PART I: From The Twenties To The Sixties
The Rolling Stones
are more than just a group - they are a way of life.
Producer/manager Andrew Oldham, from the the liner
notes of the Rolling Stones' first album (1964)
can't (Robert Frank) go and do something else? It was my
idea of making that stupid movie. He was just paid to film what I told him
to do... It's OUR movie. And if I want to go and shred it in the shredder,
or if I want to show it to my friends, or if I want to put it in general release,
it's up to me. It's not up to him. I'm sorry. That's the way we run this country.
Flippo: The Rolling Stones country?
Mick: Well, that's the way America is, you know. You pay for what you get.
- Mick asked by reporter Chet Flippo in 1977 about his not allowing
the release of Robert Frank's 1972 documentary about the Stones
(from Flippo's On the Road with the Rolling Stones)
The first cultural break probably started as far back as the '20s - after the First World War, when girls started wearing short dresses and didn't wear bras. The jazz thing was quite wild, and people who had money took quite a lot of drugs. If they didn't, they got drunk. So I think there was a huge break afer the First World War - culturally, musically with the Jazz Age. My mother knew those '20s dances, which were quite wild. She used to teach me how to do them - the Charleston and the Black Bottom.
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.
(Even t)oday, 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.
Around the time of the Second World War, you had the big rebellion with the clothes, with the zoot suits. In England, that became Edwardian, which was the teddy boys in the early '50s. You had all these rebellious-youth things. I think they were all sequential. As far as clothes and fashion are concerned, making a statement vis-à-vis your parents, cultural tastes, that was certainly going on in the '40s, after the war.
The '50s were the beginnings of a consumer revolution. A few books like Absolute Beginners give a reasonably accurate flavor of the period if you weren't there or can't quite remember; I was very young.
America figured very large in the psyche then. I mean, I used to buy American magazines just to look at the the Chevrolet ads.
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 were guerrilla skirmishes on all fronts with civil disobedience and undeclared war, between them throwing blackboard rubbers at us and us throwing them back... There was far too much pen-pushing and masses of homework. And far too much petty discipline. Incredibly petty rules about uniforms and stuff.
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.
OK, that was a very big break, the '60s thing. But it was winding up from the days of Elvis. The Elvis period was super-rebellious. Because that kind of music was much more shocking than the music of the Beatles - the early Beatles... The sexuality of the early Elvis years was much more shocking to a straight audience than the Beatles' I Want to Hold Your Hand... The wild men - Elvis, Jerry Lee - they were much more scary. So when we're talking about any '60s break, you have to take that into account. They'd already made this sexual charge.
I think the effects (of the 1960s) were very great, just on social terms. It's hard to remember just what that period was like, but I can assure you it was extremely different from now. There was attitude, things you take for granted now they wouldn't then: social values, the way people mix, racial segregation, sexual segregation and orientation, the opportunities people would or wouldn't have, class and money. And the list goes on.
First of all, (university) made me a snob, especially since very few people in England get to go to college. So therefore you wind up with a feeling that you're OK intellectually, when probably you're a jerk. I mean, I was trying some math tonight and I couldn't do it (laughs).
We would often talk late into the night about changing the face of music and of the cinema. We were very much into the idea that things were about to change, and that we had the power to alter them. But in fact I don't think we had any notion of what the '60s would bring.
Rock music was a completely new musical form. It hadn't been around for 10 years when we started doing it. So we were playing with something new. I imagine it's a bit like walking into New Orleans after jazz had only been going 8 years. I was there at the beginning. And we were going to change it - bring this rhythm & blues thing into it. And at the beginning you felt like you were one of the chosen few, one of the only ones in the whole world who would get to play with this new toy. We had evangelical fervor. So it was exciting, and no one knew where it was going, if it was going to last.
The image was: getting out of the van and getting on the stage, really. It WAS that walking off the street and going onstage which kids related to, I think, and they still do, as being... one of THEM. I think that was the thing that endeared us to those early fans: they could've been us and we could've been them. And we still ARE, really.
