The Delights Of Jim Marshall’s “The Rolling Stones 1972”

It was the greatest tour, by the greatest band, backing the release of perhaps the greatest album in the history of rock’n’roll.  Purists point to the Stones’ ’69 tour as the apogee of the art form, noting that it was the band in its naked glory, with only Ian Stewart to radiate the 88 on just a song or two.  But the Stones in ’72 were at their absolute peak, and with Nicky Hopkins looking at the mirror installed on his piano so he could see what the boys were up to behind him, with Jim Price and Bobby Keys filling in on horns, with Mick and Keith standing on that dragon-painted stage that had to be washed with a combination of water and 7Up, with all those songs from Exile On Main Street to be played to huge audiences, this was the pinnacle.  We don’t just say this because we were there, at Boston Garden (on the good night when they played on time), or that first night at Madison Square Garden.  We say it because it is true.

Jim Marshall was a tough, Leica-wielding pro on an assignment for Life, and he was embedded in the early hours, the pre-tour studio wrap up, the West Coast swing.  The only pictures he took from this period that really ever saw the day were what was in that Life published right around the end of the tour.  To see the remaining 80-plus pictures, in one place at one time, you had to wait until now, as The Rolling Stones 1972 was published by Chronicle Books.  Though in the text there is a swipe taken at the great Ethan Russell — they dismiss him as an amateur who hooked up with the Stones for the ’69 tour — this is a nice companion piece to Russell’s fantastic photographic chronicle of that period.

And it’s a reminder that the Stones need to do the right thing and finally release a live album from that magical moment, the ’72 tour.  Keith seems finally to have stopped blocking what for all of us, if not him, was the highlight of the band — the period when Mick Taylor played lead — and last year allowed “Brussels Affair” to be released as an official album.  A few years ago, they allowed new songs to be released from the Exile sessions. They’ve let Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones to be rereleased as a DVD.  Now comes Marshall’s book.  It is time the Stones stepped up and allowed tapes from the ’72 tour to come out as an official album.

We’ve always surmised that the reason they didn’t was that it would reveal too clearly that the nearly 40 years since Ron Wood joined the band were substandard.  But with a live album from Mick Taylor’s final tour (’73 Europe) already released, and with the movie made in ’72 available, what’s the point of keeping under wraps that live album recorded in Ft. Worth?  Jim Marshall’s fine book of photograph merely whets the appetite.

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