Archive for Ethan Russell

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

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 15, 2014 by johnbuckley100

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.

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

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 5, 2012 by johnbuckley100

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.

Sam Cutler’s Nuanced View Of Altamont

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on June 19, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Everything appears to be ready, are you ready? Thus are Sam Cutler’s introductory words from the Stones’ ’69 tour memorialized on Get Yer Ya-Yas Out, introducing, in his lifted superlative, “The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World.”

Now, more than 40 years on, Cutler has written a superb autobiography entitled “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” the best parts of which center around his stint as tour manager for the Stones on their epochal ’69 tour.  Less than a year ago, we had Ethan Russell’s great book of photos from the tour, Let It Bleed, along with written accompaniment, but Cutler’s book is a well-told, up-close look at interactions the Stones had along the way, the most historically important element being his telling the tale of what happened at Altamont in a nuanced manner that not only names names, but gives a different interpretation of events.

Cutler imparts like a slow-motion car wreck the events that led to Meredith Hunter’s death at the hands of Hells Angels.  The San Francisco bands and forces that encouraged the Stones to do a free concert in the Bay Area, but were organizationally too diffuse to think through the implications of a December outdoors concert.  The sleazy moves of the mysterious hood John Jaymes who attached himself to the Stones and with no actual authority, claimed the right to commit to the Altamont site, which proved to be so inappropriate.  The buckets of bad acid that were passed through the crowd, leading to a cacophony of bad trips.  The way the San Francisco bands who’d egged the Stones on into throwing the concert all disappeared when it hit the fan.

He describes how the chief instigators of violence against the crowd — the pool cue thugs, the puffed out sadists — were for the most part either Angels in training, on probationary status, or hick Angels from, like, San Jose, not the main branch in San Francisco lined up, mostly by Rock Scully of the Dead, to provide stage security.  Now, this is a little like blaming the Cambodian Holocaust not on Pol Pot but on the notion that the Khmer Rouge were from the country and just didn’t like those effete Phnom Penh residents.  But throughout the book, there’s the ring of truth, and Cutler is a straightforward, organized writer.  You get the feeling that he writes the way he probably ran the tour: no BS, just a workmanlike effort to get the job done.

His story of abandonment by the Stones within literal hours of their return to San Francisco from the concert, their leaving him to hold the bag, his sense of duty and honor infusing a possibly suicidal effort to straighten things out with the Angels afterward, is absolutely fascinating.  Makes it harder to see Mick’s remorseful face in Gimme Shelter watching the death of Hunter — for very quickly, Mick was out of the country, in his safe European home.  The Angels immediately  wanted to get their hands on the Maysle Brothers’ film to see what evidence of murder might be pinned on which Angel.  It’s a great read, and we’re glad that Cutler took the opportunity to write it.

Ethan Russell’s “Let It Bleed” Is Superb

Posted in Music with tags , , , on December 21, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Santa came a little early, and dropped off the coffee-table book entitled Let It Bleed by Ethan Russell.  Russell is important as a photographer both for the Rolling Stones and Rolling Stone, having  served the Stones as staff photographer on the ’69 tour, and shot album covers for the Beatles (Let It Be), Who (Who’s Next), and Stones (Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out).  All that’s missing from his resume is that Dylan album, you know what I mean?

As a narrative, Let It Bleed is missing the comprehensiveness of Stanley Booth’s Dance With The Devil, which would have been called No One Here Gets Out Alive if it hadn’t already been taken.  Because he’s a photographer (and Grammy-award winning video director) he’s not primarily a writer, and thus Russell’s book relies on the memories of Booth, and Michael Lydon (whose Rock/Folk was a superb early ’70s series of features on the likes of the Stones), as well Jo Bergman, and Ronnie Schneider, and others on what later (in Robert Greenfield’s chronicle of the ’72 tour) would be called STP — the Stones Touring Party.

What’s revelatory about this book is the way it shows the incredibly ad hoc nature of the Stones’ 1969 tour.  Here was possibly the single greatest tour in the history of rock and it was kind of thrown together with Allen Klein’s nephew (Schneider) managing it, with a single Vietnam vet running security, and a total of 16 people in the bubble, including Bill Wyman’s girlfriend Astrid, and the famous Cathy and Mary — groupies pressed into action as drivers of cars provided by the conman John Jaymes who told the Stones he worked for Chrysler,  and Chrysler he worked for the Stones.

The ’72 tour was better musically, as the Stones effloresced with Nicky Hopkins and the Bobby Keys-Jim Price horn section, and of course, by then — post Sticky Fingers, with Exile in the bag — they had all the songs they’d ever need to work with.  But the ’69 tour was more important, because it changed the entire context of rock music, by bringing to the sprawl of  late ’60s expectations an incredibly tight combo as happy to play Chuck Berry songs (in 3:47, not 29 minutes) as their own compositions.  There was no noodling or messin’ around, they just came, conquered, played a seriously great set that kids actually listened to and were out the building before the audience had screwed their heads back on.  Iggy Pop said it was the greatest concert he ever saw, and we’re not going to argue, even though we didn’t pick up the thread for three more years.

As Russell makes clear, the Stones’ ’69 tour was the epochal event that put the capper on the ’60s, and we haven’t even mentioned Altamont, which in the context of his book, really does take on its epic bad trip aura in a shambling, accidental fashion as the Stones just fumbled their way into it.  Political correctness and the bad vibes attendant to the high ticket prices ($7.50 being the highest price – clearly the Stones got over their squeamishness about being capitalists soon thereafter) led to Mick’s declaring they’d do a free concert, with San Francisco the locale, and the rest is a Maysle Brothers documentary.

We know from the incredible Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out 40th Anniversary package — Russell did the photographs, and the liner notes — that the Stones made a grand total of $600,000 for the tour.  Since at least the 1980s, they’ve made more than that for a single show, and even their most loyal defenders will admit the kids got a better value back then.

Russell’s on-stage photos of the band are great, and some of his backstage photos are pretty good — some are amazing —  but it’s a relief, as a photographer, to see the images he took that were blurred, and even when he was focusing accurately, there’s a really soft look to everything — fast film, not great lenses — that was corrected by the time he photographed the ’72 tour.

It’s a great book.  I’m glad he published it.  Not too late to ask Santa for it. Provided you’ve been nice, not naughty.

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