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June 28 2012

Rolling Stones unveil facelift for legendary lips logo

To mark their 50th anniversary, the band asked artist Shephard Fairey to update rock's most famous piece of branding

The Rolling Stones have unveiled a new logo to mark their 50th anniversary. American artist Shepard Fairey was commissioned for the project, which sees a subtle reworking of the band's classic image of lips, teeth and tongue.

The new logo takes the Stones' original tongue logo, designed by English designer John Pasche, and adds a circular white and red banner. "The Rolling Stones/Fifty Years," it reads, as well as incorporating the number 50 into the Stones' name.

Fairey, best known for his poster of Barack Obama, has become a go-to artist for rock musicians, designing album covers for Tom Petty, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins and a Led Zeppelin compilation. Earlier this year he was commissioned to create paintings for each of the songs on Neil Young's new album with Crazy Horse, Americana. The artworks are currently on exhibition in Los Angeles, and will accompany Young on a short forthcoming tour.

Next month, the Stones will meet in London to discuss the prospect of a new album and a 50th anniversary tour. In an interview published this week, Keith Richards said the band are considering working with Jack White, who has previously produced albums by Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson.


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March 31 2012

'Another Marianne Faithfull lives inside my head'

The veteran singer on her new role as art curator, the Rolling Stones, and 'the Fabulous Beast'

You are curating an art exhibition at Tate Liverpool this month, DLA Piper Series: Innocence and Experience. Your connection with that city goes back to childhood?

I was there until I was six, so it was very formative, at least if you believe the Jesuits. I remember a lot of it, particularly my mother taking me to the docks to show me the big American liners; she would say to me: "That way is America." Which set something up for me for sure. I played Liverpool a lot as a performer on tour. And when I was there I would go to the Walker Art Gallery; I remember seeing Millais's wonderful Ophelia there [at an exhibition in 1967].

You put together the show with John Dunbar, your first husband, who ran the Indica gallery in Soho in the 60s…

The person who first showed me how to look at pictures was John, when he was at Cambridge and doing his degree. We went to Rome and Florence together. We spent a lot of afternoons in the Tate and the National back then. And so we had a fabulous time going through the Tate archives for this show.

The idea is that it almost becomes an autobiographical sketch of you?

What I hope people will be seeing is something like the inside of my head.

What will they see there? We have some wonderful William Blakes, Newton sitting on what looks like the moon. Blake was a guiding spirit for me for a long, long time. My father gave me Songs of Innocence and of Experience when I was a child, which gave me the title for one of my albums. I went on living by Blake.

I always liked that fragment of his : "What is the price of experience…?"

Yes, and, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." I'm not sure if I believe that any more. Is it true? It might be. He had vision. I am not in any way a visionary like that. I'm more a channel.

The exhibition will also include Richard Hamilton's picture of Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser's 1967 drug bust, Swingeing London. You were there, of course. Does that feel like another life?

It is all very present. I look at the picture every day. I've been so glad Richard gave it to me. It has helped me a lot to see that period as art, rather than just personal trauma. I read a lot of books about those times, and these days they seem to be viewed as a disaster. I don't see it that way at all, though for me personally they were pretty rough.

Did you read Keith Richards's memoir?

I did. And I loved it. It rang true as Keith. Not that I agree with everything in it. Strangely, I am going to New York to do, among other things, a tribute show to the Rolling Stones at Carnegie Hall. With Ronnie Spector and Steve Earle and others. I will sing "Sister Morphine" at the very end.

Do you have any qualms about being in a Stones' tribute show?

Not really. There was a time I resented it because I felt I could have done anything, and just to be perceived as the creation of the Rolling Stones irritated me immensely. But there are worse things to be seen as, I suppose.

Things that seem tragic dramas when you are young seem less so when you look back?

Yes, you have to remember I was a completely insecure, self-centred, highly ambitious little girl.

Which period of your life do you think of as the happiest?

My childhood, and now. Because I have mastery. I am not drinking and not using drugs.

Do you have a religious impulse?

I do have a strong sense of God. It's impossible to explain what I mean when I say that, of course. I have to have a sense of something greater than myself to be able to stay sober. I have been in the programme for23 years but I am not 23 years sober. But I can't feel that it is all down to me, no.

