TALK IS CHEAP

Pre-production:
Late February-March 7, 1987: Studio 900, New York City, USA
Late March-April 8, 1987: Studio 900, New York City, USA

Recorded:
August 15-September 1987: Le Studio, Montreal, Canada

Recorded/mixed:
Mid-October-December 1987: various studios, New York City, USA
January 22-early February 1988: studio, New York City, USA
February 5-7, 1988: Royal Recording Studio, Memphis, USA
February 24-early March 1988: studio, New York City, USA
March 10-17, 1988: Bermuda Sound Recording Studios, Bermuda
Mid-March-early April 1988: studio, New York City, USA
April 11-28, 1988: Air Studios, Montserrat, Virgin Islands

Mixed:
May 1988: Atlantic Studios & The Hit Factory, New York City, USA

Producers: Keith Richards and Steve Jordan
Chief engineer: Don Smith
 Mixers: Don Smith & Joe Blaney
Released: October 1988
Original label: Virgin Records


Contributing musicians: Keith Richards, Steve Jordan, Charley Drayton, Waddy Wachtel, Ivan Neville, Bernie Worrell, Stanley "Buckwheat" Dural, Joey Spampinato, Sarah Dash, Bobby Keys, Patti Scialfa, Mick Taylor, Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, Johnnie Johnson, Chuck Leavell, Memphis Horns, Sam Butler, Michael Doucet.

Big Enough
Take It So Hard
Struggle
I Could Have Stood You Up
Make No Mistake
You Don't Move Me
How I Wish
Rockawhile
Whip It Up
Locked Away
It Means a Lot
 
 
 


THE TITLE


It was the name of a song I'd written for Dirty Work. And I was thinking, if I could get this stupid song finished and get it on the album, I wouldn't call the album Dirty Work, I'd call it Talk Is Cheap.

- Keith Richards, September 1988


I always say talk is cheap. I like the phrase. Even though I talk about music all the time, I've always wondered if it isn't pointless. Because if you could TALK about music, you wouldn't need to PLAY music... Talk is cheap. People can talk. Words don't cost anything and people use them all the time to lie to each other..

- Keith Richards, September 1988

 
 


CREATION


Something's been forming up in my mind over the last three months. Stuff I've been thinking of doing for years. It's sort of coming together. But I'm waiting for the little internal clock in me that says, Now!, you know. I may well do something when this Stones thing is on its way - after the record and the tour - I may do something later this year. Make a start of it anyway.

- Keith Richards, February 1986


Aretha Franklin asked me to do Jumpin' Jack Flash with her... (O)ver that period (mid-1986) Steve (Jordan) and I had been becoming friends more and more - this was about six months after Stu had died and the Stones had decided to take a break. So I said, Well I gotta do something. I want to play. This hanging about is one thing that could really put me in the bin. Doing nothing, you know?... After that I got involved with Chuck Berry and Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, where I found a lot of the band for my album.

- Keith Richards, August 1988


I'm going to do it in new studios, with new engineers. I mean, the Stones have worked in Paris for ten years - the same goddamn room every day, same guys. And so it's a way for me to branch out a bit and meet a few more people.

- Keith Richards, July 1987


All of the songs on this album were written last year. There's also a whole backlog of songs with the Stones that I didn't touch. I wanted it to be completely separate.

- Keith Richards, August 1988


I was approaching the whole thing with immense trepidation. But it's becoming fun, and there's an incredible amount of enthusiasm from the guys... With the Stones, if I stopped playing, if I sort of collapsed trying to get an idea together, everybody else would stop. OK, he's stopped, you know. And you'd have to crank it all up and start again. But these cats, they don't let me stop. I've never been kicked in the ass like that.

- Keith Richards, July 1987


It's very difficult not to have Woody on it, but I thought it was very necessary for me to make a complete break from the Stones on this one. It's Keith Richards. I didn't want that sort of murky gray area.

- Keith Richards, September 1988


Steve (Jordan) is an amazing cat - what a drummer. To me, the idea of working with anybody but Charlie Watts was, like, unforgivable. I thought the task was just beyond me, quite honestly. So to fall in with Steve, who has Charlie's blessing - I mean, they're great mates.

- Keith Richards, July 1987


For the bulk of the record, Steve and I rented a small little jingles studio where we'd go in around midnight and bang around. Sometimes Charley Drayton would come by.

- Keith Richards, September 1988


Steve and I had started playing together in February and March of '87, just drums and guitar. We just kept knocking out stuff and slowly brought in the other guys as we started to build up some material.