On our tours of the States we were mainly working with black acts. When you went down south you noticed a big difference. Suddenly the black guys were more uptight. They'd stop and sit at one end of the bar and you'd think, What have I done? I was talking to you yesterday. And then you'd see the signs coming up as soon as you got south of Washington DC. When you were dying for a pee in some restaurant in Carolina, you'd get there and it would say Coloureds Only and you wondered who was being discriminated against. America in those days was far less homogenised than it is now. We used to say that anywheer round the edges was cool, but once you got in the middle you didn't know what was going to happen. There was such a difference in attitude between the big cities - Chicago, New York, LA, New Orleans - and the rest of the country.
New York (in 1964 and '65) was wonderful and so on, and L.A. was also kind of interesting. But outside of that we found it the most repressive society, very prejudiced in every way. There was still segregation. And the attitudes were fantastically old-fashioned. Americans shocked me by their behavior and their narrow-mindedness. It's changed fantastically over the last 30 years. But so has everything else (laughs).
The coloured people have a ropey time here. You know, they wouldn't take us through the coloured section of San Antonio. I kept asking them to let me see it, but they'd never let me through.
Muddy (Waters) made you feel like you were really part of (the tradition). He sort of brought you in. And Howlin' Wolf was very much the same. There was none of Well, I didn't know white guys could play like that. We connected, and they were not particularly impressed about what color you happen to turn out to be or whatever. Of course, Muddy and the other guys did recognize that for some reason, the Stones had brought this music back to America and repopularized it. Or not so much popularized it, just brought it to attention again. And for that, I'm eternally proud, and that's probably the only way I'm going to get in heaven. (laughs)
No, I don't really think (the liberal political climate in Britain and the United States in the '60s contributed to the cultural explosion of rock and roll). By the time the Labour party came into power in Britain in 1964, youth culture was already a fait accompli. That is, youth had already benefited from the prosperous inflationary period of the early '60s - that whole period of of teenage consumerism that Colin MacInnes wrote about in books like Absolute Beginners. I mean, in the early '60s the cult of youth was already well on its way. In Britain, youth was already largely economically independent, and it just got more that way as things went on. So when the Labour government came in, they had no choice but to run with youth culture as an idea, because they couldnt' afford to put it down. They wanted to be seen as trendy - ALL Socialist governments want to be seen as trendy. They want to be seen as the friend of the young, because the young are the ones that are going to vote for them. You know, Harold Wilson used to invite black singers to 10 Downing Street to try to look trendy. Meanwhile, the government's policy REALLY was to stop all this going on, because youth culture was entrepreneurial - not really socialist at all. Also, much of what was going on in youth culture wasn't really considered the nice thing to do.
To be honest, (the Beatles and the Rolling Stones) never set out to make cultural changes, though as they were coming, one was dealing with them on a natural basis. We WERE making certain statements and so on, but I don't recall actually intellectualizing those things - at least early on. Initially, I think the driving force was just to be famous, get lots of girls and earn a lot of money. That, and the idea of just getting our music across as best we could. And I think that's perhaps where that attitude of defiance really came from: those times when you'd come up against somebody who would say, No, you can't do that. You can't go on television, you can't do this. But that had all been done before, really, back with Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show and all that. What was happening with us wasn't anything new... What I'm saying is, I don't think any of us set out with a political conscience. I mean, I exclude Dylan, because he DEFINITELY had a political consciousness. And there MIGHT have been a seminal conscience in both our groups, but I think it really only applied itself to the actual mas culture at hand... It think it was more social than it was political. You know, you'd go into a restaurant without a tie and get thrown out. It was really pathetic.
Everybody has their own moral code. I conduct myself as I think fit.
You won't find any of the Stones going around praying, see us in church or reading the Bible. We're atheists and not ashamed to admit it. When you get to know us, we're pretty good guys at heart. People who go to church just for the sake of it, to keep up appearances and smile at the vicar, are idiots. Those who go because they believe in God's faith, that's fine. We'll leave religion to the dedicated.
