Now here’s an odd little curio. The Stones: A History in Cartoons features three-plus decades of drawings (mostly) lampooning the band and collected by bassist Bill Wyman from all over the world. Wyman also provides context of the cartoons and insight into the events that inspired them.
Beginning in 1964 and finishing up in 2002 (nearly ten years after Wyman left the band), the book provides a visual history lesson in shifting cultural attitudes, placing the Stones squarely in the crosshairs.
“The Sixties” is heavy on long-hair jokes and caricatures, with a sprinkling of drug-bust humor. “The Seventies” continue to target the Stones lifestyle; Jagger’s wedding to Bianca and the band decamping to France for tax reasons are fair game. It also provides the first reference to the band as “geriatrics”...in 1976!. The caricatures of band members really gets refined during this time period as well; I promise you’ve never seen such diverse renderings of Jagger’s lips! Luckily, we also get the classic “Keif Riff-Hard” pen and ink drawing that popped up on many a t-shirt.
“The Eighties” continue to paint the band as senior citizens, but now lampoon the aging fan-base as well. Oh, and Jagger’s lips are still big. “The Nineties and Beyond” are more of the same, adding Jagger’s knighthood to the shooting gallery.
It is fascinating to track the reception the Stones received through the years, and even more fascinating that Wyman actually collected all this stuff: Wyman argues that we’ll not see a band lampooned like this in our lifetimes and he’s probably right. The cartoons skew overall towards English humor; there are some laugh out loud gags and some that seem a bit mean-spirited but after awhile, it seems that everyone was in on the joke and it all gets a bit tedious.
One last thing: after perusing the cartoons of the era, I’m a bit reluctant to add my voice to the “it will never last” chorus so often heard in those early days of rock ‘n’ roll. In this case, however, I will but I would be referring to the book itself! Pages regularly come loose from the binding as you turn them and it’s a fair bet that even Keith is in far better shape than the copy I recently purchased.
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