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Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan

Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan
Hardcover
Oct 24, 2017 | 560 Pages
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    Oct 24, 2017 | 1110 Minutes

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Praise

An Amazon Top 100 Book of 2017
A Best biography of 2017
A Best history book of 2017
A Top 10 Best Book of the Month

“Hagan has delivered a supple, confident, dispassionately reported and deeply well-written biography. It’s a big book, one that no one will wish longer, but its chapters move past like a crunching collection of singles and not a thumb-sucking double album. It’s a joy to read and feels built to last. Hagan is among those relatively rare biographers who keeps macro and micro in yin-yang balance. He’s in command of the big picture. The critic and intellectual in him understands why a mere rock magazine editor — Wenner founded Rolling Stone in San Francisco in 1967 — matters to the history of the 20th century… Come for the essayist in Hagan, stay for the eye-popping details and artful gossip… Hagan could easily have named-dropped his way through this book, yet he doesn’t drop names so much as pick them up and coolly appraise them in a line or two… In scorning Hagan’s work, Wenner’s editorial antennae have failed him. He had the nerve to select a writer and not a hagiographer, ., and the decision, at the end of his long career, looks good on him.”
–Dwight Garner, The New York Times
 
 
“Hagan’s portrait of Wenner is crisp and cutting…Though Sticky Fingers is, at five hundred and forty-two pages, a formidable read, it’s also terrifically smart and full of anecdotes that anyone remotely interested in rock and roll, publishing, or the legacy of the nineteen-sixties will find engrossing.”
–Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker
 
“Hagan’s biography is a colossal achievement of reporting and synthesis, fast-paced, compulsively readable, and consistently insightful in its understanding of how and why Wenner was able to turn a modest fanboy tabloid into an iconic cultural force and, after its golden years were behind it, to convert its waning and increasingly nostalgic cultural cachet into a media fiefdom that nearly made him a billionaire… Wenner has broken with Hagan, calling his biography ‘tawdry’ and bemoaning its lack of emphasis on his generation’s ‘creativity.’ He’s wrong about this — the tawdriness goes with the territory and the creativity is on ample display (even if sometimes it’s embarrassing: Wenner gave Billy Joel the title line to “We Didn’t Start the Fire”) — and if Wenner’s history of breakups and makeups are any indication, it won’t be long until the two neighbors are brunching again in the Catskills.”
– Christian Lorentzen, New York
 
Hagan has written a barn burner, fast and funny and gossip-filled (he names names) and also big—so big that it can stand as a case study of the entire era. The Boomers’ experience was Wenner’s experience, and it all showed up in his magazine, and now shows up here: the Beatles and the Stones; hallucinogens and cocaine; sex, sanctioned and illicit, open and hidden (Wenner lived a closeted life until he was nearly 50); politics and protests, the war; the lifestyles of the ever more rich and famous; infirmity and old age.”
– Rich Cohen, The Atlantic
 
“Hagan’s book is both highbrow cultural digest—a curious journalistic trip through the past fifty years of the (largely white) halls of music-biz power—and, thanks to the debauched nature of rock ’n’ roll’s coagulants sex and drugs, a gloriously trashy read…  That said, the rock-cultural deep dive Hagan provides is also crucial and compelling… Sticky Fingers creates an epitaph for an industry rather than a shrine to a man who shaped it. The book beckons a new era, one hopes, of music history, one that’s less interested in gilding totems than in looking beyond them, to see what they obscure.”
– Jessica Hopper, Bookforum
 
“Jann Wenner doesn’t like the way a new biography of him turned out. He’s called the book ‘deeply flawed and tawdry.’ Maybe that’s because that’s a pretty good description of Wenner’s life … Whatever his flaws, Wenner emerges here as major cultural influence because of his brilliant creation: a publication that changed journalism and captured the zeitgeist… The Age of Aquarius has long passed, and Rolling Stone is no longer revolutionary — or nearly as relevant as in its heyday. But Hagan not only helps us understand how terribly much it seemed to matter, once upon a time. He also, through his nuanced portrait of Wenner, shows us how thoroughly the publication reflected its founder, warts and all.
–Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post
 