(T)he Rolling Stones were very typecast from early on in a way, with all (kinds of) things... Myself, I was ALWAYS typecast as rebellious and so on. It was very difficult to come out with any other image, or when you did, you were ignored by the media.
I think the Stones were at the forefront of a more honest approach to popular music generally, I mean, more lyrically direct, reflecting what people were thinking then rather than the more saccharine music that was around at the time. We took our cues from the blues really, so all of that directness and the rather earthy subjects that we took on were a lot to do with things (like) the blues - and very influential writers like Bob Dylan and so on. A lot of the image stuff is created, of course - mostly with your agreement - and you’re playing out the roles. But there was a lot of antagonism to the Rolling Stones in those days, which is almost impossible to fathom now. It’s very hard for anyone in, say, their twenties now to imagine why there would be even the slightest bit of fuss. It’s very hard to put yourself in that era - even for me to put myself in that era is very difficult. So it’s very hard to comprehend why there was all this angst and so much fuss. Yeah, there was a few incidents and everything, but now behaviour is just so wide open and people just do all kinds of things. Then I suppose it was shocking.
America? Their way of thinking can be as antiquated as our standard of living.
There was one song that was particularly chosen as an anti-women thing, which was Under My Thumb (1966). And actually Under My Thumb - how does it go... (sings) Under my thumb, there's a girl who once had ME down. So the whole idea was that she - that I was under HER, she was kicking ME around. So the whole idea is absurd, all I did was turn the tables around. So women took that to be... against feminity where in reality it was... trying to "get back", you know, against being a "repressed male". (Pause) This was a long time ago (laughs). No, but the Rolling Stones have done some pretty "masculine" stuff but I don't think we've been particularly MACHO or misunderstanding. We've written quite a lot of tender songs really. People don't think of the Rolling Stones as a band that's made melodies or anything romantic but I don't think that's really true.
(I'm i)nterested in (politics). I read about them and you can't believe a lot of what you read. Both parties merge into each other at the centre and both have their extremes. The fringes have power, especially when the government has a small majority.
None of us are religious, but we are always arguing about it. In the past the Church was rich and the people very poor, and they just did what the Church told them. The decline of the Church began when the Bible was translated into people's own languages. The Church kept the people in fear of going to Hell and they used their power to keep them in awe. They used spectacle, and dressing up, and rites, and a show of pomp that was completely against the simple, original teachings of Christ. It reached a peak in the Middle Ages and the Church would inflict awful punishments on people who started asking questions. But when communications improved, more people questioned the Church's interpretation of Christianity. Here endeth the second lesson.
I hate (America). I like Los Angeles because it's always warm and it makes a change from England. It's just an easy life for a couple of weeks. Materially America is fantastic. It's just the people who are so bloody awful. It's a great country if there weren't any people there. Vietnam has changed America. It has divided and made people think. There's a lot of opposition - much more than you think, because all the opposition is laughed at in American magazines. It's made to look ridiculous. But there is real opposition. Before, Americans used to accept everything, my country right or wrong. But now a lot of people are saying my country should be right, not wrong.
I didn't (vote) last time. Nobody came round and asked me so. I thought fuck them all. Anyway, I knew Quintin Hogg would get in.
(E)ngland's got a really good image abroad now. We've got a completely different image from a few years ago and it's all been done by the under 25s. We've done a great face-job, and the whole place is filled with hippies. Who needs Harold Wilson?
(T)he rebellious thing, the identification with certain songs... If you look at percentages, say the Stones and the Beatles, the so-called serious material was few and far between. There are songs that break new ground, and an awful lot that don't.
The people in art, music and fashion were very much happy to meet and were thrown together. I don't know quite what the catalysts were... There were quite a lot of salons, to be rather 19th century about it. There were places where you would see people you wouldn't expect to see, from all different kinds of disciplines... (B)ecause of all this intermingling, people got very excited about cross-cultural ideas, cross-fermentation. It was very exciting and very stimulating. It made you think in lots and lots of ways, better, more creatively than perhaps if you'd stayed in your box - your rock-singer box.
