You can be my partner in crime
First exposure to music
Towards the end of the war, when I was about 5 or 6, my brothers and sisters used to play a little wind-up record player in my Gran's house down the road in Sydenham - the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra when he started. And they used to swoon over all these singers...
& Keith Richards: World War II
Mick: A lot of children, like in the United States, don't remember the real horror of (World War II), because they never had to, as they do in Europe and Russia and so on. I'm not saying America didn't have a terrible experience, but it never came home to them that way. You had rationing and shortages, and people got killed and coffins came home. But you didn't have the experience of the block opposite being destroyed when you got up in the morning.
Keith: Yeah. Today, if I'm walking down a hotel corridor and somebody has the TV on and it's playing one of those blitz movies, English war movies, and I hear that siren, the hair goes up on the back of my head and I get goose bumps. I don't know if it's a memory - it's a reaction, something I picked up in the first 18 months of my life... My first actual memory was after the war was over - not more than a few months looking up in the sky and pointing and my mom saying, That's a Spitfire. Aftr that, I guess the memoies start when I was 3 or 4 years old; I remember London, huge areas of rubble and grass growing. World War II went on there for another 9 years after it finished eveywhere... When I first went to school, for months and months, you got a medecine bottle of concentrated orange juice to prevent scurvy - that was the only time I saw it... It took us to 1953 or 1954 to get a new house after the old one got blown up by a V1, a buzz bomb... We went up the road and lived with my auntie. Dartford is a few miles from the Thames. We used to go down the river and play in these machine-gun bunkers where weird hobos would be living; that was our playground.
& Keith Richards: Meeting each other
Mick: I can't remember when I didn't know (Keith). We lived one street away; his mother knew my mother, and we were at primary school together from 7 to 11. We used to play together, and we weren't the closest friends, but we were friends... I distinctly remember this conversation I had with Keith. I asked Keith what he wanted to do when he grew up. He said he wanted to be like Roy Rogers and play guitar. I wasn't particularly impressed with the Roy Rogers bit but the part about guitar DID interest me... Keith and I went to different schools when we were 11, but he went to a school which was really near where I used to live. But I always knew where he lived, because my mother would never lose contact with anybody, and she knew where they moved. I used to see him coming home from his school, which was less than a mile away from where I lived...
Keith: Yes, that's how long we've known each other. He also lived around the corner from me, so we'd see each other on our tricycles and hang around here and there. Later, we started going to different schools, but I'd still run into him now and again. I once saw Mick outside Dartford Library selling ice creams from a trolley-summer job....
Moving to a housing project
I moved into a tough neighborhood when I was about 10. I used to be with Mick before that... we used to live close together. Then I moved to what they'd call in the States a housing project. Just been built. Thousands and thousands of houses, everyone wondering what the fuck was going on. Everyone was displaced...
& Keith Richards: Pre-Elvis music
Bill: Before I took up an instrument I heard something that really did astound me: Les Paul and Mary Ford singing The World Is Waiting For the Sunrise. I heard the electric guitar and that amazing stuff Les Paul did: I've been a fan ever since. That was like 2 or 3 years before Elvis. I always wanted to be in a band, because I'd done some piano lessons as a really small boy, passed two grades.
Keith: There was some very good jazz. And all those novelty songs - Shut the Door (They're Comin' Through the Window) - a barrage of that banality. But luckily, through my mother, I was listening to Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong and stuff, you know? And through jazz, I knew quite a lot about black music.
I was always a singer. I always sang as a child. I was one of those kids who just liked to sing. Some children sing in choirs; others like to show off in front of the mirror. I was in the church choir and I also loved listening to singers onthe radio - the BBC or Radio Luxembourg - or watching them on TV and in the movies.
Doris Richards & Mick Jagger: Country music
Keith: (On the radio), we also had George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams; I grew up with them as well. To me, country music comes quite naturally - after all, those melodies basically originate in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland.
Doris Richards, Keith's mother: Keith used to play country-and-western music beautifully, just like Johnny Cash. He'd sit on his own for hours listening to country-and-western records and then play it. We'd sit for hours in the kitchen and he'd play for me.
Mick: I'm very country-influenced, from quite young. Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, George Jones, so on. I heard those people, really, before I heard blues. Even Jim Reeves. Everly Brothers, and so on. Those kind of pop-country performers are very popular in England. Used to come along and play a lot on TV and their records would be around... I have all kinds of accents, you know, for different songs.
