It's subtitled "The Ultimate Guide", and certainly no work of rock scholarship has been presented so lavishly. Felix Aeppli's comprehensive guide to the Rolling Stones' professional career checks in at 2.5 KGs (which is about five pounds in decent British weights). It's printed on the highest quality glossy art paper imaginable, it's hard-bound, complete with a bookmark on a ribbon, and it's also more expensive than most CD box sets.

     Like most works of completism, it's a labour of madness as much as love, which is precisely why it will appeal to Stones' fanatics who share its author's blessed disease. Across 644 large-format pages, Aeppli charts and chronicles every known Stones concert, recording session, guest appearance, TV show and radio station cameo.

     Every entry is as detailed as it can possibly be. If it's survived on tape or in studio documentation, then the author notes exactly what was recorded, where it was done, who guested on the session or gig, and where each cut is to be found on CD, vinyl or videotape, legal or otherwise. Opening the book at random transports us to the summer of 1965, when not only was "Out Of Our Heads" issued in the States, but the Stones performed "Satisfaction" on "Top Of The Pops" (all four transmission dates duly noted) and "Shindig" (with a footnote to the effect that ABC-TV censored the line about "trying to make some girl" before it was broadcast). The group even mimed to "The Last Time" in a TV studio in Oslo, Norway, an event which Aeppli tracks down via a 1965 newsreel, and a 1991 TV documentary.

     "The Rolling Stones 1962-1995" is an updating and expansion of "Heart Of Stone", published by Pierian Press in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in the early 80s. Pierian were then established as the ultimate chroniclers of rock minutiae, thanks to the pioneering work of Beatles discographers Harry Castleman and Wally Podrazik. Aeppli's book followed their format, and became the standard reference tome on the Stones for the rest of the decade.

     Sadly, "Heart Of Stone" was well-nigh impossible to find in a British bookstore, escaping over the Atlantic only via a couple of intrepid importers. More than a decade ago, it cost the best part of £30, so the current retail price of £65 has to be placed in that context.

     If you'd already tracked down that original book, though, does Aeppli's update add for your money? Its most obvious additions are the Stones' activities from 1983 onwards - not exactly exhausting in years like 1987/88 when Aeppli's regular 'Something Happened To Me Yesterday' chronology is retitled 'Nothing Happened . . ..'. But Aeppli builds on our own series about the band's studio out­takes to chronicle the sessions for "Dirty Work", "Steel Wheels" and the rest in more detail than ever before. For instance, there's a terrifying list of almost 90 songs and out­takes from the sessions and pre­production of the "Voodoo Lounge" album - including more remixes of "Love Is Strong" than even Mick Jagger could enjoy at a sitting.

     For the band's first two decades, newly discovered material about early live shows, and the pre­Stones home recordings first detailed in RC, is added into the chronology. Other information has been revised - shifting the location for the creation of "Little Red Rooster" from Chess Studios to Olympic, for instance, and sending several of the most quintessentially English cuts on "Between The Buttons" back to their American roots.

     A few rumours have been squashed - the 1970 studio out­take of "Let It Rock" that once appeared on bootleg is now exposed as a Shadows Of Knight track, for instance. In return, we can salivate at the idea that Bob Dylan and Brian Jones both supposedly performed at a Wilson Pickett recording session in New York in November 1965 (though as Pickett was still working exclusively in Memphis that year, the date must be open to question). Other intriguing titbits sneaked into the chronology include a lengthy rehearsal session from May 1978, when the Stones apparently returned to the long lost "Cocksucker Blues"; and a Stones/Clapton collaboration from June 1975 entitled "Carnival To Rio".

     What Aeppli doesn't provide, of course, is a narrative to link the information together: don't come to this expecting an equivalent of Lewisohn on the Beatles, or Heylin on Dylan. But anyone who's fanatical enough about the Stones to care about Mick Jagger's guest shot on a Peter Wolf LP, or the full sum of Ian Stewart's sessions away from Jagger's band, will be entranced by his research.

     My only criticism would be that in all the statistics - the details of 524 Stones songs, 1832 musicians on the various sessions, 444 TV shows and the like - the most disappointing number is the 106 illustrations of record labels and covers. Many of these are straight repeats from "Heart Of Stone". Given the rare opportunity to print on top­quality paper, it's a shame that Aeppli didn't raid the collections of other Stones aficionados and surround the text with picture sleeves from around the world.

     That moan aside, "The Rolling Stones 1962-1995" does indeed match its subtitle of "The Ultimate Guide". If your Stones collection is worth more than you care to admit to yourself, then another 65 quid is shortly going to be leaving your bank account.

Peter Doggett (Editor), Record Collector, February 1997