Let It Bleed: The Rolling Stones, Altamont, and the End of the Sixties (Anglais) Relié – 2 novembre 2009
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|Relié, 2 novembre 2009||
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Présentation de l'éditeur
Through vivid quotes taken from his interviews with the band and crew, and through more than 220 revealing photographs, Russell takes you behind the scenes for an uncensored look inside the Rolling Stones' world at the end of the sixties. It was an idealistic time, with an overarching belief that music could bring us all together. But the events that led to the terrible violence and stabbing death at Altamont would change rock and roll forever.
Biographie de l'auteur
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The pictures in the book are luscious, stunning, with 56 glorious full double-page shots. Naturally, the book contains the usual solo shots of Stones and their hangers-ons (including Cathy and Mary, two groupies they picked up in LA), hanging out, in the studio, or onstage. But the book also has many many pic of fans, either around the venue or from the stage, sometimes with the Stones in the foreground, but more often a sea of people Russell's camera gazes over. These shots are probably the best in the collection, especially some of the really stunning ones that show faces several rows deep in full detail so that you see the gaps between teeth, the colours of the eyes, the strands of hair across the forehead. Wow! There are also great ariel shots, like the one of a nearly-full Madison Square Gardens, another one of Altamont (and the clogged highway roads full of parked cars leading to it) from the helicopter. Russell worked his bum off when he was with the Stones, and it shows - I wonder if there was anything significant that his camera missed!
The book also parallels the development of the Maysles Brothers' Gimme Shelter film, ranging from onstage and backstage scenes at Madison Square Gardens with Jimi, Tina, Chuck and BB, to Melvin Belli's garish lawyers office in LA (filled with hangers-on and the Maysles film crew), and finally the debacle of Altamont itself.
The book also has quite a lot of text, 54 of its 240 pages to be exact. Sure, there's a table of contents, typography set inside a gorgeous double-page stage shot of the Stones, ditto for the tour dates listings, but there's also a cast of characters over two pages before the three-page introduction. Part I, "Looking Back", provides a bit of Russell's background, along with some stuff about the Brian Jones shoot, as well as the memorial concert. Part II is all about the tour, with pages on pre-tour and rehearsals, and then text to accompany pictures from the seven of the tour's 16 gigs, namely at Fort Collins, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Chicago and New York, and then finally West Palm Beach in Florida, the last night of the tour. Part III documents Altamont, while Part IV its aftermath. In an epilogue, Russell describes over four pages his feelings of revisiting the site in 2007 after a 27-year absence.
And while, the pictures may follow closely what we've already seen in the Maysles Brothers' Gimme Shelter, it's nice to have those images still so that you can pore over them at leisure. But as outstanding as the pictures are, the text is also very good (albeit somewhat repetitive in parts, and a bit derivative if you've read Stanley Booth's The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, from which he quotes liberally). Russel and Van der Leun have a lean, matter-of-fact way of writing that early Stones chroniclers like Booth and Robert Greenfield lacked (their quotes from Booth's book are highly select), and I did get some things from it that I hadn't already gleaned from the dozen or so books I've read by or about the Stones so far. Russell gives a great description of Brian in his section on the man:
"Brian, more than any of his contemporaries, seemed to have invented the rock-and-roll lifestyle. It was as if he had chosen to become the Crown Prince of Stonedness. This role required that Jones remain constantly high. Few would have disputed his position, even in California in the 1960s, where people were now setting daily records of higher and higher, just trying to catch up. It was Brian's face, after all, squinting back at you from the cover of Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass). It was his face peering out of the mist on the cover of Between the Buttons, announcing with his wicked leer that he was so high it was a miracle the camera could capture him at all."
But Russell manages, during his visit, to experience both sides of the man: the polite, shy and soft spoken Mr Jones who brings his guests tea, and the rock `n' roll pervert who rolls in the dirt and points rifles at people. "This is great! Here's a Rolling Stone doing, well, Rolling Stones things!"
In describing the start of the tour, Russell in a few words gives a good sense about how financially perilous it was for the group to set out on a tour, given that their former manager Allan Klein had their balls in a financial vise. "I had fifteen thousand dollars up front to finance a half-a-million-dollar tour - to pay for the construction of the set, the stage, the lights, to guarantee the acts, to do everything. It was a very funny moment," he quotes Booth quoting manager Ronnie Schneider. But, he notes, "if things didn't move at great speed, they moved at Stones speed." Booth also quotes Bill Wyman:
"We did do some rehearsals. We didn't do a lot. You know what the Stones are like. It was mostly party time. We rehearse for a week or something, and you end up doing a couple of hours here because everybody turns up late, or they don't appear at all, or they're off somewhere else. Keith's socializing with the locals, and Keith's getting stoned, and it was always a disaster. It was basically like that. But in the end we pulled it together. We're good like that."
