Sympathy for the Devils: The Dangerous Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones have been called the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” for nearly 50 years and are considered a musical institution. Two fascinating works worth checking out chronicle their wild years as young men trying to conquer the world.

The Book

As Stanley Booth notes on page 160 of The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, “Part of the Stones’ charm was that they lived in an atmosphere of danger, and one came near them at one’s peril.” As the book demonstrates, that danger was very real, as friendships, lives and countless concert stages are destroyed as the Rolling Stones transform themselves into The Rolling Stones. This book is primarily about their notorious 1969 tour of the United States. However, it’s also about how the band originally came together and what America itself was like in the late 1960s. Over the years it has been considered a classic of music journalism and can be fascinating reading even if you aren’t much of a Rolling Stones fan.

The Documentary

The Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter focuses primarily on the Stones’ tragic free concert at Altamont Speedway in December 1969. There are some good performances in it, but that all stops abruptly when violence erupts between the concert-goers and members of the Hell’s Angels, who were put in charge of security for the event. Frequently referred to as one of the greatest rock films ever made, it’s worth a look, especially if you are interested in seeing the events described in the book play out.