I certainly can't claim that I came from a musical family. My dad was a lorry driver for British Railways and I reckon the only instrument any of them could play at home ws a gramophone....
I'd been brought up on Johnny Ray which I thought was great. I'd seem him and people like Billy Eckstine. All that. That's what my parents loved. But then to go into Earl Bostic - that was something.
When I started buying records, it was jazz for some reason, which I never ever had any difficulty listening to. When I was twelve I heard a record called Flamingo by Earl Bostic and immediately wanted to be a saxophone player, and then I heard Walking Shoes by Gerry Mulligan, with Chico Hamilton on drums, and decided I wanted to be a drummer, and that idea seemed to stick. The first albums I bought were by Johnny Dodds, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.
Then I heard Fats Domino and that I loved. Then I missed Elvis and the rock and roll bit. I didn't deliberately do that. I just heard Gerry Mulligan and then Charlie Parker. I feel in love with the music of jazz... Our block was really full of Duke Ellington and that sort of thing. We used to sit in people's houses and listen to that music all night, like Mood Indigo. We would sort of sit there having a good time, a party, sitting around listening to Mood Indigo when we were 14! It was really fantastic.
I always wanted to be a drummer. I always wanted to play with Charlie Parker. When I was 13 I wanted to do that... I had an incredible loathing of rock and roll. If you liked jazz you didn't touch rock and roll... I mean, I didn't know what the hell Charlie Parker was playing... I just liked the way he played. Then friends of mine played records to younger guys who learned to play bass. And I'd play them things. Then we started going to clubs in England and we'd see guys. It was something that I always enjoyed. I don't think I ever wanted to play any other instrument instead of the drums...Someone like Max Roach... well, he's a real idol of mn. Maybe only another drummer can understand exactly what he is doing and how well he does it.
I never got to have a raving adolescence between the age of 12 to 15, because I was concentrating on my studies, but then that's what I wanted to do and I enjoyed it... I really did used to work hard at school.
Music in the army
The only way you could be in a band in those days was to be a very high quality player because there were only dance bands, so I never saw the possibility. I did clarinet for a couple of years at school but I didn't like that. When skiffle came in I was in the RAF in Northern Germany: we heard skiffle coming through on British Forces Network... I was hearing things like the Grand Ole Opry show when I'd never heard country music before. I used to really like waking up at 6:00 AM before we'd go on duty and lie in bed and listen to all the great singers like Roy Acuff and Flatt & Scruggs.
(In the army) we tuned into the American Forces Network and I heard my first rock ‘n' roll in 1955. Suddenly I was listening to Elvis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry, and that's when I really wanted to do it. I was in Germany listening to that stuff probably half a year before they hit England. We started to hear things like Bill Haley and Elvis, and then Little Richard and Chuck Berry. I saw Berry in a film called Rock Rock Rock where he was playing You Can't Catch Me and I was completely won over.
I got my first drum kit when I was 13 or 14. It was an Olympic: a guy in a pub sold it to my Dad. I remember finding it in my auntie's bedroom... Can't remember anything that gave me greater pleasure and I must say the neighbors were great about the noise I kicked up.
The 11-plus and technical college
In junior school they start grading you each school year, each section of kids into three sections, fast, average, and slow. When you're eleven you take an examination called the 11-plus, which is the big trauma, because this virtually dictates the rest of your life as far as the system goes... That decided whether you went to grammar school, which is where you receive a sort of semi-classical education for the masses, or to what they call a technical school, which I ended up in, which is actually for kids that are usually pretty bright but that just won't accept discipline very well. The school for kids that don't stand much of a chance of doing anything except unskilled or semiskilled labor is called secondary modern.
Technical school was completely the wrong thing for me. Working with the hands, metalwork. I can't even measure an inch properly, so they're forcing me to make a set of drills or something, to a thousandth-of-an-inch accuracy. I did my best to get thrown out of that place. Took me four years, but I did it.
& Brian Jones: Musical training
Louisa Jones, Brian's mother: At first, I thought the guitar was only a hobby. He had alway been keen on music, and started piano lessons when he was 6 or 7. When he was 12, Brian joined his school orchestra and learned clarinet, but I don't think he has played that much since he left...
