STICKY FINGERS: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine: A book review

A former RS staffer said Jann Wenner basically had two modes:  1.) seducer, and 2.) betrayer.

I’m really enjoying this one. Jann Wenner’s primary character trait: He was a man of endless appetites.  A ROLLING STONE writer compared him to “a shark swimming through the water, nothing going on inside him except appetite.” You picture him barreling through life like it’s a smorgasbord, stuffing everything he can get his hands on into his mouth. “Cocaine was the perfect drug for Jann,” said one ROLLING STONE staffer. Taking hit-after-hit, endlessly exciting and exalting himself.

Jann Wenner was a man endlessly in search of the next buzz. Which is what made him such a great editor. Because all of his readers were looking for a buzz, too. It’s why, whatever was hot, ROLLING STONE usually got there first. The first interview I ever read with Bukowski was in ROLLING STONE, back around 1976. The ROLLING STONE writer visits Bukowski at his hovel with a couple of 6-packs, and it goes on from there — a vivid and memorable portrait.

Another ROLLING STONE piece I remember back then in 1976 was a LONG and detailed article on the Kennedy Assassination. Tracing the Mafia’s involvement in the killing, step by step. A very eye-opening piece. And the kind of thing you didn’t expect from a music business “trade magazine.”

Another classic was the “Lennon Remembers” interview. I read and re-read that many times. One of the definitive words on the Beatles and the ’60s counterculture. Though, in typical Wenner fashion, after agreeing with Lennon that he wouldn’t turn it into a book (an idea Lennon was strenuously against) Wenner turned it into a book anyways (much to Lennon’s outrage). He couldn’t resist the $40,000 advance. And his search for the next buzz. (In typical cheap and clunky Wenner fashion, he sent Lennon 6 copies along with a note that said “Without you, this book could never have been done.” Ha ha.).


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