Thirty-five years ago, Steve Jordan got a call from Keith Richards asking him to play drums on a new version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” that he was creating with Aretha Franklin. “I remembered Charlie Watts saying, ‘If you ever work outside of [the Rolling Stones], Steve Jordan’s your man,’ ” Richards wrote in his memoir Life. “It was a great session. And in my mind it was lodged that if I’m going to do anything else, it’s with Steve.”
He stuck to that pledge over the years when he used Jordan in his group the X-Pensive Winos along with special projects like the Chuck Berry documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll. And when word came down this past summer that Charlie Watts would be unable play on the Stones tour because of health problems, Jordan was the obvious candidate to take his place.
“After all the fans’ suffering caused by Covid,” Watts said in a public statement, “I really do not want the many RS fans who have been holding tickets for this tour to be disappointed by another postponement or cancellation. I have therefore asked my great friend Steve Jordan to stand in for me.”
It was only supposed to be a temporary position, but it became permanent on Aug. 24 when Watts died. That placed a heavy burden on Jordan’s shoulders, but he handled his responsibility with incredible grace and dignity throughout the entire tour. Around a week after the run ended, Jordan spoke with Rolling Stone about the experience, and to share a new song he created with former Beastie Boys DJ Mix Master Mike.
Are you still unwinding from the tour?
Yeah. It takes a minute to decompress, for sure.
How did you feel when you walked offstage after Florida and it was all over?
We ran off the stage, into a car, and then got on a plane. It was like several stages of decompression, and we’re still decompressing. I spoke to Keith last night and we’re still decompressing. The Stones are like a thing unto themselves. Even the band members, when they talk about the Stones, it’s like they’re talking about something else. They’ll be like, “The Stones were doing this,” and I’m like, “You’re in the Stones!” It’s like this third person, or something.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How old were you when you became a fan of the Stones?
Probably about eight. I was more of a Beatles fanatic than a Stones fanatic at that age. You had to choose between them. You couldn’t be a fan of both bands. It was forbidden. But the good songs broke through that. Basically, I think by 1965 when “Satisfaction” hit, there was no denying “Satisfaction.” Everybody loved “Satisfaction.” It didn’t matter if you were a fan of the Kinks, or whoever. Everyone loved “Satisfaction.” It broke through.
How did your fandom grow in the years after that?
I first became a real fan of the Stones when I heard “Honky Tonk Women.” I thought that was an incredibly funky track. It was like funk. I said, “Wow, this is funky now. Wow, the fusion of the guitars with the drums …” That’s when I became a Charlie Watts fan. It’s really Keith Richards and Charlie Watts and Jimmy Miller on the cowbell. That’s what you’re hearing. You’re not hearing anything else besides those three elements, and, of course, the lead vocal. But even before Mick comes in, you hear Keith, Charlie, and the cowbell. And it’s all over. End of discussion, end of story. Boom. That’s the seismic moment for me with the Stones.
Jump ahead to 1978 and tell me about first meeting them.
When I first met Charlie, it was the first show of the fourth season of SNL. I was in the house band. There was extra security and everything because they were there. Everybody was trying to get close, but I wasn’t focused on that because the New York Yankees were playing the Kansas City Royals in the American League championship series. That was the only thing that meant anything to me, whether the Yankees were going to advance to the World Series. [Editor’s note: The Yankees won 2-1 that night and advanced to the World Series. They then beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.]
I was in the SNL band dressing room, which was called the Departure Lounge. I was in there watching the game. I wanted to get the autographs of the band, but I wasn’t going to hang out and miss the game to meet them. My recollection is I somehow ran into Charlie. One thing leads to another where I asked him for an autograph and the band. He comes back with a piece of paper.
I end up sitting in the dressing room with him and showing him the ins and outs of baseball. He said, “Oh, this is kind of like a combination of cricket and rounders, isn’t it?” I’d heard about rounders. That’s where you run back and forth to the bases. And cricket involves a bat. It is a combination of those two games. I was like, “I guess it is.” Sitting next to Charlie Watts, watching the Yankees. It doesn’t get much better than that.
