What happened during the time between that and “Satisfaction”?
That’s a lot of time. I don’t know what happened. You say “I Wanna Be Your Man” and I’d forgotten about it. Next came “As Tears Go By.” We never dreamed of doing that ourselves when we wrote it. We just gave it straight to Marianne [Faithfull]. We wrote a lot of songs for other people most of which were very unsuccessful.
Did you write “As Tears Go By” specifically for Marianne?
Yeah, but I could never do it again. I keep trying, night after night. Then we did “Not Fade Away” and went to America and that was really a change.
How did that affect you?
Well we started going back to blues a bit more. I remember we went to Chess Recording Studios and recorded all the old blues numbers we used to do, a lot of which have never been released.
Who was doing your production then, Andrew?
Yeah, but he didn’t know anything about blues. The cat who really got it together was Ron Marlow, the engineer for Chess. He had been on all the original sessions. We did “Confessin’ The Blues,” “Down The Road A Piece,” and “It’s All Over Now.” Murray The K gave us “It’s All Over Now” which was great because we used to think he was a cunt but he turned us on to something good. It was a great record by the Valentinos but it wasn’t a hit.
That was when you first ran into censorship problems with the words “half-assed games.” Many of the disc jockeys in the states just cut that part out.
Did they really? I didn’t know that. I really don’t know what’s considered rude in America cause it’s all so different, isn’t it! Here you can use Americanisms and people don’t know what you’re saying. Censorship is weird.
Even though you had several hits before, “Satisfaction” was really the turn on for a vast majority of people. Was there any specific incident that brought those lyrics to you?
It was Keith really. I mean it was his initial idea. It sounded like a folk song when we first started working on it and Keith didn’t like it much, he didn’t want it to be a single, he didn’t think it would do very well. That’s the only time we have had a disagreement.
Even when it was finished, he didn’t like it?
I think Keith thought it was a bit basic. I don’t think he really listened to it properly. He was too close to it and just felt it was a silly kind of riff.
Did you think “Satisfaction” would become the number one pop song of this era as it has?
No, not at all.
Did you think about the problem of writing a song to follow it?
No, I didn’t give a fuck. We knew it wouldn’t be as good but so what.
Where were you when you wrote it?
Tampa, Florida, by a swimming pool.
Did you do a lot of your writing on tour?
Oh yeah, always. It’s the best place to write because you’re just totally into it. You get back from a show, have something to eat, a few beers and just go to your room and write. I used to write about twelve songs in two weeks on tour. It gives you lots of ideas. At home it’s very difficult because you don’t want to do anything really but read, and things like that.
I’d like to ask you a personal question about “Play With Fire.” There are lines about getting your kicks in Knightsbridge and Stepney, and a rich girl, and her father’s away and there is a suggestion that the guy in the song is having an affair not only with the daughter but with the mother . . .
Ah, the imagination of teenagers! Well one always wants to have an affair with one’s mother. I mean it’s a turn on.
Often times when you record, you mumble your lyrics. Is this done purposely as a style?
That’s when the bad lines come up. I mean I don’t think the lyrics are that important. I remember when I was very young, this is very serious, I read an article by Fats Domino which has really influenced me. He said “you should never sing the lyrics out very clearly.”
You can really hear, “I got my thrill on Blueberry Hill.”
Exactly, but that’s the only thing you can hear just like you hear “I can’t get no satisfaction.” It’s true what he said though. I used to have great fun deciphering lyrics. I don’t try to make them so obscure that nobody can understand but on the other hand I don’t try not to. I just do it as it comes.
For some reason people don’t think about the fact that you and Keith are great writers and your lyrics like “Get Off Of My Cloud,” which are really good . . .
Oh, they’re not, they’re crap.
“Union Jacks and Windscreens” . . . It’s a nice poem.
It’s nothing. Thank you for the compliment but I don’t think they are great at all. If a person is that hung up on lyrics he can go and buy the sheet music because it’s all there, all wrong of course but . . . You should see the one for “Dandelion,” they made up another song!