The Rolling Stones: The Gospel According To The Glimmer Twins
, July 20th, 2009 16:00
In 1976 The Rolling Stones were still raging hard and released the sun scorched and rum sodden Black And Blue (which was reissued recently). Barbara Charone spent a few days with them and the result was this classic feature for Sounds
KEITH RICHARDS hasn't slept for three days. It's all part of his four day on the road life cycle. He celebrates the occasion with a large scotch. The sunlight streaming through ornate windows in the hotel bar makes him look almost healthy. His Yves St. Laurent sunglasses catch the reflection, radiating inhuman strength.
Rock 'n' roll has been thrown into this coastal resort haven, sedately tucked fifty miles west of Glasgow. Ian Stewart played golf earlier that morning. Several tour workers ran off energies during a mile jog to the lighthouse. Even earlier that morning Mick Jagger retired after staying up all night discussing the pacing of the current show, the staging for Earl's Court, and writing a song with Keith Richards.
Among the American tourists who ask the road crew for autographs and European footballers in town for the big match, Keith Richards cuts a conspicuous figure. His colourful apparel does not blend well with the staid decor here in the bar.
His six-year-old son Marlon is equally resplendent in short trousers, gold plastic boots, and a laminated Official Rolling Stones Tour identification tag pinned to his T-shirt. Ron Wood playfully tousles his hair while he and Keith take great delight in the fact that the Munich team sleep two to a room in an attempt to discourage contact with the opposite sex.
This peaceful pre-concert solitude is broken by the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd. Flash bulbs pop as one famous team meets another.
"Which one is which," Franz Beckenbauer asks in broken English. "Which one is Sam Peckinpah?" Woody giggles.
"Where's Jagger," Charlie Watts asks restlessly, stalking the foyer in cagey anticipation for the show. With 3/5 of the team present and accounted for, one sleek limousine is off and running.
Every time someone descends the main wooden staircase, eager eyed photographers adjust lens angles and check film speeds. They've been camping out in the lobby all day. Just like Charlie, they're waiting for Mick Jagger.
Billy Preston presents a false alarm while the photographers frown. Twelve hours waiting for one picture and it all goes by in a blurr. Ollie Brown sits in a waiting limo while Jagger finally descends decked out in a blue pin striped suit, light blue shirt, white scarf, fedora hat and sunglasses. He is oblivious to the crowd that has instantly gathered in reception, staring in awe at the well dressed figure approaching the ground floor. Jagger clutches a copy of Country Life.
He's out the door and on his way to the Apollo before one photographer can get his flash equipment properly working. Just like waiting for Godot. He pays the 17 quid fare into town and decides to shoot the show, disappointed in the lack of scandal.
It's been relatively quiet at the Turnberry Hotel. Several bomb threats to the Munich team have made a permanent police vigil necessary. The evening news plays it up. 'Rolling Stones In Bomb Threat' etc etc.
BACKSTAGE at the Apollo the theatre photographer is taking a group shot of the Rolling Stones receiving their trophies earned by selling out the three shows there. 'More ANIMATION pleeeze," Jagger shouts good naturedly to the nervous photographer.
"When the Faces played here they could only afford one trophy," Woody informs the gathering, "so we gave it to Tetsu to make him feel wanted." Tonight each band member gets their own special souvenir. Just another memory. Keith gives his to Marlon.
Fifteen minutes before show time and the atmosphere is incredibly relaxed. Bill Wyman jokes about the small stage. "It's really cramping my style," he says dryly. "I just can't jump about the way I usually do."
Jagger changes into his stage clothes. Tonight's is a green ensemble with yellow T-shirt and athletic sneakers. Adjusting this costume he stares at his mirrored reflection for several minutes, grinning sheepishly. He is beginning to slip into his performers pysche.
Five minutes before show time and Jagger screams out for his rhythm section. "Hey Chawlie, Bill. You know that song 'You Can't Always Git What You Want'?"
"Yeah," Charlie deadpans, "I know that song. Not a bad song."
"Well after Woody's solo I'll do a chorus to sing-along. They like to sing here I think," Jagger continues, occasionally glancing towards the mirror. "Then when I get bored I'll go back to the verse ok?"
"I know," Charlie says patiently, waiting like a man possessed to start work. "You told us already."