Our generation is growing up with us and they believe in the same things we do... Our real followers have moved with us - some of those we like most are the hippies in New York, but nearly all of them think like us and are questioning some of the basic immoralities which are tolerated in present day society - the war in Vietnam, persecution of homosexuals, illegality of abortion, drug-taking. All these things are immoral. We are making our own statement - others are making more intellectual ones.... We believe there can be no evolution without revolution. I realize there are other inequalities - the ratio between affluence and reward for work done is all wrong. I know I earn too much but I'm still young and there's something spiteful inside me which makes me want to hold on to what I've got. I believe we are moving on to a new age in ideas and events. We are soon to begin the Age of Aquarius, and a young revolution in thought and manner is about to take place.
Everyone is fallible, but the teenager of 16 to 18 knows their own mind. I don't have any real moral responsibility to them. They'll work out their own moral values for themselves.
We are not old men. We're not worried about petty morals.
I didn't go out there to break the law. The least of my interests was breaking laws. I want to be onstage, doing what I do. But you suddenly realize they were interfering with your life for no other reason — it was about petty morals. It was nothing to do with the law or anything else.
I thought, Well, somebody's got to stand up for it! You don't think, That's what I'm going to do, be an English libertine. You do it because you thought it was right and there was nothing wrong with it. What was wrong was the other side. It was saying, I have no problem with drugs. I have a problem with policemen. I suppose suddenly being elevated to this position of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, da da da, I felt I could say that. Let me put it this way: I wouldn't have said those things if I was Joe Boggs.
The English are very strange. They're tolerant up to a point where they're told not to be. You get to a point up there where somebody turns around and swings a little finger. They've had it in their hands so long, the power. They haven't been fucked since Cromwell, man. First they don't like young kids with a lot of money. But as long as you don't bother them, that's cool. But we bothered them. We bothered 'em because of the way we looked, the way we'd act. Because we never showed any reverence for them whatsoever. Whereas the Beatles had. They'd gone along with it so far, with the MBEs and shaking hands. Whenever we were asked about things like that we'd say, Fuck it. Don't want to know about things like that. Bullocks. Don't need it. That riled 'em somewhere.
(The 1967 drug trial) kind of said, OK, from now on it's heavy. Up till then (pop music) had been show biz, entertainment, play it how you want to, teenyboppers. At that point you knew they considered you to be outside... they're the ones who put you outside the law. Like Dylan says, To live outside the law, you must be honest. They're the onest that decide who lives outside the law. I mean, YOU don't decide, right? You're just living. I mean your laws don't apply to me, nobody says that, because you can't. But they say it. And then you have to decide what you're going to do from then on.
In the year 2000, no one will be arrested for drugs and those sort of things. It will be laughable, just like it would be laughable if people were still hanged for stealing sheep. These things have to be changed, but it takes maniacs obsessed with individual microcosmic issues to bring it about. I could get ever so obsessed about the drugs thing, and if I really worked hard at it, I might perhaps speed up the process of reform by perhaps ten years or five years or perhaps only six months. But I don't feel that it's important enough.
I was thinking about this the other day, and I don't really think I was suited to heavy drug behavior, to be perfectly honest. But I don't mind talking about it. It's hard to believe that you did so many drugs for so long. That's what I find really hard. And I didn't really consider it. You know, it was eating and drinking and taking drugs and having sex. It was just part of life. It wasn't really anything special. It was just a bit of a bore, really. Everyone took drugs the whole time, and you were out of it the whole time. It wasn't a special event... All these drugs had tremendous influence on behavior. I think half of starting to take drugs in that early period was to kind of place yourself outside of normal society.
Everyone knows that Britain is short of police - but they send big groups of them raiding clubs and even barns in Lincolnshire. It's madness. The situation is not only becoming ridiculous but frightening. You sit at home and you think you are safe because you are not in South Africa or some other police state. But then suddenly the police move in. It's very disturbing and you begin to wonder just how much freedom you really have.
