Amidst all the hoopla surrounding the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary such as the upcoming concerts, the hits album & the new documentary, it would be easy to overlook another photographic exhibition. However, this would be a mistake as Jim Marshall's photos of perhaps the most celebrated rock tour in history remind us of what made the Stones special in the first place.
Several iconic images of the 1972 US tour will already be familiar to many rock fans but these are not necessarily the best or most interesting. For instance, the famous shot of Jagger, smiling in rhinestone-studded jumpsuit that graced the cover of Life magazine looks curiously flat, lacking tension or drama, whereas many lesser-known performance shots leap out at you; often striking in terms of the physical dynamics on show and the unusual and inspired angles.
There is a mixture of colour and black and white, on and offstage pictures, individual portraits and group shots. The circus of debauchery and hedonistic excess so often written and talked about is surprisingly only hinted at in Marshall's photos.
While nothing harder than a bottle of Jack Daniels is actually on display, dark shadows of heroin loom over shots of Keith nodding out over his guitar and some of Mick's wired facial grimaces scream cocaine. The tour was clearly not all fun judging by Mick's sullen scowl in two or three shots. There are exhausted, bored, even melancholic expressions in hotel rooms and on planes.
There are small surprises: after decades of being used to seeing Charlie Watts dressed only in stylish Savile Row suits it feels almost shocking to see him in bright pink trousers and frilly flamenco shirt. Also who knew what an exotic creature Rose Taylor was?!
Thankfully, Marshall tended to avoid dwelling on the many celebrity hangers-on such as Truman Capote and Princess Lee Radziwill, instead concentrating on the musicians. He claims to have always insisted on being given full access or turned the job down.
He would probably not have found much work today if he was starting out. It is hard to imagine him flourishing in today's ultra-controlled conditions. He clearly built up trust in his subjects from jazz greats like Miles and bluesmen like Muddy Waters through to the Woodstock generation. He talks of becoming 'invisible' and of subjects forgetting he was in the room, which must be how he managed to capture such genuine and often vulnerable moments.
Click here for more information on the exhibition. And see the Stones in action below through the ages (these aren't Jim Marshall's pics):