PART V: The Thousands
It amazes me. We were 17-year-old English kids who thought they came from the (Mississippi) Delta. Eventually, I think I got there. But why? What's the attraction of this music from one small backwater? It's because we all come from Africa. That's why people respond to certain rhythms, pulses and tones. They can't do nothing about it. We're all from Africa, except that some of us left and turned white. It doesn't matter where you were born, or who you think you are. You're a fucking African. I want to change my passport! In Nigeria, they have those bent notes on that little instrument, the bafra. It's all there. It says I Just Want to Make Love to You.
I don't like politicians, they're awful people. I've never voted and I never will... I thought all that (street fighting man) stuff was rubbish. That's Mick's writing - he probably was into it - but he was very clever. He'd observe and write it without getting his head caved in on the front line.
There are a lot of things far worse than the Rolling Stones.
I think (I'm a moral person), yeah. But I think like most people my moral values tend to be pretty fuzzy.
What I feel (about September 11) from a lot of my American friends, although they're not really able to put it into words, is a sense of violation. It's a horrible thing to have that feeling broken - that America was this place where they all felt safe. We've lived (in England) for the last 30 years with that - people who would throw bombs in pubs and shopping malls, where innocent people were. I've been in several situations where that's happened, where you would hear a bomb go off. It was very scary. With terrorism, whether you kill 5 people or 5000, it is still a disregard for normal human values, what you expect in a civilized society. I never believed in violence as a way of achieving the political ends that we mentioned in songs like Street Fighting Man. The people that believe in it - I have no time for them whatsoever, no time for the romantic notions that surround them. I was in France at the beginning of this, then in Britain, and the overwhelming feeling of shock was swiftly replaced by an outpouring of brotherhood. There was real solidarity and sympathy, the feeling that we wanted to be there with you. It was genuine and very moving. There was this thing on TV from Germany, this huge attendance at a memorial service. It was massive.
But how that translates into the next step, this intangible military activity - the mystery of that is, how is it going to be and what is going to happen? The Middle East is a lot nearer Europe than it is America. That means quite a lot when you're talking about ballistic missiles and the involvement of Iraq. I'm not saying people are running scared, but it's a different view. And we have many people of Middle Eastern origin living in these countries, which complicates the emotion. People are saying to me, and I felt the same way: I couldn't do anything for a week. My life, all my things, feel so trivial. But to some extent, after the shock and mourning comes the adjustment to real life. During times of war, my parents tried to carry on as normally as much as you can, with adjustments. You can't let terrorists completely change your lifestyle. They would love that. That's a victory. People are knocked off their feet. But you don't want to lose hope and morale. You have to mourn. You're glued to CNN more than you should be. But in the end, you have to do what YOU do.
I lived (in New York City) for a long time so I have a huge sympathy with the town. I identified with it perhaps more than any other city in the United States so I know it very well. Yeah, you feel a great closeness especially when there's trouble, you do. I mean I was in New York from the mid-'70s onwards when it was like a really terrible time there, garbage piled high in the streets, and you didn't like walking around and now it's slightly on the up-and-up.
I think it is wrong to behave as if you are 19 years old all the time, but it doesn't mean I have to be boring, sit around, reminisce and dismiss modern life as some awful incursion into my reverie about what I did in the 1960s... There is a lot of jealousy - mostly I imagine from journalists. I like to date girls but I don't have a system where they have to be of a certain age group... I have values for relationships I'm in. I don't believe marriage is the perfect state for all people. I have an ordinary bohemian, artistic attitude to love and marriage: one has a go at it, but it doesn't always work out... I think you should enjoy life as much as possible within your own limits. I like to go out dancing, but I feel very ill at ease in a club where everybody is 25 or under. I enjoy looking after my children, I enjoy staying in. That is not to say I don't have my irresponsible moments. We all need to do that. It's not just me. Our generation is a very interesting one, we have a lot more energy, and we are living a much fuller life than our parents did. A huge proportion of the population have had a very active physical life and experimented with a lot of things, and a lot of them still want to do that.
I think I am (religious). But what does it mean, religious? That you're part of an organized religious group? Not particularly. That you have spiritual leanings? Yes. That's true. I've always been spiritual. I wish it had been developed in some other way, but I think in our culture it rarely is. This is as far as we get.
