Michael Cooper’s rare Stones Promo For “2000 Light Years From Home”

By on April 24, 2015

This rarely seen promo film for “2000 Light Years From Home” was directed by photographer Michael Cooper, who not only shot the cover for the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request album jacket, but he also was the cameraman on Kenneth Anger’s short film Lucifer Rising, shot in 1972 but not distributed widely until the early 80s.

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Cooper’s direction on this promo film looked so much like Anger’s work that even former Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham assumed it had been directed by Anger until he was informed differently years later. Cooper was mostly known as a still photographer at the time, and worked with the band on a concept that was obviously based on his previous work for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had come out earlier in 1967 (the Stones’s original photo submitted for Satanic Majesties had been rejected by the record company for being in “bad taste” — it showed Mick Jagger being crucified naked on a cross!)

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When viewed in a certain way, the lenticular image on the cover (which was originally issued in December 1967) shows the band members’ faces turning towards each other with the exception of Jagger, whose hands appear crossed in front of him. Looking closely at its cover, you can see the faces of each of the four Beatles too, reportedly a cheeky response to the Beatles’ inclusion of a Shirley Temple doll wearing a “Welcome the Rolling Stones” sweatshirt on the cover of their Sgt. Pepper LP (it’s in the right corner of the photo if you wanna check). Later editions replaced the glued-on three-dimensional image with just a photograph, due to high production costs.

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The Stones working on the set creation for the cover photo shoot for Satanic Majesties

Cooper led an interesting life. He is well known for his intimate photographs of the sixties music scene, and for a long time he was accepted as the “court” photographer to the Stones, and during that time formed a particularly close friendship with Keith Richards. Cooper was one of those present at Keith Richards’ house, Redlands, in Sussex, when a party being held there was raided by police in the late afternoon of February 12, 1967, leading to drugs charges being laid against Richards, Jagger and art dealer Robert Fraser.

Cooper was known, liked and totally accepted by the subjects of his photographs, and was in a unique position to shoot intimate candid photos of them all. In addition to the Stones, he counted amongst his closest friends other leading musicians such as The Beatles, Marianne Faithful, Eric Clapton, artists Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Peter Blake and David Hockney and writers Terry Southern, William Burroughs, Jean Genet and Allen Ginsberg. It is generally recognized now that it was Cooper (rather than David Bailey) on whom the Antonioni film Blow-Up was based.

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On the set of Lucifer Rising (1972). British singer Marianne Faithfull, under the veil, plays Lilith. Donald Cammell, to her right, plays Osiris. Kenneth Anger is on the far right. Photo by Michael Cooper.

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Also, it was Cooper who loaned Terry Southern a copy of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange in 1967 and they collaborated on the first film adaptation of the novel, which Cooper intended to direct, with Jagger as Alex and the other members of The Rolling Stones as Alex’s gang of droogs. The project was eventually shelved after the screenplay was returned (unread) by Britain’s Lord Chamberlain with a note indicating that he would not allow the film to be made because it dealt with “youthful incitement.” Southern later recommended the book to his friend Stanley Kubrick after Kubrick’s planned film on Napoleon was rejected by MGM.

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Cooper is the one who took those amazing photos — documenting a drug-enchanced UFO-hunting excursion in the California desert outside Joshua Tree in 1969 — of Richards, Gram Parsons and Anita Pallenberg. His photos show them scanning the skies, communing with the twinkling stars and scrambling around on the distinctive otherworldly monzogranite rock formations that found uniquely in Joshua Tree, a moonlit playground of surreal spheroidal shapes unlike any other place on Earth.

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Michael Cooper died in 1973 at the age of 31. Some newspapers reported his death as a heroin overdose, but others —(including his son, Adam) — say it was a suicide.

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Here’s a bonus video: Here’s “In Another Land,” from the Stones’s Satanic Majesties album, with filmed footage taken from Kenneth Anger’s short film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, which we told you about here.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • Martin Thomas

    Didn’t Michael Lindsay-Hogg direct the promos for ‘2000 Light Years’ and ‘She’s A Rainbow’? Others credit Australian director, Peter Clifton, for the ‘2000 Light Years’ film. I don’t think it was Cooper who directed it anyway. I recall Bill Wyman stating it was Lindsay-Hogg who directed any ‘Satanic Majesties’promos.

    A lot of conflicting interests in the Stones. Charlie Watts disliked Kenneth Anger and Keith Richards loathed Donald Cammell (see Keith’s autobiography, ‘Life’).