversary, which wasn’t great in terms of having a good advance promotion period, but we could not have made it with the whole book being there in time.”
Still, readers may find the division a serendipitous occurrence. Die-hard fans that decide to read the book “from page one to 1000” will find a lot of material to go through, and there is certainly a learning curve to navigating eBooks in the manner that Würfl suggests. But the fact that this kind of comprehensive book is crossing over to the electronic market speaks largely to the growing appeal of Kindles, iPads, Nooks, and other eReaders—including Google’s just-announced Nexus 7. Clearly, the next chapter of publishing is going to be largely defined by this format, and independent houses like The eBook People are largely leading that charge.