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The Jann Wenner Autobiography

The Jann Wenner Autobiography

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Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir

This is a terrible book.

At the end, Wenner thanks all his insider readers, you know, the friends that helped him write the book. Didn’t a single one raise their hand or blow the whistle and say…THIS BOOK SUCKS!

Sycophancy on parade. Which makes one question the endless relationships Wenner details in this book. I mean how deep were those discussions if no one ever spoke their real, inner truth?

As for self-knowledge… Wenner displays absolutely none, other than referencing about three-quarters through that he’s short. I’d say he left the personal insight out, but that couldn’t be the case, since he put everything else in. This guy needs to go to therapy.

Now the truth is “Rolling Stone” is the greatest rock magazine in history. Oh, don’t rant and rave about “Creem,” I had a subscription, and I enjoyed it, but it was a niche product, with attitude. Fun, but not comprehensive. And I’ll never forgive the Michigan-based rag for their hype of KISS. Every other reasonable outlet put the band down, but as if their core audience was pre-teens, “Creem” kept putting the band on its cover. It became unreadable.

“Rolling Stone” didn’t become unreadable until the 21st century. And even to this day, well, before Jann left, one had hope that it would find the secret sauce and once again reach the Holy Grail.

You see “Rolling Stone” was not only authoritative about music, but so much else. I literally read it from cover to cover. You knew the writers by name, which was not the case with most other publications. You felt the magazine was on your side. True, as time went on too much attention was paid to the dinosaur acts, giving great reviews to mediocre product, then again most of the modern stuff wasn’t worth covering, there was no there there. I mean an interview with David Crosby in the early seventies compared to an interview with Justin Bieber, any of today’s acts…a comparison of a self-educated, experienced intellectual to an uneducated nitwit. I mean who cares what the acts of today have to say. They’re lower class denizens in search of cash. Music is a way out of poverty, the lower class. Always has been, but there was a sprinkle of intelligence, middle class ethos, in the bands before Reagan, who legitimized greed and delivered income inequality.

And “Rolling Stone” commented about all that. Which is one of the reasons I read it. Never mind breaking the Patty Hearst story and writing about Karen Silkwood and nuclear power. As for the vaunted Hunter Thompson, I’m a fan, and there’s plenty about Thompson in this book, but I preferred the work of Joe Eszterhas, before he went for money and fame in the movie business, when he dug deep into that which we thought we weren’t interested in and made it fascinating. “Rolling Stone” was more interesting and more educational than anything I learned in college. It used to arrive on a Tuesday or Wednesday, I cleared the decks, did all my homework before, just so I could spend hours and hours reading every word.


But you won’t want to read every word of Wenner’s book.

So why did I?

Well, the reviews were not charitable. They referenced all the name-dropping.

But Bonnie Raitt said she and Jackson were discussing it, and that was truly Jann’s life, so I dug in.

Awful.

What we’ve got here is a man who is afraid of being forgotten, as if “Rolling Stone” itself is not enough of a legacy. He recounts the endless highlights of his life, that’s the book, to…achieve exactly what? His “friends” already know him. As for the rest of us, by time you get to the end you’re anything but envious, you see Jann as a narcissistic dilettante with low self-esteem, otherwise why write such a self-aggrandizing book?

So why did I read it?

I’m a completist. I stopped a number of times, but I ultimately plowed through for the 1% I didn’t know. To fill out my knowledge of the past.

And I’m reading this “testimonial” and I’m telling myself, well, I lived through it, I know so much, what about youngsters? They’d find it completely unreadable! With no frame of reference, just an endless recitation of what some wanker did long ago.


The book does get a bit better three-quarters of the way through when Wenner falls in love with Matt and comes out, but what I’m saying here is he’s reveals a few unknown details, as for the rest.

This is not a book. This is a diary.

The mark of a true author? THEY KNOW YOU’VE GOT TO LEAVE SOME OF THE BEST STUFF OUT TO SERVE THE STORY! I’m not saying Wenner didn’t leave some stuff out from his half a century career, but everything he considered a highlight is referenced. There is truly no story involved.

What could the story be?

Well, how his insecurity based on being sent to boarding school at twelve and his parents divorcing and his mother being even more narcissistic than he is affected his entire life. But NO, he mentions that stuff, but there’s nothing about trying to prove something, needing achievements to fill an unending, deep inner hole, what he was looking for in relationships, was he clingy or did he keep people at a distance, fearful of abandonment…

I don’t know this creep personally, so I don’t really know what makes him tick. But what he has done here is create a 564 page book telling us he’s better than us, led a more full life. And I’ll admit he knows more stars than I do, but in truth most of these famous people are self-centered assholes anyway. You’ve got to be that self-centered and driven to make it. And believe me, I may not know as many as Jann, but I know plenty.

