This review is part of a series of reviews of Rolling Stones books that have a 50th anniversary theme.
This article is part of a series of reviews of Rolling Stones books that were published in 2013.
"50 Licks: Myths & Stories From a Half a Century of the Rolling Stones" by Pete Fornatale is a compilation of quotes from various sources about important milestones in the Rolling Stones' history. What makes this book slightly different from the rest is that Fornatale includes quotes from unpublished or rare Rolling Stones interviews from his radio archives and interviews that Fornatale said were specifically done for the book. Andrew Loog Oldham, Andy Johns, Marianne Faithfull, Darryl Jones and Michael Lindsay-Hogg were among those quoted in exclusive interviews.
Written in an "oral history" format, there isn't much in "50 Licks" that hasn't already been revealed or covered in numerous other books and articles about the Rolling Stones. "50 Licks" can be considered well-done when it comes to putting major events in the Rolling Stones' history in chronological order.
However, a copy editor would find this book maddening in how it usually doesn't say where the original quote came from, leading people to wonder which quotes are from previously published work and which are previously unpublished interviews. There are some exceptions where the source of the interview is mentioned before the quote is listed, but those exceptions are few and far in between.
And there's also the matter of not knowing when most of these interviews were done. Jagger's perspective of a Rolling Stones song like "Sister Morphine" could be different, depending on what decade he talked about the song in an interview. The same goes for Faithfull, who is the inspiration for "Sister Morphine," which she says she co-wrote. Faithfull is quoted in the book as saying, "I don't talk about the Stones anymore," so it would be helpful to know when she made that remark, because it's certainly not true that she doesn't talk about the Stones anymore, based on her recent interviews. Unless you're new to collecting Rolling Stones books, these kinds of things do matter if you think you might want to buy "50 Licks."
There are source notes at the end of the book, but these notes don't really make it clear how much of the book is just recycled quotes and how much is exclusive to the book. And that's probably why so much of "50 Licks" looks and sounds familiar, because even the "exclusive" interviews (the one you think you may not have seen published before) have similar things that these interview subjects have said in other interviews.
Since this book has an "oral history" format, there may be some people quoted whose names will not familiar to some readers. Luckily, there is an alphabetized list at the end of "50 Licks" that has a short description of everyone quoted in the book.
"50 Licks" is recommended if someone needs a a crash course on Rolling Stones history in an easy-to-read format. However, if you've read at least 10 other books about the Rolling Stones, then chances are you won't learn anything new from "50 Licks."