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Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  250 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
To Bill Janovitz, all artists reveal themselves through their work and the Rolling Stones are no different. Each exposes a little more of their soul.

Written by Stones fanatic, musician, and writer Bill Janovitz, this is a song-by-song chronicle that maps the landmarks of the band's career while expanding upon their recording and personal history through insightful and ene
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published July 23rd 2013 by St. Martin's Press
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Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended by a library patron. Lots of fun. I had somehow underestimated Keith Richards' songwriting contributions on classics like "Ruby Tuesday." Lots of good background; ex. Mick Jagger was reading The Master and the Margarita when he composed "Sympathy for the Devil." Downsides: it's ugly to see how much resentment Keith and Mick still harbor for Brian Jones, and the constant pot shots at the Beatles seem outdated and silly. Or just plain wrong: author Janovitz uses the lines in John Lenno ...more
Bill Donhiser
I received this book as a Goodreads give away. This is a book for music fans! In particular Rolling Stones music fans. This book is not a biography of band members or a tell all that the Star or the Enquirer do so well. Bill Janovitz does a great job with the history and production of songs from one of the best bands in Rock. This is a fifty year history of the music that is very well done. I am a musician and for a non musician it may not be an easy read. For a student of Rock or a die hard Sto ...more
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
All I ask from a non-fiction music book is that it provide interesting and/or inspiring stories about how a song was written and recorded, throw in some sociohistorical context and a little music criticism (but don't go crazy with that stuff), and reflect some unjaded enthusiasm for the artist. This book delivers all that in spades. I consider myself fairly well-versed in Stones lore, and I still learned things I didn't know--for example how "Stray Cat Blues" consciously apes the Velvet Undergro ...more
Paul Wilson
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting overview of the Stones' history, as reflected through the history of 50 songs. Janovitz's fanboy tendencies are apparent through much of the book, which robs it of objectivity, but it is nice to see passion in the writing. The book spends most of its time on the peak Mick Taylor years 1968-1972 (which may be the finest album run of any rock band ever, covering Beggars Banquet to Exile on Main Street), so that was "warm and fuzzy" for me. My biggest gripe is my favorite Stones' song e ...more
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received a copy via a Goodreads giveaway. 4 1/4 stars. Most of the books I've read about the Rolling Stones are very one-sided; either love everything Stones, or hate the immoral bad boys.
This is a well put together and written book, that uses songs from the different ages of the Stones to explain what was going on in the lives and music of the band. It reminded me of some of the great but not-so-popular songs from the catalog. It is definitiely one that I will look through over and over again
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Bill Janovitz brings a musician's perspective to the story of the Rolling Stones. That's actually a fairly unusual thing. He talks with authority about the music itself, which is a wonderful in a genre often filled with scandals and personality over all. I don't agree with all of his opinions (he's a rock bit of a rock snob about popular music, for one thing, and he thinks the best of later Stones is their schmaltzy ballads, for another - ick), but he knows a thing or two about rock n roll. (Als ...more
Shannon DeRespino
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rock-and-roll
Very enjoyable read, full of Janovitz' great writing and a lot of personal reflections. Of course, our opinions do not always line up precisely (I have a lot more love for post '81 Stones than he seems to) but it was still wonderful to get essays full of love and adoration for favorite songs like "Coming Down Again" and "Let It Loose"--my life music. Recommended with high marks for fans. Then perhaps make your own list of 50 tracks that tell the story.
David Cavaco
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, music
Awesome tour of the fifty songs that defined the Rolling Stones. With a band with the extensive discography of the Stones, not every vital track can be included but the author did a sterling job justifying each song's inclusion. After all, you can't always get what you want! Fun read to be accompanied by music by a certain band. Loved it!
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Jan 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I will admit that I am a total sucker for rock n roll bio books. Most of them start with "This musician was born on this date" and end around the time of their latest record or death. The approach that Janovitz takes is unique, and one that is highly rewarding.