And too many people read books like this and feel inadequate, not knowing you’ve got to be true to yourself. I’ve had enough psychotherapy to know that’s not who I am. I remember talking with my shrink about an industry golf weekend I was not invited to, and my guy dug in, were these really my people, did I really want to hang with them? NO! Sure, I could put it on my resumé, but in truth I’d rather stay home and read a book.

I’m just not a bro.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret, these movers and shakers at the top have no real friends, just a zillion acquaintances. They’re always looking over their shoulder, afraid of being vulnerable, losing status, so they can compare dicks with the size of their planes, can vacation together, but being open, honest and real…


Well, it’s not in this book.

But maybe some of the conversations delineated were real. But other than Jann telling us so, there’s no evidence thereof.

As for the quality of writing, to say it’s pedestrian would be charitable. This is the guy who owned and ran a magazine? Who even wrote columns for it?

As for the business… There’s none of the story that’s detailed in other books on “Rolling Stone,” the borrowing of money when in a pinch, almost losing the magazine…Jann just says in one case he didn’t need it. But he liked the perks provided by a man with real money.

And the truth is there’s always someone with more money. And the competition is like the cocaine years, when you reach the pinnacle you end up in a bathroom all by yourself. Yes, unlike marijuana, people were not generous with their coke. It was expensive. Most people were left out. And it became ever more elitist and if you think drugs are cool…

You’re probably a stoner.

I won’t go down that path, I don’t think drugs should be illegal, but I can tell you that I’ve never had a drug high as good as a natural high, never ever. And the excitement of life is going through it straight, confronting it knowledgably with all your wits, you’ve got to feel the anxiety and be sharp at the same time. When I see guys toking and laughing in a circle I look down upon them, they think they’re cool but they’re losers.

Well, I’ll get off my soapbox here. I’ll just say that there have been a number of books written about “Rolling Stone” and all are better than this one.

As for details… Jackie O. loved to gossip. So what. Today’s kids are not infected with Camelot, the righteousness of the Kennedys. As for being friends with John John… Other than being a Kennedy, what was his redeeming quality? He had a pedigree, that was about it. He was no better than the rest of us, and all these years later one can definitely say he didn’t leave a mark. I’m not saying his early death was not tragic, but I’m supposed to feel good about you because you skied with him? Come on.

And the endless lauding of his kids, you’d believe they’re angels, when the kids of rich people are the most screwed-up extant. If you know some, you know this. And if money made you happy, Christina Onassis wouldn’t have died just shy of her 38th birthday.

So what Wenner has done is a disservice to not only the history of “Rolling Stone,” but history period. All the values of the sixties, embodied in the early days, have been cast aside in a quest to be rich and beautiful. Man, this guy needs to be re-educated, he needs an attitude adjustment.

So there’s nothing to be learned in this book, certainly nothing that is worth the twelve plus hours my Kindle told me it took me to read it. I wouldn’t even recommend an hour. And don’t bother to skim it…

Why does the past continue to be trivialized? Why can no one stick to their values? Why is everybody seduced by the money? Why does being rich make you better, smarter and more insightful than everybody else?

Just own who you are.

I guarantee you there are people all over this great country of ours who are married with kids who have fulfilling jobs and happier lives than Wenner has led. But they don’t have to tell us all about it. I mean it’s like watching the slides of someone’s trip to Europe. After a few it’s about them, not you, you don’t care, you’re just sitting there thinking how long until the lights come back on.

You only go around once. And you get to choose how to live your life. I wouldn’t use Jann Wenner’s book as a blueprint. And so many of the records the magazine touted of the acts Jann didn’t hang with have more truth in forty minutes than Jann has had in his entire life.

This is sad.

Wenner was pissed his anointed biographer got it wrong and he decided to set the record straight. He should have gone with the ultimately published book, not only would he have had plausible deniability, he would not have revealed himself to be this guy you wouldn’t want to hang with, knowing he’d be looking over your shoulder in search of someone better.

And yes, Wenner does settle some scores, says Yoko is in a wheelchair, takes a poke at David Geffen, but they just make him look small. Because if you know these people you know how they are, and in truth no one else ever will, because of their bogus, polished, public images. Jann is just trying to make himself feel good by association. And that’s almost heartbreaking, except it’s hard to have any sympathy for Wenner.

In truth almost no one will finish this book. It’s just too much of an ordeal. But I’m warning you, stay away, best to keep your memories and fantasies intact.


Responses from Bob’s readers. These comments are not edited for grammar or content and do not necessarily reflect the views of CelebrityAccess or its staff.

Yep. It’s primarily a bunch of unconnected vignettes just factually recounted with a one-line commentary. Jan lived an extraordinary life, meeting extraordinary people creating extraordinary experiences and yet the book feels like the disappointing and fragmented memories of a distant passenger in his own life story.