Brian: Musically, I was guided by my parents. Later, there were several piano teachers in Cheltenham. I struggled to get the notes right early on, but eventually I found I had a "feel" for music. I guess I knew that I was going to be interested only in music very early on - and that was because I quite honestly didn't feel much of an urge to do anything else. I just thought about different sorts of jobs and just rejected them because I knew I'd be bored stiff.
Discovering "jungle music"
When I was 13 the first person I really admired was Little Richard. I wasn't particularly fond of Elvis or Bill Haley... they were really good but for some reason they didn't appeal to me. I was more into Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and a bit later Buddy Holly.
I was crazy over Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and Fats Domino, not knowing what it meant, just that it was beautiful. My father used to call it jungle music and I used to say, Yeah, that's right, jungle music, that's a very good description. Every time I heard it, I just wanted to hear more. It seemed like the most real thing I'd ever known.
The music bug
I really caught the music bug from my two elder brothers. Art is ten years older than me and Ted, the jazzer, is eight years old, so they fed me a diet of either Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke or Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven, which came from Ted, or Fats Domino, Little Richard, Howlin' Wolf and Jerry Lee Lewis, which was from Art.
Rock & roll, and Chuck Berry, hit Keith
I was 12 or 13 in 1957 when rock and roll first really hit and, as you know, up to that time living in England it was How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?. But my mother always had good music taste in music. At home I can remember listening to Billy Eckstein, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and stuff every day, ‘cause that's what my ma would play around the house, singing away doing the dishes.
The first record that really turned me on out of the rock and roll thing was Heartbreak Hotel.
Chuck (Berry) was my man. He was the one that made me say, I want to play guitar, Jesus Christ! And I'd listened to guitar players before that - I was about 15 - and I'd think, He's very interesting, nice, ah, but... With the difference between what I'd heard before 1956 or '57 and right after that with Little Richard and Elvis and Chuck Berry, suddenly I knew what it was I wanted to do.
My mum is very working class, my father bourgeois, because he had a reasonably good education,so I came from somewhere in between. Neither one nor the other. .... My parents wanted me to be... What's success to bourgeois people anyway? Success to them is an endless succession of marriage and the monotony of suburban cars. That's what they think success is. I didn't want to please my parents anyway... Every (school) master had his own tortures. There were some who would just punch you out. They'd slap your face so hard you'd go down... There was far too much pen-pushing and masses of homework. And far too much petty discipline. Incredibly petty rules about uniforms and stuff.
& Keith Richards: Brian and jazz
Lewis Jones, Brian's father: Brian was obsessed with music. He used to play these, what are they, Modern Jazz Quartet records... These records were playing morning, noon, and night. I saw it as a positive evil in his life, undermining a quite good career... I was unsatisfied to see him just drifting, and I saw no security or success likely to come from jazz.
Keith: Brian was an impressive musician. He was a saxophone player, as well.
& Mick Jagger: Buddy Holly
Keith: Mick had been singing with some rock and roll bands, doing Buddy Holly... Buddy Holly was in England as solid as Elvis. Everything that came out was a record smash No. 1. By about '58, it was either Elvis or Buddy Holly. It was split into two camps. The Elvis fans were the heavy leather boys and the Buddy Holly ones all somehow looked like Buddy Holly.
Mick: To English people Buddy Holly was an enormous inspiration. Therein lies the difference because he was a songwriter, which Elvis wasn't. And he wrote very simple songs - sort of lesson one in songwriting. Great songs, which had simple changes and nice melodies and changes of tempo and all that. You could learn from Buddy Holly how to write songs, the way he put them together. He was a beautiful writer.
Discovering the blues
I became interested in blues firstly when I found out that it as much as existed. It was never played on the radio and, if it was, it was only by accident. Things that were hits in America, but never over here. I subsequently became aware that Big Bill Broonzy was a blues singer and Muddy Waters was also a blues singer and (rock and blues signers) were all really the same and it didn't matter. There were no divisions and I'd realized that by the time I was 15.
