Culture

Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine – review

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Joe Hagan’s portrayal of the 60s dropout who became a voice of the counterculture and a US publishing mogul is both perceptive and comic

The vitriolic bust-up between Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner and his appointed biographer, Joe Hagan, has already generated headlines, with Wenner denouncing Sticky Fingers as “tawdry” and Hagan, an investigative reporter, replying that a man used to getting his way won’t like a portrait that includes both darkness and light.

A deep ambiguity runs through Hagan’s exhaustively researched (and sometimes exhausting) account of a man who can justly claim to have changed popular culture. Rolling Stone, which Wenner, mentored by the eminent jazz critic Ralph Gleason, founded as a Berkeley dropout in 1967, brought intelligence and visual grace to what was previously a squall of fan mags – establishing a canon of writers that included Greil Marcus, Jerry Hopkins, Nick Tosches, Jon Landau, and, most notoriously, Hunter S Thompson.

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