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Hot Stuff From Mick and Keith

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We eat in silence for a moment, chopsticks clicking away. I ask about the Stones' future: With the live album finally out, there's no pressure and . . .

"That's not true," Jagger says. "There's lots of pressure."

From within or without?

"Both. There's a lot. There's pressure from the band 'cause they want to work and make the best music they can, 'cause that's what they're interested in. Then there's pressure from without; we've said we would make four new albums. So we will. None of it's got anything to do with money, oddly enough. I mean it translates itself into money, but none of us are greatly concerned with making money."

Then, is it pressure from the public?

"No, I'm not interested in that. I don't know what they expect, how can I possibly know? I just try to make the best music I can. I must say that honestly – without being rude to any member of the record-buying public – that that's not what pushes me to write songs. No, your first obligation is to your own self to do the best for your self, to your conscience or whatever you want to call it. You may be letting yourself down in the eyes of other people, your group, your peers, your musician friends, you know, but it's because you don't know what they want. And they change all the time anyway; it's an ever-changing fuck, people, isn't it? One doesn't know who they are. . . . Just try and write a few hits anyway."

What about your staunchest critics, the English punk rockers? They say . . .

Jagger interrupts again, obviously delighted: "Oh, my punk-rock answers? I've got hundreds of 'em."

Well, Johnny Rotten is on the cover of Rolling Stone, and he says you should have retired in '65.

"He should retire next year, then. He should definitely give up next year 'cause he ain't never gonna be the same once he's been on the cover of Rolling Stone, is he? He was on Top of the Pops [in England] – that's the only pop show on television, and I do mean pop – and therefore they were accepted by the BBC. And people wrote into the music post and said, 'Well, that's the end of the Sex Pistols, they've copped out.' "

Jagger forges ahead: "I think the Sex Pistols have copped out. Now they're on the front of Rolling Stone. That's a real cop-out. I mean, if I were Johnny Rotten, I wouldn't do either. I wouldn't even talk to Rolling Stone. I'd tell them to go fuck themselves. But that's not important. The important thing is the Sex Pistols are all right, and all that. Not a bad band, not the best, but I really like this band. I wish that – I don't care what Johnny Rotten says about me. Everything Johnny Rotten says about me is only 'cause he loves me 'cause I'm so good. He says nasty things about me, he has to, 'cause I'm – along with the Queen, you know – one of the best things England's got. Me and the Queen.

"I really wouldn't do those things he's doing 'cause in a year the Sex Pistols are going to be like – 'cause things happen much quicker these days."

Right. Now it doesn't take four years of playing clubs to become successful.

"Yeah, but they've got something different, in a way, they've got lots of energy, and that's what rock & roll needs. And I would prefer to hear those bands than a lot of shit that goes on the Hollywood rock awards."

Pretty abysmal, I say.

Jagger signals for another beer, obviously warming to his topic. "I love Peter Frampton, but him as an all-around entertainer – to me it's a joke. I think it's stupid for Peter Frampton to do comedy sketches with robots in Hollywood. And I like Peter. If he walked in right now I'd say, 'Oh, hello Peter, come sit down and have some shredded beef.' But I don't mind having a go at Peter Frampton, fuck him. And that silly Olivia Newton-John with that daft Australian accent; what do they think they are, film stars or something?

"They don't have to do that dumb shit. I mean, at least do it with class. I mean, Warren Beatty does it better, doesn't he? What a bunch of bullshit. This is rock & roll, that's what I'm saying. I feel more in sympathy with Johnny Rotten, I'm sorry. I would never do that shit, either. I mean, people call me jet set and all that shit or call me nice but I would never do that shit . . . I know which side I'm on.

"I mean, to see people that I know and really quite like doing it makes me feel even worse. And all their fucking bow ties, who in the fuck do they think they are? Stupid. The rock awards should be people playing, not all this pouncing around with script cards and bow ties on, huh? There's nothing wrong with Hollywood, but, Jesus, that's bullshit. Waiter? Check, please."

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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