(Blues) had two things going, really: It had the emotional thing of bad times and broken hearts, which everyone could understand, and it had the upbeat thing of the dance. It was a moving dance music. And as far as white people were concerned, it was interesting to them, especially white sort of suburban kids, which is really what rock music appeals to, because it was underclass music. It was music from an underclass that they had no experience of, or, in fact, that didn't even exist by the time that they got to it anyway - almost. It was disappearing. That culture was on the way out. It had a certain appeal that rap music would have to middle-class children.
& Keith Richards: Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker
Mick: I'll always like Muddy Waters till the day I die. Nothing's gonna change that.
Keith:(Muddy Waters) is my man. He's the guy I listened to. I felt an immediate affinity when I heard Muddy go (plays the lick from Rollin' Stone). You can't be harder than that, man. He said it all right there. So all I want to do is be able to do that.
(John Lee Hooker is not so tight) on his sequences. John Lee forgets sequences. E? Where's E? Where my bottom string is. That's John Lee.... With him, there's a break in the continuity of styles. What he picked up has got to come from like one generation further back than anybody else.
The art school scene
(O)nce I started learning guitar, I began attending art school, second year. The atmosphere was very free. You'd walk into the john to take a pee and there'd be 3 guys sitting around playing a guitar, doing Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliott stuff. I was getting into the blues - Big Bill Broonzy, Jesse Fuller - by hearing these guys play. I also got hung up on Chuck Berry, though what I was playing was the art school stuff, the Guthrie sound and blues. Not really blues, mostly ballads and Jesse Fuller stuff.
(Dick Taylor) was the first cat I played with. We were playing a bit of blues, Chuck Berry stuff on acoustic guitars... There was another cat at art school called Michael Ross. He decided to form a country-and-western band, Sanford Clark songs and a few Johnny Cash songs, Blue Moon of Kentucky. The first time I got onstage and played was with this C&W band.
and Keith Richards: Mick's first performances
Mick: I used to play Saturday night shows with all these different little groups. If I could get a show, I would do it. I used to do mad things - you know, I used to go and do these shows and go on my knees and roll on the ground - when I was 15, 16 years old. And my parents were extremely disapproving of it all. Because it was just not done. This was for very low-class people, remember. Rock and roll singers weren't educated people. I didn't have any inhibitions. I saw Elvis and Gene Vincent, and I thought, Well, I can do this. And I liked doing it. It's a real buzz, even in front of 20 people, to make a complete fool of yourself. But people seemed to like it. And the thing is, if people started throwing tomatoes at me, I wouldn't have gone on with it. But they all liked it, and it always seemed to be a success, and people were shocked. I could see it in their faces... They could see it was a bit wild for what was going on at the time in these little places in the suburbs.
Keith: (Mick) was into singing in the bath, he had been singing with a rock group a few years previous, couple of years. Buddy Holly stuff and Sweet Little Sixteen, Eddie Cochran stuff, at youth clubs and things in Dartford...
We put together this band called the Cliftons, just four or five local people, and that was my first gig, a little dance hall in Penge, the Starlight Ballroom. We were just a five piece, a drummer, three guitars and a singer and we all plugged into one little amp, with four inputs and an echo chamber... That's how amateur it was. The Cliftons were playing the popular R&B stuff, Lloyd Price's Stack-O-Lee, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino... We got quite serious and did well in South London, out into Essex, Croydon, but we used to work for villains, so you'd end up never getting paid. Then it started to fall apart a bit.
I used to play with a bass player called David Green who lived next door: we used to go and play in pubs with the local jazz mainstream.
|Charlie Watts (2013): Working hard at learning his craft
(I really did my homework.) Everything's easier and quicker now. I wanted to be Max Roach or Kenny Clarke playing in New York with Charlie Parker in the front line. Not a bad aspiration. It actually meant a lot of bloody playing, a lot of work. I don't think kids are interested in that. But that may be true of every generation, I don't know. When I was what you'd call a young musician, jazz was very fashionable. It was very hip to know there was a new Miles Davis album out.
