The Rolling Stones' Interlude in Paradise: Honolulu on $1700 a Day

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We decide on Chinese food. At the hotel, Charlie Watts and Mick Taylor are hanging around, nothing to do, shrugging, almost, to show their helplessness. It's dinner for five at Wo Fat, this garish red and gold facility for baby luaus and Cantonese food. It is a social gathering and the talk is light. Taylor tells why he's so quiet on the stage: "I don't want to upstage Mick." Jagger talks about the time he visited the gay Continental Baths in New York, and why he split in such a hurry: "Well, these guys in these towels, they'd walk up to me and drop their towels and just stand there." He laughs about his archpromoter Bill Graham: "You remember that dinner at Nick's?" Ah, yes – Honolulu on $1700 a night. "And Bill and Barry are sittin' there at the 'ed of the table. And all they do is tell these promoter jokes that nobody else could understand. [Adopting a rough American accent:] 'Hah! I booked so-and-so and paid this much, hahahaha.' And that's it, all night!"

Mick Jagger is seven months away from age 30, and he acts it, constantly on the edge, on stage and off. Writers have had out and out field days figuring him out, but almost always from a distance – the distance between stage and loge seat; the distance between protected pop figure and inquiring reporter, so that he is a devil, a unisexual zombie, a cockteaser, a man by turns ruthless, unhappy, fey, charming, quiet, generous, and sensitive. That's what I had read, anyway.

On the mid-high seas, in Chinatown and, now, in his hotel room with an hour to kill, Mick Jagger is neither devil nor angel; yes, he looks like he's got nasty habits; yes, it's difficult to pin him down when the question hits too close to the nerve, and he does carry a mask at all times, he sashays, 24 hours a day. But also, he cares so little about what people say, and guess, about him. "The whole Mick Jagger thing," indeed. In conversation, he smiles through my questions and through his own answers, implying, "You ain't got much of a story, do you? Well, neither have I. But we both got a job, don't we? [American accent:] after all, the public wants to know."

First, he denies the Stones being depressed, pissed, about the Japanese cutoff: "It's just a minor sort of frustration. The main thing that bugs us is we got nothing to do for ten days, but that's about all. It's not a great financial loss."

Second, there's the live album, expected last November, from the US tour, one album of the Stones, one album of Stevie Wonder and somewhere in there a couple of jams, Stevie singing "Satisfaction" and Mick winging "Uptight." Then, according to Mick, Allen Klein and Decca, the Stones' old business manager and British label, stopped the album. By contract, the Stones were prohibited from re-cutting any songs previously licensed to or released by the original label. And besides, Abkco and Decca and London had Christmas plans of their own: More Hot Rocks.

"Yeah, well," says Mick, "they're just greedy and stu-pid, cutting their own necks despite their noses. We'll just put   out a live album of something else, maybe some old tour stuff, maybe some new things, maybe a mish-mash" – and probably in the fall, since the Stones are now finishing up the new studio album for release in March or April.

What's this about being a part of the high society Cat Pack in New York?
That's just a magazine thing.

And the Best-Dressed List?
That too. I really do my best not to be well-dressed.

How has Bianca changed you, if she has at all?
I don't like talking about women.

What about being a father?
I don't want to talk about family either.

(Room service interrupts with coffee; I ask again about his baby daughter Jade.)

I don't see the baby; I'm always fuckin' on the road. It's my own choice, but I'm fucking negligent, I just am. But when I was a kid, my father was away a lot. It's important to be there in the formative years of childhood, but I'm not there. And short of carrying the kid about in the next room, which I also don't particularly dig, you just see your kid when you can, same as anyone else. [Changing voice:] It's the American way.

Then why did you choose to become a father?
I didn't; that's why I don't want to talk about it. 'Why do I have a child?' I have lots of other children that I also like.

Charlie will talk about parenthood. Charlie will stay in South of France all the time. I just don't. Even two weeks in one place gets to be a maximum. The only time we stay anywhere longer is to finish off an album. I could go back to South of France but I never liked it there; soon as we cut the first album we left; I left im-me-diately. I visit Ireland a lot; I had a house there for six months, and I prefer London, but I can't go there. So I'm very happy moving every two weeks. I've got it down.

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