The Rolling Stones 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy of Philip Townsend)
There’s nothing like being in the right place at the right time, even if the
confluence was down to pure serendipity rather than intent.
Townsend’s case, opportunity came knocking at his door twice – from the same
Some of the results of those happy coincidences are currently on
display at the Minotaure Gallery at 100 Ben-Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv In 1960
Townsend was in the south of France taking photographs for Tatler
which started life in the early 18th century as a literary and society journal
and was revamped in 1901 as a glossy magazine.
Townsend, then just 20
years old, was on his first professional assignment and happened to hook up with
the Daily Express
correspondent in Monte Carlo and started taking pictures for
the newspaper. A few days later, as the two were hanging out in a square in the
seaside principality, a young Englishman wearing riding breeches appeared and
summarily informed his compatriots that rock ‘n’ roll was the next big thing and
that he was going back to Britain to find a band that would become “the biggest
rock band in the world.”
No surprisingly, Townsend and the reporter
hardly managed to stifle a chortle or two, and Townsend told the starry-eyed
youngster that he should get in touch when that discovery came to be.
17-year-old in riding breeches was Andrew Loog Oldham, and the band he
discovered was none other than The Rolling Stones. Luckily for Townsend, Oldham
called him shortly after the photographer returned to London, and Townsend duly
took the first ever photos of the Stones in 1963. Mind you, the photo shoot took
place only after Townsend had bought the penniless young musicians a chicken
That first photo, outside 113 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea near the
Thames, is one of 40 prints on display at the Minotaure Gallery until December
Townsend’s instructions from Oldham was to make the Stones look “mean
and nasty,” and that comes across loud and clear in the array of blackand- white
prints in Tel Aviv. Mind you, in these days of reality shows and other
in-your-face art and entertainment offerings, a picture of five tousled
youngsters lounging around on a street bench or – horror of horrors! – hanging
out outside a pub brandishing an empty pint glass may not register too high on
the shock register. But this was a very different era. Britain was still clawing
its way out of the gloom and austerity of the post-World War II period, and the
polychromic aesthetics and vibes of the Summer of Love were still way over the
The exhibition also includes a handful of prints of The Beatles,
all taken in 1966 when the Fab Four met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his meditation
center in London. Townsend was summoned to the gathering by the Maharishi’s PR
man and, as it turned out, luckily for Townsend he wasn’t paid for his
“That meant I kept the copyright to the photos,” he noted. “A
lot of photographers did not own the rights to their work.”
of the Stones prints, the Beatles pictures are not posed, and they reveal a lot
about their initial approach to the mysteries of the East as proffered by the
Maharishi. In most of the photos, all four look distracted or bored.
Interestingly, one shows George Harrison and Ringo Starr looking like their
minds were anywhere but with the Indian guru, Paul McCartney has a look of
disbelief on his face, and only John Lennon appears to be engrossed in what the
bearded teacher has to say.
The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to
not only get a glimpse of the two most famous British bands in the history of
rock and pop but also – in the case of The Rolling Stones images – to get a
sense of the ambience of London in the early 1960s.
commented, “Everyone else did staged portrait shots, but I wanted to include
something of the surrounding area, something of the location in the
He certainly did that, to great effect.
Stones and The Beatles exhibition runs at the Minotaure Gallery at 100
Ben-Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv until December 31. For more information:
www.minotaure-telaviv.com and (03) 522-8424.
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