Mick Jagger Breaks Down 'Black and Blue'

It's only black and blue, but the Rolling Stones like it

Mick Jagger Rolling Stones
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns
Mick Jagger in London.
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NEW YORK — With a new album and European and American tours planned this year, the Rolling Stones are back and Mick Jagger is happy about it. He lounges in manager Peter Rudge's office, calls for coffee and yawns and stretches with the same sleek indolence a waking cat displays. In his pullover sweater, tan bell-bottoms and blue Adidas nylon jogging shoes, he could pass for the London art student he once was.

The Stones will play 36 dates in nine European countries from April 28th to June 23rd, and there are widespread reports that the month of July will be devoted to touring in the United States. "I can't tell you the dates yet," Jagger said. "The bookings aren't confirmed. And yes, I think Ron Wood is a Stone. I don't think he's signed the contract yet."

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Of the album, Black and Blue, he waxed more talkative and ran down the list of eight tracks. "We had five more recorded that we just couldn't fit on there. Let me see. 'Worried about You' and 'I Love Ladies' were a couple of them. We always have four or five left over. And you tend to just leave them, you know. The album now to me is rather like an old hearthrug, it's so familiar."

"Hot Stuff" (recorded at Musicland in Munich, March 30th, 1975): "That's just a lick, you know, just one of those licks, licks with no words – and that's your 'disco departure' you're talking about. We opened with it because 'Hand of Fate' or 'Crazy Mama' would seem too familiar, you know. So we thought it'd be nice to open the side with something that wasn't sounding quite exactly like the Rolling Stones. 'Hand of Fate' seemed to be a good song to have second."

And the singing is different, a Southern R&B style. Dr. John?

"Not really; it's supposed to sound more like . . . the Ohio Players!"

"Hand of Fate" (Munich, March 25th, 1975): Sounds like a tale of revenge by a wronged man. A good Southern metaphor?

"No," Jagger laughs, "that's a Southern occupation. It's a narrative, you know, a sort of chopped up narrative about a Southern murder. It's better, you know, than singing about the ordinary things. A lot of people like that one. It's about someone whose woman you take and he decides to take her back. It's a simple narrative."

Ever taken a tale like that and stretched it into, say, a short story?

"Needless to say, no. It's quite a good idea to do if you've got the kernel of a good story. It's very hard, actually – unless you're really good – to get any kind of narrative into a song of four and a half minutes. It's so complicated: 'And then he . . .' If it got as complicated as it could have been, it would really have got boring. And the thing is to not say a lot."

And also make it rhyme?

"Making it rhyme? We don't have to worry about making it rhyme."

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"Cherry Oh Baby" (reggae, only nonoriginal song, Munich, December 15th, 1974): "Yeah, we did do that about twice on the tour last year. I heard that years ago – I don't know how old it is. I think I heard it in the south of France in 1972; I may be wrong. But we just did it one day for a laugh and kept it on the album."

Is that your vocal double-tracked?

"No, Keith sings with me on that. That's Nicky [Hopkins] on organ. All of these were recorded before the tour, they just hadn't been mixed."

"Memory Motel" (Munich, March 31st, 1975): This is really a kind of sentimental love song about a lady you meet on tour. Who is that lady in question with the hazel eyes?

"Oh, no! No."

I have a suspicion – "No. But actually I don't think that there's any particular. . . it's more about the tour, really, rather than about the girl."

Is she a composite of women or one woman in particular?

"A guitar player, she is. You like that song? It is kinda nice. Ah, that's more or less the Stones, though, isn't it?. . . You think it's different?"

Musically, no. The content is, though. It's a different kind of narrative. It's certainly not "Under My Thumb."

"Yeah. It's more real."

Women's liberationists may finally accept you.

"Why?"

Well, because you aren't singing about stupid girls or under your thumb. You should see what happens when those songs are played at parties now. Some women really bristle.

"Really? They really do? Ha ha ha. It's great to actually have done that, isn't it? Without realizing it, right? Well, they [those songs] were really naive – and true. You know? I don't think there was anything wrong with them. But when I say it, it doesn't seem to come out right. But those songs really were true."