Rather than tell the story of the Stones year by year, he picks 50 songs of theirs that demonstrate what the band was going through at the time. Each song composes a chapter, which can range from 3 to 10 pages. The bulk of the book, for o
Paul  Decker
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Judging by this book and his 33 and 1/3 review of Exile on Main Street, Bill Janovitz has spent many hours listening to and thinking about the Rolling Stones. His writing is at its best when he addresses the details of the songs, highlighting the individual threads that converge to make the band's music so exciting. For example, about Charlie Watts' contribution to Wild Horses he observes:

"The second time Charlie enters, he rolls the snare drum in earlier on the verse than the first time he ent
Gus Sanchez
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting if flawed bio on the Stones, not that the Stones need another bio. Told from the perspective of 50 songs from their vast catalogue, Rocks Off chronicles the band's humble beginnings to their status as rock n' roll monsters and elder statesmen. Each song, from "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" to "Sympathy to the Devil" to "Wild Horses" to "Start Me Up" document both the song creation process and where the band was at the time, especially the often stormy yet fruitful relationship be ...more
J.J. Lair
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I’m not a big Rolling Stones fan. I have three greatest hits compliations, Tattoo You downloaded and I won’t confirm or deny that I have a bootleg concert.
I got this book because I know most of the songs that are written about. The point of the book was to tell the history of the Rolling Stones through their songs. This book accomplishes that. I learned the different band line-ups, fights in the band, the writing process and the truth behind the image (they’re really not that far apart).
The au
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must admit I came into this book as a huge Bill Janovitz/Buffalo Tom fan and a part time Rolling Stones fan. I always knew Janovitz was influenced by the Rolling Stones and I was interested in reading his thoughts on the band. Rocks Off is an eloquent and revealing read about a legendary band. Janovitz writes passionately about the band, their songs and what they mean to him.

The book is divided into three parts, the Brian Jones, Mick Taylor and Ron Wood years. Each chapter is about a specific
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Bill Janovitz takes 50 Rolling Stones songs and not always the well known or even semi-played ones and proceeds to tell the band's history through these 50 particular songs.
I think it really helped that not only is he a huge Stones fan, but that he is the guitarist in the band Buffalo Tom.
I was impressed with Janovitz ability to get pretty detailed on who played on these songs including all the various session men and background singers and in his ability to find at least one song from each
Paola Piliado
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"Guys. whatever you do, don't try and grow old gracefully. It wouldn't suit you"

First of all, I'm a big big Rolling Stones fan.
I enjoyed this book so much. Reading about making music, explaining music with words, has always been a favorite thing for me, and reading how precisely lots of these songs that I've known for years is pretty special. Makes me appreciate even more the art that was making music when technology was not around. It also made me realize a lot of things I hadn't thought about
Patrick McCoy
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, music
Bill Janovitz wrote an interesting 33 1/3 series book on The Rolling Stones landmark album Exile On Main Street. In his new book, Rocks Off (2013) tells the story of the Rolling Stones. The book is divided into three sections that reflect three distinct line ups, the early version was the Brian Jones era, followed by the Mick Taylor years, and finally the Ron Wood years which has been the longest. Janovitz admit if he was writing this book about the album he has found worthwhile it would have st ...more
Dec 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Rock music fans, Rolling Stones fans
Recommended to Susan by: NPR story?
Shelves: music, non-fiction
Interesting examination of 50 Rolling Stones songs recorded during the 50 years of the group's existence. Bill Janovitz is a musician and I enjoyed his analysis of the music. He also adds some history in some of the chapters to give the reader an idea of what was going on in the Stones' lives at the time the song was recorded or released. There were a few tunes that I wasn't familiar with.