Right. In a town like Dartford, if anybody's headed for London or any stop in between, then in Dartford station, you're bound to meet. The thing about Mick and my meeting was that he was carrying two albums with him - Rockin' At The Hops, by Chuck Berry, and The Best of Muddy Waters. I had only HEARD about Muddy up to that point. So we're on the train and I say, Man, I know all Chuck Berry's licks. Mick says, You play guitar? He had a little youthclub band (Little Boy Blue & the Blue Boys), doing Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran stuff. He was very heavily into blues, already had his connection - you couldn't get that music in England ... So I invited Mick to my place for a cup of tea. He started playing me these records and I really turned on to it. We were both still living in Dartford, on the edge of London and I was still in art school.... He also knew Dick Taylor from another school they'd gone to and the thing tied up so we try and do something. We'd all go to Dick Taylor's house, in his back room, some other cats would come along and play, and we'd try to lay some of this Little Walter stuff and Chuck Berry stuff. No drummer or anything. Just two guitars and a little amplifier...
|Keith Richards (2009):
I admire the man. I was reading a letter I'd written to an aunt of mine, where I'm telling her I've just met this guy that I used to go to school with, and his name is Mick Jagger. I was reading the letter today. She just sent it to me. And I'm telling her (in the letter) that we've started to put this band together, and that as far as I'm concerned this guy is the best R&B singer in England. I'm praising the man to the skies.
Brian used to come up on the weekends and I'd say, Look, man, stick it out till you've got a bit of bread and THEN come to London. I'd met Brian because while I was working with the Chris Barber band doing odd concerts - we played one in Cheltenham and Brian came up to me after the concert and asked if he could speak to me. That's how we got together. He used to show up at the Ealing Club on weekends and occasionally play a bit. Brian couldn't stand Cheltenham. He simply LOATHED Cheltenham. He couldn't stand the restrictions imposed by his family on his thinking and on his general behavior. That's when he came to London, just "bang" like that.
Bill Wyman & Charlie Watts: Early gigs & likes & dislikes
Mick: Well, we're gonna talk about the past first, and then we'll talk about the present. You know, when you joined the group, like the very first time you came to join the group with your amp, what was your favorite music then?
Mick: Single. Give us a single.
Bill: Black R&B, Chuck Berry...
Mick: You LIAR...
Bill: ...Jackie Wilson - it was the only thing I knew that you were playing.
Mick: Umm... (laughs)
Bill: Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, ah, Coasters...
Mick: (Bored laugh)
Bill: ...Larry Williams, all that lot.
Mick: But didn't you have to play - like I was in a band, and we played Cliff Richard, and numbers by the Shadows...
Bill: Yeah, yeah, you HAD to. Cause otherwise they'd hate you (laughs).
Charlie: (Laughs) You didn't get paid!
Mick: No, 'cause in THOSE days -
Bill: (interrupts) Cause you had to do requests then, in THOSE times. Right Charlie?
Mick: What... what request, Bill?
Bill: Well, you know... Runaround Sue and (sings) Poetry in motion... (laughs)... all THOSE kinds of things... (Laughs) All right, what request did YOU used to do?
Mick: I used to have to do - I was in a band, they used to do a lot of old things. The vocalist was only half - at the time instrumentals were very popular. In America, it was the Ventures, you know, who were very popular.
Bill: And it was very difficult to find a singer also, so you did instrumentals.
Mick: And the Shadows in England were very popular so there was a lot of instrumentals, we used to get a lot of them.
Bill: WE did a few Jerry Lee things as well, actually. But I'm sure Charlie, the same as me, used to play in like a trio in a -
Mick: (interrupts) Let me ask Charlie the same question. When you FIRST joined the Rolling Stones from Alexis Korner's band, what was your music that you were liking, at that period, the most?
Charlie: Well... Charlie Parker, Miles Davis... But I learned to like other people as the years went on...
Bill: But didn't you sometimes play in a little trio, like, with a piano player and a -
Charlie: (interrupts) Yes! And we used to do, ahh...
Bill: What did you do then?
Charlie: ... Stardust... YOU never played Stardust .
Bill: No, but we used to play, like, Pennies from Heaven and stuff like that... I HAD to. I used to play with a drummer and a piano player who were -
Charlie: (interrupts) I ENJOYED playing them.
Bill So did I. And we actually got money for it.
Mick: (Laughs)... Well, that's good.
Bill: Well, what music DIDN'T you like? (Laughs)
Mick: Yeah, what music DIDN'T you like?
Charlie: Rock and roll. I hated rock and roll when I was a kid...
Bill: You HATED it?
Mick: When you were like when? Twelve?
Charlie: Yeah, the only rock and roll I really liked was Fats Domino and Little Richard, who were the only two people - I used to hate ALL rock and roll.
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