You don't drop out of work - you drop out of things like the rates and unfair taxation. You drop out of questionable standards accepted by the unthinking. Someone has to deliver the coal and the milk.
I don't think it is any good having devoted your life to the pursuit of money, finding that you have gained no spiritual insight at all and all that you are left with is your money. Young people are trying to size the world up and get into persepective all those misconceptions they were taught at school. My advice is don't be an engineer because your father was an engineer, don't go to university because you father wants you to go to university, and don't acceopt things at face value. Think. Try and size the world up.
I see a great deal of danger in the air... teenagers are not screaming over pop music anymore, they're screaming for deeper reasons. We are only serving as a means of giving them an outlet... When I'm onstage, I sense that the teenagers are trying to communicate to me, like telepathy, a message of some urgency. Not about me or about our music, but about the world and the way we live... teenagers around the world over are weary of being pushed around by half-witted politicians who attempt to dominate their way of thinking and set a code for their living. They want to be free and have the right of expression; of thinking and living aloud without any petty restrictions. This doesn't mean they want to become alcoholics or drug-takers or tread down on their parents. This is a protest against the system. I see a lot of trouble coming in the dawn.
In the public sector, to do with my work, I have responsibilities. But my personal habits are of no consequence to anyone else. Until recently, attempted suicide was a crime. Anyone who takes a drug, a very bad drug such as heroin, commits a crime against himself. I cannot see how it is a crime against society.
Personally, (I was never seduced by flower power). I mean, you paid a fair amount of lip service to it at the time, peer pressure, etcetera. But I am quite proud that I never did go and kiss the maharishi's goddamn feet, you know?... I mean, it was like theater of the ridiculous. If it hadn't been promoted so hard - like, by the Beatles, especially - maybe it wouldn't have reached quite the insane proportions that it got to. The basic drive behind it, I supposed, one had to like...
Anarchy is the only slight glimmer of hope. Not the popular conception of it - men in black cloaks lurching around with hidden bombs - but a freedom of every man personally for himself. There should be no such thing as private property. Anybody should be able to go where he likes and do what he likes. Politics, like the legal system, is dominated by old men. Old men who are also bugged by religion. And the law - the law's outdated and doesn't cater enough for individual cases.
The combined students and hippies and everything amount to millions of people really, who are all re-evaluating society... They'll degenerate to the same thing. They'll degenerate to putting helmets on and fighting each other and when they come out they won't know who the fuck they are!... There's a lot of energy, true, but it's so violent. That's what I mean about a veneer, it's total violence, that's the result!... (Y)ou must be very careful of messing with people until you're sure of yourself. It's difficult to be constructive. Because to be constructive in a political manner is just a farce, because you know it's all the same.
I don't think violence is necessary in this society to bring about political change. I was never supportive of the Weathermen or anything like that. I NEVER believed that the violent course was necessary for our society. For other socieites perhaps, but in ours, it's totally unnecessary. It's just morally reprehensible. And that's what I'm saying in (Street Fighting Man), really. However romantic the notion of manning the barricades may seem... I mean, that romantic ideal actually brought down a government very close to (England) - the de Gaulle government in France. And in America, you had the rioting at the Democratic convention in the same year. So there was a lot of street violence going on, for very ill-defined reasons. I'm not quite sure what all that was really about, when you think about it now. I mean, the Vietnam War was somehow a part of it, but was that the reason for the Paris riots? It's very hard to put your finger on what it was all about. It was a violent period. It didn't seem to have a lot of point to it. There was no great CAUSE that was felt. You had the war. But there were other things to revolt against, weren't there? When you actually look back on it, it's very hard to pin down what these causes were. Now maybe you'll get a lot of letters saying, Mick Jagger doesn't remember. We were fighting a lot of things - for the rights of minorities, to end poverty and so on. And that's all certainly worth fighting for. But it's got to be said: there were a lot of people who wanted violence for its own sake. And in every crowd, these people tended to be the most loud-mouthed. You have to remember violence is the most exciting thing that ever happened to some people.