What led to you spending more time with them around the recording of Dirty Work?
Charlie had invited me to the studio in 1985 when I was in Paris doing a record with a Duran Duran offshoot band called Arcadia, which was Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon. I found them at Pathé Marcon [studio], and that’s when I accidentally fell into working with them since Charlie asked me if I’d play some drums. I said, “Absolutely not.” I wouldn’t do that. But I’d play percussion or augment some stuff he was doing. Maybe if he wanted an additional hi-hat or bass [drum], I’d play along. I’d do something like that, but I would not play the drums. That would have been sacrilegious. It was flattering, but as a hardcore Stones fan, I would shoot the guy who was going to play while Charlie was there.
There are only a few drummers that played on Stones tracks while Charlie was alive and well. That was Kenney Jones who played on “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll” with Willie Weeks on bass since the track was really cut with Ron Wood. Then Jimmy Miller played drums on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Happy” because Jimmy Miller was producing, and he happened to be a fine drummer. He had that pulse, that New York funk, that groove, to bolster that aspect of the band, which he did with Traffic and Spencer Davis Group. And then Sly Dunbar played on “Undercover of the Night.” That was a specific thing they were going for. It’s happened in those cases, but in any other case, it’s Charlie.
They’ve had great percussionists play with them from time to time, like Rocky Dijon from Rock and Roll Circus. That’s the role I wanted to play, like when Ollie Brown played along during the live stuff with Stevie Wonder. That was the role that I was more comfortable being in for the band because there’s a lot of percussion with the Stones. It’s really the maracas, which Mick ends up playing a lot … it’s important on those recordings. You miss it when you don’t hear it.
Can you talk about what made Charlie such a unique and distinct drummer, and so perfect for the Stones?
Because he loved jazz and he loved blues. If your favorite drummer is Chico Hamilton, and you love Fred Below, and you love Max Roach and Earl Palmer, Shelley Manne, Mel Lewis, Elvin Jones, Papa Jo Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Chick Webb, and you dig Al Jackson and Roger Hawkins, you have an education and a love for great jazz drumming and great rhythm & blues drumming and great Chicago blues drumming, especially Fred Below, Earl Phillips … Charlie was a fan of that playing, and he brought that style to this band, which no other British Invasion band had.
Of course, Ringo swung his butt off, and that’s why I love the way he plays. All those tracks are swinging. But the Beatles didn’t do a lot of blues stuff. They did more R&B. When they covered stuff, they didn’t cover hardcore blues records the way the Stones did. They covered R&B/pop hits. That’s why they covered all those Motown records or Little Richard stuff or Chuck Berry. When they did “Roll Over Beethoven,” it was a very poppy version as opposed to when the Stones covered “Around and Around,” it was more a little hardcore sounding.
Over the years, Stones fans have often speculated about what might happen if Charlie was unable to make a show or tour. Almost without exception, your name always popped up because of your time with the Winos. Were you aware of that sort of chatter?
No. I don’t read any of that stuff. The one time I did read one thing is when Bill Wyman was leaving the Stones. Musician magazine did a thing of, “What are the chances of X, Y, and Z?” My name came up as a possible bass player [laughs]. I was like, “That’s interesting. I do know that style of bass. I love that. I love that that’s chatter.” That’s before there was real internet kind of stuff.
I knew some people that were up for the [bassist] role and they were all good choices. I know why Charlie loved playing with Darryl [Jones]. I knew every bass player that was up for the job. They were all friends and all great. They couldn’t really lose.
Did you see the Stones on the 2019 tour?
I did. In fact, I spent the day with Charlie in Chicago. I had done a clinic/Q&A at Chicago Music Exchange. I did a tape interview for Reverb earlier that day, so I hit the Chicago scene that day. And then I spent the soundcheck out with Charlie. It was an extraordinary performance. I remember thinking then, “This is just incredible that he can still play like this, powering this band, in a stadium.”
