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Stepping Out: Mick Jagger Goes Solo

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How do you decide what to play on tour these days?
The things that excite me to play are either newer songs we've never done or old ones but done slightly different than we've done before.

Like the way you did "Under My Thumb" on the last tour?
Yeah. Obviously, I won't want to do that again, because I've done that a hundred times. And when you play outdoors or even the big arenas, you tend to keep the shows exactly the same. You can't just throw in a number like you're in a club, because you have 90,000 people, the lights and the sound and all that, and it's just such a production. At the beginning of the tour, the set tends to be long, and you shorten it a little bit. You see what goes down well and what doesn't. If a number's bombing, even if you're enjoying it, you tend to leave it out.

What sort of stuff doesn't go over well?
They don't like ballads, for one thing. They don't want to hear them. Not from us. We play anything that's slow, they start to go for the hot dogs.

What recent shows did you like? Did you see Springsteen this time?
Yeah, I saw Springsteen in his long stint at the Meadowlands [in New Jersey].

Did you stay for the whole show?
[Pause] Oh, yeah. [Laughs] Sure, through the bear and everything. I liked it. I thought the band sounded wonderful; I thought he sounded wonderfully well. It was better than when I saw him the last time around. I thought the drums sounded fantastic. I took the kids also. To tell you the truth, the kids did not like it very much.

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Did you and the kids catch the Jacksons show?
I wasn't around. I wasn't in the neighborhood. Some real hard-rock people — people that I wouldn't imagine liking it — said they liked it very much. They [the kids] didn't go either. I don't think they wanted to. I think they're too old already.

What did you think of all the Jacksons' business problems?
I only know what I've read in the newspapers. I don't want to be an expert, but I think the ticket price was too high. I think Michael knew it. I think it was terribly disorganized at the beginning — it was a joke. I mean, everyone went through this in the Sixties. You don't put ticket prices — ticket prices are $17.50 or whatever it is — I mean you don't . . . twenty, thirty dollars . . . you don't do that. I don't think it's very complex. You don't rate more than the regular ticket price. If you have a very expensive show, you might add a dollar.

When did you get involved in the real nuts-and-bolts side of touring?
I think when I had to, like 1969, I think. Especially post-Altamont . . . I was really into the tour before then. I kinda let that one go. I thought that was all San Francisco and Bill Graham and the Grateful Dead, and . . . I'm not making excuses. Of course, a lot of it was my fault, blah-blah-blah. But to that point in time, there wasn't really — I hate to use the word, but I think it's a good one — there was no industry really. It was all very amateur night: there were a few professional promoters, and fewer honest ones. So the artist had to become interested.

We had gone to Australia, and there was no roof, and it was 110 degrees. So I remember telling Rod Stewart, "Say, Rod, when you go down there, don't forget to take a roof, and put it in your contract. I mean these guys don't give you a roof!" [Laugh] So I got interested in that. You can't get yourself too involved, because you gotta play.

What were your impressions of Michael Jackson when you worked with him?
I thought he was really professional. You know, sings his ass off — he's real easy.

I thought "State of Shock" was great.
A lot of people didn't like it. I think it could have been much better produced, but you know, I enjoyed doing it. I like doing the duets occasionally — I did one with Peter Wolf, Carly Simon, Peter Tosh. . .

You and Willie and Julio, I'm sure. . .
[Laughs] Hey, yeah, we'll get it together . . . that was a hilarious one. [Hysterically] Willie and Julio!

Did you see Duran Duran when they came?
No: I saw them personally; I didn't go to their show. The kids went.

Did they like it?
Loved it. My children's boyfriends dress like Simon Le Bon, wear the makeup, you know. It's hilarious.

Do you like their records?
Who?

Duran Duran.
[Closes eyes, smiles, remains silent for fifteen seconds.]

Uh, right. . .
[Laughs] C'mon, Chris, gimme a break!

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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