The unseen Sixties: Jagger's eyes & other tales

John 'Hoppy' Hopkins captured the spirit of the swinging decade and its soon-to-be superstars. His images go on show this week

The pouting lips were about to become legendary; the rock-star pose instantly familiar; and the screaming girls de rigueur. Taken when Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones were poised to go stellar, these previously unseen shots show a band on the brink of international stardom, and offer fresh insight into the character of the now famous frontman.

The photos show the Stones playing alongside the blues legend John Lee Hooker at an all-night gig at Alexandra Palace, just two months after the Rolling Stones released their eponymous debut album in 1964.

"Jagger had old eyes in a young face," said John Hopkins, the photojournalist who took the shots. "A part of him was always holding back, looking at what was going on from a distance. He was quite strategic and business-like."

As a photojournalist for The Times and the weekly Melody Maker, Hopkins worked with many stars of the era, such as the Beatles and Marianne Faithfull. "Photographing the Stones before lunch was quite funny too, they had to hold each other up," he said.

The shots will be displayed alongside images of Hooker, the Beatles, and 1960s London at an exhibition of Hopkins's work – "Hoppy: Against Tyranny, Talking About a Revolutionary" – from Thursday, at the Idea Generation Gallery in London.

"To get shots of the Stones around the time of their first album, playing with Johnny Lee Hooker – one of their idols – is amazing," said Andrew Greene of RollingStone magazine. "There aren't many photos of them around at that time, as there just wasn't much press coverage of the scene."

While music experts believe that the shots of swinging London – from pictures of the Stones to unknown couples wandering in city locations – are of cultural and historic importance, their monetary value is unknown.

"Curators and buyers dictate the price of pictures, but images accumulate meaning as more people appreciate them. I didn't think in the 1950s and 1960s that what I was doing would turn out to be historic documents," Hopkins said.

The exhibition

Hoppy: Against Tyranny is at Idea Generation Gallery, London, 19 June-19 July. www.ideageneration.co.uk

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