On the occasion of The Rolling Stones’ golden jubilee, Insight Editions has assembled the ultimate photo journal on the band, 50 x 20, whose thick pages showcase the camerawork of 20 renowned shutterbugs over the course of a half century (hence the title).
“The Rolling Stones have embraced, defied, twisted—and ultimately embodied—every imaginable rock ‘n’ roll stereotype,” writes Washington Post scribe Richard Harrington.
“They probably could have done it without making a sound. The Rolling Stones’ style is audacious and electrifying. To see them is to hear them.”
The twenty photographers featured are: Baron Wolman, Fernando Aceves, Mark Weiss, Eric Swayne, Bob Bonis, Gus Coral, Michael Cooper, William Coupon, Gered Mankowitz, Jan Olofsson, Mark Seliger, Chris Makos, Barry Feinstein, David Fenton, Claude Gassian, Bob Gruen, Ross Halfin, Michael Joseph, Eddie Kramer, and Chris Makos. A short bio on each is provided at the end of the book, along with a colophon / acknowledgements.
50 x 20 also features an introduction by book editor Chris Murray, who attended the Stones’ first New York City gig (at Carnegie Hall, June 1964) while still in junior high.
“I will never forget the incredible buzz from that concert,” he writes.
“Journalists and fans alike started talking and wondering decades ago about how long the band could possibly keep going. As the speculation continued, so did the Rolling Stones. No other musical group has endured like they have.”
This 144-page survey of eye-popping photos testifies to the band’s resilience. If picture is worth a thousand words, then 50 x 20 might be estimated somewhere north of a million superlatives (space prohibits us from sampling but a few of them). It is the crème de la crème of “Lapping Tongue” photography; a “Greatest Hits” of pictures documenting the astounding career trajectory of music’s most famous / notorious dirty white boys.
The paper is of such hard stock that we were repeatedly convinced we were grabbing more than one page at a time while flipping through. The quality of the images definitely warrants the hard, glossy stock. Still, it should be noted that Insight Editions—in conjunction with internationally renowned humanitarian organization Roots of Peace—will plant two trees for each one used in the manufacturing process as part of its Replanted Paper initiative.
“In the studio, [the Stones] were surprisingly professional for a young band,” writes Gus Coral, who shot the band’s 1963 show in Cardiff. “[Not] a great deal of larking—they just played the music.”
Coral’s shot of Mick and Brian onstage in matching houndstooth jackets is juxtaposed nicely by his images of the band rehearsing at De Lane Lea Studios in London, where a clock on the wall reads 6:37 (we assume that’s p.m.). A cigarette dangles precariously from Keith’s lips (page 16) while tuning up guitars with Brian. Opposite, Charlie Watts is a paragon of patience on drums.
Bob Bonis worked New York’s mobster-operated jazz clubs in the 1950s and was known for standing up to bullies. So Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham signed him on as road manager—a job he held from 1964-66, and one which resulted in a series of exquisite black and white shots (pages 20-32). There’s young Mick chatting with James Brown. There’s Mick again, crashed on a bed in some Chicago hotel room (his face is also on the adjacent TV set). Here’s Keith locking in rhythm with Watts onstage in Muenster in 1965. There’s Charlie, Brian, and Bill working things out at RCA Studios in Hollywood.
Pages 33-39 showcase Eric Swayne’s chic shots of Mick posing in a fur coat during an informal studio session. Shirley Watts rests her head on husband Charlie’s shoulder as the drummer surveys the goings-on in Shepherd, London, the contrast of his eyes as black as night. Pages 36-37 present a series wherein Swayne plays “tag” with Keith, whose sunglasses provide a mirror image of the photographer and his Pentax.
Renowned for his work with pop duo Chad & Jeremy, Gered Mankowitz latched onto the Stones following a photo session with songbird Marianne Faithfull (Jagger’s girlfriend at the time). During his years with the group, Mankowitz produced the artsy cover sleeves for December’s Children and Between the Buttons (shot utilizing a custom Vaseline-smudged lens filter). He also captured the band’s incendiary performances on TV shows like Hullaballoo. The snappy sepia tone group shot on page 44 finds Brian rocking another pair of his favored white pants.
Jan Oloffson writes of sharing Indian meals with Jones on King’s Road, and of his admiration for Brian’s marimba, vibraphone, and sitar skills. His photos hail from a Wembley soundstage for the Ready, Steady, Go! variety program in 1966.
Acclaimed rock engineer Eddie Kramer donates shots from1967-68 at Olympic Studios in London. His camera was simply “part of the furniture,” back then, and taking the odd picture was a given occurrence anytime he manned the console. Kramer also delivers an uber-cool shot of Mick (clad head to toe in black) lounging backstage with Jimi Hendrix at Madison Square Garden in 1969.
