RACINE — Jessica MacPhail has been collecting materials relating to the Rolling Stones since she was 11 years old. This year — as the iconic British rock band celebrates 50 years of recording and touring — MacPhail paid tribute to them by donating her extensive collection to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame archives in Cleveland.
MacPhail, who is the library director at the Racine Public Library, made the road trip to Cleveland on Nov. 16, toting 46 boxes of print materials, including books, newspapers, magazines, clippings and photocopies. And once unloaded from her borrowed van, her collection became one of more than 400 specialized collections of rock and roll materials in the Hall of Fame’s archives.
The Racine resident — who has seen the Stones perform 25 times and authored the bibliography “Yesterday’s Papers: The Rolling Stones in Print, 1963-1984,” — shared some thoughts about her collection.
Q: What inspired you to start collecting materials about the Rolling Stones?
A: I wanted to learn about the band and their music; who they were, what instruments they played, which musicians had influenced them, where they were playing next, what songs were being recorded.
If I saw the Stones on the cover of a magazine, I saved up to buy it. I started trading articles with my friends, putting the articles and magazines in a trunk, and then subscribing to the magazines and fanzines. I wanted to read everything I could about the Stones, rock music and the blues.
When I went to library school I learned about indexes, so I began requesting articles on the Stones from the New York Times index, Reader’s Guide to Periodicals, and more specialized indexes. I did research at the University of Illinois, the Library of Congress, Northwestern University, and the British Library in London.
Q: What were some of your favorite pieces in the collection you donated?
A: There was a book called “Only Lovers Left Alive” by Dave Wallis, which the band wanted to make into a movie. I had a bunch of magazines from the early sixties, including The Crazy World of England’s Rolling Stones, which was pretty rare.
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I’ve enjoyed seeing how media coverage of the Stones has changed over the years: from the bad boy image created by Andrew Loog Oldham in 1964 (“would you let your sister go with a Rolling Stone?”) to pop star status in the late sixties, the deep interviews with band members as they became rock stars, pieces by well-known authors as they rose to celebrity status, and the acknowledgement of the Stones as rock legends, outlasting disco, punk and rap, with current best-selling author Keith Richards and the knighted Sir Mick Jagger.
Q: What is it about the Rolling Stones that made you such a devoted fan?
A: My family lived in London when the Beatles and Stones started to become well known there; we moved back to America in 1963 and nobody here had heard of them yet. When the radio stations began playing their music in early 1964, I recognized it.
The Stones’ music had an almost physical effect on me from the first time I heard them: Brian Jones played slide guitar and could play any instrument he picked up. Mick Jagger’s harmonica playing was amazing and his singing ranged from raspy to soulful. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman, on drums and bass, were the perfect rhythm section. And Keith Richards, always my favorite, wove them all together with his guitar.
After I saw the Stones play live, they became my favorite band because of their chemistry on stage, the way they moved fluidly through songs and energized us – the audience and the band became almost equal partners.
Q: If you had to pick one, what would be your favorite Rolling Stones song?
A: Whichever song they’re playing at the time.
For more about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s library and archives, go to rockhall.com/library.