“[Wenner] made his archives available; helped convince such superstar friends and associates as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen to go on the record with interviews; and did not read the manuscript prior to publication. It was a bold move from any media titan, much less from a figure with a wildly mixed reputation who’d left plenty of bodies in his wake… Sticky Fingers is also the story of a magazine that could rise to brilliance… What we’re left with is a sense of Wenner’s contrasting sides—what Hagan calls “Jann No. 1, the seducer; and Jann No. 2, the betrayer.”
–Alan Light, The Wall Street Journal Magazine
 
It’s impossible to chew through Hagan’s delicious and meticulous retelling of the magnate’s life and come away unimpressed by Wenner’s sheer ambition or unmoved by his devotion to rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a shame Wenner couldn’t read it the same way.”
–Kim Willis, USA Today
 
“Hagan’s Wenner biography, which is completely enthralling over 500-plus pages. Hagan’s achievement is to convince you that Wenner really was a kind of genius: He had a very clear vision of Rolling Stone right from the very start, and it was Wenner’s combination of countercultural coverage wrapped in a shrewdly capitalistic publication that was unique… In the CBS Sunday Morning interview, Wenner complained that Hagan’s book doesn’t capture “the joy of what we did and… how important it was” — which is, actually, exactly what Sticky Fingers does.
–Ken Tucker, Yahoo!
 
“Joe Hagan’s explosive biography of the publishing titan is an addictive tale of sex, drugs and John Lennon’s wrath…  Hagan treats his subject with the same reportorial scope and literary ambition as the New Journalism championed in the column inches of Rolling Stone… a thumpingly good read…  the book is nuanced, and while it is doubtless tawdry — this is rock’n’roll, after all— it is nothing if not substantial.”
–Charlie Burton, GQ
 
“A dark tale about greed and ambition and the pervasive celebrity culture that, according to the author, has become “’the framework of American narcissism.’ Hagan’s reporting is as vivid as the work of some of Rolling Stone’s most famous writers, including the avatar of the ‘new journalism’ Tom Wolfe and ‘gonzo’ journalist Hunter Thompson… [Hagan’s] sources throughout the book are impeccable.”
–Sol Stern, The Daily Beast
 
“The book Hagan ended up writing is dishy — Hagan gets into Wenner’s explosive marriage and his struggle with his sexuality — but never tawdry… Hagan, a former Rolling Stone contributing editor, captures the drama of Wenner’s celebrity relationships, including Patty Hearst and Hunter S. Thompson, but he is also insightful on how Wenner cannily created a popular and culturally influential magazine by mixing rock ‘n’ roll with high-octane political journalism.
Los Angeles Times
 
“‘The biography would be independent, not “authorized” in the usual sense,’ Hagan explains. Wenner is unhappy with the result, and Sticky Fingers goes a long way towards explaining why this was probably inevitable.”
–Andrew Flanagan, NPR
 
“Wenner kept an exhaustive archive of all of his records and correspondence, and he gave Hagan full access. He also gave his permission–or at least acceded to it—to write the story as he saw fit, with all the sticky facts that unfailingly accompany a life so large. And, man, did Hagan pull it off. Sticky Fingers is overstuffed with anecdotes, interviews, and history that not only evoke Wenner’s persona in all its grandiosity and creative energy, but also that of the era he helped create. One way to know that the book is good: Although Wenner reportedly regrets the result (he has denounced it as “tawdry”), he doesn’t dispute it. Hagan did him a favor. This is certainly not hagiography, but ultimately, Wenner will loom larger for it.”
–Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review
 
“Everybody from Mick Jagger to Paul McCartney to David Geffen to Bruce Springsteen talks in Hagan’s sex-drug-and-rock-‘n’-roll-filled story of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone, which reads like a picaresque novel of the baby-boom era.”
Esquire
 
