Tomorrow, the giant Rolling Stones retrospective Exhibitionism opens to the public at London’s Saatchi Gallery. We went along to the preview today, and here are the things we learned. (Suffice to say, this post contains enormous SPOILERS).
They are definitely doing a ‘David Bowie Is’
The exhibition has echoes of the blockbuster Bowie show that began at London’s V&A museum in 2013 and has since been shown in Canada, Brazil, Germany, USA, France, Australia and The Netherlands. Artefacts are grouped along similar lines and while Bowie set the bar high, the Stones have attempted to leap over it. The only thing lacking is the personal touch – where Bowie included intimate items, the Stones’ artefacts reveal little of the band members’ private lives. It’s a small complaint. For a Stones fan, Exhibitionism is a dream come true.
Keith Richards kept a very exhaustive diary
A facsimile of one of Keef’s early-days diaries reveals, in tiny writing, his meticulous attention to detail, even noting that 612 people attended one show, while a contemporary band practice was “one of the best rehearsals ever”.
There’s plenty of stuff for musicians to geek out over
Brian Jones’ ’66 Vox dulcimer, Bill Wyman’s Vox amp, Keith’s Harmony Meteor, a Rickenbacker given to Ronnie Wood by Johnny Depp… sneak a burger in and you’re in the world’s best Hard Rock Café.
You would not want to hire an Airbnb from them
The exhibition includes a recreation of the Edith Grove flat shared by Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Keith Richards from 1962 on. Empty ale bottles abound, ashtrays overflow, mould blooms in milk bottles and there’s a copy of Playboy lurking under the bed. On prouder display, a copy of New Musical Express from July 1962. Keith’s mother used to deliver him clean clothes. “It actually wasn’t a bad space,” reads a quote on the wall from Mick Jagger. “It’s what we did with it that was disgusting.”
Fans of Andy Warhol are in for a treat
There are lithographs of the band produced in the ‘60s, plus an example of the artist’s original zippable sleeve for the ‘Sticky Fingers’ album. Mick Jagger neatly sums up the mutual admiration by noting that their collaborations were “an artistic thing” but that Andy “was a guy who wanted to make money”. Other artists whose work is on show include cartoonist Ralph Steadman and photographer Gered Mankowitz.
You can pore over handwritten lyrics
Among them are ‘Miss You’ in Mick’s hand, revealing a deleted verse: “Waiting on a call/My friends all drop around/Say why don’t we boogie down/Hey what’s with you?”
One big question remains unanswered
Is the Stones’ lips and tongue logo modelled on Mick? Even the guy who designed it, John Pasche, isn’t sure. “I have to say that initially it wasn’t but it might have been something that was unconscious,” he says, in a quote in the room dedicated to that iconic piece of design. Mick takes the logo very seriously. “We came up with the perfect tongue, I think,” reads one quote.
Mick and Charlie once designed a half-plane, half-eagle hybrid
But it was for only for a US tour poster. The duo’s sketches are on display in a room dedicated to the group’s record sleeves and posters.
There’s more than one way to hang an inflatable dog
Sketches, scale models and imagery shows how Rolling Stones shows have innovated in stagecraft, from the statuesque goddesses framing the stage at 1997-‘98s Bridges To Babylon tour to 1990’s Urban Jungle Tour’s inflatable dogs.
Every member of the Stones is capable of wearing something crazy, but they’ll never out-mad Mick Jagger
There’s a staggering array of costumes on display, covering the early days, when manager Andrew Loog Oldham tried to get them in matching suits, to the sharp Kings Road days, the flamboyant stagewear of the ’70s and ‘80s and the glitzy tailoring/pirate get-up of recent tours. They prove Mick to be the one with the most outré taste, whether 1969’s white Mr Fish shirt dress, or his UK and USA capes/tights/crop-top combos, or the Ossie Clark outfit that looks like something the villain in Temple Of Doom would wear.
They have high-brow pseudonyms
A document in a room of miscellaneous ephemera includes a list of poetic pseudonyms they used in a hotel. Mick was Byron, Keith was Shelley, Charlie Watts was Grey and Bill Wyman was Yeats.
It’s possibly the loudest thing that ever happened in an art gallery
The exhibition culminates in a 3D film of the Stones performing ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ at London’s Hyde Park in July 2013, which will send you off with tinnitus.
There is, of course, an enormous gift shop
Is there room in your life for Rolling Stones headphones? Crockery? Pyjamas? Take your credit card. The shop at the end if the exhibition is testament to the fact that The Stones are as much business as band, and have long believed that if you can slap a logo on something, it’s worth selling.