You are a grandmother now?

I am. I'm 65. I have to take a lot more trouble physically. Before I spoke to you I did my 15 minutes on the treadmill. That's something I wouldn't have ever imagined. I do yoga. I do tai chi. I do a lot to keep my body and my spirit together so I can work. In the autumn I take up a position in Linz at the Opera House for three months, doing Brecht's Seven Deadly Sins, with full ballet costumes, everything.

Which of the sins do you feel you have explored most fully?

I've had a go at most, but in this piece Brecht turns them all upside down, so that lust becomes love. Pride becomes pride in your work. Envy is actually the hardest sin to make positive.

You have had more than your share of the male gaze over the years. Do you feel a bit liberated from that now?

I tried to ignore it most of the time. It's a mixed blessing but I do feel a bit liberated, although I make a great effort for my shows. A great effort to be Marianne Faithfull.

She's a creation as much as anything?

It is actually my name. It is me. But it hasn't felt like me for a long time. What has happened in the past 10 years or so, and what has been my goal for as long as I can remember, is to bring me and Marianne Faithfull into some semblance of harmony. It was her doing drugs and drinking, her inside my head, so it has been tough. The Fabulous Beast, that's what I call her.

Is that Fabulous Beast still whispering to you?

Less so. But she is very naughty. And doesn't believe anything of what I tell her is good for us. She just laughs at all that. She is not evil. She is naughty, and I shouldn't listen to her. I just have to be very careful all the time.

DLA Piper Series: Innocence and Experience – curated by Marianne Faithfull is at Tate Liverpool from 21 April to 2 September


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June 16 2010

Give Tate Modern to Keith Richards

Music legends of the 1960s might be welcome in today's pop music, but contemporary art shuns its old masters – why?

The Marxist cultural critic Walter Benjamin says somewhere, I believe, in his famous essay The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction, that people will accept a radicalism in popular art forms that they will never accept from the avant gardes of "high" art. Benjamin was writing in the era of Eisenstein. A lot of cut-ups have made it into the gallery since then. Audiences at Tate Modern seem pretty schooled to expect everything pre-deconstructed in the museum. The most interesting thing now about Benjamin's argument is that it also works the other way around. It is conversely true that the idea of the classics, the greats, the old masters, is universally accepted in pop music when it is nowadays widely spat on in the sphere of contemporary high art.

I've been listening to some 1960s favourites. The Beatles' Norwegian Wood, the Rolling Stones' Ruby Tuesday, a bit of The Incredible String Band. I hasten to add that I was only four when the 60s ended. I wasn't at Altamont or anything. But when I was a teenager, much later, it was obvious that rock music had reached a peak of imagination and brilliance in the 1960s – and it's still obvious. Does anyone dispute that? More crucially, does anyone think it trashes today's music to say so? There is a maturity, a common sense about critics and consumers of popular music that is totally absent from the high arts. No one thinks it demeans Lady Gaga to admire Madonna.

There is a sense of history in the appreciation of pop that completely eludes today's debates about art. It is clear to everyone that golden ages of rock'n'roll have existed in the past and produced enduring classics: it's a historical fact, and to deny the greatness of an old song such as Sweet Jane would be to deny the worth of the art form as such. So why can't fans of contemporary art accept similarly obvious historical facts, such as the enduring freshness and immediacy of the Renaissance and Baroque painters? And the fact that Matisse and Picasso are the Beatles and Stones of modern art?

See where I'm headed? There are classics and there is the new. The new is always worth hearing and worth seeing – you never know when and where the next genius will come from. But you don't help give birth to the new by ignorance of what went before. Rock has a sense of tradition that has been broken in our museums. Keith Richards has a great private library of the blues. He cares for it and catalogues it. He is proud to archive a heritage.

They should have made him the new director of Tate Modern.


