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David Bailey and the Stones: Working Class Heroes

Inaugural Taschen exhibit in L.A. unveils pop art that rocks

Goat Head Soup by David Bailey
David Bailey

In the indefatigable Beatles vs. Stones debate, it’s clear which side photographer David Bailey falls on.

“I really liked jazz and the blues before I met (the Stones),” says Bailey, who was in town recently to attend the Rolling Stones showcase “It’s Just a Shot Away,” the inaugural exhibit of the new Taschen Gallery on Beverly Boulevard.

“I liked Willie Dixon and Bill Broonzy and all those guys, and so they immediately appealed to me with their music,” he adds. “Whereas the early Beatles were to me like a boy band until they made the “White Album.” With the Rolling Stones I had a connection. And I liked the idea that they dressed like people on the street, and not some idea that (Beatles manager) Brian Epstein came up with.”

Bailey, the model for David Hemmings’ character in Michelangelo Antonioni’s film “Blow-Up” (1966), helped fuel the white-hot ferment of ’60s Swinging London — a confluence of art, pop, politics and fashion. He became almost as famous as his subjects, who ranged from models like Jean Shrimpton (his lover at the time) and Twiggy to actors like Peter Ustinov, Jeanne Moreau and Oliver Reed to the infamous gangsters the Kray brothers.

Bailey met Mick Jagger, through model/lover Jean Shrimpton’s younger sister Chrissie, who was then dating the Stones frontman. photo courtesy David Bailey

At the Dec. 13 Taschen Gallery opening — where Bailey hobnobbed with such glitterati as Jack Nicholson, Pamela Anderson, David Hockney, Steven Tyler and fellow celebrity photographer David LaChapelle — Bailey was the star attraction. But it was the ever-photogenic Stones who were the cause celebre.

Curated by publisher Benedikt Taschen, the exhibit of approximately 100 photographs coincided with the release of Taschen’s “sumo-sized” “The Rolling Stones Collector’s Edition,” edited by Reuel Golden and consisting of photos by Bailey, Peter Beard, Anton Corbijn, Annie Leibovitz, Terry Richardson, Dominque Tarle and Albert Watson, among others.

“I think music influenced art in a way, and art influenced music; it was a two-way street,” says Bailey, who shot the album covers for the Stones’ “Out of Our Heads” and “Goats Head Soup.”

“There was a certain group in London that nobody knew about: Michael Caine, Jean Shrimpton, (fellow photographer) Terence Donovan — people who had a different attitude,” he adds. “In England we had a thing called the class system. And people like me and the Stones were sort of modest working class. And (the establishment) couldn’t (suppress us) because there was too many of us.”