Why are we involved in the politics of Islam anyway? In the short term, we are involved because of a terrorist attack of ghastly proportions, which was a moral outrage, a really awful event. But underlying all that, we are involved in Middle East politics because of our way of life and our standard of living. Without oil we wouldn't have any dealings with Saudi Arabia. I know it is stating the obvious, but people don't want to look at the obvious. We have been involved with this for over 100 years now. We drew all these lines out of the Turkish empire, set up all these puppet regimes because we wanted to control the area without annexing it as formal empire. It's funny how history repeats itself.
I think (the issue of downloading music on the internet is) rather an over issue right now. It's not of any interest to me. I think that - I think it's great getting music on the internet. The issue of whether you're going to get music for free as you do - sort of - on the radio is another; I mean, whether people believe that musicians should be paid for transmitting their songs or broadcasting their songs on different media. If you're a musician you'd like to get paid the same as people get paid for doing things. You know, the issue is very simple really. There's always lots of places where you don't get paid. I mean, you don't expect to get paid from, like, countries like China and all that sort of thing, or you don't expect to get paid from bootlegs. So there's always some areas where you don't get paid... I think that issue's more or less sort of settled down somewhat, and seems to be settling itself in the good old American way.
That was Andy (Warhol)'s whole ethos, that (art and commercialism) were not necessarily far apart. Everything in America is MEANT to be successful. You're not supposed to be out there not making money. The idea of the romantic artist in the garret was invented in the 19th century. Before that artists were striving to behave like aristocrats and hobnob with the richest people. If you didn't, you didn't get a commisssion... (There's an) old- fashioned idea that you can only be good while you're unknown, and hopefully not having any money, and even better, slightly mentally ill. AND a drug addict - always helpful. That makes you interesting. It doesn't necessarily make your WORK more interesting. It tends to drop off if you're older and a drug addict and don't work hard... So if you become too bourgeois and only want to live a comfortable life, can you be bothered to get up in the morning and write a song? That's a valid criticism. I don't think it applies to me. Because I love writing songs - whether they're good or not is another matter - and I love working really, really hard. In the last five years, I've been working like a dog.
(Ticket prices) is one element of the business thing that I try to really control as much as I can. Pricing a concert ticket is very different from pricing a Lexus or toothpaste. It's more like a sports event. And you are prepared to pay the market price. So if U2 or Madonna costs $100 (I'm making these up), you don't want to be charging $200. I try to keep ticket prices within the market price range. It's America. We're not living in a socialist society where we're all paid so low and no one can afford it.
The whole business thing is predicated a lot on the tax laws. It's why we rehearse in Canada and not in the U.S. A lot of our astute moves have been basically keeping up with tax laws, where to go, where not to put it. Whether to sit on it or not. We left England because we'd be paying 98 cents on the dollar. We left, and they lost out. No taxes at all. I don't want to screw anybody out of anything, least of all the governments that I work with. We put 30% in holding until we sort it out.
Music publishing is more profitable to the artist than recording. It's just tradition. There's no rhyme or reason. The people who wrote songs were probably better businesspeople than the people who sang them were. You go back to George Gershwin and his contemporaries - they probably negotiated better deals, and they became the norm of the business. So if you wrote a song, you got half of it, and the other half went to your publisher. That's the model for writing.
(W)e don't really do a lot of commercials. I mean, I'm not against them per se, but we don't do them that much. We do a lot of film licensing. We get lots of requests, and I usually say yes. It's a great business. You have a sort of price that you like to keep to, unless it's a low-budget film and it's a really interesting film - then you can make a deal maybe.
The thing that we all had to learn is what to do when the passion starts to generate money. You don't start to play your guitar thinking you're going to be running an organization that will maybe generate millions.
I wouldn't want a knighthood. I wouldn't want anything off of Tony Blair. But Mick really enjoyed it so I'm very pleased for him... But if Mick got one, Keith should have been offered one, and that would have REALLY been something else.
If Phil Collins is a Sir, Mick Jagger should be a Lord and not bother with this. It's a paltry honour really.