You don’t understand what that is. You need to alter your playing when you’re playing in a stadium. A lot of the subtleties that you would like to execute just don’t translate in an 80,000-person stadium. If that’s the essence of your playing, you have to figure out what your approach is going to be, and not compromise your musicality. That’s because your musicality is the thing that makes you so unique and fuels the sound of your band. That’s a lot to think about, much less execute. And he did it flawlessly that night. I was amazed. I obviously didn’t know that would be the last time I’d see him play.
How did you first hear about the possibility of you stepping in for the tour this year?
I was almost the last person to know. I don’t want to get into the details. But I was surprised because, first of all, I didn’t know that Charlie was in the hospital. That was news to me, and troublesome news to me. But it was still the thing where Charlie was recovering, and so I was just going to fill in for maybe some rehearsals. Maybe I would play part of the show, and if they did the B-stage thing where it’s kind of acoustic, maybe Charlie would do that part.
That’s kind of what it was. It was not anything more than that. It was kind of like, “Maybe I’ll just do the rehearsals, and when he’s recovered, then he will come in and do the shows.”
How did you feel? It’s a big responsibility to sit at that drum kit.
Well, since I know the music the way I know the music, and I’ve been playing with Keith for over 30 years, I know that’s basically the engine. The engine of the band is Keith’s guitar and the drums. And Ronnie springs off that and does the guitar weave with Keith. And of course, Mick is the beacon. They provide the thing to Mick so that he can perform for his audience. That’s where it is. That fuels that.
If Mick is feeling comfortable with everything, in my opinion, then you get an even more extraordinary performance than you usually get. You always get an extraordinary performance, but when the band is clicking and the grooves are right, then it actually becomes even more extraordinary, if that is possible. And it does happen. When the thing is really locked in, it goes to other heights.
Even as a fan, you will go to the show and basically take bets on when the band is going to kick in. It’s like driving. You’re shifting gears. You get the truck started and you’re pulling out of the driveway, and you hit the open road and you’re shifting, that’s basically what it was to watch that band.
That’s part of the whole lure of seeing them live. “Now they’ve got it!” Maybe it’s the fourth song in. Maybe you don’t know when it’s going to happen. The first song you’re just blown away by what you’re hearing and the initial thing. But they’re still shifting and figuring out what the room sounds like, what the audience sounds like, how you feel.
When friends ask me what it’s like playing with them, I say that it’s like being strapped to the outside of a rocket ship going straight up. That’s what it’s like for us. You go out there for the first song and it’s like blastoff. You go, “Wow!” And the crowd is going crazy and you’re playing one of your favorite songs you heard when you were, like, a toddler. It’s just completely surreal. The whole experience is just bizarre.
I should speak about Ronnie, too. He has this kind of indelible energy, which I definitely feed off as well. The thing that was extraordinary for me was hearing the two guitars do, as Keith puts it, the weave. They aren’t playing two separate guitars; they are interlocking. No other band has that. People try to imitate that, but they don’t have that. That’s one of the great joys besides Mick’s whole thing. It’s hearing the two guitars do the weave right in front of me. It’s just incredible.
Tell me about rehearsals. I know the band goes through about 80 songs. That’s a lot they’re throwing at you.
It’s actually one of the best parts of doing this thing, the rehearsals. The rehearsals are incredible because we’d basically play five hours straight. We didn’t take a lot of breaks. We’d play this incredible repertoire. We didn’t play everything, but we played about 80 songs, or a little more. Of course, it all has to be distilled down because there are 14 songs that have to be played for people to feel like they got their money’s worth since they’re paying all this money to see the band. They want to hear some of these songs. You’ve got to do some of them.
