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December 6, 2022

The Rolling Stones During a Photoshoot for Their Album ‘Beggars Banquet’ in June 1968

Beggars Banquet is the album that changed everything for the Rolling Stones. The band truly came into their own, and the Rolling Stones’ music of today is a reflection of what happened in the studio in 1968, they reached their musical manhood.

For such an epochal album it is entirely appropriate that the photographs that the band commissioned to accompany it from the photographer, Michael Joseph, are equally significant, widely considered to be amongst the best photographs taken of them. The images carry an extraordinary, multi-layered power and beauty.

The shoot took place over two days, Friday the 7 and Saturday the 8 June 1968, at two locations, Sarum Chase in Hampstead, north west London, and Swarkestone Hall Pavilion, Derbyshire. At the time the Rolling Stones were in the midst of recording Beggars Banquet’s opening and perhaps most famous track, “Sympathy for the Devil.” The recording sessions – which are documented in Jean-Luc Goddard’s film, One Plus One – had begun three days earlier at Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes, south west London, and would continue for three days after the photographic shoot. Of all the tracks on the album it also seems appropriate that it was this that the band were recording concurrent with the photographs as it is as equally multi-layered and unconventional as Joseph’s photographs, with an epic historical sweep and musical a style and diverse inspirations including Crossfire Hurricane, Baudelaire, Bob Dylan, and Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, The Master and Margarita, of which Marianne Faithful had given Jagger a copy of the first English translation which had been published the year before.

“The funny thing is that I’d had a virtual punch-up with the Rolling Stones just a few weeks before I did this photoshoot for their Beggars Banquet album in 1968,” said Michael Joseph. “The Milk Marketing Board had sent me up to Newcastle for a campaign, and the Stones happened to be staying at the same hotel.”

“The Stones arrived punctually. They were impressed with my lighting setup, and this fantastic, beautiful room. I was already there, talking through a megaphone to the goats, dogs and all the other animals we had for the shoot, getting them to understand what it was all about. I was good with animals and they behaved very nicely.

“We only had two hours for the whole session, so literally within 10 minutes, the band were all changed. They just put on whatever costume they fancied and we didn’t bother with makeup – it wasn’t necessary. I put Keith Richards in the centre of the photo because he was the best-looking and the youngest. Bill Wyman, not so good-looking, so we put him further back. On the right, Brian Jones was very happy playing with a labrador. Charlie Watts was chatting up the stuffed monkey that’s on the table. Mick was happy to be centre-stage, standing on the table, cuddling some of the animals. There were other shots from this session where he’s holding a baby eagle, but then he got bored with that.

“Brian had been busted the night before. The police knew the band were smoking drugs, so they’d raided his place, but didn’t find anything. So he wasn’t actually arrested, but he was a bit subdued for the whole shoot. I obviously didn’t bring it up. Presumably, they’d been out drinking all the night before, but none of them even brought a cup of coffee in to the shoot.

“The band were very well-behaved and it all went like clockwork. My girlfriend was also at the shoot and at the end of the session, Mick came up to me and said: “You and your bird can come in my limo up to Swarkestone” – where we were doing more pictures for the album. But I never had any dealings with the Stones after that.”

(Photos by © Michael Joseph)


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