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Huge Rolling Stones exhibition offers satisfaction for fans

🕐 8 min read

LONDON (AP) — It’s only rock ‘n’ roll — but it isn’t, is it?

The music business is about commerce as well as entertainment, and the Rolling Stones are one of its biggest multinational firms.

There’s plenty of both art and business in “Exhibitionism,” a vast exhibition that covers 20,000 square feet (1,850 square meters) of London’s Saatchi Gallery with five decades of Stones history.

The more than 500 artifacts, borrowed from the band’s archive and private collectors, include musical instruments, lyrics, sketches, film clips, outfits, posters, album artwork and stage designs. There is even a fake donkey. From entertaining to excess, the Stones rarely do things on a small scale.

“In the end, we had over 25,000 things to choose from,” said Australian rock promoter Tony Cochrane, the show’s executive producer.

“I knew the Rolling Stones had a warehouse where they had kept a lot of their personal artifacts, memorabilia, famous instruments and the like,” he said Monday, a day before the show’s public opening. “But no one could have known how enriched the collection was.”

The result is a treasure trove for fans, who can ogle everything from a marabou-feather cape Mick Jagger wore to sing “Sympathy for the Devil” to a Maton guitar owned by Keith Richards whose neck fell off during the recording of “Gimme Shelter” (the song ends with a barely audible clunk).

Even casual fans will likely be impressed by the exhibition’s attention to detail. It opens with a life-size recreation of an apartment the band members shared in 1962-63 in Chelsea, a then-raffish, now-affluent London neighborhood.

“It was a hovel,” Richards says on a recording, and the recreation captures the peeling wallpaper, mold-stained walls and unmade beds, the dirty dishes, empty beer bottles, broken eggshells and overflowing ashtrays. It even smells.

Exhibition curator Ileen Gallagher said the band members were “pretty astonished” by the result. “Although Mick said it wasn’t quite that messy.'”

Another room features a recreated recording studio, based on Olympic Studios in London, where visitors can watch footage of the band at work and listen to recordings of the Stones and their collaborators talking about the creative process.

The exhibition’s strength is the space it gives to the band’s creative partners, from backing vocalists and session players to the artists and designers who helped forge the Stones’ brand image and iconography.

A whole room is devoted to John Pasche’s lips-and-tongue Stones logo, inspired by a picture Jagger had seen of the Hindu goddess Kali. Another features the band’s huge-scale set designs, and a third showcases album-cover imagery by artists including 1960s photographer David Bailey and Andy Warhol, who designed the infamous zipper cover for “Sticky Fingers.”

“They’ve always managed to work with artists that have cultural significance,” said Gallagher. “That’s very important — and it’s very astute of them.”

And, of course, there is fashion. The Stones quickly left behind the matching checked jackets of the early 1960s to forge their own style, and the exhibition shows off many of Jagger’s more outrageous fashion statements, including the white dress he wore at the band’s 1969 Hyde Park concert and a pair of glittery 1970s jumpsuits.

Gallagher said the goal was to tell the Stones story “in a way that really brings in the cultural, artistic, historical influences of the band.”

After their dose of culture, most visitors will leave through the gift shop, a reminder that this exhibition is a savvy commercial enterprise. Fans can buy everything from coffee mug for 10 pounds ($14) to a Stones-branded table football game for 4,750 pounds ($6,800). There is even a tie-in with upmarket pottery firm Wedgwood, offering delicate tea cups and saucers carrying the exhibition’s less-than-delicate logo: the Stones lips emblazoned across on a bikini-wearing crotch.

A sign notes: “Over 250 years of history make Wedgwood a truly iconic English brand.” Much like the Stones themselves.

“Exhibitionism” runs to Sept. 4, with an international tour planned to follow the London run.



ONDON (AP) — From their first apartment through their most recent tours, the Rolling Stones are giving fans a chance to take a deep look into their lives as the “Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World.”

Here are some key things to see at “Exhibitionism,” the British band’s massive exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery that opens Tuesday:



Shortly after the Stones got together as a band in 1962, founding member Brian Jones moved into an apartment in west London with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and James Phelge. The apartment, at 102 Edith Grove, was notorious for being a mess, with clothes and dirty dishes strewn about the place.