But a lot of my favorite parts of the rehearsals were the deeper tracks you don’t get to hear very much, playing “All Down the Line,” “If You Can’t Rock Me,” “Live With Me,” “Sweet Virginia,” “Dead Flowers,” “Faraway Eyes,” “Shattered,” “She’s So Cold,” “She Was Hot.” We played everything. We played “Moonlight Mile” a lot, and it was really great. I’m still lobbying to get that played if there are more shows in the future, which I don’t know. I’m going to lobby harder for that one.
We played all this stuff. “Under My Thumb.” That’s not a deep track, but it’s a different one to play. We added a new twist on it as well. It was just amazing, so exciting to play these songs with them every day.
How much are you trying to replicate Charlie’s parts, and how much are you trying to put your own spin on the material?
Here’s how it goes … When a band has been together for 60 years, they don’t play the songs the same way for 60 years. In fact, with this band, except for the very beginning, they never really played the songs the way they recorded them anyway. A lot of them are studio [creations]. The Beatles stopped playing live in 1966. They didn’t have to replicate anything because they stopped playing live. But when you’re recording and still playing live, and you’re using a lot of studio magic, you’re going to have to figure out how you’re going to do this stuff live. And so they just abandoned a lot of stuff to come up with live versions.
The band has played songs differently for about 50 years, or more. You start to think, “What’s your favorite live period?” I cross-referenced my favorite live period of the band to the recordings, and I figured out what I want to retain and where they are now. Then I got a good fusion of the two. My goal was to bring back some of the stuff from the records, and then reference what I think of as one of the hottest live periods for the band. For me, that was from about 1971 to 1975 during the Mick Taylor years where Charlie was incredibly on fire.
I referenced that live stuff, as opposed to the later live stuff, and I wanted to bring back some of that juice. Going with that live energy and fusing that with the record. My whole thing is that it’s got to feel right. Just like Charlie, it’s gotta feel right.
Charlie died during rehearsals, and suddenly the tour took on a very different tone. Did you feel a different sort of burden at that point?
The morning that I got the news that he had passed was one of the worst days of my life. It still is. And then there was all this stuff I didn’t ask for.
From the perspective of an audience member, I can tell you that the shows felt cathartic. We were all there together to celebrate Charlie and all the music he created.
Yeah. I have to give Mick and the gang all the credit in the world for how this was handled and the transition and the whole thing. It was handled with as much grace as humanly possible.
You have to understand, the week before Charlie passed, I had gotten information that he was doing better. That week, the rehearsals took on a different energy because we were upbeat about him recovering. The week before, we were like, “Charlie is going to be cool! This is great!” The whole energy of the rehearsals were even more upbeat because he was feeling better. We were playing this stuff with less of a burden. “We’re going to do this, and play that, and Charlie is going to come back and everything will be great.”
That made the shocking even more shocking and tragic since the week before, there was a whole other mindset. And then it became this whole other thing. I don’t read social media and so I’m not bogged down with chatter. It doesn’t affect me since I won’t let it. I didn’t want to think of an extraordinary burden since it was already enough before his passing.
The first show was a private one at Gillette Field in a tent. This was a much smaller crowd, giving you a chance to sort of warm up. How was that night emotionally and musically?
One of the doctors on the tour, Dr. Richard Dawood, gave me a personal message from [Charlie’s daughter] Seraphina and [granddaughter] Charlotte. This was right before the show. It said they were sending their support. Not only did I have support from my wife Meegan Voss, but to get the message from the family saying they were behind me and to go and get it … this was basically an hour or less before the show. That meant the world to me at that time. That’s when I felt, “OK, let’s go.”
But it wasn’t a real show. It was great to do it and get one out and be onstage with them in front of people, but it does not compare to what really happened when we played St. Louis.
What was that night like for you?
As I’ve mentioned to some people, I just prayed I didn’t drop the sticks within the first two songs. Once I still had the sticks by the third song, I was like, “OK, we might be able to get through the set.”
Here’s the other thing about that first night in St. Louis. I had never seen a complete Stones show in my life. I’d never seen a whole show. When I go to see them, I’m either backstage for part of the show or I leave before the encore to beat the traffic. I’ve never seen an entire show until that night. I’m playing there and I’m thinking, “This is a great show. Wait, I’m in the show! What are you talking about?” It’s a great, great show, but I’d never seen an entire show. It was amazing.
