The story behind the book
Sticky Fingers needs no introduction to Rolling Stones fans. Released on 23 April 1971, the album was the third in the run of four studio albums between 1968 and 1972 (Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street) which many, me included, believe represent the Stones at their creative peak. Instantly recognisable for its’ Andy Warhol cover, early vinyl pressings of the album included a separate 12×12 inch pull-out featuring an uncredited black and white studio portrait of the band. The man behind the camera that day in 1971 was, as owners of this book will of course know, British photographer Peter Webb, and for obvious reasons given Mick Jagger’s wide-mouth yawn, Peter christened that important photograph “The Big Yawn”. It is one of his two best known photographs of the band, the other being “Falling Stones”, a colour photograph from the same session which appears on the front cover of this book.
I ran into Peter Webb at a charity auction at Abbey Road Studios in 2011, where he had kindly donated two very large versions of “The Big Yawn” and “Falling Stones”. We were just preparing to launch our publishing imprint Ormond Yard Press, and as soon as I saw the exquisite detail in the two prints Peter had donated to the auction, I knew they were just the kind of thing that could translate perfectly into one of our ultra-large-format books.
When Peter explained how he had lost the negatives, and then had been unexpectedly reunited with them after so long, I became even more interested, particularly as so many of the session photographs had never been published before. The opportunity to present all the surviving material from that session in this book was one that I relished. This volume of largely unpublished photographs of the Rolling Stones goes to the very core of what Ormond Yard Press is all about: focusing on a key session in the history of contemporary popular culture, by a photographer operating at the peak of his powers, and featuring a group of subjects at the peak of theirs. I felt that here was a story worth telling between the covers of one of our beautiful large format limited edition books: how a young British university graduate travelled to the USA, assisted the legendary Howard Zieff, became a major advertising photographer, and ended up shooting the Stones in 1971. To top it all, his negatives go missing soon after the shoot, and out of nowhere, they are discovered again after almost 40 years. It might be a photographer’s nightmare, but it is any publisher’s dream.
It struck me while working on the book that in observing the finished photographs, for this or any other shoot for that matter, you rarely get the chance to see the wider scene beyond the camera. Given the time Peter spent on constructing the set, I wanted to try and get across a sense of that wider scene in his studio, but without contemporary photographs, that was going to be difficult. However, once I realised that Peter has been a passionate artist since childhood, and a very good one at that, it seemed obvious that we should put those skills to good use in the book. And so I am particularly pleased that he has created some new colour sketches for us to illustrate the introduction. Notably, he has created a sketch showing how the Stones fitted in to the studio set, in front of the painted backdrop and next to the “walk-in” lighting bank. In an early draft of this sketch, in pencil, Peter showed the Stones as stick men, but in the finished version included in the book, he has clothed them, so they are as instantly recognisable as they are in his photographs. Belatedly, he has also created the sketch that he should have produced for his fateful first meeting with Mick Jagger – to show his “great idea about the boat.”
Publisher, Ormond Yard Press