I have to revert to a Stones point of view. These are the guys who tried to put us in jail in the '60s, and then you're taking a minor honor. Also, to get a phone call from Mick saying, Tony Blair INSISTS that I take it - this is a way to present it to me? It's anti-respect to the Stones - that was my initial opinion. I thought it would have been the smarter move to say Thanks, but no thanks. After being abused by Her Majesty's government for so many years, being hounded almost out of existence, I found it weird that he'd want to take a badge. But what the fuck does it matter? It doesn't make any difference in the way we work. Within the Stones, it's probably made him buckle down a bit more, because he knows he's being disapproved of (laughs).
I don't think everyone who buys Rolling Stones records or comes to the shows thinks (we represent some sort of rebellion) at all, I think that's a total journalistic misconception. Loads of people saw the Rolling Stones for the first time in 1989. I don't think those people thought of it as a rebellious 1960s rock band. They don't even know we're English. A lot of Americans think we're American, that's how detailed they are.
(When I was doing drugs), I'm the millionaire rock star, but I'm in the gutter with these other sniveling people. It kept me in touch with the street, at the lowest level.
Mick has to dictate to life. He wants to control it. To me, life is a wild animal. You hope to deal with it when it leaps at you... My attitude was probably formed by what I went through as a junkie. You develop a fatalistic attitude toward life.
You're talking to a madman, really. Who else in this 40 or 50 years of rock has been able to sneak through the cracks like this? Which is probably why a lot of us become musicians, I think. As long as you've got a gig, it's a brilliant slide through the social structure. You don't have to play the game that everybody else has to. It's a license to do what you want... (The responsibility is y)ou don't want to let people down. And you don't want to let yourself down. You don't want to let down anybody who's made it possible for you to do this.
I was (once) offered a lot of money to write a memoir. I said, This is really dull. You can take the money back... I didn't find it interesting. I think that, for me, celebrity memoirs are the kind of genre of, literary genre if you want to call it that, that - and there are some good ones. But they stand out nevertheless. There are some quite good ones. The Dirk Bogarde one was really good. But, mind you, Dirk Bogarde did write a lot. I mean, he was known as an actor but I think he wrote a lot of things. And he didn't JUST write about his life and he did write other books. The Peter O'Toole one was quite good also. But as a genre it's mostly pretty tacky. And money is the thing that dictates a lot of these celebrity books. So they all give you lots and lots of money if you write mostly about sexual things. So they're not really interested in your book unless it's FULL OF SEX!
I do like to read a lot. I like to have one fiction and one non-fiction going at the same time. What am I reading now? What's it called? My non-fiction is a book about Captain Cook's... a guy that follows in the footsteps of Captain Cook and goes around all the Pacific, in the American Northwest where Captain Cook - and I can't for the life of me remember what it's called, Blue something. And it's by an American author who I'd never heard of but it was highly recommended in the New York Times so I bought it. And it's very funny the current things where he goes to Hawaii and sees the state of the people now and he goes to New Zealand. And then he writes historically, chapter by chapter, about what Captain Cook actually did, then he writes about his experiences following in the footsteps. That's rather good. And the novel I just finished is - I'm not going to remember the guy's name either but it's called The Illusionist, which is about a half-Indian, half-English boy growing up in India in the early part of the 20th century. It's a wonderful first novel by a music critic.
Write a very good travel book. I like travel books... (I keep a diary) inefficiently... You get so busy, you know. I meant to write the story of my week in Los Angeles but the week in Los Angeles is so... When do people, you know - I always admire these people that lead these incredible full lives who write 10 pages of diary every night. I mean, how do they DO this? 'Cause when I get - at the end when it's 3 AM in the morning, the last thing you do is... But, you know, it's a full life being on tour.
I think that the Stones - it's a fortunate and also slightly unfortunate thing that you have this long, long history because... in some ways you're put in a box... to do a certain kind of thing. But I think that it has a great longevity and it has a great history all of its own... I think the analogy with film is really the James Bond series. You have a very successful thing but if you go off it completely it won't be successful anymore. You know what I mean? It's a long running thing. So there is a certain constraint within it. But within all things there are constraints and within all things there are conventions. Within art forms there are conventions; even when you try and break them, what are you doing? You're breaking out of a convention which you understand and you regulize... But I think the Rolling Stones have achieved a lot. They've got a very broad musical spectrum that they cover, from all kinds of different music. So there's a very broad thing. But it's still, image-wise and..., there's
a certain restriction which you're bound to follow. Which is good. Most music has restrictions.