To which Stanley Booth adds "Keith's lying out in the hammock, and Mick says to Phil Kaufman's girlfriend, `Go tell Keith that we've started.' So she says, `Keith, they've started.' And Keith says, `Oh yeah. Tell them they're sounding great.'" Elliott mentions a few anecdotes about the connected man Pete Bennett, who helped them out when they were stopped by the LAPD. He then has some words about life on the road:
"The road grinds you down. The food everywhere is tasteless. Walk into the hotel room and turn on the television. Every television announcer seems to be the same person telling the same story. Down the hall from the room is the ice machine, the Coke machine. Look out the window. American cars fill the parking lot. In the endless Midwest, the landscape - without mountains, without hills - leaves the eye nothing to focus on. Every other day the time zone changes. What time is it? Does it matter? All time leads to showtime. After the rush of the show, you rush back to the hotel. And then get up and do it again."
And while Mick gives his "I mean, we're so old. Bill's thirty-three" quote about how he can't go on for much more than the eight years the band's been together (quoted above, from Booth's book), Keith gives another quote that I missed from that tale: "It doesn't matter if you're sixty-eight and bald. If you can do it, there's someone who can dig it. But if you're a rock `n' roller, you've got to be on the stage. A rock `n' roller doesn't exist unless he's on the stage." All right, Keith!!!
The final word, in my mind, of the book, of Altamont, of the Sixties, is from Mick Taylor, who, when ruminating on the concept that Altamont was the anti-Woodstock and was the death of the sixties, in the sense of what the sixties represented, says on page 225 "well, it was the end of the sixties wasn't it? It was December 1969."
But it's still really all about the photos. Some of my favourites include a great shot of the British Hell's Angels (page 22-23, and to be contrasted later on with pictures of the Oakland Hell's Angels), a demented British biker, shirtless and in full metal pin and helmet regalia (page 25), Mick Taylor, Keith Richards and Sam Cutler sitting around eating breakfast in all their stoned glory (page 32), a picture of Keith playing his transparent guitar sitting on an amp with a glass of wine in front of him, a light flowing just behind his head, from a rehearsal at Stephen Stills' home (page 35), Keith basking in the sun with his red velvet pants and indian poncho on (page 36), the band rehearsing on the set of the film They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Mick in a white suite, a flotilla of guitar cases of in the corner (page 50-51, two pictures), Mick kneeling down and singing to the audience - you can not only see the faces of the crowd as they behold Mick, but you can also see how dirty his moccasins are (page 74), an audience shot with a beautiful blonde standing out prominently from the middle of a sea of faces, her eyes in shadow over a sultry smile (page 152-153). One of the best band shots is on page 102, where you see the two Micks, Bill and Keith, and then you get Charlie in the reflection of a mirror, no one looking directly at the camera - marvelous (the section of photos from Madison Square Gardens is one of the longest in the books, and the best). Then there's Melvin Belli's hideously crowded and over-stuffed cavern/office (page 166-167), an arial shot of Highway 580 choked with parked cars and pedestrians (page 176-177), and a picture of a despondent Mick and Keith, Mick chugging from a bottle of Jack Daniels and Keith hanging his head low (page 218-219). There's also a random, superfluous shot of Keith in airport customs next to a "Patience please... a drug free America comes first" poster, looking sly and stoned in his mirrored shades, his Coke shirt and his Tibetan scarf.
Then there are all of the great shots showing huge seas of people, such at Hyde Park (page 16-17), Madison Square Gardens (page 140), and at Altamont (page 196-197) in a shot that is so crowded with heads one on top of the other that Mick and Keith in the foreground really seem crushed by their audience - you can see the expression on every face, and the emotions run the gamut. The same people are seen in other shots, including one that features the hole that appeared in the audience in front of the stage when Meredith Hunter was stabbed. The book closes with shots from the desolate Altamont of today.
There are also some remarkable pictures of individuals and small groups, such as one of Mick seeming much older than his 27 years (page 5), and another when he looks more like Keith than himself (page 146). Then there's a great shot of Brian, in a stars and stripes shirt, looking like he's strangling a statue of Christopher Robin, with a nasty schoolboy look on his face. His pageboy haircut nearly copying Robin's. Another shot shows Mick in a blue and white checkered suit (?!?!) (page 30), Mick and Keith smiling like little boys as they stand in awe chatting with Chuck Berry (page 120); contrast that with the grim faces in a similar shot of Mick and Charlie standing shoulder to shoulder with Hells Angel Oakland chapter head Sonny Barger inside the tent (page 189). There's a shot of Abbie Hoffman yucking it up backstage (page 126), and another one of Mick and his reflection (page 136).
Great book, love it, glad I've got it.
Worthy of all it's accolades.
Like a time capsule taking you back to when the Stones really mattered.
A wonderful story of communal music making with a great cast of characters.
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