NEW YORK—Mick Jagger – looking almost anonymous in his black-leather flak jacket and jeans – settles into a back table at his favorite Chinese restaurant here and, armed only with chopsticks, prepares to fend off questions about the Rolling Stones' reappearance in the public eye.
The Stones have returned with a flurry, bringing with them Love You Live, the long-awaited live album, plans for a new studio LP and an American tour next year, yet another Canadian controversy and a spate of Jagger pronouncements on other subjects.
But first, along with the appetizers, Jagger wants to get the new album out of the way.
"A lot of alien journalists have said to me," he says, " 'Oh, you just did this live album 'cause it's the last album in your contract or something.' I mean, wow, I worked harder on this album than I do on a studio album. I'm not boasting or anything, but I did and Keith did work harder mainly because it's a double album. It was not in any way a throwaway thing. It was really important, 'cause we had made only one really live album before [Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out], so this one had to be good. I mean people have annoyed me a bit by intimating that it's the last album. Jesus Christ. Nine months of listening to the Rolling Stones is not my idea of heaven."
With chopsticks waving in the air for emphasis, he buries his nose in the menu: "Got to do a radio interview in an hour. I just got back from England and I did a week of interviews: 'What do you think of punk rock? Who are you fuckin'?' Da-da-da-da-da. I did that for six people a day for five days. They all ask the same thing – in different languages. The Japanese said, 'What do you think of love?' I said, 'Oh, you mean who am I goin' to bed with? My wife, of course.'"
The Stones had listened to about eighty hours of live shows before picking material from Paris in 1976 and Toronto in 1977. Some of the songs, I comment, sound completely different from the versions done during the 1975 Tour of the Americas.
"Different from what?"
Well, "Tumbling Dice" in Paris almost becomes a gospel song.
"Oh yeah, it does. You see, we've got so many ways of doing 'Tumbling Dice' – I mean, which one do you pick? And we decided to go with the latest shows rather than the American ones because I just preferred to put out the things we recorded later, rather than earlier. I mean, I did listen to things we did in 1973 and I contemplated at one point – I'm not sure if the rest of the band contemplated – but I contemplated putting on a version of 'Angie' which had Mick Taylor on it, 'cause it was so good, you know. But we decided to just keep it to the most recent stuff, which I think is a decent approach.
"What we tried to do is make the sides have to stand up on their own. I mean, 'cause people aren't going to pay a hell of a lot for a live album. So each side should stand on its own, have a pacing just like the show has a pacing."
I mention that there is a moment before the encore – "Sympathy for the Devil" – when what sound like gunshots are heard. That was, I assume, a very deliberate inclusion that gives the song a very menacing tone.
Jagger smiles: "Oh, that was just on the tape. Cherry bombs goin' off."
But it sounds as if the explosions were mixed way up on the album.
Jagger smiles widely: "I maybe turned it up a little. Are you ready to order?"
After the next studio album (tentatively to be recorded in Paris starting in October), what will the Stones' plans be?
"Oh, there are definite tour plans. We haven't booked the halls, I mean one doesn't book the halls yet. We hope to tour the U.S. in the spring, when the studio album's out, and then I'd like to tour Australia and Japan."
But, I remind him, the Stones' lead guitar player and co-writer is going to trial in Toronto in December.
"Oh well" – another wave of the chopsticks – "it rests obviously on the fact that Keith will still be roaming the streets of New York as he is at the moment. I think one's gotta be positive and you've got to hope positively that Keith gets off. Apart from that, everything is hypothetical. I can hypothesize about it forever but I mean that I'm just taking it that Keith will be a free man and free to do what he's paid to do."
There could be, I say, a slight hitch that might influence the Canadian courts: in a recent Montreal Star interview, Robert Frank claims that Keith Richard was shooting up in the film Cocksucker Blues.
Jagger becomes positively livid: "Frank seems a silly, sick person, and he seems to be trying to ruin Keith's life. I don't know what's the matter with him. When I next see him, he's going to get a piece of my mouth. Keith is not shooting up in the movie. It's untrue and why in the world should Frank say a thing like that? He's a silly . . . "
He regains his composure and continues: "Why doesn't he go and make another movie and shut his face? That's five years. What's he been doing for the last five years that's been so important? Is he so dead, has he no inspiration? I – it was my idea to make the movie, not his. He was just paid to film what I told him to do. He wasn't the only person taking pictures. Danny Seymour shot half that movie. I shot a lot of that movie. I mean, he was just a hired cameraman. He did not edit the movie. I mean, it is not his movie, you know, thanks very much, and he should shut his mouth and go away and see if he can make a better movie. And we paid for it; it's our movie. So he can go to hell. We'll do what we like with it.
"If I want to go and shred it in the shredder or if I went to put it in general release, it's up to me, it's not up to him. I'm sorry, that's the way we run this country."
The Rolling Stones' country?
"Well, that's the way America is. You pay for what you get. He wouldn't have made that picture if it hadn't been for us having the idea to make that picture and paying for it and telling him what scenes to shoot. I'm not saying he didn't do anything, but he's coming on like the downtrodden beatnik artist being beaten by capitalism. Well, he can go fuck. Wasn't his idea to do it. That's the end of that."
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