I realize that most people tend to think that all the political unrest (in the '60s) took place in Ameica, but I really think it was on a much smaller scale there than you realize. To be honest, I don't think REAL political change ever took place at all in the United States. I mean, there were all the protest movements and so on, and I suppose there was some philosophical change, but in terms of deep political change, I don't think it ever really happened... On the other hand, one can't ignore all the social undercurrents of the time - how people became more tolerant of certain kinds of ideas and looks, and how that tended to influence general social thought. For example, look at the changes in civil rights. It's just tolerance of other people's ideas and the way they look and think. Perhaps that was the one political change in the United States that really took hold. It may not be perfect, but in the area of different minority groups achieving the political weight they deserve - or in the acceptance of feminist thought - at least there's been some improvement. But perhaps none of that alters the political power structure.
I don't think (the audiences) understand what we're trying to do, or what Mick's talking about, like on Street Fighting Man (1968). We're not saying we want to be in the streets, but we're a rock and roll band, just the reverse. Those kids at the press conferences want us to do their thing, not ours. Politics is what we were trying to get away from in the first place.
I think we've always aspired to be great entertainers. The other bit (about being symbols of rebellion), that was all newspapers. I mean, Mick and Keith are very bright guys. Mick was very aware of what to write about, and a lot of those songs are of their time.
The Stones are too anarchic to ever really be a menace. I was with Keith at one of the anti-American riots in front of the American embassy. He came as a spectator, watching English kids get clobbered by the cops.
I've (only) been on the fringes of (demonstrations). Also I've said OK I support that or I'll go along with that or I'll sign this petition or do this... There are many times I wish I'd had my voice felt on certain things, but I happen to be on the other side of the world while it's going on. I think probably the only reason Mick turned up at the Grosvenor Square thing (in 1968) was that he just happened to be there at the same time. Most of the stuff that went down in the 60s, we weren't there. We were playing Peoria or somewhere. We'd only hear about it later.
I don't think about image or rebellion or their profit potential; it's only the newspapers that think that way. They're the ones who create the whole thing, just to make good copy. What have I ever DONE? Sung a few songs, that's all. You'd think I was bloody Satan. Christ knows why the papers still push it; I mean, when you've had that bag for five years and more, you'd think everyone'd be sick of it... It's like being a voodoo doll for a whole fucking society, everyone sticking pins in. Happy just so long as someone gets hurt, anyone. And they think they know all about me, they talk about Your Way Of Life as if they really know what it is; but they can't know, and I don't want them to. I never tell anybody what I'm doing, what I'm reading, who I'm with. All right, they have fantasies; I mean, I don't MIND, if that's what they're into, but I don't provide if for them so I can make money out of it.
I don't HATE anything about England. I haven't got the capacity for it; it doesn't evoke that strong an emotion in me. The things I dislike about it are really very mild; they mostly just reflect the character of the people, particularly the changing character. I don't CARE about their sexual attitudes, I don't CARE about their political postures. I don't feel I belong to them, if you want to know the truth; I don't dig the, you know, fatherland bit. I mean, I like England, I was born here and that's why I live here; but if I'd been born in France, or Germany, or America, I'd live there. The things I dislike about England are so boring you don't want to hear about them. I mean, the whole world is much the same, double moral standards, all that...
The worst things about England are sad things: you can see what's going on just by looking at the people and the surroundings they're content to live in; you can see the kind of dreams that big business makes for them, telling them the sort of lives they ought to live... (W)hen they create an environment for themselves, they have no idea of how to create something new and good. It's pitiful. If you think about the way we have to live in London now, how it's changed over the last five years, you have to be sad. And we put up with everything, with total mediocrity. Everything - the city, the country - it's all getting less beautiful all the time, and there's no machinery for stopping it. Nobody CARES, at least not enough to do anything about it... (N)ow we only build in the cheapest way, just so it'll last a couple of years; half the new blocks they sling up are full of people who don't want to live there, anyhow. Unlivable environments and things that look bloody dreadful after they've been up a year or two. The only concern is economic.
