Blues Brothers: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards & Jack White

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Did you actually like the film, Jack?
Richards: It almost put him off the idea of being in a band [laughs].

White: I had more questions than opinions. I wanted to know where it came from, why it never got released. But I loved the mystery of the backstage, of the transportation to the gig. It's a lot worse now. It's more boring than ever.

Richards: People have timetables. Showtime in the Seventies was whenever I got up. It had nothing to do with what the ticket said.

Jack, do you feel you were born too late – that you missed out on a time when joining a rock band was like running away to the circus?
White: I didn't have those kinds of rock-star dreams. I wanted to play in smaller clubs, even when we could fill bigger ones, because I knew it would be better there. I was always aiming low. That's the problem. To get mood and vibe, you have to aim low. The Stones have been playing a lot of club shows in the last few years. I'm sure the vibe is better.

Couples and Collaborators on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Richards: When you get into this, you want to communicate. You just have to figure out how. My lot, it's a caravan. That's why I enjoyed working with the X-Pensive Winos [in the Eighties]. I could take it down a notch. We called it EMG: Everything Must Go. We traveled on a bus. I hadn't done that for a long time.

White: I saw the Winos when I was a teenager. I worked at the Fox Theater in Detroit. I had an hour break and got to watch the show.

Richards: It was as free as what Jack does with the Stripes now. How did we open the show? We'd sit down in front of the drum kit and smoke a joint. All the audience could see was this light passed around. You felt the mood of the audience, and you could feel when it was the right time – "OK, let's break" – and you could open with a different song every night. It was far more interesting than fireworks going off.

Jack, is there a Stones song that you particularly like – one that's not a greatest hit?
White: I don't know why we didn't do it, but in the Stripes, we were going to cover "Undercover of the Night." I love the guitar riff. I wanted to break the song down to just the riff and that shaky-maracas beat. But we worked on it for a second and got distracted, I guess.

Richards: You wouldn't have loved the song so much if you'd had to do the goddamned video for it.

There is a scene in "Shine a Light" of Dick Cavett interviewing Mick backstage in 1972. Cavett asks, "Can you possibly see yourself doing this at sixty?" And Mick replies, "Easily, yeah."
White: It's because of the blues. If you're in love with the blues, rooted in it, it gets better the more you do it.

Richards: The media's perception of longevity is you're supposed to be able to do this from eighteen to twenty-five, if you're lucky. In 1956, rock & roll was like calypso – a novelty. They said, "None of it will last" – without realizing that all of the music behind it was not a novelty.

Jack, did you always take it for granted that you could do this forever?
Richards: Thanks to me, yes!

White: In the White Stripes, we thought, "If we can find a hundred people in each town to keep this thing going, we won't need day jobs." If you love it for what it is, the other stuff is extra.

Richards: He shouldn't quit [gestures at White]. He's a good man.

Despite your generation gap, the blues shaped your lives in similar ways.
White: When you see someone play, you immediately know whether you can connect with them or not. You know you're in the same family. And [gestures at Richards] I think we are. You ask me, did I miss something? Was I born in the wrong generation because I didn't get to play with Muddy? I play with the sons of those guys. And there will be more grandkids after that.

Richards: I loved listening to music – the pure beauty of listening – before I ever learned an instrument. I realize, in a way, that I tainted that beauty, because now I know how certain things are done. But brother, you've made your deal now. The only thing you can do is pass it on.

White: That's what you should have named the movie – Pass It On.

Richards: No, that's for the tombstone, baby. "He passed it on."

This is from the April 17th, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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