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May 14 2010

The Rolling Stones at Villa Nellcôte

Be first to see Dominique Tarlé's photographs of the Rolling Stones at Villa Nellcôte, going on display at the Atlas Gallery, London, in July



April 07 2010

Sticky moments

London gallery shows previously unseen pictures of band taken in the early 1970s

It is not the greatest rock'n'roll rebellion – refusing to hold the album the right way up to protect his modesty – but it was a sign of the rotten mood he was in. It was, recalled the photographer, David Montgomery, today, like "battling with the devil".

Behind-the-scenes photographs of the Rolling Stones from the early seventies, many never seen and others little seen, are to go on display at the London gallery of Ronnie Wood's son Tyrone.

Some of the most striking are from a promotional shoot for the band's 1971 album Sticky Fingers. The cover, showing a pair of tight jeans, was conceived by Andy Warhol. Montgomery remembers Mick Jagger giving the distinct impression he did not want to be there.

"Mick didn't want to look at the camera. He was just being really difficult," Montgomery said.

The shoot had been scheduled for 6pm; Jagger turned up at about 11pm. When they got going, Jagger was happy enough to get his kit off, though he kept his Y-fronts on while Keith Richards cheerily stripped naked.

"I suppose they were just being very rock'n'roll. It was trying. It was like battling with the devil. I was photographing a lot of famous people at the time. I'd shot the Queen [and] top politicians, and I always adopted the philosophy that I just do my job as best I can; I don't need to go home with these people."

It was, said Montgomery, obvious who was in charge that evening: the ultra-confident Jagger. "Maybe he was just in a bad mood that night and I just happened to be the poor bugger taking the pictures."

Montgomery rediscovered the pictures only recently, and the promotional shots have never been exhibited in the UK – although, he said: "My wife has a four-foot blow-up of the Jagger picture in our living room."

To try to improve everyone's mood, Montgomery took the band down to a nearby Kings Road fish-and-chip shop, and never-before-seen shots that Montgomery took using his Kodak Instamatic are also going on display.

So it may not have been the happiest of shoots, but Montgomery bears no grudges – and he has a huge amount of respect for the Stones, he says.

"It was just unfortunate, really. The only other person to give me a run for my money was Barbra Streisand. I like the Stones and still like their music, but I just can't listen to Barbra Streisand."

The exhibition also includes photographs by Roberto Rabanne and Bob Gruen, who became John Lennon's personal photographer while he was in New York.


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March 14 2010

Once upon a life: Nick Kent

In 1972 he was sorting mail in a Sussex post office. Twelve months later he was partying with Led Zeppelin. Here, the hugely influential music critic Nick Kent looks back on a year in which he witnessed the birth of punk, the arrival of Ziggy Stardust and the life-changing impact of Iggy Pop

Michael Caine was recently being interviewed on French television when a question about the 1960s came up. The venerable actor set off on a misty-eyed saunter down memory lane about the early years of the decade, when he and his immediate social circle – folk like Terence Stamp, Vidal Sassoon and Harold Pinter – were suddenly catapulted from struggling obscurity to glittering blockbuster success in their chosen fields of endeavour. There was a window of opportunity back then – or so he claimed – that was magically made open to anyone who was young, slightly different-looking and imbued with a certain irreverent outlook on life and good instincts about their profession. That window was now closed, he quickly added, because the novelty of youthful self-empowerment had gone the way of all flesh and the times had simply changed.

His words stirred something in me because I'd known that window, too, albeit a decade later than Caine. It might not have been wide open in the early 1970s, when I came of age, as it had apparently been throughout the 1960s. But it was still definitely ajar – offering just enough space for the young and ambitious to squeeze through in order to go on and make their mark on the world. I was ordained to receive my catapult ride from student nonentity-dom to gainful employment as fledlging celeb journo for the NME in 1972. I began the year sorting mail in a Sussex post office to the baleful strains of comedian Benny Hill singing his No 1 hit single of the day, "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)" – His name was Ernie, and he drove the fastest milk cart in the west – and ended it in a four-star hotel carousing with Led Zeppelin. It wasn't what you'd call a normal or particularly healthy career trajectory to embark on, but I've never complained. Later on in the decade there would be hell to pay, but it would all seem worth it in retrospect. If I hadn't let myself get sucked up in the career tidal wave that '72 presented me with, I'd have probably stayed in my student garret dreaming my way into an underachieving life as a provincial librarian.

