For his fourth solo record — and first since 1993's Wandering Spirit — Mick Jagger went back to basics. "A lot of the album is just based on me playing a guitar, and then getting other people involved," says Jagger, who plans to release Goddess in the Doorway in November.
"So I'm playing an awful lot, which as it goes on gets erased by other people coming in and playing better, but it's all based on those parts I originally created."
Jagger has some impressive help, including collaborations with Lenny Kravitz, Wyclef Jean and Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas. Bono adds vocals to one track, and Pete Townshend and Aerosmith's Joe Perry contribute guitars. "I don't believe in having bands for solo records," says Jagger. "It's pointless. I mean, I've got a very good band in the other world."
The album comes during a bustle of creativity from Jagger. In addition to starring in a new film by George Hickenlooper, The Man From Elysian Fields (which also features Andy Garcia, James Coburn and Anjelica Huston), he's the subject of an upcoming documentary by Kevin Macdonald, whose film One Day in September, about Palestinian terrorists taking Israeli hostages at the 1972 Munich Olympics, won an Oscar last year. "My goal is to try to present a character portrait of Mick Jagger, this extraordinary, really kind of enigmatic man who's also a survivor," says Macdonald. "I wanted to do a movie about him now. The thing about Mick is that he's still going passionately and strongly. I wanted to do a profile of that character."
Asked if he's giving Macdonald the sort of great access that Elton John gave his boyfriend David Furnish for the documentary Tantrums and Tiaras, Jagger says there are limits. "Kevin and I are both pretty straight, heterosexual men, I think, up to a point," he says with a chuckle.
For Goddess in the Doorway, Jagger produced five tracks with former Stones keyboardist Matt Clifford and another five with Aerosmith collaborator Marti Frederiksen. The Frederiksen tracks include the up-tempo "Everybody Get High" and a ballad called "Don't Call Me Up," with a strong vocal from Jagger.
Jagger and longtime friend Kravitz co-wrote the song "God Gave Me Everything," while Thomas teamed up with Jagger for "Visions of Paradise." "I got there like twenty minutes early, and I was playing a couple songs," Thomas recalls of the session. "He came in and started singing along, just this fucking gold. It's good to know that Mick's still a guy that gets an idea in his head, picks up a pen and goes with it."
Other highlights include the title track, which Jagger describes as "a mystical dance track," and "Joy," which features Bono's vocals. Most recently, Jagger and Wyclef produced a new, reggae-tinged track in New York.
"It's one of those sessions I'll remember for the rest of my life," says Wyclef. "I did it as a fusion of hip-hop meets rock, the style of rock that Mick does, the real authentic rock with the right guitar sounds and stuff. His [vocal] chops were pretty incredible, definitely real hot —the minute the track comes on you'll be able to hear it's definitely hot."
When he was making the record, Jagger says, he had no set mission. "I was really just coming from a songwriting point of view, rather than 'I want to do a rap album,' or 'I want to do an album of ballads or an album of blues,' or something of that kind," he says. "It's a mixture of traditional things and more contemporary things. It's very much based on the actual songs themselves."
The material was written and demoed "at home in various sort of rooms around the world," Jagger says. "I just sort of kept working it up. I didn't redo it all again with an enormous amount of musicians. So a lot of it just retains the original spark of the idea, which is kind of fun. I've never really done it like that before."
"It's probably not quite as loose as a Stones thing," adds Frederiksen,"but a couple of tracks have that feel. It all ties together pretty well." As for Jagger's guitar playing, Frederiksen admits to being surprised. "Mick's got a good touch," he reports. "I have a feeling he played on more Stones records than people think."
As for how the album differs from a Stones recording, Jagger explains, "It can be more personal, and I think it's nice to have a change and work with other people. It's refreshing, and then you go back to the other thing in a slightly different frame of mind, which I think is good for both things."
So how are relations within the Stones camp? "Pretty good," Jagger reports. "I went to see Charlie playing with his new jazz band last week, and it was very good. Keith went, I went, and I think Ronnie went, also. It was a good night." And are the Stones planning on a new album and tour? "Yes," Jagger confirms, "but not this year." In the meantime, Jagger leaves open the possibility of doing some solo concerts to support the new album. "I'd love to do some showcases for it," he says. "I'm not going to do a long-term, but I will play these tunes."
This is a story from the September 13, 2001 issue of Rolling Stone.