I had arrived in London in July 1968 with 2 Nikons and a bunch of lenses I'd picked up in Japan, and after a few months of getting to know the Marquee Club and the 100 Club, for example, and meeting and photographing some of the bands that played there, I thought it was about time to see about photographing the Stones. They had a rather small, unpretentious office, as I recall, and when I told the young fellow in charge of it that I wanted to photograph the band, he said, "Great. The Stones are in the studio this week and we're looking for some new pictures." Wow. It was that easy.
So I spent 2 nights in the fall of 1968 at Olympic Sound Studios where the Rolling Stones were working on their Beggar's Banquet album. It was released in December. Reviews from the time considered it a "return to form" after their psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request. The Chicago Sun-Times declared: "The Stones have unleashed their rawest, rudest, most arrogant, most savage record yet. And it's beautiful." And I was previledged to be there in the midst of this overwhelming creativity. I myself felt music surging through me like never before, and remember skipping into an adjacent studio to trip out on a harpsicord. The only sad note was Brian Jones. He was not doing well. He asked me for an E on the piano so he could tune his guitar, but alas, he was unable to get it together. He did not know that up in the control room the recording engineer was not putting him on tape.
Because of the Stones' bad boy reputation, I expected a rather loose recording session but that was not the case. The guys arrived around 9pm, broke for a catered roast beef and Yorkshire pudding supper at 2am and finished up around 6 in the morning. Other than Brian's issues, the others seems to have a strong work ethic that still serves them well today.
ROCK AND ROLL CIRCUS
For two days in December 1968, the Rolling Stones turned the Intertel television studios in Wembley, North London, into a real live circus with clowns, trapeze artists, horseback riders, fire eaters, and Mick Jagger himself as ringmaster. Musical acts included Jethro Tull, Marianne Faithfull, The Who, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton and many others. I caught word of this production and my camera and I went to see what was going on. I slipped in through an open side door and spent several hours shooting pictures while the Stones were performing. The next day I came back again for a formal press call where all the stars and musicians arrived in costume to meet the media. John and Yoko came dressed as a wizard and a witch.
The ‘Rock & Roll Circus,’ a BBC special, was never broadcast, but eventually was made available in 1996 on VHS and DVD.
On July 5, 1969, I joined the throng who had come to see the Stones in London's Hyde Park. It was a free outdoor event with a number of popular local bands, and attracted a crowd estimated between 250,000 and half a million. It was planned as an introduction of the Stones' new guitarist, Mick Taylor, but, following the death of Brian Jones just 2 days earlier, Mick Jagger read a short eulogy to their long-time band mate and release several hundred white butterflies. Many music celebrities were there that day, including Peter Green and Donovan. Mick danced and sang with his usual high energy. With a motor drive on my Nikon Ftn I was able to capture some of those amazing dance sequences.
Keith Richards' 1977 arrest in a Toronto hotel room for possession of heroin led to a court-ordered Rolling Stones benefit concert for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. That took place on April 22, 1979, in Oshawa, Ontario, an hour's drive east of Toronto. In fact, there were two concerts, held back-to-back on that Sunday afternoon. I was free-lancing for the Toronto Star and would love to have been sent to cover the event, but this plum assignment went to the staff photographers. So I went anyway, hanging around outside the Civic Auditorium waiting for the first performance to end. When the crowd came pouring out, I ran into one of the Star staffers and asked if I could have his special pass for the first show. I held my thumb over the time and flashed it quickly as a new surge of fans and press pushed into the building. So there I was, at another Rolling Stones performance ten years later.