The first definitive biography of Jann Wenner, the iconic founder of Rolling Stone magazine, and a romp through the hothouses of rock and roll, politics, media, and Hollywood, from the Summer of Love to the Internet age.
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 ... Sticky Fingers is about promises and promises betrayed, and about how Wenner’s life — his increasing obsession with fame and a plutocratic lifestyle — reflected both ... Come for the essayist in Hagan, stay for the eye-popping details and artful gossip ... After Wenner himself, Annie Leibovitz is the most fully realized character in this biography. She comes across as an endearing wild child, sleeping with some of her subjects, abandoning rental cars in haste at airports and becoming, Hagan writes, a 'full-blown drug addict whose body was, more than once, unceremoniously dumped in front of a hospital by her dealer' ... 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.
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.
Sticky Fingers may sell on the basis of its ample and sometimes ridiculous rock-world lore—Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney eagerly avail themselves for score-settling—but this is all incidental to the book’s grander purposes. Hagan’s most enviable feat is that he makes this harsh history readable not by portraying Wenner as a redeemable figure (there’s no goblin with a heart of gold here), but instead by centralizing the very ambitious women who made Wenner’s path-blazing possible … 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. Wenner’s bad side seats thousands, making for some grade-A gossip and catty digs. That said, the rock-cultural deep dive Hagan provides is also crucial and compelling.