"After Woody's solo," Jagger repeats for reassurance.
"Hey," manager Pete Rudge interrupts, "Want to play tonight?"
The band's onstage and it's one of those nights The drummer thinks that he is dynamite You lovely ladies in your leather and lace A thousand lips I would love to taste I got one heart and it hurts like hell If you can't rock me somebody will
TOO TRUE. The drummer is dynamite and the rest of the band ain't band either. The second night of a three night stand at the Glasgow Apollo, the smallest hall the Stones have played since playing there three years before, and they rock the sturdy foundations.
Ron Wood and Keith Richards share an almost telepathic musical rapport. No longer inhibited by the Rolling Stones legend, Wood has now found his niche, digging deep into the guts of the music and coming up trumps every time he hits a chord.
"No mistakes this time mate," Jagger screams out before 'Fool To Cry' which features the singer on electric piano and the guitarist without his Yves St. Laurent sunglasses on immaculate wah-wah guitar. Charlie hits an exceptionally clean snare drum.
Last night's crowd was slightly subdued until the final 'Brown Sugar' assault. Tonight the whole audience is vulnerable to the sensitive pacing and careful execution.
"Music is what I want to keep my body ALWAYS moving," Jagger sings during a stretched out 'Hot Stuff' doing his best shadow boxing, disco dancing. Keith turns his back to the audience, faces Charlie, shakes his head like a metronome, closes his eyes, and slices off luscious rhythms.
"If you wanna fuck a star you better fuck a star," Jagger teases the receptive crowd before tantalizing them with a rollicking version of 'Star-fucker' which earns a standing ovation.
We all need someone to lean on and Ron Wood is a good leaner. he's had lots of practice. But this is the real thing. This ain't Rod Stewart's shoulder now.
They've improved considerably since their American tour last summer. By the time they hit Earl's Court the Rolling Stones will be in dangerously prime form. Older songs like 'Midnight Rambler' and 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' have been stripped down, now sounding uncannily fresher than the originals.
Ron Wood has added a human element that makes the Stones slightly less untouchable. Kids down front however don't reach out to touch Jagger in quite the same way they grope for Bowie's hand. To most of the turned on crowd, Jagger does not exist. Nor do the Rolling Stones. They do not live in our stratosphere. The kids down front gape in awe. They like it. They like it.
"Yo ah'll famous for yo singin in Glasgow right?" Jagger bellows. The affirmative response is not loud enough for his satisfaction. "I said RIGHT," he screams.
"RIGHT," the crowd yell back in unison, adrenilin circulating madly.
"You all know this number RIGHT?"
"Right," the troops hypnotically reply.
"It's called 'You Can't Always Git What You Want' RIGHT?"
"An yo ah'll gonna sing it RIGHT?"
"I said RIGHT," Jagger says aggressively as Keith kicks off that magic chord and the Glasgow Apollo begins to take off. The audience sing.
"Why thank you Glasgow," Jagger says at the spellbinding conclusion. "You're foikin' great Glasgow ya know that? Of course you know that."
TWO HOURS LATER Mick Jagger is listening intently to the audience sing along in his suite at the Turnberry Hotel. he smiles approvingly when his taped voice speaks to the crowd. Keith and Woody yell out mock RIGHTS in perfect synch with the audience.
As the band begin gaining steam, cranking their motor up to full throttle, Jagger dances round the room with Marlon, instructing him on the fine art of the hustle, to a funky live version of 'Hey Negrita'. Marlon carefully follows Jagger's every movement.
Dinner is served by a reserved waiter who might as well be invisible. Smoked salmon, lobster, white wine. 'Brown Sugar' sounds great on tape. Jagger nods approvingly. Keith and Woody discuss future improvements. Jagger particularly likes hearing his band introductions. "Bill Wyman on bass as usual" sends him laughing.
That evening's concert on tape ends when dinner does. Keith exits and puts Marlon to bed. Woody and his wife Chrissie leave the room. Ollie Brown sleepily daydreams on the couch. Jagger's mood instantly changes as he adopts a more formal personality. He pops a Merle Haggard cassette into the machine and affects a real c&w drawl, singing along to a song about days of wine and roses and you.