My parents, or my generation's parents, think that their offspring are very strange. But I can already see, from my friends that have already had children, that thse children are going to be so strange and so far apart from their parents, so different, completely - they're going to be almost 21st century children. And that's going to be very difficult for the parents.
I am an anarchist. I don't really care what they think though. I'm a rock & roll singer, that's what I am. I'm also trying to be an actor. I'm not some kind of Tariq Ali. If I wanted to do all that I could write things for Black Dwarf and the left-wing newspapers... I'm a singer and I sing songs. I only talk about things like this when people ask my opinion. The position of rock & roll in our culture has become far too important. especially the delving for philosophical intent.
I think you are more likely to be anti-establishment coming from a middle class background than working class. Middle class people tend to encourage their children to read more and learn more and you get discontented as your horizons widen. It might be possible to have a revolution with guns in (England) - but I wouldn't be interested in it.
(T)hink for yourself. Do not try to be like me or him, her, Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Dylan, Baez, Simon or Garfunkel: be you. An amazing man once wrote, It is man's right to wander the face of the Earth as he pleases. Try it sometime and see how far you get!
There is no reason to fight anyone who is not powerful. I don't want any power. So no one will want to fight me for my power. Money doesn't make power - you have to obtain it. I just buy things with my money which I don't really care about if they are stolen. I'm used to losing things and having them slip through my fingers. If someone came into my house and took all my things I wouldn't really give a fuck. It's not that important to me. I'm not interested in being a shopkeeper, an executive, or a capitalist.
English people seem to want less and less to stand on their own two feet. They expect to be looked after by the State, but the State is too busy looking after itself. Doesn't it strike you as significant that the only fallout shelters that have been built in this country are for the protection of government officials?
Most people are so frightened by the prospect of an atomic war that they refuse to own up to it - it's pushed back into the subconscious. But you cannot ignore the fact that there are at least six countries with atomic missiles pointed at (England). The housewife may never think of it, but she must be aware that at this time in the history of man we can blow the whole planet to pieces ourselves. The thing that she might well dwell on is that every time she or I buy a packet of fags we are putting money into the hands of those people constructing these bombs which are designed to blow us to pieces.
I don't like the way police attitudes have changed. They are getting new power and it is growing at an alarming rate. Clashes have happened already in America and the police are really loading themselves up with harrware.
An individual is so helpless, you can't do anything, because there are too many people with the drive to just make money... Like I said before, I'm sympathetic. I'm just not a barricade stormer. If you, or ther mothers of America, or anyone else, are trying to hang it on me, well, it's just the same as their lousy sexual and drug fantasies, isn't it? They give the kids a society which they themselves have buggered up out of all sanity, and when the kids don't buy the package deal, the decent, sensible people turn around and drop the bundle on my doorstep. You know, like, I invented germ warfare. Like, I have this hot line to Mao Tse-tung.
Politicians are an endless procession of liars: Nixon says he hates this, he says he digs that, and it's probably the exact opposite of what he really thinks and feels; it's all compromise, and by the time you've got where you want to be, well, you haven't got one idea left that's yours. Or that's worthy anything. I mean, who are you? Who's left? You just have NOTHING. Unless you're Fidel Castro... (I)f you have a revolutionary situation, a REAL revolution against a demonstrably corrupt status quo, where you come down from the hills with a few hundred people and you just, like, take over - yeah, I dig that very much. You can't keep all the fine promises, sure, but I still dig it. It has some PURITY left, and I don't reckon you can say that for any Western politician, all those characters working by subtlety and cunning.
(E)verybody in politics is pushing you out into the streets, Charlie said. I don't like it.
Wouldn't you go into the streets to fight the cops if it came to that? Sam (Cutler) asked.
No, Charlie said. I wouldn't.
