||Tuesday, 4 September 2001
The Day Mick Jagger and the Stones came to a Barbie in Toorak
THE Rolling Stones were still in their early 20s and heroin habits, deaths and notoriety still lay in the tea leaves. The most pressing challenge for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards was getting another charred chop before Brian Jones scoffed the lot.
"I was in second year architecture and getting right into photography," recalls John Gollings. Today he's one of Australia's top architectural photographers, but in 1966 he was a timid 19-year-old with a new Nikon and an invitation to a Toorak party.
It was a day he'll never forget and a day that produced some of the most candid photographs ever seen of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band.
"Rosie Ham was a good friend and rang me and said, the Stones are over for a barbie, wanna come over? I said yeah, can I bring my camera?" Gollings recalled.
It was a Saturday like any other for the Ham family. Patriarch Max, a senior partner at the biggest law firm in the nation,had a thing about his Saturday barbie. It was a weekly ritual during which the family bonded over beer and snags around the pool. Max had three beautiful daughters, and he preferred them to party where he could keep an eye on things.
Gary Van Egmond, the promoter who brought the Stones to Melbourne, knew this and approached his friend, Max's daughter Jennie, for a favor.
"The Stones had a thing for pools so I asked Jennie if Max would mind if they came around for a dip," said Van Egmond, who is still a promoter.
"Max thought it was fine as long as they behaved and brought their own togs. As it happens, they brought togs and their manners and charmed the Ham sisters off their feet."
It was a wonderful day in late February and a gentle wind fanned Melbourne as Mick Jagger stepped up to ring the doorbell, with a sheepish Keith Richards and Brian Jones waiting politely behind him. All were kitted out in Carnaby Street finery and stoned on local pot.
"You must be the band the girls are talking about," Max welcomed the boys. After introducing his brood and showing them to the pool, Max gave them a beer, insisted they feel at home and left them to it.
"Soon enough we started talking and got on really well," recalls Rosie Ham, now Rosie Ross. "Jennie and Nicki kind of took over their social activities in Melbourne. Actually, it's rather sinister because I distinctly remember that Brian Jones was mad on swimming pools, and I recall him saying that he was going to get one when he got back to England."
Jones, of course, was later to drown in the pool of his luxury home.
"Daddy and the Stones (Mick, Keith and Brian) ended up talking around the barbecue like they were in a locker room," Rosie says. "I'll never forget daddy turning jokingly to yell at Mick, who he got on really well with, 'Get off ya bum Jagger and come and turn the snags."'
The Stones were on the cusp of greatness. They hadn't quite reached the sophistication of Let It Bleed, but they'd staked a claim with a string of hits including a US number one with Satisfaction.
That day, as the sun beat down and Max and Mick took turns spinning the snags, 19th Nervous Breakdown was racing to number one across the world. The gigs at St Kilda's Palais Theatre had been a sell out, and the Stones were in the middle of a world tour that would set them up for the rest of their careers.
Meanwhile, a "special friendship" between Rosie Ham and Keith Richards was flourishing, and every night she'd go watch from the wings at the Palais Theatre and afterwards go out for a drink. Rosie is a little coy about the definition of special relationship but confesses to "a kind of kissing and massaging relationship, quite intimate but not overly sexual. My father had taught me not to do that sort of thing".
By this stage the Stones were like family, and big Max was lending them the Ham Holden.
"I'll never forget one time I went to pick up Mick and Keith from the John Batman Motor Inn in Albert Park in my Mini Minor for a meal at home," recalls Nicki, now Nicki Corell. "There were screaming fans everywhere. I remember Keith laughing and saying all we seem to do these days is run away from fans, now that can't be good for business. Eventually we snuck out the back door."
Enter the late Dale Harper, later to be Lady Tryon or "Kanga" a wild girl and best mates with Rosie. She got wind of the game in her friend's backyard and was over in a flash.
She quickly ingratiated herself and began special friendship number two with the then Stones manager, Andrew Loog Oldham.
Through his connection with Rosie, John Gollings ended up spending a few days with the Stones and recalls Jagger as the leader.
"Socially Mick was quite a serious young man. I mean, he came out of the London School of Economics where he was a bright student. On stage it was a projection of something beyond him turned on by the music and every single moment was rehearsed and choreographed," he says.
"He just wasn't as carried away with the ramification and trappings of fame as the others, he was concerned with the mechanics. I actually remember him being worried about the cleanliness of his clothes and watching him methodically fold his stage T-shirts.
"That was in stark contrast to Jones, who was along for a laugh and did as much drugs and sex and rock and roll as he could fit into a day. I remember he literally had girls lined up down the hallway of the motel and they were being processed like a slaughterhouse.
"They'd disappear for half an hour and emerge in tears, deflowered and sent off. It was that outrageous."
Over the 10 or so days the Stones were in Melbourne, Rosie and Jennie Ham spent many hours in their company at the John Batman, listening to music and talking. "Mick and Keith were very creative and had a very strong interchange and were good buddies," Rosie says. "Every now and then they'd get a rush of an idea and leave the room to huddle over a guitar or a lyrics book."
Meanwhile, special friendship number three between Brian and Jennie Ham was also in full swing. "Jennie and I would go over to their hotel at night," says Rosie. "I never stayed the night. As for Jennie, well it's probably not fair to say because she isn't here to defend herself."
Jennie Ham died of cancer in 1996.
Never one to be left out, Jagger was enjoying his own special friendship with a friend of Rosie's called Anne.
"Mind you, I think he was what you could call gender flexible," Rosie said. "We had a party at our house the next night. My parents had gone out and Mick had raided my mum's wardrobe and come back down in drag. Anyway mum and dad came home early and there he was in one of her dresses. She just laughed and told him he looked very pretty and offered him a drink. "Another time we were at the Palais Theatre in the ladies loo and Jennie and me were gasbagging away. We heard the door open and someone enter the third cubicle and thought nothing of it. Anyway we came out and there was Mick. He used to use the ladies loo a lot."
Gollings recalls that towards the end of the barbecue, Mick announced that he wanted to drive up Orrong Road. He borrowed the Hams' Holden.
"To this day I am left with the impression of Mick Jagger belting down Orrong Road, not really knowing where he was going, with a couple of pissed Stones in the back."