Olivier Chastain

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I wish I had read your review before I bought his book. I finally finished it, only reading it when I went to bed before falling asleep. It took weeks! Each story was only a paragraph & disjointed from the previous paragraph. His description of his drug use was particularly offensive. I’m older than Jann but no angel. What a waste of time!

Pan Oliver

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You’re absolutely spot on. Never knew he was such a self aggrandizing lordly snob. I did make it about 2/3’s of the way through. Much more to gain and be inspired from with your great interview with Bonnie Raitt. Really well done Bob. Thank you.

John C. Yarmo

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Chapter 57 (!) “My City In Ruins” encapsulates everything you said about this book.  Ostensibly about his recollection of being in NYC during 9/11, he sprinkles antidotes about yatching with Jagger and selling 49% of his gossip rag to Eisner before he actually gets down to the point of the chapter. Which only lasts 2 pages and then he’s back to Mick and actually trying to defend his mandated 5 star review of “Goddess In the Doorway”.   The only revealing thing about this book are the lack of revelations.

Iain Taylor

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Yes Bob . You’re right.
I felt obligated to read his book. Rolling Stone was my bible growing up.
I felt ripped off when I finished the book.  He seems like a spoiled brat. It’s that simple.
At the same time I’m forever grateful he started Rolling Stone.    Humans, you can’t live with them & you can’t live without them.   Hahahaha

Alan Childs

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Should  have been titled “Lucky F…y Me” I Audio booked it the only good thing I got my was my basement cleaned. I had hoped for admittance  to people and bands that there  wrongly maligned through the years.

Lori Baldassi

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most bizarre take away is JW thinks the revelation of Yoko needing a wheelchair will be interpreted as a dig?  The woman is 89 years old. She turns 90 in February.

Deb Wilker

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Re: The Wenner autobiography. Most people don’t realize that book writing is way different from writing an article, even a long one. A book needs a “controlling idea” that serves as its backbone. And even if a story ladders back to that OK, it still has to pass the “Who cares?” test. This is especially important in memoir because it helps you decide what can (and should) be left out. Otherwise you get, “What I did on my summer vacation” or to your point, a diary, which is what this reads like. BTW, I poked around and the three other books he wrote have other people associated either as authors or “with” someone and they seem better. In the old days, a developmental editor came with the book contract but no more. Now people have to hire someone like me to advocate for the reader and help save the book from wandering off into the desert. —

Helena Bouchez

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I’m trying to murk  through it as well. It’s very tough to get in half a chapter at a time.

Jon Scott

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You probably heard the Jann Wenner interview on Howard. To a nobody like me, Wenner came off uber-pretentious. Skiing with Springsteen and Sting, being serenaded by Mick Jagger at a bonfire with other musical intelligentsia – who gives a f….. Were they just “hanging out” with Jann because a publicist said a positive RS article would sell another 50,000 copies of their latest album?

FC Thornton
Philly, PA

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Bob, I heard him on Howard and had to struggle to stay tuned.  Even Howard couldn’t make this guy interesting and truly he had no ,none, personal insight. Too bad

Cathy Davis

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When I heard Jann Wenner was going to be on Howard Stern a couple of weeks ago, I was really looking forward to it.   Howard is generally a solid interviewer and Jann has lived quite an interesting life.  It has to be good, right?  Well, it wasn’t.  It was boring as hell.

Despite the interview, I thought that I might buy the book and give it a chance.  After reading your review, I will take a pass.  Sounds like much of the same drivel he spit out during the interview with Howard.

Thanks, Bob!   You just saved me $20 and (even more importantly) a ton of time.

Bill Waliewski

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I heard Jann interviewed on both Marc Maron’s and Joe Rogan’s podcasts. He was able to handle himself ok with Maron, but in talking with Rogan, he appeared small and narrow minded. He was dismissive about any ideas that weren’t his own and just not very impressive at all. I thought he was a lot more intelligent than he is – the mystique he always maintained was a lot more impressive than the real person!

It’s like what they say about meeting your heroes – prepare to be disappointed and I was.

Patrick Whitaker

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Hi Bob! I didn’t see it the same way at all. I, too, read RS in my younger days when it was good. I loved the retelling of his life from his POV, the good and the bad. Loved the gossip, the bits about famous people.

Honestly, you sound a bit jealous.

Young people won’t read this, I don’t know why they would want to. There is no trip down memory lane for them. I listened to it on Audible and thoroughly enjoyed stopping and listening to a referenced song on Spotify or Googling a cover to jog my memory.

I hope to read YOUR memoir when it comes out.

Thanks for listening.

Kristine Waldenburg

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Wow, that’s the harshest review I’ve read since…

The one of “Led Zeppelin I” in Rolling Stone,” lol!

Mark B. Spiegel

 

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