- Keith Richards, 1988


(Waddy Wachtel and I) once did a session in the '60s... no, the '70s, in 1976, around '75, '76, in London, and we've known each other for years. We were always saying, We gotta play together, we gotta play together! Also, I liked his frustration for all of his years working with all these chicks! (laughs) He was just waiting to let loose with a bunch of guys... Plus, above all, I really enjoy his playing. He keeps me more or less technically disciplined, 'cause I tend to just pick up the various things in the room. You know, Waddy'll always go, Well, this guy's got this guitar for this reason, and this guitar for that. And with me, Waddy just says, Every guitar you pick up sounds the SAME! (laughs)

- Keith Richards, September 1988


(Keith)'s one of a kind. The settings could all be stupid, everything rolled up or down or on or off, and Keith plugs in and it sounds like him. He thinks he doesn't play all that loud, but I've been in the room with him, and those amps are SCREAMING!

- Steve Jordan, 1988


I've always enjoyed singing. When I announced that I was going to do a solo album, a lot of people were saying to me, Yeah, but who's going to sing it? And, you know, I've made a FEW records, and some I've sung on: Before They Make Me Run, Happy... it's not totally alien to me. I wasn't particularly worried with singing, but other people were.

- Keith Richards, September 1988


The bulk of the recording was done at Le Studio in Canada. It's a really nice place, next to a lake. See, that's what I like in recording. I like to take verybody with me, take everybody away from distractions, take them away from where they live; that way you don't have the old lady calling up and going, I just scalded my bum on something, you know? (laughs)... But also, see, I like to get the guys to live together, sort of commucal. That's the way you get to be a band rather quick, too, 'cause all you're doing is eating, going to the studio, sleeping, you know, that's all there is to do!

- Keith Richards, September 1988


Virgin were trying to figure out what sort of record Keith should make, which just struck me as absurd... (H)earing (Tom Waits') Frank's Wild Years set us all free about the integrity of the project.

- Steve Jordan, 1997


We recorded thirty-odd tracks for this thing, so there's plenty in the can.

- Keith Richards, September 1988


I wouldn't have even made this record if these guys, as they call themselves, the X-Pensive Winos, weren't so dedicated. More dedicated than me, 'cause I still wasn't sure what I was doing. It was very much a band feeling, which is necessary for me to make a record. If I can, I want to keep two bands together!

- Keith Richards, September 1988


They would never let me indulge myself. For instance, with the Stones, If I'm writing something and they're hitting it in the studio and I'd break down because I'm not quite sure how the bridge would go or something, I'd stop playing, and EVERYBODY'D stop playing, go off for a drink and phone call and an hour later come back and try it again. With this lot, if I stopped, they'd just carry on. They'd look at me: Pick it UP, pick it UP, man! Why, you goddamn nigger! NOBODY'S kicked me up the ass like that. At the same time I enjoyed it, because they were right. I would just pick it up again and get back in there.

- Keith Richards, August 1988


I recorded this album the same way I do Stones albums, the whole band playing in one room. Don Smith is a master at that. Even if he didn't do this record, if I had heard his work with some other band, I'd want him to do the Stones because I think he's the best guy for the job, for the way the Stones record.

- Keith Richards, September 1988


I've known Sarah (Dash) since she was a little girl, when she just goined the Bluebells in '66 or so. The Stones toured with them and she had a chaperone. And I bumped into her last Christmas just as I was thinking of having some female voices on the record.

- Keith Richards, September 1988


(T)he last overdub that Patti (Scialfa) did for this record, she walks in with this guy (Bruce Springsteen). Hi, Patti, how're you doin'? We're talking. The guy is standing in the doorway, and I turn around, and suddenly I realize it's BRUCE (laughs). Oh, oh, naughty, naughty, naughty.

- Keith Richards, August 1988


This is a fairly honest album in that there's certain things that are very Stones-like. Because that's what I do. That's me, it's the way I play. I cannot disguise that fact. Yet it does have an overall different feel than the Stones because, even though I might have written similar songs if I was doing the writing for a Stones album, I'd have to write them differently because Mick sings differently than I do, a lot more straight on the beat stuff.

- Keith Richards, September 1988


My job up to that point had been writing songs for Mick to sing. I'd been confining songwriting to that point of view. So I guess really what Talk Is Cheap did for me was suddenly I could take songs in my direction. Most of them Mick could have sung, but they wouldn't have taken such funny, quirky leaps, because I just sing differently and I hear different melodies.

