book review: the rolling stones 1972 (jim marshall)

holy ghost tent revival @ trekky records studio

Throughout his entire career, Marshall battled for access. Without free access, he couldn’t do what he did – breathe in the moments and freeze them on film. — Joel Selvin, in the introduction

This is a photo book that highlights the importance of access; not of being friends with the musicians that you shoot (though of course that happens), but having enough trust from them that they will let you into their most intimate moments. Marshall is most famous for the moments he captured on stage, in live shots, but his genius is highlighted in this collection in the behind-the-scenes shots — evidence of the trust that the Rolling Stones had for him. The book opens with a two page black and white shot of Mick Taylor, eyes closed, cigarette in his lips, hands blurred in motion on his guitar, and it is a perfect example, so early on, of what Marshall was doing and had the ability to do: a single moment, captured.

The Stones’ ’72 tour is legendary in rock and roll, setting a standard for performance and debauchery that musicians may still be trying to achieve. The glory of this book, in the first two sections — the studio, and “behind the scenes” — is how still everyone is. It’s a book of moments, to repeat myself, and the stillness of this band that was never still, is extraordinary in its capture of the minutes before things happened, and in giving those minutes weight. How the band lived is central to Marshall’s photos; not the facade of their stage personas, but the moments when they were completely unguarded. There are several behind the scenes photos of an unaware Mick Jagger, face completely open and unguarded, that are staggering images, ones I’ve never seen before even as a fan of Marshall’s work and the Stones.

What makes this book all the more impressive to me is that Marshall worked with film. The clarity of the images, the sharpness of light, never missing anything because you were mis-metered. It’s a tribute to Marshall’s genius, not just artistic but technical; I couldn’t do what he did on film, even with years of practice. The story of the Stones’ ’72 tour is well-known, but this book is the director’s commentary, the secrets you didn’t know. It’s a marvel, and it marks Marshall as the genius that he was.

Recommended for all music photographers. 4 stars.

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