As you said, playing to a stadium is very different than any other type of venue. And there’s no real way to know what it feels like until you’re up there doing it.
I had played a couple of stadium gigs before, thank goodness, so it wasn’t brand new to me. Having said that, you don’t really get used to playing stadiums since every stadium is different. The sound … sometimes they’re enclosed. Sometimes they have the roof that retracts. That’s different. You have the slap-back thing happening. It’s a gigantic stage. Mick goes halfway into the crowd on the runway, which can create a thing you have to be cognizant of. There’s certain things you can’t play play since there’s a delay. If you play certain things that are too complicated or too syncopated, it can be a disaster if the slap return is … if you can’t get a handle on it, it can be confusing.
Luckily, we actually have the best front-of-house audio engineer in the world in Dave Natale. I don’t know what it would be like without him. Having the best person, and also the monitors are extremely important. The monitor person that we have is the best monitor person I’ve ever worked with. I never had any issues with my monitors, not once. And I’m usually pretty attentive to the monitors since they’re everything. If you don’t hear the right thing when you’re playing, you’re not going to be able to connect and create that pocket. You’re trying to find where everybody is so you can get the groove going. That’s on the monitor mixing, and this guy was the best guy I’ve ever worked with.
Each night had a different set list on this tour, and they threw in some real surprises, like “Connection.”
When you have 8 million songs that are great, you can’t just play the same 19 songs every night. Not only does that keep the band fresh, but people that follow this band all over the world don’t want to hear the same songs every night. The band is very cognizant of the fact that they have fans that travel all over to see them, or remember what they played the last time they were in that town. Mick and the band are very cognizant of that, as well. There’s a record of what was played the last time they were in the city. It’s very thorough. It’s not a slapdash kind of approach. It’s very thorough.
Are there certain songs you pushed for?
I’m a big fan of wanting to play “Shattered.” I’m always pushing for that or “If You Can’t Rock Me,” “Rocks Off,” “All Down the Line,” “Monkey Man.” We didn’t get a chance to play “Bitch” this tour, but we played it a few times in rehearsal and it was great.
I’ve always wanted to hear “Memory Motel.”
We played it several times in rehearsals and it was fantastic. It was great.
I’m sure watching Mick work the stage from up close is a lot of fun. A guy his age still doing that is really just remarkable.
It doesn’t matter what age because he could be 25 and not be able to do what he’s doing. Also, I love to dance and I love dance music — I like creating a groove for him to feel comfortable dancing in. When he’s dancing in a certain way, we’re connected, and that makes me feel real good. That’s my main job. When he’s dancing and feeling good and I’ve created a groove for him, and Keith and I get into that thing, then it’s incredible. It’s truly amazing to watch.
How did you feel every night playing “Satisfaction,” a song that came out when you were a kid?
There are a couple of things with “Satisfaction.” I miss the Brian Jones acoustic guitar part. That’s very instrumental, no pun intended, in the right feel of the song. I miss that when I’m playing it. Maybe one day, that’ll happen. It’s more of a kind of almost revue approach, which is how Otis Redding did “Satisfaction” with the MG’s. It’s brighter, faster tempo-wise, so I give it more of an Al Jackson/Charlie Watts approach. The stomp beat is how I approach it since we play it faster than the record. The record has this push and pull with the acoustic guitar off the lead riff and the way Charlie plays the beat. When it’s faster and there’s no acoustic guitar, it’s a different animal. I approach it different.
As the tour went by week after week, did you get more comfortable? Did the weight start to lift off your shoulders?
