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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.


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