Sticky Fingers is a thorough going-over of Wenner and his epic magazine. It’s also a sharp survey of America’s golden age of print journalism and a bracingly unsentimental study of how the 1960s became a booming business before the decade had even ended… Sticky Fingers is a testament to the kind of deeply reported, stylish longform writing that Wenner’s great idea made possible, for a while anyway.”
–Lara Zarum, The Village Voice

“Clearly, if Wenner didn’t like the book, I thought, then Sticky Fingers must be a fascinating read. Sure enough, I inhaled the 500-page tome like the many piles of white powder that Wenner and his compatriots consumed during the magazine’s heyday.”
–Steven Hyden, Uproxx
 
“With so much sticky material to sort through, handpicked Boswell Joe Hagan was probably bound for a falling-out with his subject… Rolling Stone has managed to chronicle both — the substantial and the tawdry — consistently over its bumpy half-century journey. Likewise, Hagan’s book, said to have been sold in a bidding war for seven figures, manages both with a rich bounty of lively anecdotes.”
–James Sullivan, The San Francisco Chronicle
 
“It’s a delectable rise and fall of a man who once stated that his ambition was to become the ‘Henry Luce of the counterculture.’… [Hagan is] a marvelous stylist. He has a genuine passion for music and does a superb job of explaining the cultural shifts the magazine has navigated, from Richard Nixon’s presidency to the era of Donald Trump.”
–Davin Leonard, Bloomsberg
 
“A perceptive account that also details the bruised feelings, grudges, feuds and stitch-ups left in Wenner’s wake…. A terrific, sometimes comic portrait of a music biz mogul.”
–Neil Spencer, The Guardian
 
Exhaustively researched and startlingly candid… Jann Wenner, who seems all appetite, is best at creating celebrity and then trading on it. He commercialized that talent in a singular magazine that blasted the establishment even as it became establishment itself. Joe Hagan’s book, occasionally giddy but never fawning, puts Jann Wenner in his rarefied, wealthy and fundamentally lonely place.”
–Carlo Wolff, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
“The book is a subtle reading of the workings of American celebrity and the New York that Wenner, who founded the magazine in San Francisco in 1967, would come to inhabit. The true stylistic influencers of the following decade are colourfully revealed. But so too is what the stars Rolling Stone sometimes slavishly covered truly thought of Wenner.”
–Edward Helmore, The Guardian
 
An exhaustive, wildly entertaining biography that pulls no punches. Wenner, now 71, comes off as an “incorrigible egotist” blinded by money, fame and cocaine — a visionary who turned into a back-stabbing businessman, rejected 1960s idealism, and flew off to the Caribbean in his private jet… You can almost get a contact high from reading Sticky Fingers. But the comedown is brutal for anyone who cares about journalistic ethics or liberal ideology.”
–Thor Christensen, The Dallas Morning News
 
A lurid and revelatory tale of drugs, sex—and power…Wenner’s voracious appetite…for power, status, drugs, drink and sex, is vividly chronicled in this engrossing study of how he turned a small rock ’n’ roll fan paper into one of the most important and influential magazines in American publishing history.”
–Mick Brown, The Telegraph
 
Hagan’s book resists the pressures of hagiography, chronicling in immense detail Wenner’s ambition, his public rise to prominence, his private feuds and some major miscalculations, such as rejecting a lucrative offer from Hearst to buy Rolling Stone.”
–Zach Schonfeld, People
 
“Hagan [is] a terrific storyteller with a keen ear for killer quotes.”
–Neal Justin, Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“Looking at Rolling Stone today is like watching a dodgy videotape of a funeral for the idea that long-form, serious, intensive, irreverent and creative music journalism should be a valuable part of our cultural discourse…But reading Sticky Fingers reminds us of what was, what could have been, and what just might rise from the dead, if we all do our part. I plan to do mine.”
–Jeff Miers, Buffalo News
 
Hagan’s bio doesn’t disappoint. At more than 500 pages, the book digs deep into Wenner’s life… and spins a warts-and-all tale of one of America’s last media titans.”
–Steven Ward, The Clarion Ledger
 
