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10.06.2021 Europe

Rolling Stones 'Unzipped' exhibition opens in Marseille

By RFI
© AFP/Christophe Simon
LISTEN JUN 10, 2021
© AFP/Christophe Simon

The exhibition-event Unzipped retracing the life of the Rolling Stones has opened in Marseille in the south of France, the only French stop in its global tour. Hundreds of objects from their first record deal, rare instruments, notebooks and stage costumes are on display until 5 September. 

"It's a great way to get to know The Stones," said French journalist Philippe Manoeuvre, one of the organiser of the Unzipped exhibition.

At the beginning of the 2,000m2 space at Marseille's Velodrome stadium, the spectator passes through a life-size reconstruction of the mythical group's first ramshackle London flat.

Welcome to 102 Edith Grove, where dirty dishes overflow, heaps of cigarette butts and spilled beer bottles are the norm.

"Mick Jagger got the idea when he visited an exhibition on Dubuffet, with his reconstructed studio. He called the decorator to recreate their flat," Martin d'Argenlieu, the Velodrome's director of events, told the press ahead of the opening.

On the turntable in the living room, Howlin' Wolf is spinning, while a Bo Diddley cover is prominently displayed on the shabby carpet. The Stones' roots – Black American music – are there.

"Before being a staggering artistic adventure (they celebrate their 60th anniversary in 2022), The Stones were initially record buyers, like everyone else," says Philippe Manoeuvre.

Among the 400 items on display is the band's first record contract, which was binned because it didn't suit them. Alongside Keith Richards' guitars, a dulcimer, a kind of double lute, is displayed in a glass case.

The rare instrument was played by Brian Jones, founding member of The Stones' and poly-instrumentalist genius, who died in 1969.

Also on display is Mick Jagger's mephistophelian stage outfit for the 1969 tour – a decidedly bad year in the band's history, with a spectator also killed during one of their concerts in Altamont (US).

The Unzipped exhibition, with its zipper visuals referring to the cover of the Sticky fingers album released 50 years ago, ends with a reproduction of their legendary concert in Cuba.

Inaugurated in 2016 in London, before heading to New York, Chicago and the Netherlands, Marseille is the blockbuster exhibition's only French stop, before it moves onto Toronto.

Marseille history

Marseille and The Stones have a long history – and a very rock'n'roll one that begins with a bloodied eye.

In 1966, an overexcited fan threw a chair at Jagger while the band was playing a show in the small Salle Vallier.

"The next day, we were in Lyon, and Mick Jagger came on stage with big clown glasses to hide the scar," says then bassist Jean Sarrus, a future member of the musical and comedy group Charlots, who was at the time playing with Les problèmes (which toured with The Stones in France).

"There were one or two cops, no more. Wooden chairs were broken, one was thrown. It was two years before 1968, it was a time of bubbling youth," said Mady, a septuagenarian fan at the Velodrome exhibition, who was in the room that night. 

"With the eyebrow story, the people of Marseille thought, 'The Stones will hate us.' But they came back three times (1990, 2003 and 2018). They loved the rebellious side of the city," says Martin d'Argenlieu.

(with AFP)

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