Gathering moss: Rediscovered photos show the Rolling Stones’ domestic side
Gathering moss: Rediscovered photos show the Rolling Stones’ domestic side
Gered Mankowitz was just 18 years old when he started photographing the Rolling Stones. A successful 1964 portrait session with Marianne Faithful, where Mankowitz captured the 17-year-old singer wide-eyed in pull-up socks and saddle shoes on Barnes Common, southwest London, had piqued the interest of her manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. He decided the teenage photographer should work with some of his other acts too – including the Stones.
“Gered was not a part of the brash ‘I want everything’ East End mob that had invaded fashion and film,” remembers Loog Oldham in Mankowitz’s new photobook, Goin’ Home with the Rolling Stones ’66. “He was settled, attired in a comfy left-wing checked shirt. His work with Marianne had all the sensuality and social vision I wanted for the Stones.”
Although he was young, Mankowitz was hardly green. The son of Oscar-winning writer Wolf Mankowitz, he credits his early introduction to photography to actor and family friend Peter Sellers lending him a Polaroid camera. He began pursuing photography in earnest after leaving school aged 14.
He instinctively understood Loog Oldham’s vision for the Stones. “We were very conscious of the image of the band that we were trying to present – moody, not particularly friendly, sort of subversive and rebellious,” Mankowitz told The Independent. “The debauched side of the reputation was to come. By the mid-Sixties it was still a manufactured image. Andrew Loog Oldham wanted to create the antithesis to the Beatles.”
Mankowitz met the band at the end of 1964 and a year later he accompanied them on a dizzying, eight-week tour of America. “It was incredibly exciting to be on stage with the Rolling Stones every night, at the time when they were number one in America and were probably the biggest band in the world,” Mankowitz says. However, their non-stop schedule was punishing. “To be honest, it was exhausting and strange and curiously – I was going to say not very enjoyable! It was hard work,” he says.
By 1966, the band was starting to make serious money – and spend it too. “They wanted not just the security of a house in the country, or a lovely mansion flat in central London,” says Mankowitz. “They wanted a place to be where they could relax in private, in comfort.”
Their new homes presented an opportunity. Mankowitz spent a day with each band member, shooting them in their respective houses, alone – this was before the days of big crews and hovering press officers. The music media landscape was still young; women’s magazines and music magazines had yet to disentangle themselves. Fan magazines like the now-defunct Fabulous 208 were interested in behind-the-scenes pictures of rock idols, often in cheesy poses we now associate with the royal family and the B-listers in Hello! magazine.
“I recall when he first suggested shooting the boys at home, not being that interested in the idea – if only because the idea of a comfy Stones ran a total opposite to the rock’n’roll Clockwork Orange episode we had been enjoying,” says Loog Oldham. “But the Stones were up for it and I am so glad Gered captured these images. They are a remarkable telling of the time and the end of the innocence.”
These photoshoots are collected in Goin’ Home with the Rolling Stones ’66, a new book published by Reel Art Press. Contrary to how we remember the band now, these photos are sweet, naive and, as Loog Oldham says, even innocent. Charlie Watts grins in front of a clothes horse draped with his wife’s underwear. Mick Jagger perches on a sofa, his girlfriend Chrissie Shrimpton’s ragdolls strewn in the background. Keith Richards sits on a toilet outside of Redlands, his Grade II-listed country manor house.
The band seem relaxed under Mankowitz’s gaze. “Pretty much throughout the band are taking the piss out of the genre of the at-home picture,” he says. But an unguarded truthfulness seeps through, as well as a feeling of reprise from the hectic cycle of touring and recording. “The reality was that for everybody else, there was a domestic side, a personal side, a private side that wasn’t necessarily that crazy. I think these pictures capture that.”
As well as a softer vision of the Stones, these photos allow a glimpse at an individuality that goes far beyond the band. Charlie Watts and his wife are settled in a country house full of heavy antique furniture and American civil war memorabilia. They are clearly luxuriating in the very un-rock’n’roll dream shared by many of his contemporaries – leaving London for a quiet life in the suburbs. On the other hand, Brian Jones is photographed in his “dark and strange” South Kensington flat. “The flat was chaotic with ‘stuff’ everywhere just strewn around, piles of clothes and fabric, some with sleeping people underneath,” recalls Mankowitz.
“Brian could be very tricky. You never quite knew whether you were going to get a very friendly, charming Brian or a moody, difficult, sarcastic Brian. He could be the epitome of charm one minute and quite unpleasant the next, so you were always slightly trepidatious. But on that particular day he was in terrific form, eager to make the pictures work and a very good subject.”
Although he categorises much of the shoot as “snapshots that we had a laugh with,” some pictures in the collection capture something special. In one, Mick Jagger stands in a long empty hallway – he was moving house on the day of the shoot. Lit by the natural light coming through a window, in a shot full of ambiguity and tension, the transition between one space and another is deeply felt. Mankowitz loves this photo to this day. “Mick was always supremely professional,” he says. “If he does something he does it absolutely as well as he possibly can. He’s interested in everything. He’s very photogenic.”
In the winter of that same year, Mankowitz would go on to shoot the cover of the album Between the Buttons. In that shot, the band are captured bleary-eyed in a wintery park after an all-night recording session. As if anticipating an imminent moment of change, Mankowitz smeared Vaseline on the lens to make it look like the band were dissolving at the edges into the cold morning light.
Two months later, in early 1967, Jagger and Richards would be arrested in the infamous Redlands drug bust. The following trial saw Keith Richards sentenced to 12 months in prison and Mick Jagger to three months, although the convictions were later quashed. This, along with tabloid hysteria that largely centred around the alleged discovery of a naked Marianne Faithful under a rug, changed the dynamics of the band – Loog Oldham even fled to America in fear of his own arrest. The raid happened at Redlands, Richards’s manor house. Mankowitz had photographed him there the summer before, posing with his dog and horses, grinning in the sunlight.
By the end of 1967, the band’s working relationship with Mankowitz and Loog Oldham was over. “They were moving on into a completely different era and a completely different world. They were occupying a space I wasn’t part of, and my place was taken by another photographer. That was just the way things were, and it felt quite natural.” Mankowitz went on to photograph other rock superstars, including Jimi Hendrix, Elton John and Kate Bush. The 1966 at-home photoshoot gathered dust in a drawer, forgotten.
“In those days, nobody ever wanted to go back; they only ever wanted to go forward,” says Mankowitz. “Photographs had a very limed life. The thought that they would still be performing 50 years hence would have been absolutely ridiculous. You would have been laughed out of town if you’d suggested it.” It wasn’t until the 1980s that people began to show an interest in his archive, and he began to look back through his early work. Goin’ Home is one of the many Stones photobooks he’s released since, but perhaps the most idiosyncratic. “It’s kind of a curiosity, a moment in time that’s been completely forgotten,” he says.
Looking back on his two-and-a-half years with the Stones, the 74-year-old is grateful. “I would say that it was fun, creative, exciting, fresh. It was brilliant, really. It was a wonderful period and a wonderful moment.”