Synopses & Reviews
A New York Times
Top 10 Book of the Year (Dwight Garner)
A New York Times
Top 10 Book of the Year (Janet Maslin)
A New York Magazine
Top 10 Book of the Year
A USA Today
Top 10 Book We Loved Reading in 2017
A San Francisco Chronicle
Books of 2017
A delicious romp through the heyday of rock and roll and a revealing portrait of the man at the helm of the iconic magazine that made it all possible, with candid look backs at the era from Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Elton John, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and others.
The story of Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone's founder, editor, and publisher, and the pioneering era he helped curate, is told here for the first time in glittering, glorious detail. Joe Hagan provides readers with a backstage pass to storied concert venues and rock-star hotel rooms; he tells never before heard stories about the lives of rock stars and their handlers; he details the daring journalism (Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, P.J. O'Rourke) and internecine office politics that accompanied the start-up; he animates the drug and sexual appetites of the era; and he reports on the politics of the last fifty years that were often chronicled in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine.
Supplemented by a cache of extraordinary documents and letters from Wenner's personal archives, Sticky Fingers depicts an ambitious, mercurial, wide-eyed rock and roll fan of who exalts in youth and beauty and learns how to package it, marketing late sixties counterculture as a testament to the power of American youth. The result is a fascinating and complex portrait of man and era, and an irresistible biography of popular culture, celebrity, music, and politics in America.
“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
“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
“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
“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 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 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
About the Author
JOE HAGAN has written for New York, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He has published long-form profiles and investigative exposés of some of the most significant figures and subjects of our time, including: Hillary Clinton (her first post-Secretary of State interview), Karl Rove, the Bush family, Henry Kissinger, Dan Rather, Goldman Sachs, The New York Times, and Twitter. He lives in New York with his wife and children.