Taylor & Jagger

Stories behind the split.

Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones Credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images

The day after Mick Taylor announced he was quitting the Rolling Stones, a telegram arrived for him from Munich. It was from Keith Richard.


"Mick just read it and started crying," said Taylor's wife Rosie at their London home.

Taylor himself said: "It was a really nice telegram, it really got to me. And what it says completely reflects how I feel about them."

So why did he quit?

"I'd worked with them in such a way, and for so long, that I didn't think I could go much further without some different musicians," Taylor said. "So when this chance with Jack Bruce came up, well, I wanted to be with him. I'd known for several months that Jack wanted to put together a new band. We'd played a lot together lately, and we'd really hit it off well. It was all for purely musical reasons. There was no personal animosity in the split. There was no row, no quibbling or squabbling."

About an hour after Taylor's statement came out, Jagger phoned from Munich, where the rest of the Stones had been working for five days on their next album. "I'm sorry to see him go, but I think people should be free to do what they want to do," Jagger said. "I mean it's not the army, it's just a sort of rock & roll band. It's very hard for me to explain exactly why he quit. I'm not Mick, so it's difficult for me to explain his personal reasons. But when we went to Eric Clapton's concert at Hammersmith [London] last week, and to the party at Robert Stigwood's afterwards, Mick and I talked. He just said he'd played with us for five years, and he felt he wanted to play some different kind of music. So I said, 'That's okay, that's fine,' and that was that. We were due to return to Munich about two or three days later to start recording, so I didn't really have much time to talk to him. But we did have a couple of hours. There wasn't any kind of row or anything."

There may not have been a row, but there certainly was a mad flurry of upper-echelon activity when Taylor told the group that he wasn't going to attend the Munich sessions.

"The main thing everybody was pissed off about," said a friend of Taylor, "was that the Stones were supposed to be recording and planning a huge world tour. All of a sudden they find they're going to be without one guitarist. And they admit it's going to be hard to replace him. I assume the word came down from Ahmet Ertegun [chairman of the board at Atlantic Records, which distributes the Stones' records] to try to get Mick to stay. Marshall Chess [head of Rolling Stones Records] came to London and started chasing Mick around, trying to find him, by phone, by foot, by car." But Taylor had already gone into hiding. Stones publicists had difficulty trying to locate him, to issue a statement.

And as soon as the statement appeared, the music biz came alive with all kinds of explanations – a row between Jagger/Richard and Taylor . . . money problems. There was talk that the break had come because Taylor hadn't been getting enough credit for cowriting tracks – with subsequent loss of royalties. Denials quickly came from Jagger and Rosie Taylor. Then Taylor himself angrily denied the stories in a phone interview. "I'm very disturbed by those rumors . . . it had absolutely nothing to do with those things. I'm very upset about it, because I really like the guys in the Stones," he said. "I've really loved working with them for the past five years – we've had some really great times. And I'd like to work with them again. But how are they going to feel if they open a paper somewhere and see something completely wrong, making all sorts of claims and sounding as if it comes from me? Nothing could be further from the truth.

"I think the rumors were started by an interview I did in a trade paper, but the things I said were taken out of context. And I never wanted the things I said written, reported or repeated. Whatever I felt about credits on songs has nothing to do with my decision to leave. If Mick or Keith ever want to do solo albums, I'd really like to be in on them. And that's especially why I want these rumors killed, because I don't want my friendship with the Stones jeopardized, or anything I may do with them later."

Rosie is just as adamant, but she hints at disenchantment over credits. "Mick is a musical person . . . it was just a question of having musical acknowledgement. If you know him or have anything to do with him, you know that he doesn't think of the money at all like that. It was the last thing on his mind. Sure the credits appear as Jagger/Richard, because it's always been the case. They've done by far most of the Stones' writing."

The departure of Taylor leaves a huge gap in the Stones' lineup. In the five years since he left John Mayall to replace the late Brian Jones, Taylor has helped move the Stones' music away from the basic raunch and roll of their early years. They've become more adventurous, with Taylor's pure soaring solos filling cracks and adding a final gloss to tracks.

Said Jagger of Taylor: "He added some very beautiful solos to our music and brought some really nice musical ideas to the group. On the last album, I think the best thing he did was 'Time Waits for No One.' "

But Jagger maintained that his departure "just means we're missing one guitar player, which we'll no doubt find." Jagger offered no names or dates for a replacement.

"At the moment," he said, "we're not really looking for anyone in the really hot sense of the word, because we're recording, you know?"

Jagger thinks the Stones in the studio without Taylor will still be the Stones. "Oh yeah, of course. We recorded about three albums with the same people we're using now. Like Let It Bleed . . . And Mick was in on only half of the last sessions in Munich, for It's Only Rock 'n Roll, because he was in the hospital. We had two sessions and he didn't come to the first one. So it's not really any great difficulty."

Jagger knocks down any suggestions that Taylor never really fit into the band – considering he was the only non-original member. "Living with someone like that for five years, being with them so much, makes you very close to them. So, as far as we were concerned, he was just as close as anyone else in the band. There's no question of his being frozen out of the group or anything like that. Five-and-a-half years is a long time to spend with one band, especially these days, I think. And people talk about him not having a kind of Stones image. I think it's only Keith and me to a certain extent, who have what you'd call that kind of image. I don't think you'll find Charlie is a kind of mad gadabout, or Bill. Mick and I used to get on very well, and we used to go around a lot together. I think it's just that he has a lot of ideas and he wants to try them out. And I hope he does.

"I don't want to say goodbye to him. I hope I can work with him again. If I do something on my own, I'd like to have Mick along to play, you know? We've already talked about this, the other day. Maybe I'll work with him again, quite soon I hope.

"I don't know really how this break will affect us. I never have known how long we're going to go on. I just can't really say. I mean, we won't go on forever! We have various ideas for solo efforts. I'd like to try something like that, maybe films, you know? But I seem to get so involved with the band and I'm so lazy, that I never find time."

Where do the Stones head from here?

"We have got American dates coming up about May, and we'll be touring extensively next spring. Mick's departure doesn't really affect the plans, by then we'll probably have a new man anyway. We'll be announcing the exact dates fairly soon, I think."

Mick Taylor – normally an intensely shy person – almost bubbles with enthusiasm when talking about the new band with Bruce. Other members announced so far are the American composer and keyboards player Carla Bley and piano player Max Middleton, who used to be with Jeff Beck. A drummer has yet to be found.

"The first sessions Jack and I did together, and everything since, have been really inspiring. I just couldn't believe that we could have what we did, together," he said.

Taylor had been kicking ideas around and playing in the studios with Bruce for a couple of weeks, and the magic sparks struck there helped make up his mind.

"He'd been thinking maybe it was time to move on, but he didn't know to what," Rosie said. "I don't think he realized how good he was, he'd really forgotten how well he could play. You can hear him on Stones tracks, playing fine music, but still not to the full extent he can do it, not to the extent he used to. In fact, he told Jagger all about it – how well it was working with Bruce. And Mick Jagger said something to the effect that sometimes he wished he could just go and play with someone else. That's the really funny part of it."

This story is from the January 30th, 1975 issue of Rolling Stone.