Beggar’s Banquet photographer Michael Joseph shares the results of his work with a Hasselblad super-wide and a couple rolls of Ektachrome 200 in late 1967. Here (page 60) the heathens smirk and sneer in the wild green grass (and pose with cattle) outside a dilapidated mansion in Derbeyshire. Joseph’s favorite shot is the B&W of a reclining Richards with a Boston terrier perched on his lap (and a Chaplin-esque Jagger leering in the background). Barry Feinstein contributes his picture of the graffiti-laden wall in his car mechanic’s bathroom; it was used later for the Beggar’s Banquet CD release. Song titles like “No Expectations,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and “Parachute Woman” are scrawled alongside drawings by Feinstein, Jagger, and Richards.
Baron Wolfman, former chief photographer for Rolling Stone magazine, shot Jagger on the set of the 1968 Donald Cammell / Nicholas Roeg film Performance and took live shots of the entire band at Oakland Coliseum in 1969. Jagger (in thick eyeliner) is pictured on the movie set, holding a Polaroid Land Camera 100, and dazzling a California crowd while wearing an Uncle Sam top hat. Wolfman catches Richards onstage in 1978, proffering a plectrum to the sunny sky.
From Michael Cooper’s estate come images of the Stones’ Satanic Majesties album cover session and video production for “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” We get Brian Jones bowing a cello and a poncho-wearing Richards spooning something into his nose while squatting somewhere in Joshua Tree Park in California ’68 (page 83). But the piece de resistance is Cooper’s sepia-tone formal shot of the band huddled together in a New York studio (page 80-81). He also submits a photo of colleague (fashion photographer) Cecil Beaton taking his own photo of a shirtless Richards lounging poolside at Marrakesh in 1967 (page 77).
Michael Putland snaps Jagger sitting between reggae giants Bob Marley and Peter Tosh at The Palladium in NYC ’78 (page 84). His snot of the “Glimmer Twins” (page 86) says so much of the dynamic between Richards and Jagger, what with the guitarist playing stoic to his singer’s smiling jester. Putland also catches the band live in Glasgow ’73 and on the set of the video for “It’s Only Rock and Roll” in ’74. Bob Gruen gets Mick hanging with Andy Warhol in ’77 and Keith taking a breather onstage at The Beacon in ’93. Mark Weiss (Creem, Circus, Hit Parader) renders several live shots from 1978-1981, including a panoramic of Jagger tossing flowers from a cherry picker high above the crowd at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia (pages 94-101). Chris Makos created several lovely images while vacationing with the Stones in Montauk, Long Island—including the one of a brooding Jagger in a Linda Ronstadt T-shirt (page 103).
William Coupon furnishes color outtakes of Mick from a Rolling Stone cover shoot in 1983 (for the release of Jagger’s solo album, She’s the Boss). David Fenton documented press conferences and shows for the band from 1969-1972, coming away with a batch of poetic black-and-whites (pages 106-110). Claude Gassian catches enjoying tea in Paris in 1985. Ross Halfin nabs Richards in Denmark in 1992, the guitarist’s face partially obscured by cigarette smoke. Mark Selinger had to goad the Twins into posing for Rolling Stone in 1994 (pages 119-120), but the results of his aggravation are stunning.
Fernando Aceves shot the band (sans Wyman, who’d retired) in New York, Chicago, Anaheim, and Mexico in 1995, during promotional work for the Voodoo Lounge CD (pages 120-133). This dazzlingly colorful series presents an aging (if timeless) band whose members proudly wear the wrinkles in their faces while doing what they’re best at.
NME writer / author Chris Salewicz’s elegant afterward encapsulates the Stone’s history and impact, commenting on the band’s sonic evolution, musical milestones, and cultural significance.
50 x 20 essentially replaces 40 x 20, issued (you guessed it) ten years ago. Perhaps another decade will see the publication of Rolling Stones: 60 x 20. Still, it’s best to play it safe and pick up this edition because—to borrow a Jagger-ism—this could be the last time, maybe the last time.
I don’t know. After all, this is the Stones we’re talking about: The Lapping Tongue band has made a multimillion dollar industry out of taking (and giving) lickings and going right on ticking. The Beatles’ legacy is undisputed, but this British band was just getting started (without Jones, anyway) when McCartney and Lennon went their separate ways. The Stones are the yardstick for rock and roll growing up and getting old (if not maturation); they’ve shown us what to do and how to do it (or not) with style, volume, and a whole lot of attitude, and 50 x 20 preserves their visual progression.