He lights up a Rothmans and sips an Amaretto, crosses his legs, leans back in a chair, cocks his fedora over one eye and at 3:30am drawls laconically, "Alright what do you want to know?"
Jagger is aloof. He draws the lines and dares you to cross them. He makes the rules and taunts you into breaking them. He puts up an ambiguous front that makes it almost impossible to discern what Mick Jagger as an individual is really like.
Living the high life for the past five years, he does not seem the chic social jet setter the gossip columns describe him as. Sitting in his hotel room with Merle Haggard whining away in the background and the straw hat cocked casually over one eye, Mick Jagger could not be mistaken for anything else but a rock 'n' roller.
Speaking in speech patterns diametrically and rhythmically opposed to Keith Richards, he presents a carefully hidden view of the Rolling Stones. It's hard to tell if his slurred sentences are affected or for real. His icy aloofness is extremely disettling while simultaneously attractive.
Jack Nitzsche said it best talking about the mysterious effect Performance held over all who crossed its path. Nitzsche scored the film except for a Randy Newman composition and a memo from Turner. "Mick Jagger put on that make-up and he's never taken it off," Nitzsche quipped.
Traces of tonight's stage make-up still decorate Jagger's face. Like a chess game destined for an inevitable draw, you make the first move. Pawn to King. Peeling away the powdered veneer seems an impossible task. But one worth attempting.
IF MICK JAGGER is a parody of his former self it certainly isn't onstage. Besides that's the easy way out. Only those blinded by pre-conceived opinions of the Rolling Stones could accuse him of being a shadow of his former self onstage. Offstage is another matter entirely.
"All that talk about me being a parody of myself seems rather silly," he says with distant emotion. "I don't really see how it can be. We really are quite loose. I always feel pretty loose. I know I don't do the same thing every night even though it's the same numbers. It's not a machine.
"I've seen rock bands just do the same thing every night where it gets like a nightclub act. But I don't behave in the same way every night. Spontaneity isn't hard. If I wanna jump on the piano I jump on the piano," he says assertively.
"If I wanna go on the floor I go on the floor. If I don't want to go on the floor I don't. There's only so much you can do.
"We're no nightclub act. It's not the same every night. People say that a lot and maybe they’re right. I've got my doubts whether those people actually saw us. People say self parody of what they were 10 years ago. I doubt whether they actually saw us 10 years ago," he spits out as a grin finally and triumphantly crosses his face.
For the past decade Mick Jager has been the driving force behind the Rolling Stones. Underneath the make-up, the rose petals, the extraneous surface disguises that have made him one of the world's most talked about performers etc etc, lies a guiding light to the band. With Keith Richards, Jagger has steered them to the top through consistantly good songs. He has always been much more than a performer.
"The thing about the Stones is we've been going for a very long time and we've come up with some very good songs. We've put good records out for years. That's the main thing, that's what a lot of other bands haven't done. We've lasted because of the songs," he says almost passionately still maintaining a distance.
"Sure people might put too much emphasis on the songs that were. But," he grins slyly, "The songs that were and the songs that are now have become the songs that were then. I've noticed that on this tour. We played here three years ago and when we played 'Starfucker' everyone went 'ugh'," he makes an ugly face. "Now we play 'Starfucker' and they go AHHH GAWD. Ya know? It takes a long time to get through."
Whether people like it or not, the Rolling Stones have moved into a Seventies style that owes little to 'Route '66'. Consequently their last four albums have taken time to grow and mature. Three years after the crucifixion by some of Exile On Main Street it is now held up as a classic. At least the Stones refuse to cling to the past the audience so desperately cherishes.
"What people dug about our first two or three albums was fine but that's stuff the band knew back to front," Keith Richards says with the proverbial Jack Daniels bottle at his side.
"That's what the original band was and did. That's the problem with all these people relating to 'Satisfaction'. They just want you to take them back. They just want to drag you back. Not that I mind playin' 'Satisfaction' cause it's not gonna kill me but there's nothing I can do beyond 'Satisfaction'.
"If people aren't trying to drag us back they're just looking for someone else to do it," Richards says of bands like Dr. Feelgood and Eddie And The Hot Rods, "and pretending those bands are the Stones."
Throughout their last several albums the real thing has combined traditional Stones songs with more experimental tunes not always entirely successful. Jagger seems primarily responsible for some of the experimentation and eager to deviate from the expected rock format they do so well.
