Rare Photos Of The Rolling Stones, Before They Were Famous
Zebra One Gallery unveils some very rare images taken by Gus Coral and found after being forgotten for 56 years
Unseen Rolling Stones, Before the Rolling Stones were the global rock icons they are today, they were just another indie band in London.
Luckily, someone was there to document it. British photographer Gus Coral toured with the band for their first ever tour in 1963. He took over 150 photos of Mick Jagger and the band onstage, behind-the-scenes and in the De Lane Lea recording studios, as their first single Come On reached the charts.
These photos are going on view for the first time on November 18 at The Curtain in London. “Black and White Blues – Where It All Began” features a curated selection of Coral’s photos, curated by Zebra One Gallery’s Gabrielle Du Plooy. The exhibition follows a VIP preview at Tramp on November 12.
The exhibit features rare, black-and-white photos of the Stones, who were innocent men in suits. Between taxi rides and shows in Holborn, Southend and Cardiff—to the scrum of eight fans waiting for their autograph in the rain—it was a time when this rock band struggled to sell tickets. Here are some rare shots of the band and Coral’s memories of going on tour and hanging out with the band.
What were the Rolling Stones like back then?
Gus Coral: They were a very young band back then, but also very likeable and easy to be around. I enjoyed the music they were making; they had a good understanding of the blues as well as being talented musicians.
How did you get to know them?
I made a conscious effort to do so. I was working with a couple of friends and we were asked to predict who would be the big band of the following year or the next ‘big thing’ so to speak. We had frequently been taking trips down to Richmond in South West London to see the Stones a handful of times and in my opinion, I thought they were going to succeed. When we went on the tour it was an exciting experience. We drove up to Cardiff in my car. One of the people I was with was working for ABC television at the time and he was hoping to use this trip for research as we were hoping to make a film with The Rolling Stones, which never happened.
What was the state of pop music when you took these in the early 1960s?
Well, it was The Beatles wasn’t it, for the most part, at least? It was clean, tidy and quite often uniformed for most of the acts back then. I mean, I liked the Beatles, but then when the Stones came along The Beatles took second place, I’m afraid, at least in my affections. The Beatles were always a little too soft for me, the Stones had a slightly raw edge musically and I think that caught the flavor of the times.
I had a feeling they would be popular yes, but I had absolutely no idea they would become as big as they went on to be. I’m glad now that I was able to have recorded a very important part of history. The Rolling Stones were just a group of young men doing what they did best and hoping to be able to do so continuously.
Some people say Mick Jagger is arrogant, is he and was he back then?
Ha, what a question. I don’t know if he is or not. I think he projects arrogance and I think that’s part of the performance that he gives on and off stage like so many other frontmen from very talented bands. Whether he’s personally arrogant? I don’t know for sure.
Since you have lots of photos of the Stones, will you do a book?
I hope so, I’d really like to. The story behind these almost 200 images is so unique and entertaining in its own right; I would like to create a book. I’d like to keep this material together and in a sense hand it down for posterity. Maybe a book is the best way to do so.
Are you still in touch with them today?
Unfortunately, I am not although I do think that it would be a great opportunity to meet up and have a chat about the days that we spent together back in 1963. Maybe we could jog each others’ memories.
What do you see looking back at these?
One of the things I see is that I was probably a better photographer back then than I am today, I had a pure eye and was looking at things for the first time. I have photographed many musicians since, but it’s more self-conscious now, back then it was very straightforward: “I’m taking a picture of what’s going on, what’s happening, I’m taking a picture of the reality of their lives.”