Keith Richards: A Stone Alone Comes Clean

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What does it make you feel like since Mick didn't want to tour behind Dirty Work but now he's done a tour of Japan and he's going to do a tour of Australia?
Great. Go to Australia in their midwinter. Go on. I've got other things to do. Go there. Go there with your jerk-off band.

He knows how I feel about it. Whether he'll ever admit it to himself, I don't know. I mean, I'll be totally honest: I love Mick. Most of my efforts with Mick go to trying to open his eyes: "You don't need to do this. You have no problem. All you've got to do is just grow up with it." And that's what he should be doing.

I mean, ninety-nine percent of the male population of the Western world — and beyond — would give a limb to live the life of Riley, to live the life of Jagger. To be Mick Jagger. And he's not happy being Mick Jagger. He's not living a happy life. To me, that's unacceptable. I've got to make him happy! [Laughs.] To me, I've failed if I can't eventually get my mate to feel good about himself. Even though he's very autocratic and he can be a real asshole. But who can't be an asshole at times?

The siege mentality kind of worries me about Mick. Nobody can get in there, even me, who's known him longer than anybody. What bothers me sometimes about him is not being able to get through to him. He's got his own vision about himself, which is not actually who he is. So he has to play a game; he has to act. He's not about to give you anything. He's not about to give anything away. He'll be flip.

And I don't mind him reading this shit, because this is part of, as far as I'm concerned, my attempt to help him along. It's a very sad thing to me to have a friend that . . . especially when he's in such a privileged position and should be able to live one of the best lives ever. Everybody, as I say, would give limbs to be Mick Jagger, to be able to live like that. And not to be happy? What's so hard about being Mick Jagger? What's so tough? It's like Bob Dylan's phrase once: "What's so hard about being one of the Beatles?" Although, you could say that about Bob, too, you know. Now I'm really gonna get shit, man! [Laughs.] I mean, this exaggerated sense of who you are and what you should do and worrying about it so much. Why don't you just get on with it and stop trying to figure all the angles? That to me is a waste of time.

Now you're in the situation where your own solo record is coming out. Do you feel any sense of competition with Mick?
Obviously the situation is there for it to be perceived that way. No, I don't feel any sense of competition with Mick. Whether Mick feels a sense of competition with me — that's another question. Why we didn't go on the road behind Dirty Work . . . that might be an answer to that.

You mean he felt that it was more your record or . . .
Or who runs the deal. I think to Mick that's more important than it is to me. You see, I tip my hat to Mick a lot. I admire the guy enormously. In the Seventies, when I was on dope and I would do nothing but put the songs together and turn up and not deal with any of the business of the Stones, Mick took all of that work and weight on his shoulders and did it all and covered my ass. And I've always admired him very much for that. I mean, he did exactly what a friend should do.

When I cleaned up and Emotional Rescue time came around — "Hey, I'm back, I'm clean, I'm ready; I'm back to help and take some of the weight off your shoulders" — immediately I got a sense of resentment Whereas I felt that he would be happy to unburden himself of some of that shit, he felt that I was horning in and trying to take control. And that's when I first sensed the feeling of discontent, shall we say. It wasn't intended like that from my point of view, but that's when I first got a feeling that he got so used to running the show that there was no way he was going to give it up. That, to him, it was a power struggle.

To turn away from the Stones for a moment, what do you make of the state of rock today? Some have said this is the worst period in the history of rock & roll.
My cheap answer to that would be "Yeah, wait until my record comes out!" [Laughs.]

I wanted to run the Top Ten singles by you and get your impression of them.
All right, run 'em down.

Number One is "Roll with It," by Steve Winwood.
Steve is great, but the record, eh. He's not pushing anything further. I mean, he's a great musician, but he doesn't seem to me to have a driving desire to really do anything. If he bothers to work, it's fantastic. I think he's one of the best English musicians that we have.

But at the same time, my problem with Stevie — he's gonna fuckin' hate me forever for saying this — is that he's kind of faceless. What's Number Two, George Michael?

Number Two is "Hands to Heaven," by Breathe.
Never heard it. Don't know nothing about it.

Number Three is "Make Me Lose Control," by Eric Carmen. He had a hit recently from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.
A nice P.R. job.

Number Four is "Sign Your Name," by Terence Trent D'Arby.
He's more interested in Terence Trent D'Arby than he is in anything else, as far as I'm concerned. Hey, a nice-looking boy — but hung up on himself. A great voice, but that's not enough.

"1-2-3", by Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine.
A Holiday Inn band, a club band that made it. Very nice. Love the girl. Like Dirty Dancing: just to watch, yeah. But it palled really quickly.

"I Don't Wanna Go On with You Like That," by Elton John.
Reg, give me a Rubens, and I'll say something nice. Reg Dwight. Lovely bloke, but posing.

"I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love," by Chicago.
Chicago? I haven't heard it. Chicago to me was always . . . I mean, you'll get a lot of put-downs this way, guy! [Laughs.] You've got to forgive me. I haven't heard that particular record, but I would think "contrived."

"Monkey," by George Michael.
Shave and go home. He's a wimp in disguise.

"Hold On to the Nights," by Richard Marx.
I don't know the particular record, but I have a feeling — why do I say this? — maybe there's something interesting in there?

And Number Ten is "Just Got Paid," by Johnny Kemp.
I wish I just got paid! Who the hell Johnny Kemp is I don't know.

I also wanted to ask you about the current superstars.
U2 I like. I like Bono very much. When I worked with him, I'd never heard him. I found the guy very interesting and very open. Then, afterwards, I started listening to them. It's human music; it's not pushbutton music.

To me the disgusting thing about popular music at the moment . . . and especially I'm disappointed with you black guys, just pushing buttons and shit. They are, to me, really fucking up. With the drum machines and the engineers that have never . . . you set up a drum kit and say you're gonna use a live drummer and they go, "What? How do we record a thing like that?" Music's got to do with people, not pushing buttons. To me, it's kind of weird that George Michael is Number One on the black charts. Because, 'ey, 'ey, what happened to Little Milton? What happened to the soul?

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