Memoir on the Rocks
"Like a Rolling Stone" and the accessorized Gin & Tonic
As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, I’ve started classes towards a coaching certification. I had an intense week of classes earlier in the month that kicked off my schooling. My homework are starting to slow down a bit and I’m looking forward to relaxing with some books again - my TBR stack is near toppling!
In the meantime, Brandon is once again to the rescue. He recently finished a new rock and roll memoir by Jann Wenner, the publisher of Rolling Stone magazine.
Like a Rolling Stone by Jann S. Wenner
Little Brown & Company
The founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine has released his memoir, Like a Rolling Stone. In 2017, Joe Hagan penned a biography of Jann that was far from flattering and angered Wenner, so with this tale, he aspired to “set the record straight.” His life and story is one of privilege, name-dropping, excess, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. It’s also a tale of establishing a new frontier in media, watching how it changed over time, and then living through the impact - and surprise - of the Internet.
In 1967, Wenner started the magazine, with John Lennon on the first cover. He goes into detail about its scrappy start in San Francisco and the trials and tribulations of putting out a new type of journalism covering rock and roll. He didn’t want to create a magazine for teenagers filled with heartthrobs — he wanted to publish serious journalism about music that in his opinion had risen to be a legitimate art form worthy of higher-level discourse, criticism, and deeper analysis
Wenner didn’t think of just the writing though. He realized that this new form of media needed more than great writing; it needed world-class photography and eye-catching design. He started by printing on oversized paper and evolved a unique aesthetic, including the name, “Rolling Stone.” And no, it’s not from the band, it’s from the Bob Dylan song, “Like a Rolling Stone.”(Mick Jagger did sue Wenner - but lost.) Wenner was “changed” by the music of Dylan and Joan Baez as a student at UC Berkeley, where he was involved in civil rights protests. He had an epiphany when cops started to arrest protestors and realized that he was completely in tune with “turning on, tuning in, and dropping out.”
Throughout the book, Wenner talks in detail about intentionally attracting top writers like Joe Esterhaz, Hunter S. Thompson, and William Greider, among others. He spotted the work of upstart photographer Annie Liebovitz and offered her a job as the magazine’s main photographer and gave her creative control to bring forward a new look. He eventually expanded the magazine’s focus to include politics, film, social issues, and world affairs. He also strove to not just “review” music, but hired critics like Ben Fong-Torres, Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus and more to take rock criticism to a new level.
Wenner spares no area of his personal life, sharing how his 26-year marriage to Jane Wenner ended with his realization that he was gay. Although they divorced, they’ve stayed close friends and business partners. He is also brutally honestly about his health problems. Additionally, he talks a lot about jet-setting with celebrities, including his close relationship with Jackie O. He also goes into detail about his leading role in creating the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He also writes openly and transparently about the trials and tribulations of being a print-based magazine as the world changed with the rise of the internet and social media and realized they hadn’t kept up with the times. They were pro-active in supporting new forms of music such as punk, hip-hop, and rap, but hadn’t evolved to other forms of media fast enough. In 2017, Wenner sold the magazine and one of his kids, Gus Wenner, is now the editor-in-chief.
This is a solid memoir from a pioneer in media who transformed journalism and how we look at rock music.
Accessorizing a Classic Cocktail
I’ve been on a gin-kick lately, which is odd, as I’m normally quite the whisky girl. But I’ve really discovered that gin is the “little black dress” of the cocktail world.
But let me back up.
Before I get into gin, let me talk a little about tonic. A good gin and tonic is mostly tonic, so you need to pay attention to what you’re using. Tonic was originally medicinal, with naturally occurring quinine, used for its healing properties, particularly against malaria. Add in some gin for flavor, and you have quite the winning combination. Winston Churchill once declared that “The gin and tonic drink has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”
Tonic can taste rather bleh, as evidenced by this need for gin. There is “sugar-free” tonic, often using Stevia or other sweeteners. Don’t go there, because it will taste artificial. Diet tonic should not be a thing. Also, a gin & tonic doesn’t use club soda. Club soda is a great mixer, but it has different additives, giving it a taste similar to mineral water. Tonic water, due to the quinine, is a little more bitter. I like Fever-Tree Tonic Water because I can find it practically anywhere and it’s of the highest quality.
As for gin, I enjoy it because it is made from juniper and … spices and herbs. In fact, different gin makers have different approaches. My favorite, Hendrick’s, is a botanical gin, heavy with juniper, rose, and cucumber. However, the gin is distilled with “chamomile, elderflower, juniper, lemon peel, orange peel, caraway, coriander, cubeb berries, angelica root, yarrow root and orris root” - so many herbs and spices. Why do I think gin is the little black dress of the cocktail world? Because you can play with the flavors depending on your mood.
A gin & tonic with cucumber slices is light and refreshing. I personally love to add citrus, such as lime or mandarin orange. I have a friend who adds a dash of absinthe for a more rock-n-roll approach to a gin & tonic. I tried that last night and trust me, a little absinthe goes a long way, but what a fantastic mix of flavors.
A couple of tips for a great gin & tonic:
Serve it ice cold. This is personal preference, but I keep both my gin and my tonic refrigerated.
Serve it in either a highball (tall) glass or a Spanish copa (balloon) glass. I prefer the copa glass when I’m adding fruit because it leaves plenty of room, but I like the highball for when I’m adding something like that dash of absinthe. Either glass gives you room for ice.
Make sure you stir, not shake.
So you may think you don’t like gin, but give it a try with some of your favorite fruit and the right tonic. Sometimes the accessories make all the difference.
Thanks everyone! Have a wonderful week ahead!