Absolutely. After we played Los Angeles, everyone was like, “We got L.A. out of the way, now we can really relax, loosen up, and get into these feels.” There was a lot of pressure from the very beginning of the tour to Los Angeles because of the amount of press it was going to garner. What happened was, since St. Louis was so good, my friend Antoine Sanfuentes at CNN told me that this might happen … Sometimes journalists don’t want to be outdone by the previous journalist, so the first show was good, the second show had to be good. The compliments start to grow and everything starts to just blossom. The general vibe was, you couldn’t really say anything bad about it since it was good. There was no blame, and it became, “OK, the show is great. The energy is great.”
It’s obviously different than when Charlie was there. Everyone will always miss Charlie and want Charlie, but it’s not a reason not to go.
Every show began with that audio collage of Charlie. Hearing that as you walked out must have been a real reminder of his legacy.
First of all, it’s a very moving montage. I had nothing to do with the making of it, but I love the fact that they used the beat for “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” which is a funky beat. Getting back to what I was talking to about a pocket and a groove, and what he liked to play — of all the beats, all the recordings, for them to choose this as the underbelly of the video montage kind of sums it up. We’re coming from a funky place right from the very beginning, before you hear a single note from the band, you’re hearing Charlie Watts play this funky friggin’ beat. I had one friend come to one of the shows and go, “Was that a loop you played to play under the thing?” I went, “No, that’s Charlie Watts, dude! That’s the isolated drums on ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.’ That’s Charlie!”
How was the finale in Florida? It was an amphitheater, so the vibe must have been very different.
The vibe was totally different, and it was great to end on that because we had played stadiums the whole time, and to end on a smaller venue like that was really cool. Here again, it wasn’t the greatest-sounding venue, but Dave Natale made it sound great. It was fun to play. They had a curtain, so we were like, “Let’s utilize the curtain.” The curtain was drawn back — “Ladies and gentleman, the Rolling Stones!” — and the curtain opens. That was really cool.
Did you grow close to the various members of the band throughout the tour?
I’ve known Darryl for a million years. He’ll be the first to tell you that he got into rock & roll through the X-Pensive Winos. Darryl and I go way back. When I was the musical director for the Emmys for about seven years in a row, I had Darryl in the band. Darryl and I have been playing together over the years. When I did the Rod Stewart record Soul Book, I had Darryl play on a couple of things. Bernard Fowler and I are very close friends. I’ve known Bernard forever as well. We had that. And [Stones keyboardist] Chuck Leavell and I were part of the Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll band back in ’86. We had a blast!
There are lots of rumors about a 60th-anniversary tour of Europe next year.
Well, it would make sense, but I don’t know. Like I said, I was the last to know about this thing. I’ll probably be the last to know about that. I don’t know when anything is going to start, or whatever. All I did was look at the job at hand, these 14 shows, and I wasn’t looking past that. I just wanted to nail these 14 shows. That was my mindset.
Are you keeping your calendar free for next summer just in case?
I’ll tell you what. I have a lot of productions that are incomplete, plus some other serious projects that I’m about to undertake. There’s a lot going on. It’s very complicated. Hopefully everything will work out.
Tell me about “Venom GT,” the song you made with Mix Master Mike. We’re premiering the video here (directed by Anaka Marie Decker.)
It’s pretty awesome. I met him when was the musical director of the Emmys and I decided to add a DJ to the band. I’d heard he was good, but I had no idea of the depth of this man’s ability. He is a DJ musicologist. He has a love for jazz. We bonded over one of my favorite artists, Lee Morgan. And the samples he was pulling out when we started doing some Emmy stuff were unbelievable.
One thing led to another, and we went into a studio and started recording songs. What we would do was go in and say, “Let’s cut something at this tempo. Let’s cut something with this groove.” That’s basically all we would say to one another, and then it was on. It was pretty wild. It was a spontaneous-combustion kind of thing where we’d play it and all of a sudden, at the end of a few minutes we’d have this piece of music.
Once we had all of this music, I said, “OK, Mike. Take it into your lab and do a couple of edits here and there.” And that’s what he did. He ended up naming 90 percent of the titles. Everything that came back, I was like, “That’s hysterical. That’s fantastic.”