Janovitz previously wrote a book about the making of Exile on Main Street. He's a fan, and this comes throug
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, library, non-fiction
It's really difficult to use one medium - words on a page (physical or digital) - to describe another medium - one that is aural and takes place in time. Writers usually focus on either the biographies of the music makers themselves or an analysis of their music. Janovitz manages to do both quite successfully, giving the reader a brief history of the Rolling Stones and helping us understand how the music came about. You or I might have chosen 50 different songs, but realize these are not necessa ...more
Darin Campbell
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great book for a Stones fanatic like me, though I confess some of the musical analysis of the songs is over my head, not being a musician. Yes some of their most well known songs are here, but also many I was not familiar with, particularly from their later years. Janovitz is a musician and author as well as Stones aficionado so he is well placed to of this sort of analysis of the band. The later chapters, particularly those covering their grim 80's output, are compelling in detailing the decay ...more
Jim Pawlak
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book analyzes 50 songs over the 50-year span of The Rolling Stones and interprets what inspired those songs, from the artists themselves to the rock music industry and the world in general. What I liked most about the book were the detailed descriptions of the recording process, which made me want to carefully listen to each song to hear the subtleties described (I'll never be able to listen to "Satisfaction" again without hearing Keith Richards' little mistakes). A must-read not only for R ...more
Andy Strote
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's really fun having a book like this written by a musician who can take apart songs to point out where guitar parts come in, how Charlie's stop and start drumming affects the feel of Stone's songs, etc. The history of the band told through 50 songs with a lot of research along the way to keep you up to date with what happened to the band over the years. Amazing how much they worked back in the 60's - barely off a tour and into the studio to record, then back on tour.... no "years between acti ...more
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I received a free copy through a Goodreads giveaway and have to admit, I was not expecting to. I am probably not a die-hard Rolling Stones fan. I became interested in them after I heard they choose their name from a Muddy Waters song. I like learning things like that and that's why I entered the giveaway for this book.
I learned a lot about the Rolling Stones from this. The use of their songs to show their growth and evolution through time was a fascinating concept and worked very well for the au
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Nothing truly groundbreaking, but a great read to catch up on some Stones' stories tagged to 50 of their most important songs. Janovitz is unapologetic about where he comes down on the group (no surprise that the 1968-1972 Mick Taylor years are revered more than the Brian Jones and Ronnie Wood eras), though I welcome and trust his opinion as he is both a super fan and musician himself (for Buffalo Tom.) And I will also say that I love that he ended the book, Song 50, with "Plundered My Soul," wh ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I think if I were more of a Rolling Stones fan/had been alive during their rise to stardom, this would've been a much more interesting read. The beginning was really interesting- it was fun to read about the "sparing" between the Stones and The Beatles, and how the different band members came together/reacted to fame. But the last third of the book seemed to drag on for me. I felt like some of the "stories" focused on the song and how it was made, rather than the feel/happenings of the band at t ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A great book on all the famous songs that The Stones have put out, along with tremendous backstories and tales of those days, the relationships and such, too. The critiques of the individual tracks are as good as any I've read. Five-star stuff. The writer understands music deeply, and it's evident his analysis of each track goes intrinsically into the performances, who played what, and the influences on each song and performer.

One great band, and it's all laid out for you in chrono order. Delici
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, biography
The story of the Rolling Stones has been told many times before, but this is one of its best tellings, because it really focuses on the music without becoming too caught up in the tabloids, the gossip, and the mythology. It's a great trek through the career of the Stones, acknowledging the individual achievements of all its members-- perhaps drifting a bit too much toward Team Keith territory in its final chapters, but perhaps that's not without reason. A compelling, addicting, and often insight ...more
Patrick Macke
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
it's not a "bio" of the stones, it's a story about the stones told through 50 select songs ... the back story of those songs provides a snapshot of who the stones were as musicians and songsters ... it ends up as a pretty interesting approach to learning a little about the band and a lot about some of their best musics and it spares you the gory details about "Mick being born in a log cabin," et al
Glorianne Roccanova
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book because I like to know where the inspiration for the music has come that there is not a detail that most fans have missed. I like that I could place the songs to the time they were made and I match events from that this point in my life I have read so many books about the stones, that I could write my own book...
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent in depth analysis of the Rolling Stones music and career, especially as a companion to Keith Richards 'Life'. The book follows the arc of the musical influences and the life events that contributed to their songs. The author writes with insight and passion, so it really helps to have a deep acquaintance with the songs beforehand.
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