The key events that sparked my rise in fortune and public notoriety are dealt with in microscopic detail in my new book – specifically a long chapter dedicated to the year in question. Mostly it was about being in the right place at the right time, I now feel. From my vantage point, 1972 was the year when 70s culture truly cut itself off from the ghost of the 60s and began to express the real growing concerns and desires of its age. Films such as Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris and Martin Scorsese's seminal Mean Streets were all put into production during its 12-month duration. And there was a brand-new sensibility in rock music, too – a turning away from po-faced musical virtuosity (or middle-class prog rock ideal for post-hippie navel gazing) to make way for the emergence of something shorter, sharper, more vanity-driven and impudently audacious. In January, David Bowie first showcased his doomed peacock alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, on English stages, and it was at that moment that the 70s as we now perceive them were born. David Bowie didn't invent glam rock – Marc Bolan and Alice Cooper had both predated him as hit-making ambassadors of the form – but he was its prettiest and most musically accomplished human asset and, moreover, possessed the requisite charisma and lightning intelligence to change the whole course of popular music that year.

Bowie also had exquisite taste, particularly when it came to choosing other rising forces in the new decade to share the spotlight with. He cajoled both Lou Reed from New York's recently disbanded Velvet Underground and a wayward Michigan-born young man known as Iggy Pop to move to London that year and employ the services of his manager, a loud Colonel Parker wannabe called Tony DeFries. Reed had been Andy Warhol's house minstrel in the late 1960s and didn't waste the opportunity to instil the fey pop artist's glamour-fixated anti-utopian doctrines on British pop culture upon his arrival on our sceptred isle. And Iggy Pop imported his old group, the Stooges, from the Motor City that spring and performed just one concert, in a King's Cross cinema, that was already being called "punk rock" four years before the Sex Pistols and their scheming manager claimed to invent the genre in 1976.

Elsewhere in the metropolis a young US poetess – Patti Smith – gave her first feisty spoken-word recitation to European ears early in the year, while a bunch of snooty UK-based refugees from the halls of higher learning, known as Roxy Music, were busy re-styling art rock with bold camp flourishes and a menthol-cool postmodernist perspective. In short, those of us who'd failed to cast our shadows across the 60s creative landscape suddenly were dealt the opportunity to leave our respective signatures on the decade's trickier successor.


In my case, things took off in January when – tipped off by a friend – I'd taken an afternoon off from studying "linguistics" in a section of the University of London then known as Bedford College in order to offer my fledlging music-writer services to an underground journal based on Portobello Road called Frendz. I just turned up at their office unannounced, but the paper's editors were encouraging. When I returned with three album reviews, they printed them and then offered me the job of becoming their music editor for the princely sum of £4 a month and all the free albums I could cadge from the record companies. It seemed like a sweet deal to me, and it only got sweeter. That spring I went out on separate tours with weird and wonderful acts, like Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, the Grateful Dead and Hawkwind. Sometime in February I met Iggy Pop and discovered in the process my very own lifestyle guru for the years ahead.

The Iggy connection was important also because it was what first drew me to the attention of the New Musical Express. The music weekly had been struggling to keep afloat at the beginning of the 1970s and in early '72 was given an ultimatum by its owners, IPC: either find a new direction and a much larger readership base or get put out to pasture. The editors had exactly 12 issues in which to turn things around and began furiously headhunting young scribes from the (then-ailing) underground press to help swell their ranks and inject a more "irreverently hip" attitude into the copy. Nick Logan – then the assistant editor – phoned me out of the blue some time in the summer and asked me to write a short piece about Iggy for their pages. Once I handed him the text, he offered me staff membership but I politely refused, preferring a role as a freelancer to a (mostly) desk-bound job in the office. He was agreeable to this less structured arrangement and I was suddenly afforded the financial sustenance and mainstream platform to really get my name out to the greater Brit-youth consumer demographic du jour.