"I don't think our capabilities are stretched enough. We're slightly locked into being the Stones," he says, concerned. "I'd like to do an album that's completely different. I mean I like Satanic Majesties even though I don't think it's a particularly great album.
"I don't see why we can't do another album as different as that was. I don't see why we can't make a record where people don't think it sounds like the Rolling Stones. We're kinda locked into makin' a sound. We're aware of that but it happens to everybody. Nobody wants to go out on a limb. I would go out on a limb with the Rolling Stones. Maybe we should."
So Black And Blue is only a beginning? "People picked up on the fact of when the tracks were recorded. If Keith hadn't put that on no one would have known and we could have said we recorded it yesterday. Then everyone would have said 'Oh what a fresh sound'," Jagger says cynically.
"It's a different band. It's a whole bunch of different bands. It's a bit like Let It Bleed though in the sense that it was just the four of us. I like this band, it's a great band," he says without much enthusiasm. "I liked the other bands too.
"A lot of people have said we're trying to be commercial with the disco tracks but I don't think that's true. 'Hot Stuff' is just a good dance tune. I've always thought of the band as just a good dance band. You just dance to it. There's always got to be something on each album to dance to.
"I mean Europeans just like this," he pounds out a methodic beat on his leg sounding bored, "Cr-a-zy ma-ma or Haand of Faate which is alright. That's called typical Rolling Stones," he says with slight disdain.
Yet the single 'Fool To Cry' was not the obvious album choice. Certainly 'Crazy Mama' or 'Hand Of Fate' were more predictable, safer single picks. Still Jagger thought releasing a ballad was a danger sign.
"I always think the Rolling Stones are a rock 'n' roll band and every time they say a ballad should be a single it worries me," he laughs.
"But I don't mind. The song is quite catchy. And it will do reasonably well. I didn't think there was a single on the album. I guess I still care about hit records. If people didn't tell me the chart positions I'd still look."
BASICALLY Black And Blue served as vinyl testing ground for would be guitarists. They've yet to make an entire album with Ron Wood although the band seem genuinely excited about untapped potential. After all, his major contribution to the album 'Hey Negrita' is one of the best tracks and lends itself perfectly to the loosely structured but tightly knit onstage format.
"Last summer's tour was the beginning of this particular line-up the Rolling Stones mach III," Keith drawls. "If you count Brian as one, Mick Taylor, the horns, Nicky Hopkins as the second reincarnation this is the third.
"Mick Taylor took 18 months to really knock into shape. Woody is there. As far as I'm concerned he's a lot more there than Mick Taylor ever was. It's official, we just decided to let it grow on people gradually. At the moment he's puttin' all his energies into the Stones which is the difference between a sideman and a band member. Woody's the fifth member. He gets Mick Taylor's cut which was Brian's cut."
While percussionist Ollie Brown has done much to drive Charlie on to inspirational heights of rhythmic ecstasy, Ronnie Wood has added an edge to Richard's playing that didn't exist in previous incarnations.
"It's the right chemistry with Woody. More right than Brian. Mick Taylor is basically the type of guitar player that should be in a band with only one guitar player. Woody's made for two guitars but hasn't had the chance till now. Woody's strength as is mine is to play with another guitar player not the virtuoso clap trap," Keith spits out.
When Taylor quit the band he took with him that pretty edge that made 'Tumblin' Dice' sentimental and 'Angie' haunting. Obviously the rhythmic addict Richards would prefer Wood but the more melodic lead singer does miss Taylor's gentler cutting edge.
"It was rather different for us to find a guitar player," says Mick, "I mean Keith is always going on in all these interviews that for him Mick was difficult to play with but for me he was really great cause he was so melodic to follow what I did vocally.
"Still it's much easier for me to work with Woody in some ways. He sings and loons. Not so introspective. Woody probably has made the band seem more human. I don't want audiences to be in awe. I just want them to have a good time. I think the band with Woody is more good timey. Which is OK. I like that. I love it onstage," Jagger says almost sincerely.
One would imagine that one day Jagger would like to stop reading articles about his satonic, demonic self, stop hearing people rave about his dancing ability, onstage agility and bisexual appeal, stop seeing himself feature endlessly in gossip columns and best dressed list and see people start rating him as a musician. Last year he played guitar onstage. This year it's piano. Perhaps he is frustrated for musical respect.
