The Rolling Stones Grow Old Angrily

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He brought back more beer and we watched the teenagers down on the street, blasting disco sounds from their enormous radios.

"Mick, is Emotional Rescue a New York City album, now that you and Keith live here?"

He answered seriously: "I don't think so. To me, New York is like Lou Reed and all those other bands."

"But the rhythms in 'Dance' and 'Emotional Rescue' sound like the city, don't they?"

"That is New York, yeah. English people hate it, 'cause they say it's all disco."

"But it's not."

"I know, but that's what they think it is, you see. It's just black music."

"What about the title song? How did you work that up, all that falsetto stuff?"

"I wrote that on an electric piano in the studio, then Charlie [Watts] and Woody [Ron Wood] and I cut it immediately, live. It was all done very quickly. I think the vocals could've been better. It's just one of those recording-studio things. You would never really write a song like that in real life. Comes out in the studio, 'cause it's all ad-libbed, the end part. It was never planned like that."

"But that part's really funny, the speech."

"Yeah, it's all a joke, really. There's a lot of pastiche all over the album. It's all our piss-taking, in other words. Pastiche is just a big word for it."

"How did you go about recording the album?"

He threw up his hands in mock despair. "It took forever. I started writing a ton of songs last summer, then Charlie and I did a few demos. Some of them came out of that. Some had been written before. Then we recorded a whole lot of newer things, which weren't really complete. Then, we went back and more or less chose the ones we started with. I mean, it was just so haphazard and slapdash. Too much work was made out of it. I think Parkinson's disease or whatever sets in if you've got no real cutoff date, 'cause you just keep going until you've done everything you can possibly think of. And then you say, well, great, but now we've got forty songs, some of which are good and some of which could be good if only they were, you know, different. At the end, you think, Jesus, where am I? It's stupid. That's a dumb way of doing it. We do have a lot of material, admittedly, but that's not the point. The point is that it took two years to get it. You could've easily made it in nine months. Nobody had any proper vision of it. Nobody fucking knew where they were going. That includes me. You get bored with things very quickly.

"My attention span is so limited. You know, I just love to make up songs and I don't even like to finish the words. I just like to sing 'ooooh' all the way through. And then I'm happy after that. I don't want to do anymore. That's it. I don't even want to hear it again."

"Can you stand to do the mixing, or does Keith do it?"

Jagger shot me a scornful look and curled his lip: "You've got to be kidding. Keith gets into remixing in phases, sometimes."

"What's the story on this song 'Claudine,' which was supposedly dropped from the album for legal reasons?"

"Well, it was never gonna be on the album." He winked. "That's legal talk. It's not really about Claudine Longet. It's beyond that. I just liked the name, to be honest, and then I made a song around it. It's not her. Unfortunately, this being such a litigious country . . ."

"Well, you've already got a full quota of misogyny on the album."

He smiled. "Yeah, I've got a lot of . . . well, it's not too misogynous. But there is a bit of a one-track mind in there. Everyone's been reminding me that the album has only got one subject, which is girls. Obviously, that's got to change."

"Obviously that's what you all think about."

"Yeah. Maybe I'll become a Marxist rock & roller and make a Marxist album. Fuck all this girl stuff. Make an album with anonymous musicians — apart from myself — who won't get paid."

"Do women slag you about your girl songs?"

He grew serious again: "Never, actually. I think they take it with a pinch of salt, to be honest. Well, the other day in the lift, some woman came up to me and said, 'You're the one who wrote that song about the Puerto Rican girls.' I said, 'Um, well, I have written songs.' The weirdest things do come out. There are a lot of cover versions lately of 'Under My Thumb.' Carly Simon recorded it, but she didn't put it out."

We heard a series of explosions from down the street. "Is that a gun?" asked Mick.

"I don't think so," I said. "Guns aren't that loud."

We looked out the window; it didn't seem as if anyone had been shot.

"Mick," I asked, "did it ever seem to you that ten or eleven years ago rock & roll was a powerful social force, and that since then it's been slowly defanged or co-opted?"

He shook his head. "No. That was obviously a false vision."

"But, for example, 'Street Fighting Man' was a rallying point, politically."

Jagger shrugged. "Yeah, but that was during that radical Vietnam time. It was merely then. You've always got to have good tunes if you're marching. But the tunes don't make the march. Basically, rock & roll isn't protest, and never was: It's not political. It's only — it promotes interfamilial tension. It used to. Now it can't even do that, because fathers don't ever get outraged with the music. Either they like it or it sounds similar to what they liked as kids. So, rock & roll's gone, that's all gone. You see, that was very important. The whole rebellion in rock & roll was about not being able to make noise at night and not being able to play that rock & roll so loud and boogie-woogie and not being able to use the car and all that."

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