The hybrid car, which I drove for a few blocks - it felt fine. For a few blocks. I don't know if I'm going to drive to San Francisco in it, we'll see. I'll give it a whirl!
I have no problems with drugs, but I have problems with people who deal in them. If you didn't have to go down to the bloody gutter to get it, and meet the people who live there, it wouldn't be so bad. Drugs are a problem because of the context they are put into in society. Your body is your temple and you can ask: I wonder what this pill does? or Do I like this smoke? On that level, it is all right. It's only when it's associated with criminals, and turns anybody that tries a little pill or a smoke into a criminal, that I have a problem.
Ultimately I lead a life that is not that different from anyone's. I've always remained an ordinary person. People often imagine all kinds of things about me and the other Rolling Stones. They have this dream image of us and you have a hard time convincing them that this image is far from the truth.
I still wake up amazed by the whole thing. I grew up in a council house, no phone, no TV, no car... Money's a funny thing. I just see it as a gift to me. I'm not big on charity because I don't like that organized shit but I take care of my mates and my folks and my extended family... without being taken to court (laughs).
All those rich lists in the Sunday Times are so far off the mark... How they can make that stuff up and publish it, as factual evidence on a hundred people, is bollocks. I'm not saying I'm poor, but I do spend an awful lot of money just on keeping everything up, all the people and the children and all the ex-wives and the house that you don't live in that you still have to keep going... Anyway, those of us brought up in the '50s were taught to be frugal. We don't like throwing computers away as soon as they don't work - apart from out the window in frustration. We like cars to be repaired instead of junked. We're not brought up like Puff Daddy to be taking 30 free-loading friends to the south of France and spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on Cristal. The truth is, most English people, whether they're rich or not so rich, just don't behave like that.
I'm not on anyone's side. There is no side that has an absolute answer. That's the trouble with politics. You might say, The Republican take on the Middle East is incorrect. The Democratic policy wasn't that brilliant, either.
There is definitely a fight on. Am I scared any more than I was of being blown up by the IRA twenty years ago? I don't know. I was born in the middle of bombing. But who's the enemy? Maybe we are. Somehow, the Western world has pissed off some of the Eastern world. At the same time, these people have their own agenda, and I wouldn't give them the time of day. It's not my fight, but I'm caught up in it. We all are.
It IS a scary time. Since I wrote (Sweet Neo Con), London's gotten even scarier. Rain Fall Down is a song about London. It has a line, Feel like we're living in a battleground / Everyone's jazzed. That was in my head already. There were so many armed police in the streets. Walking around, seeing machine guns, is not how you imagine London to be. If we keep going down this track, we're not going to get back. The same feeling is in Back of My Hand: that we'll go too far, get away from our original values, and this overreaching imperialism will take us to a place where we eventually collapse.
I roll with the punches, and I think everybody else will. Things have changed. There's a lot of things in the air, including bodies. And it's not the way to get along, is it? And something has to be done. Personally, I'd have a suicide bombers' convention and they can all blow each other up.
We're all invited to play God these days, to phone in and say what we think. There is an overload of information. I don't want to know a lot of this. People go, If it's available, why not have it? But how much can you eat in a day? You get obesity of the brain. People should do less: Eat less, watch less TV. Get out, walk the dog... As a species, we have to step up to the plate and say, Enough. We keep trying to put the nuclear thing back in the bottle: Wish we hadn't let that one out. Shit, it's too much for a guitar player to contemplate.
As a writer, it doesn't matter if you've got money or not. You do have to observe life as it is. You observe other people's lives as well as your own.
This business doesn't work (without sponsorship). The only accusation that can be levelled at us is that we opened the floodgates. I'm not that bothered about capitalism or politics, I just take a step back and wonder at the human condition. I make a deal, and if that means we can give someone the best show, so be it. I mean, it might be leading us straight to Hell for all I know, but I'm ready for that; I don't expect anything better.
Decreasing debts? It all seemed a bit nebulous to me. Plus I couldn't believe the amount of pressure, even from 10 Downing Street... I heartily applaud what they were trying to do, except that it was tied in with government policy, and I always try and separate politics and music. I mean, Bob (Geldof)'s a nice bloke and all that, but ultimately he's the one who comes off best, isn't he?