- Keith Richards, 1997


They'd sounded like Stones songs when I left and when I came back there were melodies on there that the Stones could never have done. That's where the liberation came in for Keith. I looked at Steve and said, Did you do this? And he goes, Not me, man, I didn't make one change. Keith wanted it to be anti-formula, anti-commercial. He wanted it to be Art.

- Waddy Wachtel, 1997, on Steve Jordan & Keith Richards
working on the vocals in Bermuda in March 1988


If you get into this album you'll realise that there's hardly a verse that's the same length or even rhymes. I realised that I could stretch them and do things that I'd thrown out the window before because I'd been thinking, the Stones, the boys, ain't gonna get their chops round this style.

- Keith Richards, August 1988


This one has an identity to it that with the Stones is impossible to keep all the time, for God knows what reason. It's an elusive thing. Every now and then it gels. I had the feeling this one might be special as we were progressing. It was incredibly easy to make. Those are usually the one that come out best.

- Keith Richards, August 1988

 
 


APPRECIATION


There's very few records that you make, or at least that I'VE made, that you want to hear by the time you finish it. You're just so full with it. It's the last thing you want to hear. But with this one - I don't know if it's because it's a novelty, my first solo album - but I actually sit around and enjoy listening to it, put it on while I'm taking a shower.

- Keith Richards, September 1988


I'm not too concerned where it's done well and where it hasn't. It's already far exceeded what I expected it to do... There's a lot more interest out there than I thought there would be.

- Keith Richards, December 1988


This album's like (Exile On Main Street) in a way. There's far more depth to it than you can possibly catch on a first listening and it does take a few listens... As long as we can keep the interest alive on it, I think you'll find this album will still be a grower.

- Keith Richards, December 1988


I remember thinking that the drums were too loud. I know it was produced by the drummer, but a bit too obviously for my liking. But it was a good enough effort. The songs needed a bit more focus. They sort of meandered. And that's one of my jobs with Keith. I edit his songs and make the melodies better.

- Mick Jagger


There's nothing on those two (solo) albums that I wouldn't proudly display at my funeral.

- Keith Richards, 2003


Talk Is Cheap didn't just recharge my batteries. It brought me back to life.

- Keith Richards, 1997

 
 
 


REVIEW EXCERPTS


State-of-the-art rock and roll traditionalism. Steve Jordan and Ivan Neville aren't just schooled in the verities, they're cocky enough to teach the verities new tricks, and the songs really do have a near-classic, half-remembered feel. It isn't just the late date that prevents them from going that extra mile, though - it's that Keith is singing, and Keith wrote the words. He's the soul of the Stones, fine. But as the Stones defined it, neotraditionalism takes concept, and no matter how fucked Mick is, concept would seem to be his department. B+

- Robert Christgau, Consumer Guide (Village Voice), November 1988


By most standards, a record this loosely arranged, casually executed and at times downright sloppy wouldn't even pass muster as a demo. But Keith Richards is the Glimmer Twin with the garage-rock heart, a Rolling Stone for whom rawness isn't just a virtue, it's nirvana... Indeed, Richards's first solo album is a masterpiece of underachievement. He does nothing more or less than what he's always done on Stones records, slicing and dicing classic blues and Berryesque motifs into junkyard-dog guitar growls, singing in a shaky tortured-tonsil yelp that makes Jagger sound like Metropolitan Opera material. Half of the songs are really just licks and skeletal chord changes cribbed from the Rolling Stones' riff manual and jammed into sing-along shape... Admittedly short on ambition, the album – written and produced by Richards and drummer Steve Jordan – is deliciously long on grooves like the lazily swinging Rockawhile and the overtly Stonesy Whip It Up... A little ambition would have gone a long way, though... Although Richards surrounds himself with topdrawer players on Talk Is Cheap... he concentrates so much on familiar motions and feelings that the whole record starts to sound like an unfinished Stones platter. Make no mistake, this album is a joy to behear in a pop era where too many records are ten-percent inspiration and ninety-percent remixing. But if Talk Is Cheap has a major flaw, it's only that it is an all-too-simple pleasure, great grooves in search of a vital purpose, just as Jagger's own solo trips were hip concepts lacking that randy Keef edge. If Jagger and Richards have learned anything from each other's records, it's probably that their greatest assets are each other. (4/5 STARS).

- David Fricke, Rolling Stone, December 1988

 


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