Opening today at London’s Saatchi Gallery, Exhibitionism is a fascinating voyage through the Rolling Stones’ life and times. It features the most comprehensive collection of personal memorabilia ever put on show.
The display catapults you back to 1962, when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, both now 72, reflect on the historic moment they decided to be in a band together. The teenagers knew one another, but didn’t connect until an encounter carrying blues LPs at Dartford train station, Kent.
Keith recalls: “It was a moment of shock finding out that you’ve been sitting with a guy interested in exactly the same music.”
The Stones were actually the brainchild of the late guitarist Brian Jones. And Exhibitionism’s most fascinating section is a recreation of the grotty digs he shared with Mick and Keith at 102 Edith Grove, in Kensington, central London.
You can almost smell the grime as you weave through the one-bedroom flat strewn with fag butts and unwashed plates.
“It was a pig sty,” admits Keith.
“It was pretty much what young guys can do to a joint in a very short amount of time.”
Fans will love basking in the band’s early years, pouring over original copies of their first contract. It was signed by Eric Easton because manager Andrew Oldham wasn’t old enough.
Other highlights include a pressing of their first recording Diddly Daddy, tiny pocket-sized Keith diaries and hilarious fan club Q&As listing their likes as, “girls, clothes and food”.
Later the band embrace technology to dazzling effect as you also get taken backstage at a Stones concert. You can actually feel the thunder of their backline amplifiers under foot, before entering another space to witness 3D concert footage.
Best of all is a beautiful recreation of a classic Stones recording session at Olympic studios in 1966, where we learn that Keith likes to “marinate” material and Mick is so loud he sounds like he’s behind you. Adjacent is a stellar collection of guitars that Keith and Ronnie Wood, 68, refer to as “old friends”.
One particularly interesting Gibson Les Paul was painted by Keith while high on LSD in the Seventies. The rocker admits: “I was bored waiting to go to jail. It was a hell of a trip. But I certainly did personalise it, didn’t I?”
If there’s any criticism, there aren’t enough of these insights into the nuts and bolts of the band’s colourful past. There’s barely mention of the death of Brian Jones and no dirt on their legendary drug consumption, romantic dalliances or their move to the South Of France. Instead, Exhibitionism largely represents what The Rolling Stones have become – a mega-lucrative business cum travelling jukebox.
Room after room is dedicated to incredible designs of their famous lips logo, touring posters and stage sets. And, of course, there are plenty of costumes, mostly belonging to Mick, from fur coats and gold jumpsuits to jackets designed by his late girlfriend L’Wren Scott.
By the end you feel like you own a piece of the band – and that’s precisely what you can do in the gift shop. Here you can pick up everything from Tommy Hilfiger jackets to dog coats. But at almost £5,000, you’ll have to remortgage the house for an Exhibitionism Fussball table.
There’s warmth to the display, especially when Keith reflects on his volatile relationship with Jagger.
“The musical bond between Mick and me is incredibly strong,” he says.
“There’s just a feeling that we were meant to do this.”
Exhibitionism is a great way to pass a weekend until the Stones end up as permanent fixtures in the Natural History museum.
Not that they plan to retire any time soon.
Keith insists: “If anybody should be interested in when we’re going to quit it should be the Stones – and they’re not particularly interested in that.”