London Rocks: The Rolling Stones Take Over The Saatchi Gallery
For proof of the power of music, just visit Abbey Road Studios in north London. On any given day you’ll find people of all ages and nationalities there, holding up the traffic to walk over a pedestrian crossing made famous by The Beatles on the cover of their Abbey Road album in 1969. For music lovers, London is not just a destination, you see; it’s a pilgrimage – a place to explore locations linked to some of the greatest musicians of all time.
If you know where to look, you’ll find the homes, recording studios and live music venues once occupied by gods such as Jimi Hendrix, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Amy Winehouse. For rock ‘n’ roll fans, however, there’s one place that should be top of your list no matter what you have planned this month: the Saatchi Gallery, as The Rolling Stones take over the building for their first-ever exhibition. And just like their live performances, it’s an unmissable show.
More than 500 items from the band’s personal archives and private collections are on display in Exhibitionism, including rare guitars, outrageous costumes and backstage paraphernalia. ‘We’ve been thinking about this for quite a long time but we wanted it to be just right and on a large scale,’ says Mick Jagger, who began curating the exhibition with his fellow bandmates three years ago. ‘The process has been like planning our touring concert productions and I think that right now it’s an interesting time to do it.’
‘Interesting’ is an understatement when you consider the band’s achievements. Since forming in 1962, the British rockers have sold more than 250 million albums and performed more than 2,000 times, grossing almost £500 million in five decades. Needless to say, they’ve acquired a lot of stuff along the way, and this is your chance to see it.
‘It’s hard to believe that it’s more than 50 years since we began and it is wonderful to look back to the start of our careers and bring everything up-to-date at this exhibition,’ says drummer Charlie Watts.
Best of all, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a big Stones fan or not. Fashionistas, for example, will love the Style and Fashion Gallery housing more than 90 original outfits by designers including Prada, Dior, Gucci and L’Wren Scott, Jagger’s late girlfriend. Over in the Art and Design Gallery, you can get up close to original works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Walton Ford and David Bailey.
Budding musicians will be in their element inside the Recording and Song Writing Gallery, a semi- interactive zone with touchscreens, lyric books and 75 original instruments. ‘While this is about The Rolling Stones, it’s not necessarily just about the members of the band,’ explains guitarist Keith Richards. ‘It’s also about all the paraphernalia and technology associated with a group like us, as well as the instruments that have passed through our hands over the years.’
See the saxophone played by Bobby Keys, described by Richards as the ‘epitome of the rock ‘n’ roll sax-playing man’, and the piano played by Ian Stewart, who was, in the early days, the sixth band member. In the Edith Grove Gallery, you can experience life in 1960s London or, more specifically, life in the band’s first flat. Located 20 minutes’ walk down the King’s Road from the Saatchi Gallery, 102 Edith Grove is where Brian Jones, Jagger and Richards lived from 1962 to 1963 in beautiful squalor.
‘The scene was great down the King’s Road in the 1960s,’ remembers guitarist Ronnie Wood. ‘That was where you went to hang out to watch the fashions go by.’ The King’s Road was the epicentre of ‘Swinging London’, thanks to shops such as Mary Quant’s Bazaar. In the 1970s, it was home to boutiques such as Vivienne Westwood’s SEX, famously staffed by a young Chrissie Hynde and Sid Vicious. You can still find the shop at 430 King’s Road, although these days it is called Worlds End – look out for a crooked building with a huge clock on the front.
It’s only natural to wonder if this exhibition is a swansong. ‘We’re not stopping,’ Jagger told The Mail on Sunday newspaper last December. ‘We’re booking studio time, we’re still on the road.’ Will they be making an appearance in the gallery, though? ‘It’s going to be an event, an experience… As if every room [you] walk into, it’s one we’ve just that second left.’ You may not see them in person at Exhibitionism, but as they taught us in 1969, You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Exhibitionism, from 5 Apr.
Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Rd, SW3 4RY.
020-7811 3070. Saatchi Gallery