“When we started this project, I knew we’d have to write at least three really good songs,” says Mick Jagger of his work on the soundtrack to the remake of the classic 1966 film Alfie. Jagger, with Eurhythmics mastermind Dave Stewart, recorded thirteen original tracks, including “Old Habits Die Hard,” a bitter-sweet rocker about the film’s philandering title character. “That phrase works really well for Alfie,” says Jagger. “It characterizes his life. The songs have to be right. It’s a lot of intellectualizing and crafting, and I’m quite pleased with what we’ve accomplished.”
The project began in August 2003, when Stewart was approached by Alfie director Charles Shyer. “I downloaded some of Sonny Rollins’ amazing saxophone work from the original score,” says Stewart, referring to the original film, starring Michael Caine. “The director had said to me that he’d somehow like the feeling of the Sixties in the new music. Mick Jagger’s voice popped into my head. I thought it’d be great to use Mick’s voice as Rollins’ saxophone.” After writing together in Mustique, in the West Indies, and in Los Angeles, Jagger and Stewart reunited in May at the old Beatles stomping ground, Abbey Road’s Studio Two, in London. There they recorded tunes such as “Blind Leading the Blind,” “New York Hustle” and “Old Habits.” For “Alfie,” the oft-covered Burt Bacharach classic, they enlisted British soul prodigy Joss Stone. It went so well that Stone also duetted with Jagger on “Lonely Without You (This Christmas).” “It was amazing,” says Stewart. “This seventeen-year-old girl, standing at a microphone opposite Mick. She’d just learned the song five minutes earlier, around the piano with us, and she nailed the vocal in one take. It sounds like it belongs on a Stax Christmas album.”
Sheryl Crow closes the Alfie soundtrack on a reprise of “Old Habits” and can also be heard singing “Honky Tonk Women” on Live Licks, a two-CD set featuring highlights from the Rolling Stones‘ 2002-03 world tour, due November 2nd. On the first disc, the Stones rock out on classics such as “Gimme Shelter,” “Street Fighting Man” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Disc Two contains “Monkey Man,” “Rocks Off,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and nine other cuts never officially available in a Stones live package.
In addition to confirming that drummer Charlie Watts is successfully recovering from throat cancer. Jagger says he’s been working on material for a Stones record the band hopes to release in 2005. “I’ve been writing a lot of new songs with Keith [Richards],” he says. “We’ll start recording later this year.”
This story is from the October 28th, 2004 issue of Rolling Stone.