Jim Marshall’s “The Haight: Love, Rock, And Revolution”

A couple of years ago, the estate of the great rock photographer Jim Marshall published The Rolling Stones 1972, which contained some of the most iconic photos taken of the Stones as they finished Exile On Main Street and embarked on what inarguably was their best tour.

Now we have something that is in many ways finer — Marshall’s entire oeuvre, or so it would seem, of images taken between 1965 and 1969 as the San Francisco bands, and the spirit they unleashed, changed the world.  The Haight: Love, Rock, And Revolution is the best large book of rock photos and essays since Ethan Russell’s Let It Bleed: The Rolling Stones, Altamont, And The Death of the Sixties.  And what is clear is that, in addition to the great stage shots and band portraits of the Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead, Marshall was a genuinely gifted street and event photographer, capturing not just how, say, the Trips Festival looked, but how it felt.

Jim Marshall was the only photographer allowed into the Beatles dressing room when they played their final show ever at Candlestick Park in 1966.  It is a measure of his sheer force of personality that a guy wearing a corduroy suit and with short hair and horn-rimmed glasses could have insinuated his way into the inner circle of the counterculture leaders and the great bands of the day.

The text written by Joel Selvin contains gem after gem, the details piling up in an authoritative manner.  Random sample: here is Selvin on the night in October 1967 when Grace Slick joined the Airplane:

“The first night at Winterland, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band brought onstage a friend from Chicago to jam named Steve Miller, who earned a standing ovation by announcing he was moving to town to form a band.”

Even after leafing through the book for the photos, you go back to the beginning to read every word.

Selvin’s writing, which is more than merely an accompaniment to Marshall’s images, captures the full arc of The Haight, from innocence in an environment where acid was legal, to the curdling of the movement during the Summer of Love, to its collapse amidst speed freaks and tourist busses by the end of 1967.  Read this book and then Sam Cutler’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want to see the sorry conclusion at Altamont, in December ’69.

Back to Marshall’s photographs: this visual document of the rise and fall of the Haight is also, of course, an image-drenched trove capturing both the short-lived artists who did not get out of the ’60s alive and those who stood the test of time.  Worth it alone for the pictures of Hendrix that Marshall made so famous, it is a glorious compendium.

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