Charlie's a true cockney, Mick said to me, as Sam went on trying to convince Charlie that hitting cops would solve the world's problems. A real Londoner. But now he lives in the country and a lot of things I hate about country people I can see in Charlie. He'll join a preservation society and spend his time writing letters ...
Just leave and get it over with as soon as you can.
Before, America was a real fantasy land. It was still Walt Disney and hamburger dates and when you came back in 1969, it wasn't anymore. Kids were really into what was going on in their country. I remember watching Goldwater-Johnson in '64 and it was a complete little sham. But by the time it came Nixon's turn in 1968, people were concerned in a really different way.
It's not fair (to say Altamont was the result of the band's dark imagery). It's ridiculous. I mean, to me that is the most RIDICULOUS journalistic contrivance I ever heard. I disagreed with Jann Wenner (editor of Rolling Stone) at the time. I STILL disagree with him. I DON'T think he was at the concert. I don't think any of the writers who wrote about it so fully were ever there. Everyone who lived in San Francisco - including a lot of those people who wrote about Altamont - knew that a lot of concerts had gone on with all these same organizers, with the Hell's Angels... And it may sound like an excuse, but we believed - however naively - that this show could be organized by those San Francisco people who'd had experience with this sort of thing. It was just an established ritual, this concert-giving thing in the Bay area. And just because it got out of hand, we got the blame. Well, I think that was passing the buck, because those writers who were there KNEW we didn't organize the concert. I mean, WE DID NOT ORGANIZE IT. Peerhaps we should have - that's another question. In fact, that was one of the lessons well learned... So I don't buy all that other bullshit. I mean, that's an excuse made by the people in San Francisco. And I don't like when they completely put the blame on us. SOME of it, yeah. But not all of it.
I mean, it sounds really good in a book, you know, to have, like, this great claim: And (Altamont) was the end of the era. It's all so wonderfully convenient.... I mean, you can postulate all you want about what happened on that day. I don't know. I felt very upset. And I was very sad about the violence, the guy that died and the Hell's Angels behaving the way they did. It was AWFUL. It was a horrible thing to go through. I hated it. And the audience had a hard time. It was a lesson that we all learned. It was a horrible experience - not so much for me as for the people that suffered... And it left things at a very low ebb at the end of what was otherwise a very successful tour - in fact, the first major arena tour. So, I don't know - I'm not the one to make the judgment, except to say I think it's a bit conveninent when you're writing a book. I mean, this notion of the end of the Sixties - it's just too good to be true. I mean, things aren't quite as simple as that.
I've got no alternative society I'd like to see set up. I don't see things that way. I just don't think about it; I mean, I don't sit at home, doodling island paradises, with me as king. And, not being interested in it, I don't have any blueprints for a new deal. You can't map out a plan for people like the English, anyhow; like, how much is wrong RADICALLY, how much that you could alter? OK, you can say: Right, no queen, no Parliament; but how much difference would it make in the end? Maybe you'll end up by banning dancing, like Cromwell.
Sometimes, I think maybe we WILL change for the better (in England), but it may take thirty years before the wall breaks; I think there may just be a chance that today's students won't tap out and forget as soon as they've got a car and two kids and a mortgage. They'll go on being dissatisfied and things may finally climb upward again. Of course, they'll get more conservative as they get older, but I don't reckon they'll end up defending a way of life they really, deep down, don't agree with. I don't think they'll put up with the old sexual hypocrisies anymore, and I don't think they'll send their kids away to expensive prisons at the age of six anymore, and I really don't believe that if they were all suddenly called up to fight at the age of thirty, they'd go. They wouldn't go to Vietnam or march off to fight in some colonial war. I certainly wouldn't. Just because you're living in this country and you're not working for the Communist Party - and why should you, it's just as bad - that doesn't mean you have to stand up for everything, does it?
In the 60s, although there was an enormous amount of reaction, I don't think (the Stones) really changed anything in the world. But we were there as a sort of anchor point for people who felt that way.
On to The Seventies