(Cover of The Waverly Press Presents: The Rolling Stones,
Hyde Park 1969 by Michael Cooper)
Michael Cooper: The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, 1969
Every man has a story to tell, but not every man knows quite how to tell it. Michael Cooper could sure tell a story.
Using his camera as a time machine, Michael would capture history in art and entertainment that would stay in our minds and hearts for more than half a century. Instead of words, his tale was best told through the photographic imaging of the most notable names of the freewheeling Sixties. One of his very best stories was that of the Rolling Stones.
Michael's relationship with the Stones began in the early 60's. He worked closely with the band, forming a friendship that would lead to his photographing the iconic cover for the album, Their Satanic Majesties Request. With his care inland, Michael became the virtual court photographer for the Stones both on stage and off.
It wasn't only Michael's visual skill that landed him this gig, it was his endearing personality and his charisma that sealed the deal. In the high-pressure world of Rock & Roll, Michael's seductive charm managed to capture these artists with candor and honesty. His best work was impromptu- nothing posed, nothing staged. So when the Rolling Stones took to the stage at London’s Hyde Park in July of 1969, Michael was right there to immortalize the event. From rehearsals and cigarette breaks at the Londonderry Hotel, to Mick Jagger's infamous white “frock-dress”, Ginger Johnson's African tribal drummers, and a sea of over 250,000 fans, Cooper harnessed the heat in the air of that sultry summer night.
The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park was one of the bands’ most notable concerts. It was the first time the band would play together in over two years, and also served as the performance debut of such songs as “Midnight Rambler” and “Love in Vain” from their forthcoming album Let it Bleed, as well as their newly released hit “Honky Tonk Women”. This was also the first time the band would play live with their newest member, 20 year-old guitarist, Mick Taylor. But with the promising addition of Mick came the unfortunate departure of former band member and founder, Brian Jones.
Another fallen soldier to the times, Jones passed away only two days before the Stones would take to the stage at Hyde Park. Mick Jagger read two verses from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s pastoral elegy, “Adonais”, and then released hundreds of cabbage white butterflies in honor of their former bandleader. The show became a eulogy, a memorial. It was a pivotal chapter in the ongoing story of the Rolling Stones.
Michael Cooper’s photographs of The Rolling Stones, Hyde Park 1969 help tell that story. Mick Jagger’s flamboyant dance moves, Keith Richards' distant glare through the haze of cigarette smoke, the focused intensity of Bill Wyman, and a young Mick Taylor's novice exuberance: Michael captured the intimacy of it all. You could taste those cigarettes, feel the stinging heat of the sun, and hear the beat of the tribal drums pounding along to “Sympathy for the Devil”. Michael had an innate ability to not only get inside your head, but also, right beside it.
It was a summer to remember, and 44 years later, it will be a summer to be relived. The Rolling Stones are set to perform in July of 2013 in Hyde Park to commemorate that memorable night of 1969.
Now that is a story worth telling.