You once sang: “I only get my rocks off while I’m dreaming.”
I don’t dream more than anybody else. But dreams are a great inspiration for the lowliest rock & roll writer to the greatest playwrights. Chaucer was a great one for dreams. He was a great one for explaining them and making fun of the astrological explanations. He used to take the piss out of most of them, but some of them he took seriously. Shakespeare, too, knew a lot about early English witchcraft and religion, and Chaucer had some sort of similar knowledge. Today we have psychiatrists to interpret dreams.
Have you ever been to one?
Never, not once. I’ve read a lot of Jung, and I would have gone to see him because he was interesting, do you know what I mean?…Anyway, dreams are very important, and I get good ideas from them. I don’t jot them down, I just remember them — the experiences of them — they’re so different from everyday experiences. But the line in “Rocks Off” is really a joke.
How about the beautiful line, “I’m hiding sister and I’m dreaming,” from “Moonlight Mile”?
Yeah, that’s a dream song. Those kinds of songs with kinds of dreamy sounds are fun to do, but not all the time — it’s nice to come back to reality.
When Their Satanic Majesties Request came out — and that was a real “dream” album — you were roundly criticized.
People didn’t want that from our band, they wanted that from other people…Tangerine Dream, for instance. But I didn’t want our new album to be all dreamy, lost in a haze.
What about the girl with the faraway eyes on your new album (“Faraway Eyes”)? The lines “And if you’re downright disgusted and life ain’t worth a dime/Get a girl with faraway eyes” make it sound as if this dreamy truck-stop girl from Bakersfield, California, is really real.
Yeah, she’s real, she’s a real girl.
Is she a girl you know?
Yeah, she’s right across the room…a little bleary-eyed.
Well, there’s no one else here except for that poster of a Japanese girl. Is that whom you mean?
Naw, she’s not in a truck stop.
Right, she’s standing under a parasol, in fact….Let me have another glass of wine and maybe I’ll see her, too [laughing].
You know, when you drive through Bakersfield on a Sunday morning or Sunday evening — I did that about six months ago — all the country-music radio stations start broadcasting live from L.A. black gospel services. And that’s what the song refers to. But the song’s really about driving alone, listening to the radio.
I sense a bit of a Gram Parsons feeling on “Faraway Eyes” — country music as transformed through his style, via Buck Owens.
I knew Gram quite well, and he was one of the few people who really helped me to sing country music — before that, Keith and I used to just copy it off records. I used to play piano with Gram, and on “Faraway Eyes” I’m playing piano, though Keith is actually playing the top part — we added it on after. But I wouldn’t say this song was influenced specifically by Gram. That idea of country music played slightly tongue in cheek — Gram had that in “Drugstore Truck Drivin’ Man,” and we have that sardonic quality, too.
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.