The title of your new album is the title of one of your most powerful and outrageous songs — Some Girls — and I wanted to ask you about some of the girls in your songs. Here are a few lines taken at random from several of your older albums: "Who's that woman on your arm, All dressed up to do you harm?" ("Let It Loose"); "Women think I'm tasty/But they're always trying to waste me" ("Tumbling Dice"); "But there is one thing I will never understand/Some of the sick things a girl does to a man" ("Sittin' on a Fence").
I didn't write all those lines, you know [laughing].
All right, we'll reduce the charge. But obviously, in your songs of the mid-Sixties, you were at pains to accuse girls of being deceptive, cheating, greedy, vain, affected and stupid. It was a list of sins. Whether you were singing about rejecting the girl ("Out of Time," "Please Go Home") or about the girl rejecting you ("All Sold Out," "Congratulations") or about both ("High and Dry," "Under My Thumb"), almost all the songs from that period . . .
Most of those songs are really silly, they're pretty immature. But as far as the heart of what you're saying, I'd say . . . any bright girl would understand that if I were gay I'd say the same things about guys. Or if I were a girl I might say the same things about guys or other girls. I don't think any of the traits you mentioned are peculiar to girls. It's just about people. Deception, vanity . . . On the other hand, sometimes I do say nice things about girls [laughing].
Some of those other girls — "Ruby Tuesday," "Child of the Moon" or the girls in songs like "She's a Rainbow" and "Memory Motel" — are all very elusive and mystical.
Well, the girl in "Memory Motel" is actually a real, independent American girl. But they are mostly imaginary, you're right . . . Actually, the girl in "Memory Motel" is a combination. So was the girl in "Faraway Eyes." Nearly all of the girls in my songs are combinations.
What about in "Till the Next Good-bye"?
No, she was real [laughing], she was real . . . If you really want to know about the girls on the new album: "Some Girls" is all combinations. "Beast of Burden" is a combination. "Miss You" is an emotion, it's not really about a girl. To me, the feeling of longing is what the song is — I don't like to interpret my own fucking songs — but that's what it is.
On Some Girls, it seems to me that you've taken all those "immature" feelings from the mid-Sixties and really focused and concentrated them into powerful songs like "Lies," "Respectable" and especially "Some Girls," which is a kind of exorcism of all those girls you used to sing about.
Yeah, well . . . I really don't know why it came out like that [laughing]. There were so many other songs we cut . . . I guess we picked those because they hung together, lyrically and musically. They were all written over a short, recent period of time.
Let's see if I can get back to the question in a different way. You mentioned Jung, and it seems to me that your "dream" girls are like anima figures. Do you ever think in those terms?
My anima is very strong . . . I think it's very kind . . . What you're saying, though, is that there are two different types of girls in my songs: there's the beautiful dreamy type and the vicious bitch type. There are also one or two others, but, yeah, you're right — there are two kinds of girls . . . only I never thought about it before.
You don't have too many girls in your songs that share both qualities.
Ah, I see, I'm not integrating them properly. Maybe not. Maybe "Beast of Burden" is integrated slightly: I don't want a beast of burden, I don't want the kind of woman who's going to drudge for me. The song says: I don't need a beast of burden, and I'm not going to be your beast of burden, either. Any woman can see that that's like my saying that I don't want a woman to be on her knees for me. I mean, I get accused of being very antigirl, right?
But people really don't listen, they get it all wrong; they hear "Beast of Burden" and say "Argggh!"
They sure heard "Under My Thumb" ("Under my thumb's a squirming dog who's just had her day").
That's going back to my teenage years!
Well, it's both a perverse and brilliant song about power and sex.
At the time there was no feminist criticism because there was no such thing, and one just wrote what one felt. Not that I let it hinder me too much now.
Did you hear about the dinner honoring Ahmet Ertegun [president of Atlantic Records]? Some feminists were giving out leaflets saying what terrible things he'd done [laughing], saying that the Average White Band's new cover depicts a naked woman standing in a steaming bath of water, which could cause "enormous pain and possible death" [laughing] — things like that.
How about your woman-in-bondage poster for your Black and Blue album? Many people may have a deep masochistic streak, but that poster and some of your songs certainly seem hung up on that.
Yeah, we had a lot of trouble with that particular poster. As far as the songs go, one talks about one's own experience a lot of the time. And you know, a lot of bright girls just take all of this with a pinch of salt. But there are a lot of women who are disgraceful, and if you just have the misfortune to have an affair with one of those . . . it's a personal thing.
And the "squirming dog" image?
Well, that was a joke. I've never felt in that position vis-à-vis a person — I'd never want to really hurt someone.
What about the groupies on the road ready for anything? What about "Star Star"?
Exactly! That's real, and if girls can do that, I can certainly write about it because it's what I see. I'm not saying all women are star fuckers, but I see an awful lot of them, and so I write a song called that. I mean, people show themselves up by their own behavior, and just to describe it doesn't mean you're antifeminist.
That bondage poster, though, was pretty blatant.
Well, there are a lot of girls into that, they dig it, they want to be chained up — and it's a thing that's true for both sexes.
But why use it to advertise a record?
I don't see why not. It's a valid piece of commercial art, just a picture.
Would you show yourself getting whipped and beaten?
Sure, if I thought it was more commercial than a beautiful girl!
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