Thinking about moving into your first home away from the family? Well, there was a time when even the members of the Rolling Stones had to go through that rite of passage. A new collection of photographs by Gered Mankowitz, of the band’s various members in their various residences back in 1966, offers some clues to their personalities and perhaps even some household tips for home buyers in 2020. Tosh Berman gives us a tour.
I remember my first pad when I moved away from my family home for the first time. A studio apartment in the middle of Hollywood, it was quaint and small, but it held massive importance to my well-being. The feeling that these series of four walls (in the sleeping area, kitchen, and bathroom) made me feel that I should mark the spot, like a cat spraying a domain to show it is their property. This Martel Avenue apartment was the sanctum where I could stay apart from whatever was on the outside. Whether it was terrible weather or a world that was a threat to me, at the very least, I had this apartment as a private gateway to my presence.
I had forgotten that long-ago feeling until I began perusing a newly published book of photographs by Gered Mankowitz from 1966. That slim (96 pages) but handsome volume, Goin’ Home with The Rolling Stones ’66 (Reel Art Press), shows the young men reveling in their own ‘new’ residences.
Gered Mankowitz is the son of Wolf Mankowitz, who wrote the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll novella about London’s Soho, Expresso Bongo, which was later adapted for a hit musical starring Paul Scofield and a film directed by Val Guest and starring Lawrence Harvey and Cliff Richard. It provided a remarkable snapshot of early British showbiz life in the late 1950s. Andrew Loog Oldham, a fan of Wolf Mankowitz and especially the stage version of Expresso Bongo, hired Wolf’s son, Gered, to photograph some of his musical artists, including Marianne Faithfull and the Rolling Stones.
Some photographers happened to be at the right time and place, and therefore their work is fascinating for capturing that magic moment. Mankowitz had a good eye and a skillful manner of looking at a group of musicians. The Beatles were photogenic by their character, but the Stones have never looked like they loved to be photographed. Regardless, Mankowitz knew how to add a magic touch where these guys stand out. Even to this day, Mick and his bandmates often look awkward in front of the camera lens.
Michael Cooper, who photographed the Stones after Mankowitz, was good at getting casual shots of the band members as they partied and roamed the world. However, Mankowitz was excellent at getting them in front of his camera and posing them as a unit. It is also possible that Oldham wanted presented in photographs as the opposite of the Beatles.
So, what was it like being at home with the Rolling Stones in 1966?
As Goin’ Home with The Rolling Stones ’66 reveals, each member of the Stones purchased their first homes in 1966. Before then, they were on the move around the world and spent a great deal of time recording in Los Angeles, especially their classic album Aftermath (1966). I suspect that their genuine homes were on airplanes, airport terminals, and the RCA recording studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Still, when they were at home, it seemed that the band’s rhythm section actually had furniture and, with respect to Charlie Watts, dishes displayed in the dining room. There is also a photograph in this book of Charlie doing the dishes. Bassist Bill Wyman had an electric organ and what looked like an expensive hi-fi set up with a very modern (to this day, or at the very least, mid-century modern) looking turntable and custom-made tabletop for the sound equipment.
The Rolling Stones – “Goin’ Home” from the album Aftermath:
It doesn’t matter what class you came from or your standing order in society, once the money rolls in a person is expected to buy a home and a car. Like day turns to night, this is a process that never ends—unless you’re an artist and book lover like Richard Prince and would prefer to spend serious money on the first edition of On The Road or A Clockwork Orange. Most young people, however, would purchase a piece of property and a car to go with it. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman were both married in 1966, and Wyman already had a son; they both took their home life very seriously. Theirs are conservative households where things are properly placed and rooms made for dining or listening to music.
On the other hand, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards hadn’t decided on a look for their homes in 1966, at least not in comparison to the flamboyant and colorful Rolling Stone Brian Jones. Jones lived in Courtfield Gardens near South Kensington, in a flat described as “strange” by Mankowitz. He writes that “the atmosphere was always a little weird around Brian.” It seems that he had piles of books and records, various musical instruments, and lots of clothes and fabrics. And, according to Mankowitz, some people were sleeping underneath the fabrics. On one wall, Brian painted a psychedelic fresco, which is photographed in the book with him standing in front of the artwork. He was also supposed to be photographed with his Rolls Royce but was, at this point, banned from driving the car, so the vehicle wasn’t at the premises at the time of the photoshoot. The difference between Brian Jones and the rest of the Stones, on the visual evidence presented in this book, is pretty significant.
The rest of the Stones were dressed casually but smart while Brian was a total dandy with red-, blue-, green-striped pants, moccasins, a white fluffy silk shirt with a matching scarf, and a large necklace that looks one-of-a-kind. In one shot, he put the necklace around his head like a headband. Also contained in the book is a copy of a proof sheet of black and white images of Brian wearing a different outfit and, ironically, showing photographs by Michael Cooper to Gered’s camera. (Cooper would end up taking over Mankowitz’s role as Stones’ photographer). Jones also had a portable record player (totally the opposite of Wyman’s elaborate hi-fi set), lots of 45 rpm singles, a reel-to-reel 4-track tape machine with a mike stand by its side—all of this by the side of a naked mattress with no bed sheets or pillows on it.
I suspect that their genuine homes were on airplanes, airport terminals, and the RCA recording studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
Keith Richards had purchased his infamous Redlands home in West Wittering in West Sussex by 1966. This would be the location of the famous bust that took place in February 1967. In 1966, Keith was captured by Mankowitz posing with his Bentley S3 Continental motor car named “Blue Lena” (after Lena Horne). In Mankowitz’s brief introduction to the chapter focusing on Keith’s residence, he mentions that the guitarist had a collection of antique weapons and albums. He also had a horse in the paddock and in the middle of refurbishing chaos. On the paneled walls of his home, he had hung a series of albums (in one photograph, you can see Another Side of Bob Dylan, and More Hits of the Supremes displayed). Unlike Brian, Keith’s clothes are casual, with a white shirt, perhaps jeans or cords, and beautiful lace-up shoes. Keith looks like he’s aiming at a life as a country squire, but still in the process of feeling comfortable in that role.
Mankowitz captured Mick Jagger between a mews flat near Baker Street, London, and his move to a mansion flat called Harley House on Marylebone Road. He shot Mick at both locations as he moved out of one place into the much larger Marylebone Road property. At this time, Mick owned an Aston Martin DB5, and there are a series of photographs with Mick around his car. Interestingly enough, Mankowitz’s imaged don’t convey the flavor of either of these two residences. The book’s cover exposes the hallway that looks like it leads to a large room, but unlike the other Stones’ homes, Jagger’s previous and new home are a bit of a mystery.
For me, the Rolling Stones were at the height of their greatness, musically, when these photographs were taken. The Brian Jones/Andrew Loog Oldham decade was the best music and image-wise. Some can argue the Mick Taylor or the Ron Wood eras are better, but it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the later Stones albums because I feel the magic got sucked out of the band by the time Oldham / Jones left the band. In a quaint and somewhat innocent manner, this book captures the Stones in a semi-domestic mood, as they see their work become rewarded by expensive cars and good homes.
Andrew Loog Oldham wrote the amusing forward, conveying his appreciation for Gered Mankowitz’s skill and good grace as a chronicler of the Oldham world. Brian Jones is, of course, dead, and the Stones’ other members have significantly changed since Mankowitz took these photographs. Being present is essential, but the past gives clues to how these figures vary from young men to the much richer older men they are now.