What was it exactly that made me so suddenly sought after? I couldn't even type my own copy – I'd scribble everything out in wobbly longhand and then pass the pages over to a long-suffering office secretary to type instead – but the editors never made an issue of my (considerable) shortcoming. I had a problem with deadlines, too. In point of fact I was any self-respecting copy editor's worst nightmare. But they tolerated all this because they evidently sensed I was an overall asset to their general operation. I'd like to think it was all somehow tied in with the excellence of the work I was handing in, but I've reread most of those old early pieces of mine and they're neither excellent nor particularly good.

The truth of the matter is I wouldn't start maturing into a writer of credible "new journalism" for another two years. But I was prepared from the very outset to go to extremes in order to snag a story, and "going to extremes" always gets results (even if – most of the time – they're not the results you may have at first set out to attain). Also, I had good instincts for embracing rising talent and, recognising instantly that the paper's readers were generally afflicted by an extremely short attention span, I thus chose to affect a flamboyant, look-at-me approach to my journalistic endeavours and general comportment when in public in order to keep them (hopefully) hanging on to my every word.

But the key to it all lay in the fact that I was really just part of a winning team. Two other underground-affiliated young writers – Charles Shaar Murray and Ian MacDonald – had come on board roughly at the same time I had, and both proved to be deeply influential on the paper's rising style and substance. And Nick Logan was at the controls, honing the skills that would go on to make him one of the most visionary and successful editors of the late 20th century.

The paper's change in fortunes was practically instantaneous. By autumn of 1972 the NME's weekly sales had rocketed up from 60,000 to approximately 150,000; by year's end we'd become "the world's biggest-selling music weekly", a state of affairs that lasted throughout the decade. But skyrocketing success always brings its share of problems to whoever is tied to the rocket, and we were no exception to that rule. An unhealthy measure of divisive competitiveness soon entered into our office relationships and grew as the paper became more and more widely read. Heads started swelling – and as the youngest contributor to the journal I became more arrogant than most. In due course this would turn to premature jadedness, and soon enough I'd be heading for self-destruction.

My immediate future was blindingly bright: in '73 I'd tour with my heroes the Rolling Stones through Europe, spend two months traversing America on a hectic voyage of (self-) discovery and fall head over heels in love. But a year after that I'd fall into heroin addiction and heartache, and all that early journalistic promise I'd displayed would be hijacked and rendered dormant for the rest of the decade.


But back in 1972 everything still seemed possible. My NME co-conspirators and I were still in our brief-but-blissful honeymoon period of one-for-all-and-all-for-oneness. And I'd yet to become personally tainted by the whole pop process. At heart I was still a callow 20-year-old who'd spent his teenage years in his bedroom lost in music, and now that I'd penetrated the music industry itself and was getting records for free, free tickets to all the concerts and lots of face-to-face contacts with musicians I'd once only dreamt of encountering, I couldn't get over my luck.

When I think back to that year, the memories that shine brightest are the many times I was privileged to see shows in London – and elsewhere – that left me trembling with ecstasy. I caught the UK debut of Germany's groundbreaking Can, witnessed Captain Beefheart speaking in tongues and reinventing electric music to a bewildered Brighton audience, was bedazzled by David Bowie's first Ziggy show in London and equally captivated by Roxy Music's early showcases. Oftentimes those future historic events would attract only a handful of paying punters. Indeed one monumental concert that the MC5 performed in London's West End that summer only attracted three attendees, none of whom had paid to get in. Even the Stooges's now legendary "punk"-inducing King's Cross gig only managed to draw 150 or so spectators. But that show changed my life. Before it I'd been a cautious youth, but when I witnessed Iggy doing somersaults on a moving microphone stand that night, I realised once and for all that – in order to leave a lasting impression on the times I lived in – I had to throw all caution to the four winds and plunge headlong into the fray of whatever fate had in store for me.

By December of 1972, it was official: I'd been expelled from the University of London, exiled from academia. It was bound to happen, as I'd failed to turn up to all my lectures and hadn't even been there to sit an important end-of-term exam. In fact, I'd been out on tour with Led Zeppelin when it had occurred. My fate was already sealed, in other words.


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December 16 2009

Rolling with the Stones

Willie Christie revisits his best shot, salvaged from his first photography assignment – photographing Mick Jagger before his onstage debut with new recruit Mick Taylor in 1969



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