This month, Keith Richards will meet fellow Rolling Stones Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts in a London studio. “We’re just going to play a little together, because we haven’t played for three or four years,” Richards says. “You don’t necessarily want to rehearse or write anything – you just want to touch bases. That’s a good start: me, Charlie and Ronnie. Mick’s welcome, and I’m sure he’ll turn up, but right now we just want to get our chops down.”
Beyond that, the Stones’ plans for their 50th anniversary next year remain unclear. “I just hope we can perform live,” says Wood. “It’d be great to see if that old spark is there.”
For now, the closest fans will get is the stellar Some Girls Live in Texas DVD – shot on a hot night in Fort Worth during the Stones’ brief summer 1978 tour. It’s part of the upcoming Some Girls reissue – due November 21st and packed with extras including 12 previously unreleased tracks, which sent the band back to a period when Richards was awaiting trial for heroin possession, Mick Jagger was hitting the New York club scene hard, and the Stones were forced to confront changing times. “We were getting a certain kick up the ass from the punks,” says Richards. “Not that I’m a really big punk fan, but their energy, and the fact that you realize another generation was coming up on top of you, was a kick up the ass. It felt time to get down to the nuts and bolts of it and not play around with glamorous female voices and horns and stuff.”
Beginning in October 1977, the band hunkered down at a live rehearsal space in Paris’ Pathé Marconi studios and jammed for months on end. “Everybody was exploding with riffs,” says Wood. “The motto was ‘More fast numbers.’ ” They churned out their most eclectic album ever, ranging from after-hours disco glitter (“Miss You”) to speedy punk (“When the Whip Comes Down”) and soulful ballads showing off Richards and Wood’s newfound guitar-weaving majesty (“Beast of Burden” and “Just My Imagination”). Says Wood, “We’d go into a Western mode, we’d go into heavy rock n’ roll mode, and we’d just go into songs in A.”
With producer Don Was (who helmed last year’s Exile on Main St. reissue), the Stones returned to Some Girls earlier this year, scouring hundreds of hours of tapes from the original sessions, using long-circulated bootlegs as a guide to highlights like “Claudine,” a stripped-down boogie about French singer Claudine Longet, accused of murdering her boyfriend, ski racer Spider Sabich, in 1976, and “Tallahassee Lassie,” a raucous Chuck Berry-style number cut during a stop on the Some Girls tour.
“There was a really great version of ‘Miss You,’ which is almost jazz,” Richards says of one surprise the band found in the vault. “Mick didn’t like his vocal on that. I would have loved to put that on, just because it’s so different from the other one. But at the same time Mick said, ‘No, I’m not cutting it.’ The same would happen to me. … We go into a couple things like that, then we just look at each other and go, ‘Oh, what a shame.’
Revisiting Exile and Some Girls in the last two years, Wood says, “has re-injected some past energy, and made us realize what a kicking live band we are.”
The Some Girls and Exile reissues might only be the beginning: Was wants to tackle Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed or Sticky Fingers soon. “There’s so much material,” he says. “If they never went in the studio again, you could have a new Stones album every year for the next 50 years, and it would all be good.”