“A well-written and thorough biography of the magazine founded during the 1960s counterculture that brought real journalistic standards to rock-and-roll writing…filled with colorful characters.”
–Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Founded 50 years ago, Rolling Stone was a self-proclaimed beacon of radical counterculture. But as revealed in Sticky Fingers—a new biography of Jann, written by Joe Hagan—many of the magazine’s staffers didn’t just chronicle sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. They lived it, hardcore.”
–Hardeep Phull, New York Post
 
“Sticky Fingers, meticulously researched and reported, is the result of hundreds of interviews, not only with famed musicians and actors, but friends, business associates, and employees of Wenner going back decades. And oftentimes, what they’ve said is deeply critical. Two pages into the prologue, Wenner is likened to a “boy vampire” and, according to his own staff, a “starfucker.” (With good reason, as the next 500 pages makes clear.)”
–Elon Green, Columbia Journalism Review
 
“Rife with juicy celebrity gossip and insider detail. (And Wenner has already expressed his disappointment.) But more than that, it tells, in full, the story of a man—and magazine—who, for better or worse, came to define his generation.”
–David Marchese, Vulture
 
“The first biography of the magazine’s founder is much more critical than HBO’s conveniently timed new documentary, and it’s a better tribute for it… its scope and rigor ultimately do far more to honor its subject… Sticky Fingers [is] undeniably substantial, an engrossing and exceptionally well-reported chronicle of a cultural empire and its emperor… A formidable tribute to an American original and a titan of his age, an age we’re arguably still living in. Sticky Fingers really does print the legend and all the news that fits.”
–Jack Hamilton, Slate
 
“Hagan’s book tells us more about rock stardom than plenty of actual rock biographies.”
–Michael Hann, Financial Times
 
“A fair and even-handed assessment of Wenner, whose treachery toward family, friends, colleagues and employees is the stuff of legend… I understand why Wenner didn’t like the Sticky Fingers title. The negative connotations are obvious. I bet he was hoping for something more like Citizen Wenner.”
–Michael Heaton, Cleveland.com
 
Hagan is great at plumbing the dark side of the boom years… A dense and dishy and hilariously hypercritical broadside that burrows deep into Wenner’s thorny personal life.”
–Rob Harvilla, The Ringer
 
 “It’s a book of tensions: between fandom and journalistic integrity, between financing and rebellion, between personality and projection. And it’s as much a story of the modern media landscape as it is the story of Wenner’s life.”
–Haley Cunningham, Hazlitt
 
“Hagan’s 547-page opus is a delectable peek behind the curtain of one of the most influential outlets in pop-culture history.”
–Simon Houpt, The Globe and Mail
 
“Drawing from more than 100 hours of conversation with Wenner as well as interviews with musicians, writers, publishers, friends, lovers, and past and present employees of the magazine, Hagan has fashioned a fascinating biography of a controversial figure and the iconic publication he started.”
Booklist, starred review
 
“Much like its spiritual cousin Saturday Night LiveRolling Stone magazine has been a murderers’ row of talent for decades… Working with his subject’s full consent and participation, the author manages to create a far deeper portrait than many readers will expect. In capturing Wenner’s legend, Hagan creates a moving portrayal of a complicated, brilliant, flawed man who genuinely moved the needle on American culture… [Sticky Fingers is] a lasting legacy for the keeper of rock-’n’-roll’s watchtower.
Kirkus
 
“As freelance writer Hagan posits in this searingly honest biography, Rolling Stone and its founder, Jann Wenner, turned rock stars into celebrities, fed salacious fare to slavering fans, and assembled a staff of writers (including Ralph Gleason, Greil Marcus, and Jon Landau) who elevated rock music criticism into serious writing… Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews with Wenner (who exercised no control over the book), his family and friends, writers who’ve worked for the magazine, and musicians… Hagan has provided an entertaining insider’s history of a legendary magazine.”
Publisher’s Weekly

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