The exhibition has recreated the scene with incredible detail, right down to the old empty beer bottles, a kitchen sink filled with pots and pans, and plenty of old Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records ready to be heard by an aspiring band that was, at the time, making only a few dollars per gig.

“The milk bottles were just growing this . stuff,” Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts says through a speaker as visitors walk through.

“It was very much like that, the kitchen particularly,” Watts said as he arrived for Monday’s opening.

Jagger and Richards shared the only bedroom with Phelge, a London club-goer who became their roommate and companion. Jones slept in the living room.

It was at Edith Grove that the band started writing their own music, like the Beatles were doing.

Although no photos exist of the original Edith Grove apartment, exhibition curator Ileen Gallagher said it was made from the memories of the current band.

“The real Edith Grove was like living in an alien culture,” Phelge, now 73, told The Associated Press. “You can’t replicate the spirit of the place.”



Behind a wall of glass is a recreation of the studio where the Rolling Stones recorded their first single, “Come On,” and many of their hits in the 1960s.

There are several instruments scattered around the floor, and a portion of “Sympathy for the Devil” — a 1968 Jean-Luc Godard film that shows the song’s creation — plays on a screen in the background.

In honor of Ian Stewart, the original piano player kicked out of the band in its infancy because he didn’t quite fit the part, there is his personal Ajello and Sons piano. Although Stewart wasn’t officially a member, he stayed with the band as a driver, friend, helper and musician until his death in 1985.

Alongside the glass wall, there are several small screens with headphones where visitors can hear about recording methods.

“It’s come out better than I thought. It’s a fun half-hour walk-through,” Jagger said of the exhibition. “If you don’t like the Rolling Stones, probably not for you.”



There are lots of clothes, mostly from Jagger, in a room that looks like a museum.

There is the famous Omega shirt he wore on the 1969 U.S. tour. There is a replica of the flowing dress-like white shirt he wore when the Stones played a free concert at Hyde Park on July 5, 1969 — two days after the death of Jones.

From the 1970s, there are plenty of jumpsuits. And from the 1980s, you get the sporty look, when Jagger essentially wore a football uniform on tour.

“Mick kept his clothes, thank God,” Gallagher said.

More recent garments include plenty of long coats and capes, some of them designed by Jagger’s late partner L’Wren Scott.

The others contributed various articles, but Jagger’s costumes are the ones that stand out.

“I hope they’ve been cleaned,” Jagger joked.



The creators of the exhibition raided the homes of Richards and Wood looking for guitars to display, and they found a few of their most iconic pieces.

Among them is the 1957 Gibson Les Paul that was hand-painted by Richards and used during the filming of “Sympathy for the Devil.” At the time, the Stones were involved in a drug case that threatened to ruin the band.

“Yeah, I painted it,” Richards says in the notes accompanying the guitar. “I was bored, waiting to go to jail.”



Another section of the exhibition is dedicated to old posters and records, the walls filled with colorful reminders of how many times the Rolling Stones have circled the globe over the decades.

Matt Lee, a 40-year-old marketing professional from London who is one of the world’s foremost Stones collectors, loaned more than 50 items to the exhibit, including many of the posters on display.

“As a general rule of thumb the earlier the poster the rarer it is, not just because it is older and less have survived, but because less were made in the first place,” Lee told the AP. “The ’60s posters are particularly rare but many of the ’70s ones are super tough to find, too, particularly in great condition.”

Another of the objects he handed over for display is the first contract signed by the band in May 1963.



At the end of the exhibit, visitors walk through a backstage area and into a small theater where they can watch a 3-D movie of the Stones performing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

Filmed in 2013 when the Stones returned to Hyde Park for a pair of gigantic shows, the video brings the viewers right into the concert.

Richards’ guitar neck protrudes from the screen. Jagger appears seemingly out of nowhere and struts right in front of your eyes.

“Frame by frame we turned it into 3-D,” said Patrick Woodroffe, who has worked with the Stones for years. “It cost a fortune.”

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