It feels like the Rolling Stones have always been with us, manning a ludicrously immense and imperious rock‘n’roll machine they somehow fell into. It would fit the myth perfectly to reveal that the we-piss-anywhere Stones built rock in their image. That they emerged into a repressed society ripe for a taste of libertine excess as five purposebuiltdionysian dandies.
Years of rock press would have us believe the Stones simply sat and dictated the rock gospel, contrived the entire genre, lifestyle and attitude as if tossing off another chart-topping nursery rhyme of misogyny, and then casually proceeded to transcend it. But tried and trusted Stones chronicler Richard Havers’s On Air provides a peek behind the media-constructed fantasy into the monochrome nuts ‘n’ bolts of the band’s 1960s, charting their rise from radio sessions, through TV clips to Stones In The Park epiphany.
The painstakingly researched minutiae of the text, the grounding evidence of humdrum paperwork facsimiles, strip away much of the legend, but the photographs are the gold. Here are five lads who appear to have no clue where they’re going, how they got where they are or even what they should be wearing. There’s a lot of bafflement, but a fair few grins. On Air sees the Stones slip the leash of their legend to reacquaint us with the ingenuous vulnerability, humility and humanity that originally rocketed them to stardom.