I've got strong opinions. I'm obviously very interested in the way that we conduct foreign policy in the West. It's one of my
interests, if not passions. So obviously I have opinions about it... There's been other social comment before from the Rolling Stones. This one's a bit more direct. Perhaps it's the times we're living in. I was being more direct than metaphorical. I think right-wing commentators get fed up with pop singers involved with anything but pop singing. But artists have responsibilities too. Everyone has responsibilities. As long as you don't bang on about it every day - because people get very bored with that. I think comment from artists, whether they are painters or any kind of creative people, is part of what you do.
I was a little worried about (releasing Sweet Neo Con) because, you know, the climate in America can be very narrow. When the Dixie Chicks made their remark, that was at the beginning of the war and I think things have changed a lot and people have got a much more different point of view. People are little more open-minded about people being critical, you know? A lot have changed their minds, and when a war first starts, everyone says, Oh, you've got to be patriotic and support it, you know? All that sort of thing, which is almost a uniquely American thing. Because if you don't want the war, then lots of people say, I don't agree with it. I'm not unpatriotic, I just don't agree with it. I think we've come to that point now... (It's different in Europe.) Just to give you an illustration, the (British) foreign minister - the equivalent of a Colin Powell - he resigned when Tony Blair (supported the war). He said, Well, I don't agree with it. And if you don't agree with it, then you have to resign. And he resigned, so there was all these people within the government who made their views very clear about it. I'm not saying they're necessarily my views, but it's just a different political system. But everyone's got their own way of doing things.
Everything seemed to be going pear-shaped, all the ideas and the theorizing, rather than the realpolitik of the situation. The theory of the situation seemed to be an impossible dream, this mixture of democratic theory with a large portion of evangelic fervor thrown in.
(T)he fact is that loads of changes are happening all the time - and that's a big change. There's more and more changes, and I think it's a bit confusing for a lot of people. I mean, if you'd gone into a coma 20 years ago and you woke up today and saw people talking on cell phones in their cars, you'd think the fuckin' world had gone mad. People walking around in circles trying to get a signal; laptops in planes.
Yes, we've gone from anger in the '60s to terror. But there's a lot of anger in terror. It all seeps in when you're writing now. It definitely influences you. Politics, terror, they're not easy themes to work. It's harder than ever. If the beat is good but the lyrics aren't up to snuff, it can sound puerile and trivial. It's a fine line. The trouble with rock music is that it tends to trivialize things unless you're very careful. Maybe it's just a convention of popular music, but I find it's much easier to write love songs than it is to write about the times we live in.
First off, don't do anything if there's not joy in it, a sense of exhilaration. A day is a day, and each one is going bye-bye, and you've only got so many more in front of you. Friendship is probably one of the most important things in life. Apart from your immediate family, it's about friends - the ability to make friends, the ability to forgive friends. And their ability to forgive you. It's just the ability to enjoy other people's company, really. Then you've got it all, man. The rest of it's gravy.
I was always brought up to be very hard-working. And after listening to Gordon Brown's speech this week I thought I was back in those days. All that stuff about the moral compass. But, yes, I suppose I do believe in the work ethic.
I disliked the idea of having these new casinos in Britain. I said to a member of the Labour government, Have you ever been inside a casino? Of course, he hadn't. They're not very nice. But I don't want to sound puritanical...
Like most English people I'm not a great believer. I've read Richard Dawkins' book and it's very persuasive. I'm more in awe of the universe and that's not really a belief in God. It's a belief in something. I don't have belief in the Holy Book. I don't think many English people do. My parents' generation weren't religious either. They were the rebels. Well, my grandparents were born at the end of the 19th century, which was when Britain was a nation of believers, and their children rebelled against that. The religious part of rebelling had already been done by our parents. We didn't have to bother about that..
Nobody set up rock & roll to fight an establishment. Tell it to Little Richard. Tell it to Elvis, tell it to Jerry Lee Lewis. Fight the establishment? Fuck it, we just wanted to be free. We wanted a job where we didn't have to say, Yes Sir, No Sir. We just thought (cultural commentators) were manipulating us, or spin whatever we did their way. I wasn't so interested in rebellion as a political thing. I just wanted space to move.
I think Keith's right about that. We didn't set out to do that, but we had rebellion thrust upon us, so to speak... We just played. We didn't have opinions. But suddenly we had to acquire opinions about everything, and deal with the fact that we'd been set up to play this role.
On to The 2010s