Our original idea was to cut these tracks and give them to MCs for them to spit over, which still might happen on a couple things, but they were so glorious on their own that we just said, “We gotta put this out.” Meegan and I were just like, “Let’s put this out on our label, Jay-Vee Records. Let’s do it.” That’s what we did.
Tell me about your upcoming album Garage Sale with the Verbs.
Meegan and I have been working on this record for a little while. When the pandemic hit, we kind of slowed down because we hadn’t really taken a rest for so long. A lot of people during lockdown were like, “OK, great — we’re going to do a lockdown record.” It was kind of like the opposite for us. We were supposed to go to Japan to tour. When that got put on hold, we just took a deep breath and sat on the couch for a couple of months. I had to finish a Sheryl Crow thing and a Josh Groban thing. And then we just took some time off. Now we’re back on and we’re going to finish this record. It’ll be out definitely in 2023 or maybe the end of 2022 if we’re lucky.
This is a totally random question, but Neil Young wrote recently that he’s going to release the music you recorded in 1989 with him and Poncho and Charley Drayton before the SNL broadcast. Are you looking forward to hearing that stuff again?
I’d like to hear it before it comes out to figure out whether it’s any good or not. It was a pretty extraordinary night at the Hit Factory. We did a studio recording of “Rockin’ in the Free World,” which I’m very anxious to hear. I know [longtime Neil Young producer] David Briggs was involved, kind of, which was kind of tumultuous. [Laughs] It was a pretty wild scene, but Niko Bolas was there recording it, so I know it sounds great.
And Neil is always on fire. Talk about someone you love playing with. I just love playing with Neil. He’s one of a kind. It’s very much like Keith. They are both music first.
The live “Rockin’ in the Free World” at SNL is really one of Neil’s best performances ever captured on camera.
The dress rehearsal was pretty good too. You can find it online. That was a heck of a night. The funny thing about that for Charley and I, the year before, we had played the first [SNL of the season] with Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos in 1988. The following year, 1989, we were the premiere show with Neil Young.
When we played with Keith, that was the Winos’ very first gig. We had never played before anyone before, let alone millions of people on national television. We had never played live. That was the first gig, Saturday Night Live.
I just saw Charley play with Bob Dylan. Who would have guessed all these years ago that in 2021, he’d be with Bob Dylan at the exact same time you’re with the Stones.
It’s funny. I just found out a couple weeks ago that Charley is playing with Bob Dylan. I was like, “That’s so funny.” Years ago, Bob Dylan wanted me to put together a band for him. I put together this band for Dylan. He had block-booked the studio, and part of the deal was that he’d let me use the remaining time to rehearse a band that Charley and I were trying to do. During that time, Dylan liked the band that we were trying to do more than the other band. But I knew he’d change his mind halfway through. But it was pretty funny. For Charley to be playing with Dylan after that is quite a full circle. I’m very happy for him.
I’ll let you go in a second, but I really hope the Stones 60th-anniversary tour happens next year.
As a Stones fan, I would say you have to do a 60th-anniversary tour. But they have to really see how they feel about it knowing that their mate of 59 years is not going to be with them. It’s not that easy a decision, in my view. I may be wrong.
It’s not just you miss him as a musical partner, but he’s a great guy. He was a great person. He was such a mediator with different energies. Outside of music, they must miss him tremendously. Anytime I saw Charlie, and it wasn’t like I saw Charlie and talked to him every day, but I remember every time I saw Charlie. One night, I had dinner with Jim Keltner, Ringo, myself, and Charlie. These things are with me forever. For them, they have a boatload of memories. I can’t put myself in their shoes. I don’t know how they feel.
From a fan’s perspective, a tour is the best way to honor the guy. They should just keep going out there and playing the music they made with him. And you did a really great job with a very hard task.
Well, I put the music first. When you do that, you can’t really go wrong. You put the personalities aside and the burden you think you’re carrying, you put all that aside and think about the music. You put your heart into the music, and you go. That’s it.