In fact, there actually are such things as stupid girls?

"Exactly. That's rather like saying that all black people can dance. See, what happens is that you say something and they think it applies to all women. Therefore they must secretly think that they were at some point – or could be – 'under my thumb, there's a girl . . . ' But if you really listen to the lyrics closely – not too closely – 'under my thumb, a girl who once had me down' – you see? It's not so unfair. Why should it apply to every girl? But I think it was really true. It's funny to think about it – it was very adolescent, those songs, about adolescent experiences. There aren't any of those kind of songs, unfortunately, on this album. We have to come up with a good one. Soon."

What about "Hey Negrita"?

"Hey Negrita" (Munich, April 2nd, 1975): "I hate telling about it. If I tell you what the song is about, will you put it in your own words?"

Okay: it's about a South American whore, and the singer, a poor man, is trying to get her price down. "One last dollar / I've got my pride / I'll cut your balls and I'll tan your hide."

"A very deep subject, eh?" It kind of has a disco sound, but at times it sounds like Bill and Charlie want to play something different.

"Well, they're not the best dancers in the world. Charlie's not bad. It's kind of half Caribbean rhythm and half not. It's kind of a strange lick but it is kind of danceable. I think that was written in the studio."

"Melody" (Rotterdam, Stones Mobile Unit, January 23rd, 1975): This one strikes me as the most radical departure on the album, with falsetto singing and a Basie-like horn arrangement.

"Actually, I do really like it. What it is, it sort of came out of something that Billy [Preston] and I were messing around with, just piano and voice. It's got an incredible amount of overdub now, but down in the nitty-gritty it's really just a rhythm section and voice, very simple, sort of four-to-the-bar kind of bass line and drums, sort of old-fashioned rhythm. And it's a duet, me and Billy."

And he's playing that kind of cocktail piano.

"I wouldn't say that. He'd get really offended. It's more sort of stride piano, isn't it?"

But you could see Bobby Short doing it, couldn't you?

"Oh yeah, it lends itself to that treatment. But it's more bluesy. All that falsetto singing is live. Billy doing the piano part and singing. Fucking marvelous."

"Fool to Cry" (Munich, December 12th, 1974): Another departure for you guys, a kind of C&W recitation part about your little daughter on your knee, saying, "Daddy, you're a fool to cry."

"Yeah, maybe Loretta Lynn will cover it. Yeah, it could be country. I wonder why we didn't do it like that! 'Dead Flowers' was country. This is quite good the way it is, though, really. Just a ballad."

That could be the single, although it's long.

"I've cut it already, to 4:15 or 4:10. You think it could be a single? A lot of people do."

"Crazy Mama" (Munich, March 29th, 1975): "That's a Rolling Stones track, right? Yeah, it's gonna be quite good onstage. We wrote that in the studio, too. All of it, my words and everything. It just came to me."

It sounds like there's a female backup chorus.

"Oh, no. No girls on the record. Do you know, girls always say to me, 'Don't use girls on the record; we really don't like it.' I think that's Billy singing high up there. He's the stand-in girl there. Keith, Billy and Ron. Yeah, at the end, it does sound like girls."

So, overall, are you happy with this "hearthrug"?

"Well, you know, it's all right. I dunno. To me, you see, it's just sort of another album. We've never had an album out that people say, 'That's the same as the last one.' I don't mean that's necessarily good or bad. They usually say it's different and then by the time it comes out they get used to it."

How much longer can the Stones survive?

(Jagger whistles, rolls his eyes, stares at the ceiling.)

Forever?

"Another three months."

No, I'm serious. I asked you that last summer and –

"What did I say?"

Nothing definite, that there was no point in conjecture, that you couldn't see yourself as a 42-year-old rock & roller or whatever.

"Um. Well, I have to stop at some point, this Rolling Stones-on-the-stage-jumping-about. I suppose when you just feel it's ridiculous. I mean, when one has still got all the energy to do it, I don't see why you shouldn't do it.

"This whole thing is adolescent. Any kind of maturity is purely accidental. It doesn't really feel very much different to me than when I was 21."

This story is from the May 6th, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone.


From The Archives Issue 212: May 6, 1976
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