"That doesn't really worry me. I think that's really what I do best is to be well dressed," he smiles sardonically. "What I do best to me is performing. If I can play an instrument it's a nice second thing. With Keith and I writing the songs we push and shove the band in a certain way.
"Since I've learned to play instruments I can at least say to the band this is what you should play. If you're just a vocalist they tell you what to do. I'm not talking about being a great guitar player but once you know certain things in music at least you can communicate with the band in those terms. It's much easier to show them the feel if I'm playin' guitar."
Although Jagger seems content with his role as rock 'n' roll's most sensational performer, Keith Richards understands the frustrations involved. As a musician he is more sympathetic to Jagger's lead singer label.
"Within the last five or six years it's been a big thing for Mick to be accepted as a musician not just as a lead singer who has nothing to do until his tracks are cut. It's a closed shop thing, you're either a musician or you're not. He's a LV and most lead vocalists aren't musicians. Most of 'em," Richards laughs, "are fairies."
"The attitude amongst musicians when Mick Jagger walks into a studio is 'OK here comes Mick Jagger let's see what he can do' so he feels he has to prove himself.
"To me he's been a musician ever since we started writing songs together. If he wants to be more a musician or feels he isn't accepted as a musician it's not from this band because everybody accepts him as exactly that.
"There's that other mystique about being a musician and sometimes they lay that one down heavy, It's hard on Mick especially when they don't know him well. Once he starts playin' he scares the shit out of 'em.
"He's got a very similar feel on rhythm guitar to me. I mean a lot of those songs that people thought I wrote like 'Moonlight Mile' and 'Winter' I had nothing to do with. I wasn't even there at the sessions."
In conversation even at these late hours, music seems to draw the most animated reaction from Jagger, occasionally exposing himself without the blase posture of boredom and actually radiating some kind of enthusiasm.
Jagger is the perfect foil to Keith Richards. Both men are working on the same feel in different ways, creating that special spark that makes the Stones magical. To Keith Richards the Rolling Stones are a guitar band. To Mick Jagger the Rolling Stones are a dance band. To both of them the Rolling Stones are a feel.
"On a ballad the most important thing is mood and melody. If it's up tempo like 'Hot Stuff' the rhythm is important. The rhythm is the whole thing. I don't give a shit about the rest," Mick says. "I can do my thing over what everyone else does. I don't care if they change the rhythm on a rhythmic song and want to do the hustle. Isn't that right Ollie?
"Songs like 'Hey Negrita' or 'Hot Stuff' we can change any way we want cause it doesn't matter once the groove is there..."
"GROOVE," Ollie screams out from the couch.
"And the mood..."
"MOOD," Ollie nods in agreement.
"But," Jagger says getting serious. "If I wrote a ballad I wouldn't let them change it to double tempo. They have to understand the mood. They'd have to understand that it was a love song. Whereas an uptempo song can be anything."
With the arrival of Ron Wood, the stage show is more up tempo than ever before. Gone from the set sadly are 'Wild Horses' and 'Angie' replaced only by 'Fool To Cry'. Although Jagger yearns for further experimentation, onstage at least the Stones stay very much a rock 'n' roll band.
"I'm the one that kicks out the slow songs. I won't let 'em do any slow songs. We've always been onstage. Always. I don't want to do 'em. If I'm gonna do 'Fool To Cry' that's enough. There's no need for 'Angie'."
One reason behind the absence of low profile tunes is their obvious lack of elasticity onstage. Acoustic songs and prettier ballads don't lend themselves to continuous nightly renditions without becoming sterile and boring for the band to play. But the rock 'n' roll lets the band maintain a loose base and concentrate on all firing cylinders.
"I like playin' acoustic. I liked playin' 'Sweet Virginia' onstage but it's not the kind of number you can do every night," Jagger says wisely.
"It gets a bit automatic whereas you can play rock 'n' roll all night and it's bam bam bam. It's hard to do something like 'Till The Next Goodbye' every night. We've even clipped some of the older numbers so we don't get too bored ourselves."
