The Rolling Stones: UNZIPPED

Some call them the best band of all time, others call them the most overrated band on earth.  Whichever side of the coin you fall on, you can’t help but respect and appreciate the music of The Rolling Stones.  

I can’t remember the first time I heard a Stones song, what I do know is that it was long past the days of the British Invasion musical movement of the mid-1960s when British rock-and-roll groups spread rapidly to North America. Young groups with electric guitars began performing fiery rock and roll, and Chicago-style electric blues. The UK ruled the airwaves in 1964. Marching behind the Beatles, were the Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, the Searchers, the Holliesthe Animalsthe Kinksthe Yardbirds, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers, Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield to name a few.

By the time I arrived to the world some 10 years later, The Stones had already put out 17 albums (give or take) and were one of the top bands in the world.

My mom was part of Columbia House, remember them?  Order 12 cassette tapes for a penny and buy XX more over the next XXX.  She’d ordered some solid classics … Fleetwood Mac, The Guess Who, Dr. Hook and The Rolling Stones — Tattoo You, the bands 18th American studio album.  The album is mostly composed of studio outtakes recorded during the 1970s, and contains one of the band’s most well-known songs, “Start Me Up“.  That album had so many other bangers such as: Hang Fire, Slave, Little T&A and Waiting on Friend.  From that point, I was hooked and wanted more, so at age 15 I asked my mom if I too could join Columbia House and filled my order with all Rolling Stones tapes.  To this day, they still have their very own playlist on my iPod and it’s filled with all my faves … Beast of Burden, Miss You and She’s a Rainbow are usually on repeat. My Columbia House days feels like a lifetime and a world ago and as gimmicky as it was, it got me started with my love of The Rolling Stones.

When I saw that The Rolling Stones | UNZIPPED, delivered by DHL, was coming to my hometown following stints in Europe, the U.S., and Asia, at THEMUSEUM for a limited run I was in, no ifs, ands, why’s or buts.  

So without further ado … let’s head into the world’s biggest exhibition on The Rolling Stones.

“So there I am standing on the train station in Dartford. And up comes Keith, who I hadn’t seen in a while. We were both carting albums, and when we got on this train we noticed that our albums were blues albums. In those days, you thought you were the only person that collected blues; because nobody really did” ~ MICK JAGGER

In 1961 when a chance encounter reunited boyhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, this notion of a band founded on a shared musical passion began to spark. Although the lineup changed over the years the core band, Mick, Keith, Charlie (until his passing in 2021) and Ronnie Wood (joined in 1975) continues.

From late 1965 until mid 1968, Charlie Watts used this 1965 Ludwig Sky Blue Pearl drum kit on most of the bands recordings and live performances.

“Everyone in the 60’s wanted Ludwig, so I got mine from the same place Ringo got his, I think, which was Drum City, on Shaftsbury Avenue,. Ringo’s was dark grey pearl and mine was sky blue – very camp” ~ Charlie

Keith Richards’ Diary 1963. On 3 January, Keith wrote “very good set “Bo Diddley received with very good applause, 612 people attended session”. Imagine seeing the Stones in a small venue of 612 people?

Keith Richards’ Harmony 12-string Jumbo Natural Acoustic Guitar was purchased in 1963. Keith purchased this guitar the same month he purchased his Harmony Meteor and used it on countless recordings.

Keith’s Harmony 12-String Jumbo Acoustic Guitar

Keith Richards’ Harmony Meteor H70 Sunburst Electric Guitar was purchased in 1963.

Keith Richards’ Harmony Meteor H70 Electric Guitar

These are the Crawdaddy Tapes of 1963.

Crawdaddy Tapes

An early recording of one the band’s appearances at the Crawdaddy Club includes performed of:

  • Route 65
  • Come On
  • I’m Talking About You
  • Love Potion #9
  • Roll Over Beethoven
  • Cops and Robbers
  • Pretty Thing
  • Jaguar and Thunderbird
  • Don’t You Lie to Me
  • Our Little Rendezvous
  • Baby What You Want Me To Do
  • Brown Eyed Handsome Man
  • Diddley Daddy
  • Money

The Stones first recording, IBC Studios, 1963.

The Stones first record

In a 14 February diary entry in Keith’s diary he wrote “Stu says Glyn Johns will record us Mon. or Thurs. next week with ideas of selling to Decca.” Keith goes on to say that Glyn was a great engineer and his really contribution was opening the door at night air them to use the studio, saying “… he put his job on the line for that”.

The Stones first recording contract, 1963 (courtesy of Matt Lee Archive). The contract was signed by Brian Jones and Eric Easton because Andrew Oldham, The Stones’ manager, wasn’t old enough to sign. Terms if the contact gave the band 6% of a record’s wholesale price.

In August of 1962 Mick and Brian moved into a flat located at 102 Edith Grove in Chelsea. Keith joined them shortly thereafter. In early 1963 when Charlie Watts became the bad’s drummer he began staying at the flat too. The flat was a 1 bedroom. Mick, Brian and another roommate stayed in the bedroom. Keith slept in the living room. The bath and kitchen were shared with 2 other flats in the building.

No photographs exists of Edith Grove’s interior, this is a recreation based on Keith, Charlie and Mick’s memories.

As Keith recalls “it was a pigsty”. Charlie remembers “they were the laziest buggers in the world”. Mick, Keith and Brian vacated the flat in advance of their first British Tour.

One of highlights included a replica of their recording studio, it culminated a three-dimensional experience of an iconic Stones moment delivered in multi-dimensional Dolby Atmos Sound.

Replica of their recording studio

Studio Recordings

Below is Charlie Watts bought the National Jazz Band “The London Outfit”, 1930 in an antique shop in Lewes, Sussex. In those days Keith and Mick would write songs in the bedroom on tour – we didn’t have suites. So, we would sit in there for hours listening , because there was nothing else to do. One day I thought Keith was just playing, but he was actually writing a song. He used to have a little cassette recorder he played into, and sometimes it sounds better when he was doing that than it did when we got to the studio. Playing this toy drum kit was the nearest thing we could get to without overpowering the sound”.

Charlie Watts’ 1930 National Jazz Band “The London Outfit”

Street Fighting Man, 7″ single, 1968. This was The Stones single sleeve that did not feature an image of the band. It was released in August 1968, immediately before the National Demographic Convention in Chicago., an event marked by massive protests. The sleeve’s image of police violence was deemed inappropriate by London Records, which replaced it with a photo of the band. Very few copies of the original sleeve exist.

Street Fighting Man, 7″ single, 1968.

Mick Jagger’s Lyric Book – these are the lyrics to “Hey Negrita” on the Black and Blue album released in 1976.

Lyrics to Hey Negrita ~ Mick Jagger

UNZIPPED also featured original works on display from an array of artists as diverse as Andy Warhol.

“Andy and I decided to do a set of lithographs. It was an artistic thing. He was also making money and Andy was a guy that wanted to make money. He had a huge operation running this big factory in downtown New York and we did 250 sets and there was 10 in a set.”

Warhol polaroid collection. If you’ve watched the Warhol Diaries, you know Andy was big into the polaroid game.

Beautiful array of stage clothing on display

I spent nearly 2 hours, I could have stayed so much longer. The photos you see here are only a small fraction of the instruments, stage designs, audio fragments, video footage, personal diaries, iconic costumes, posters, and album covers that I got to take in. Amazing exhibition, if it comes to a town near you, you have to check it out.

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