The Rolling Stones 1972
The Rolling Stones are one of those rare icons whose cultural relevance hasn’t waned as its members have advanced in years. In fact, the Stones, who were emblems of the gluttony and excess of the 1960s and 70s, are perhaps even cooler today than they were at the height of their fame as our perception of that cultural moment has become clouded by distance and nostalgia. In order to revel in the Stones’ panache and influence, and introduce them to a new generation who may be unaware of their place in music and cultural history, San Francisco’s Chronicle Books has recently released The Rolling Stones 1972. Mostly a collection of photographs, the book presents famed photographer Jim Marshall’s documentation of the California leg of the Stones’ 1972 American tour. The publication, which is smaller than coffee-table size and can be easily held in your hands, is the perfect format in which to display Marshall’s intimate portraits of one of the greatest rock bands of the 20th century.
1972 was undoubtedly the year of the Rolling Stones; with the Beatles disbanded and Bob Dylan retreating from the spotlight, the Stones dominated the international music scene. Their antics on the infamous 1972 tour – dubbed the S.T.P. (Stones-Touring-Party) tour – to promote the epic Exile on Main Street album is the stuff of legends. Their drug-fueled partying, eccentric stage costumes, epic performances and groupies including the likes of Truman Capote, Princess Lee Radziwill and photographer Robert Frank made this one of the most notorious and revered rock tours in history. Like Woodstock, the Stones’ S.T.P. tour was one of those era-defining moments that anyone who was interested in popular culture at the time wished they had the opportunity to participate in. This was rock-and-roll at its finest and most prodigal.
Marshall, who was on assignment for the extremely mainstream LIFE magazine, was afforded unprecedented access, and was able to capture the heart of the band, both behind the scenes and during performances. A cursory foreword by the always entertaining Keith Richards as well as an introduction by music critic Joel Selvin provides context for the images that follow, but Michelle Dunn Marsh, the editor of The Rolling Stones 1972, rightly allows the photographs to take center stage and speak for themselves. Marshall had a probing eye, and a knack for capturing fleeting moments and ephemeral expressions that revealed the essence of his subjects. From a glammed out Keith Richards clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels to Mick Jagger in bellbottoms wielding one of Robert Frank’s Super 8 cameras to fans losing their composure in the crowds, Marshall’s photographs depict the Stones, and the era, at their most resplendent. While we generally prefer the black-and-white snapshots, a colour photograph of Mick, in all his affected glory, donning a sequined pink dinner jacket with white polka-dot pants, an orange scarf tied around his neck, while standing in front of a table littered with open bottles of booze is a favourite. It so perfectly captures how ridiculous and amazing this time really was.
Marshall published many of these photos, which would become iconic images of the band, in the July 1972 issue of LIFE, yet his estate has assembled a significant number of never before released images for inclusion in The Rolling Stones 1972. In a time before musicians’ actions were tempered by a litigious culture where everything is documented instantly on cellphones and a team of publicists and managers ensure journalists and photographers remain at arm’s length, Marshall, having uninhibited access, was able to create a revealing document of both an era and one of its biggest stars.