Constant personnel changes and additions help generate renewed excitement in older songs. What makes Jagger so aloof and disettling is his quite accurate belief in the impermanance of everything. Yet this belief that everyone is replaceable while being totally true also breeds insecurity within the ranks of the Stones organisation. The end product are all those famous casualties.
ATTITUDES towards the Rolling Stones offstage are guarded and unorthodox. The majority of people that work for the Stones either end up destroyed or eaten alive by their own egos, desperate for some recognition from the band. To safeguard their own interests, Jagger insists on keeping the circle as tightly knit as possible.
"I don't have people hanging around. It upsets me to see Rolling Stones casualities but it's not the Rolling Stones that destroy people it's themselves. They shouldn't hang out," he says vehemently. "I don't have anyone hanging out in my room. Nobody except the band. What are you doing here?"
Not the type of thing to make the atmosphere warm and relaxed, but he's right. Jagger doesn't thrive on rooms stuffed with onlookers eager for a quick taste of the action. Any action. Jagger tends to maintain his aloof posture at all times.
"It's not lonely for me cause I've got the band. They're my friends. Nothing is permanent and no one is irreplaceable. You have to do everything yourself. You can't expect to work with people for ever. People come, you work with them, you have a great time and you go on to other things," as Jagger speaks, one of those very people, Ollie Brown, lays still on the couch.
"What I'm saying is there are a lot of other people who hang about. Now I won't allow them in my fuckin' room. There's people I work with that I like but I don't need them forever and they don't need me forever.
"Nothing is permanent. People say to me 'how come Mick Taylor left the group after such a short time'. Five years is a hell of a long time for one musician to work with the same people."
And time waits for no one. Engineers, producers, musicians, everyone comes and goes but the Rolling Stones survive. Everything revolves around them. You either accept them on their terms or on no terms at all.
It's hard to get a grasp on Mick Jagger sitting here in room 104 at the Turnberry Hotel with the clock almost striking five am and Merle Haggard long since finished. It's hard to tell which words Jagger believes and which ones come automatically.
"Playing the Apollo doesn't bring me back to anything. It's still the same. I still have to get them going. It's still another gig and I enjoy them all. I try to enjoy them all otherwise I wouldn't do it. If I don't have a good time," he whines slightly, "I'll stop.
"I feel totally different now to what I did in America. How can you compare playing Madison Square Garden and the Apollo? The whole feeling is different. I'll play anywhere. I'll play small halls, I'll play a club, I'll play Altamont. I don't give a shit where I play. I do whatever I think is right on the night. I don't make mistakes.
"I have a lot of experience you know. Being immodest I have had a lot of different experiences at every kind of gig. I played for years in theatres like this. I know how to play them. I also know how to play 18,000 seaters. That's professional. I'm not just talkin' about me, it's the whole band."
THE CONTRAST between Jagger and Richards makes for a professional balance that demands less friction from the group, Jagger does not seem to possess the same kind of urgent desperation that makes Keith Richard live for rock 'n' roll twenty-four hours a day, four day cycles inclusive.
Jagger seems quite content to be on the road and equally content to be off. Only Keith Richards could mumble "thank god there wasn't a two year lay off this time. I couldn't survive another lay-off."
Yet Jagger's aloofness tames Richards's desperation. When the two forces collide on record it's usually their best.
"It's not as important for me to be on the road as it is for Keith", Jagger admits. "It's the main thing I do in life but it's not the only thing. I'm quite happy offstage and onstage. I don't think Keith would really like to be on the road all the time. I don't think the band would have lasted this long if we'd been on the road the whole time. I think we would have gone mad. You've got to have some other interests."
Yet Keith Richards's one dimensional rock addiction forms the musical tension in the band. Maybe he does miss a verse to 'Happy' and maybe he will fall over and crash into his amplifier one night but the very humaness of his whole being defies the usual sterility normally associated with rock.
"Honestly I think the band is great but that's not the only thing. It's the songs," Jagger stressed over and over again. "If we never came up with another song that was any good then we'd be finished. I really think the songs are the most important thing.
"And the second most important thing is just having the energy to go out and do it. Just having the energy to go out and play as good as you did five years ago. And to me the band is much better now. Aw," Jagger sighed "I don' wanna talk no more. I wanna go see mah friends."
And with those words he got up and left suite 104.
