Mick Jagger: Table Talk in Paris

The Stones frontman stops for an update at L'Hotel

Mick Jagger Rolling Stones
Chris Walter/WireImage
Mick Jagger on March 1st, 1971.
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PARIS — L'Hotel is the Paris hotel that Oscar Wilde made famous by dying in it. You can, if well-heeled enough, sleep in the very room. The specialty of the restaurant is Steak de la Oscar Wilde, which is what he ate on the night the died.

Now Mick Jagger is not Oscar Wilde. And if Chuck Berry is, it was Mick Jagger who stayed at L'Hotel for a week or so, spending time while Bianca was expecting the last days of her expectancy. Bobby Keys was there too, just passing time on his way back to London to finish his album, just passing wasted through the lobby in his buffalo blanket jacket, just passin' through mistah...

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"France is alright, as long as you can get out," Jagger said, competing with the Boulez being pumped over the bar's sound system. "Like I've been in France longer than I've ever stayed in England. There's fuck-all live music here, there's Jacques Brel and electronic music. Even the accordion players are dead."

Just last spring, Jagger wasn't sounding keen at all on an American tour. But the idle months in Antibes have made changes. "I think Mick Taylor wants to play on stage with somebody. I think he's a bit frustrated. We're not touring all the time: I don't want to tour all the time. So I don't know what he wants to do. And I'm not the only one talking about going to America. Mick does; Bill Wyman's gone for a vacation. Charlie, he's in the country with his sheep and horses, that's what he does. Gad, the houses are really a hell of a long way away. Takes you a long time to get there.

"Now I want to go to America and look around. Go to L.A. Maybe Texas. Nooooo Orleans. Then Florida. I really miss having things to do – well, anyway . . . last winter there were all these sessions. A lot was going on. Now it's nothing. I guess you get what you put in. Like I can't be contributing to something if I'm not there, but even in the clubs, I don't know. Is it in America?

"Christ. Do you wanna drink? Where's a waiter? S'il vous plait! Hey, see voo play, y'all out there." He turns back to the interview. "We've not finished the album, we've just cut 20 tracks. Since July. Plus we've got about 28 others."

That's all the Stones do all day now, make music in Keith's basement at his fabulous mansion on the Mediterranean Coast?

"Yeah. The studios are not that great. OK, but not really good. It's terrible. I don't like it. Like it's too hot in the summer. I can't hear anything down there. We cut some Nice things, but we'll mix it at Island or someplace."

The waiter brought the wine. "I hate to talk about what we're doing anymore. Like the union in America is giving us such a hassle. The only way they find out what we're doing is through Rolling Stone. I'll have to ask your co-operation. I mean, we can't record in America. They've sent us warning letters and all that. They've never done that to anyone else. Last time we were there they tried to fine Leon Russell $5000 for writing an arrangement for us. Legally, English bands aren't supposed to record there, but they all do."

The American tour then?

"Yeah, we've had hundreds of ideas on how to do this tour. Like we were thinking of doing it in a caravan. In coaches and do all sorts of places we wouldn't normally get to. Like... the South. Or just go by by for the first ten days to get it all together. Some areas. You can't cover the entire country in a Greyhound bus, not with a big show, you're just wasting your time. Somebody gets stuck in a restaurant and that's a draag.

"Or we thought of getting a regular back-up band. That's an old spade tradition. Say, keyboards, brass and chicks. Nine pieces maybe, so we can have four other singers as well as using the brass and chicks yourself. The Stones have already been in touch with the Memphis Horns. And there are four other singers who are really good. I like Stevie Wonder very much. I've always admired him. But, I don't know. Whether it's right or wrong, he's always playing in clubs. Well, not clubs, but . . . niteries. You know? Or there could be one or two people who've never been seen by white audiences. You could take Little Milton and Bobby Bland. Plus there could be some younger people as well. Get a nicely balanced show."

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But where do the Stones play?

"In most towns there's a large ballroom which holds 5-6,000. Which I consider a large ballroom. Either we're going to play in a club with 500 people and actually play or we're going to play really big crowds. Playing to 5000 is really nonsensical; it's not intimate. I mean, the best I've ever played has been in a club, but I haven't done that in ages. So I really don't know what to do anymore, I've forgotten. I got into the thing very early on in how to play the big halls and I know how to do it. It's very exaggerated. Like, before public address-systems, politicians used to make very exaggerated gestures.

"We'll tour Japan before America. The Zeppelin were just there. I'm relying on them to tell me what to do, what not to do. [Snorts.] It's the only place in the world we haven't been. The only Record Market, as they say. Whatever that means. They got good amps there. I should imagine. Not to mention chicks in the bathhouses. It's a good excuse for me to stay around."

The waiter brought some more red wine, plus the bill. And L'Hotel is expensive. You know the kind of joint: $20 breakfasts and that. Thinking of money, how's Allen Klein?

"We tried to be nice about it, and friendly, for about a year now, 18 months. I mean, I really hate lawsuits, but he won't ... y'know. He was supposed to pay me a certain amount of money per annum and he hasn't for years. I mean, you can't go on asking people, so eventually we had to do it like this. It's not big business, it's just that I don't have much money. Really. In actual fact. He just got us into a terrific mesh and he's not a very nice person. I don't think he's genuine. Who cares? Allen Klein can jump in the East River for all I care, but he does owe me some money.

"Who cares? This new album is fucking mad. There's so many different tracks. It's very rock 'n' roll, y'know. I didn't want it to be like that. I'm the more experimental person in the group, you see I like to experiment. Not go over the same thing over and over. Since I've left England, I've had this thing I've wanted to do. I'm not against rock 'n' roll, but I really want to experiment."

Electronic music?

"Well that's the obvious thing to do, but I don't know if that's more valid than anything else. The real experiment is what you want to say. You can express a very freaky or experimental idea in a boring, oft-repeated idea within an experimental framework. I can go Blllleee-oomblom, plug in the old synthesizer, but that's a mite trite. That might be 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.' Then y'see, you could have a whole new form.

"The new album's very rock 'n' roll and it's good. I think rock 'n' roll is getting a bit . . . I mean, I'm very bored with rock 'n' roll. The revival. Everyone knows what their roots are, but you've got to explore everywhere. You've got to explore the sky too."

This story is from the October 28th, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone.


From The Archives Issue 94: October 28, 1971
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