27 March 2017

Carole King sitting alongside her cat in her window seat in Laurel Canyon on the cover of Tapestry.

The Who retreating from a concrete monolith, having apparently urinated on it, for the cover of Who's Next (actually they were too nervous and so it was water splashed from a film can).

A young David Bowie dragged up like Veronica Lake on Hunky Dory.

The great albums of 1971 all had great covers. We sat with them on our knees as we listened to the music. So, no wonder the pictures on those covers changed our perceptions of the music inside.

We looked at hundreds of potential cover pictures for 1971: Never A Dull Moment but there was only really one candidate.

1971

'It's over 40 years since this picture was taken, but there are still young musicians starting out who strap on a guitar, look at that picture and think, "I want to sound exactly like that picture looks"'.

The picture of Keith Richards, his partner Anita Pallenberg, the American musician Gram Parsons and his wife Gretchen, was taken in the Villa 'Nellecote' in the South of France in the summer of 1971. Down in the basement of this old house, the Rolling Stones were supposed to be making Exile On Main Street, which came out the following year.

The shot was taken by Dominique Tarlé, a young French photographer who just happened to have been taken into the band's confidence. He was able to take pictures of them at work, at play and at a loose end in a way that became impossible soon afterwards.

What I love about so many of his pictures from the time is that they were taken without the interference of the stylists, which is now considered mandatory. Nobody told Keith the soles of his feet were filthy. Nobody told Gram Parsons he couldn't smoke while the picutre was taken. Nobody asked Gretchen to look at the camera. The blur of Keith's right hand suggests he's just hit a chord on his Telecaster, the one that Eric Clapton had given him the Christmas before. It's uncontrived perfection of the kind you just don't get anymore.

They were all in their late 20s at the time and moving just slightly too quickly for their bad living to have caught up with them. In this picture they have unconsciously perfected the elegantly wasted look that everybody from Liam Gallagher to Johnny Depp has tried to emulate ever since.

It's over 40 years since this picture was taken, but there are still young musicians starting out who strap on a guitar, look at that picture and think, 'I want to sound exactly like that picture looks'.

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