LUCKILY Keith Richards was not one of those friends that Jagger went searching for down the corridor. Despite the fact that dawn was rapidly rising and bringing with it the fourth day of the Keith Richards on the road cycle, the human riff was still ticking.
Mr. Richards has lately caused quite a stir with his front page exclusive news of his impending marriage to long time girl-friend Anita Pallenberg. 'STONE KEITH TO WED' read the Evening News placards and indeed Earl's Court seemed a particularly unromantic venue for such an affair. Could Mr. Richard of the occasionally slurred speech patterns be putting us on? This demanded further investigation.
"They got no sense of humour," Keith laughed still enjoying his little escapade with the National press.
"I was expecting that to be blown up. I thought I'd feed them a line and see what they'd do with it. They're always after an angle so I thought I'd give them one. Besides, they're not interested in music. They might be put on crime coverage next week.
"Besides," he grinned quite pleased with the whole thing, "there's no such thing as bad publicity. If they put your picture in great. OK. Thanks."
Having settled this perplexing marriage dilemma, Mr. Richards was kind enough to shed some additional light on his colleague of fourteen years, Mr. Jagger. He did so against an appropriate soundtrack of Mr. Richard recorded with a five piece Rastafarian rhythm section accompanying them on guitar.
"I don't think Mick needs to be so conscious of what the rest of the rock hierarchy are doing ya know?" Keith looked up quizically.
"He always wants to know what everyone else is doing and sometimes I get the feeling that he measures himself on what he does against that which he shouldn't bother with. He shouldn't take any points from himself as to what Bowie's doing or Zeppelin. When he's been away from playin' Mick gets into the business end and tends to see it too much like product."
Despite his incoherent, death's doorstep image, Keith Richards is in fact one of the most articulate people in rock 'n' roll and certainly one of the most remarkable interviews. Even on the eve of the fourth day in the cycle which means that sleep is round the corner, the incomparable Mr. Richards came up with the goods at 6 am. That's star quality!
What I wanted to know was what Keith thought about people's attitudes towards Mick Jagger. Even the band sometimes seem hesitant to approach him, aware of the aloof ambiguity that can be disettling.
"Yeah well he has to handle that the best way he can. Attitudes aren't particularly constant towards me or Woody either. It's like a compass needle which suddenly gets weird and does a ninety degree turn against so and so," he pauses for liquid refreshment. "They see Mick as a myth, a hero, an idol...
But they can't see past the Mick Jagger put across onstage.
"Sometimes they don't want to. And half the game is not letting people past that anyway. You've got to have all the balls in your court and be every kind of person. Jagger has that instinct.
"I mean if all they see is the Rolling Stones, whether it's Mick or me or a collective thing, normally to save time and trouble you tend to give them what they want ya know?" he looked up sheepishly, still grinning about the wedding ceremony.
I was surprised that Mick's attitude towards the Stones would differ so much from Keith's more desperate reliance on the band for survival.
"Well," Keith said succinctly lighting a cigarette, "I don't know what attitude Mick fed you."
Like you said, it was ambiguous.
"So you really don't know what his attitude towards the band is and if it differs from mine or not?"
Surely their attitudes towards the road differs, at least.
"In a way yeah, Jagger will talk like it is but I don't know whether he knows it's as important to him as me. I think he knows how important it is although perhaps he's more reluctant to admit it than I am. But there ain't a band in the world that can survive without going on the road."
"If a band doesn't play in front of people and turn them on at least as much as we do and I don't think we do it enough, then they're not a band. We should play more regularly," says our roving hotel correspondent. "You rehearse for a month, get the tour going, crank it up, and just as you're hitting top gear the last gig comes and it drops for nine months."
KEITH RICHARDS likes to hit that top gear and then stay there, bulldozing through as many great rock 'n' roll shows as humanly possible. He's not kidding when he says he couldn't survive another two year lay off. The road is his lifeblood.
"Maybe there's some other bands that can survive longer than we can off the road, that don't need that contact with the audience quite as much as the Stones. That's what we were built upon," he says as his rhythmic words collide with the Rasta background. "That's the whole idea of the band, to play onstage in front of people, albeit a much smaller one than we ended up on.
