The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism: Five by Five

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The more you know going into The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism the more you’ll take out of it. It’s at Chicago’s Navy Pier, with tickets on sale through July.

Here are a handful of items to spark your navigation, including a few obscura facts along the way.

ONE: The Tongue.

Professional cameras are not allowed at Exhibitionism but cell phones are, so snap away, especially at the positioned-for-selfies model of the Rolling Stones tongue logo. The lighting and projected patterns and colors repeatedly change, so you’ll have plenty of different backgrounds to choose from.

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OBSCURA: The first Rolling Stones album with the tongue logo (designed by John Pasche) was the April 1971 release Sticky Fingers, cover design by Andy Warhol.

TWO: Edith Grove Flat (residence from 1962 to September 1963) Recreated

For nearly a year Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, and non-Stones member James Phelge shared a Chelsea apartment, with Charlie Watts a frequent visitor. Described in the exhibit by Keith as “a pigsty” it was domestic life just as you’d expect from young men on their own as musicians far more interested in their turntable than a clean table, with records strewn about and garbage piled up.

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OBSCURA: For a while the Stones used Nanker Phlege as a pseudonym for group compositions, combining their one-time apartment mate’s surname with a grungy fictitious first name.

THREE: The Touring Life

A short film narrated by Martin Scorsese, who helmed his own 2008 Stones concert documentary (Shine A Light), provides an overview of the multiple attempts to capture the essence of the Stones on tour. Scorsese is perfect on-screen casting for that subject. Oddly, there is no similar Exhibitionism display of non-concert films such as Jagger’s acting turns in Performance and Ned Kelly.

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OBSCURA: There’s a true rarity among the clips: Very (very) short excerpts from the raucous, notorious, and virtually unseen-by-the-public 1972 Robert Frank Cocks*cker Blues film. (They spell it out.) Grainy black and white scenes. Check. Nudity. Check and double check. Tossing a TV out a balcony window. Yep. That part’s in color.

FOUR: The Mixing Board

A made-for-visitors mixing board experience provides the opportunity to remix one of eight tracks including “Miss You,” “Angie,” “Start Me Up,” “Under Cover of the Night,” and “Rocks Off.”

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OBSCURA: The mixing board is surrounded by a display of the band’s classic guitars.

FIVE: Paperwork

Amid personal notes such as page displays from the diary of Keith Richards, there’s also business paperwork that opens its own obscura stories. One note captures a track line-up change for the first Rolling Stones greatest hits issued in the U.K., Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass), released in 1966. The alteration? “Time Is On My Side” replaced “I Wanna Be Your Man” (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney).

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OBSCURA: “Time Is On My Side” was the first Stones top ten U.S. hit single, but was not released as a single in the U.K., appearing there instead on the album Rolling Stones No. 2. Courtesy of the Beatles, the Stones version of “I Wanna Be Your Man” gave them their first U.K. top twenty hit. Curiously, this gift from The Fab Four would not make it onto a Rolling Stones album in the U.K. until 1972 (Milestones) and not until 1989 in the U.S. with The Singles Collection.

PURE OBSCURA FINALE: Touring Costumes and the Bowie connection

About to walk out of my Exhibitionism visit I asked one of the staff if there was anything I might have missed. She immediate replied: Did you see the David Bowie contribution? I had not noticed so she walked me back to the hall of costumes and pointed out a stylish green velvet top. An ID panel is there but easy to overlook. The apparel was given to Ron Wood in 1974, by Bowie, as he was putting the Ziggy Stardust era to bed.

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Fashion to fashion, courtesy of the artist who set the artistic bar for these retrospective displays.

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That’s a start. This “Five by Five” checklist could have easily been “Twelve by Five.” Or more. So bring your Rolling Stones curiosity and be prepared to chronicle your own personal obscura moments.

Text and original photos copyright © 2017 by Walter J. Podrazik

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