"The road keeps everything good. One thing feeds another. If you deny one part you cut off a whole load of other things. It's like an eight cylinder engine working on four cylinders. If everything doesn't pop at once forget it," he says with disgust.
"Mick knows that. I know that. Any musician knows that, even cats who stay in the studio for six years and then can't play the thing on the road."
Everything popped at once the second night in Glasgow. All eight cylinders were in full blast, rhythmically working their way towards the grand finale, geared for maximum enjoyment and electricity. Tonight the mania starts even before the 'Brown Sugar'/'Jumpin 'Jack Flash'/'Street Fighting Man' finale. Tonight the place explodes right after the very first song 'Honky Tonk Women'. Tonight the entire Apollo remains on their feet from start to finish, acting out their private Mick Jagger fantasies on the 'Brown Sugar' chorus. What good fun!
"We can do a lot more with this particular band than any of the other Rolling Stones bands.
"I mean the last few years there's been this new bunch of kids coming to the shows that weren't there before. 13 and 14 year olds that were really into it. It doesn't matter to us that they don't know the last eight years of the band. So what? This is the band now anyways."
Before finishing off the remaining contents of the nearly empty Jack Daniels bottle, Keith Richards once again stressed the crucial importance of Mr. Ron Wood. In retrospect Keith says that the Stones did indeed go through a sterile period during the last several Mick Taylor years.
"Mick was such a lead guitarist that it completely destroyed the whole concept of the Stones which is based around the idea that you don't walk into a guitar store and ask for a lead guitar or a rhythm guitar. You play a fuckin' guitar. You are a guitar player."
"If you just want to fuck about with three strings at the top end well alright but that's not what the Stones are about."
"All Mick did was pick up bad habits which is a shame. I'm not trying to knock the guy. What's he done but skyrocket to oblivion? It's sad cause in a way he's another Stones casuality in the same way that Brian was and touch wood if there is any wood," he says knocking the table and not realising the obvious pun, "that won't happen to Ron. But he's got the strength to survive."
DESPITE Bill Wyman's continuous forays into solo recording, both Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have no desires to prove they can play all the instruments or direct all the proceedings on various solo endeavors.
"We realise that whatever we did would be a compromise because we'd have to put ourselves in the position of saying 'wow this is a really good song I'll have to keep it for my solo album and not give it to the Stones'.
"One try is alright. You throw 'em against the wall and if they don't stick cool it. In the record business you don't pick 'em up."
"If I do a track and I don't like it when it's done then I'll give it to someone else," Jagger had said earlier. "The point isn't to do an album. I'm not recording it to have a big album out of a hit single or anything. I just wanna play ya know? If I wanna go play with Ollie and a five piece rhythm section great. It doesn't have to come out. My reasons for doing things isn't only to just make hit records. I just wanna play."
Jagger is lucky. And Richards is even more fortunate. They've got another couple of months touring in front of them. Right now Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood are improving nightly at such incredible speeds that even Jagger and Richard are shocked at the progress. Perhaps we'll get a live album from these Mach III Rolling Stones.
After the European tour the Stones play selected dates in America. After all it is the bicentennial and Los Angeles was the first city to scream for the Rolling Stones so it's only fair to return the favour with a fourth of July celebration.
One year ago I did a very foolish thing. I couldn't end a story on the Rolling Stones to proceed their American tour so I took the easy way out and wrote what appeared to be quite clever all about how 'this could be the last time'. Every time the Rolling Stones tour or release another album large factions mumble this is the end. But the Rolling Stones are definitely not gonna fade away just yet. Ron Wood, Billy Preston, and Ollie Brown have supplied the Stones with enough amunition to carry on. Look out for that next album.
"People overestimate the Rolling Stones. I don't think the Stones are as good as people think. Obviously I think the Stones are a very good band," Mick Jagger says in a somewhat biased fashion.
"But a lot of people say they're fuckin' great when I don't think we're always that great. It's a good band."
While Jagger got up and began to dance around the room, stopping at the drinks cabinet, I boldly wondered who was better.
"Ahhhh," he said laughing, "there's not many people better."
Keith Richards agreed, "We still feel it's getting better for us. Playing is still a turn-on. All the hassles are still not enough, when weighed against the turn-on, to call it quits.
"And there's not that many things that are still a reliable turn-on. Even dope can get boring."
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