PART VI: The Teens
Haiti, obviously it's one of the most poor countries in the Western hemisphere. It's very close to the United States, really. It's had a long relationship with lots of countries that I've been involved with, you know, the United States, France. And it's like a desperately poor place. And when these terrible disasters happen in a very poor place, the result is magnified over and over and over and over what it would be in a country that is more accessible, with more infrastructure left and so on. So this is like a huge, massive disaster for one of the poorest, poorest countries - and it's so poor, it's very hard to describe how poor it is compared to all the other countries in our hemisphere... (The Haitians) have a wonderful spirit, they have an amazing attitude to life, a very vibrant culture, a very vibrant cultural life in music, in dance, poetry... carving, painting is amazing, so they have a very varied cultural life, but they've had terrible poverty that they've endured for hundreds of years since the independence of Haiti two hundred years ago. So they've had to endure a terrible lifestyle, mismanagement and so on, so this perhaps for Haiti could be the most terrible moment but it could also be a turning point where Haiti would get all the help it needs to restructure its society, so they can take advantage of the wonderful human resources that they have.
In 1971, I certainly wasn't thinking, Oh, it's a new page or The '60s are over. Because the '60s were very different at the beginning than they were at the end... (M)aybe some decades have that acceleration on, and others, not so much. I mean, we've had a lot of acceleration now. Technology is just incredible. God knows if we'll survive it.
The whole question of legalizing drugs is fraught... You usually try these things out in very small places... You know, like you try a new product out in a small kind of society or an island somewhere. And in England they always try out new mobile phones in Isle of Man. They've got a captive society. So I said, you should try - you should try the legalization of all drugs on the Isle of Man and see what happens. Human beings seem to have a propensity to want to take drugs in some form... It seems to be the propensity of human beings to want to use them... I think you have to take that as read, you know. But then what do you do when it affects so many people's lives, and not in a good way. And then also you get a lot of violence at both ends of the scope. So you get violence in some countries... which, like, we have in Mexico now, and you get violence at the other end of people trying to obtain drugs. That's the part that speaks to some sort of legalization. Because that, you would hope, would help the violence from both ends of the supply line.
I do find (Donald Trump) refreshing. He's cut through a lot of crap, and eventually... well, can you imagine President Trump? The worst nightmare. But we can't say that. Because it could happen. This is one of the wonders of this country. Who would've thought Ronald Reagan could be president?
I don't think you can heal racism with the stroke of a pen. Or even with a generation or two. It has to come organically, really. All I know is that I've had more fun with black people than with white people.
I like a good gun. I have a shotgun and a nice little antique thing that Don Was gave me. But I don't keep them around the house because I've got kids and grandkids running around.
Well, it's a pleasure to see no No Colored Here or White Only signs, which is what I saw when I first arrived. But obviously things that have been happening lately with Ferguson and Baltimore, and that's just the two obvious ones... One could say James Blake being hit last week is another pointer that you don't get rid of racism with the stroke of a pen. OK, that doesn't exist anymore! It's not that simple... Cops used to slap you around the ear and send you home. Now they shoot you... (O)bviously, it's going to be generations and generations before it actually becomes a fact rather than just a point of law. Folks is folks, and they're weird — in America, especially, maybe because nobody is quite sure where they come from. Everybody with their names — I'm Polish... Italian... — which is the great thing about this country: everybody comes from somewhere else. Except the poor Cherokees and the Apaches, which nobody bothers (with)... But this country is made of immigrants and people getting together and trying to live together, which is what I've, in my mind, always thought what America was great at — this acceptance of other people. At the moment, it's a little dodgy because some people want to build walls and stuff (laughs). I thought the whole idea of this country was no walls. America is an incredible experiment, really. You know? In historical terms, this is a flash in the pan. A couple hundred years ain't nothing. Especially next to my house in England that was built in 1450. Einstein got it right there — time is relative.
The greatest gift America gave, to me, was its music. Because it was a hybrid, immigrant-loaded community where everybody's stuff came together. To me, that's the real beauty of what America is capable of. It gave people music. The whole world listens to American music and maybe that coincided because of recording. Recording is an amazing thing. It's all built to capture a sound here and a sound there, but what it can capture is spontaneity, emotion, tears and laughter, and everything else and can all be translated via recording. And to me that's why I loved America! The chewing gum I never even got, but the music I got. That's what intrigued me.
(The music industry) used to be simple — you signed a deal with a record company and OK, there was one outlet and that was them. Now there's a million other ways. I think things are in a state of experimentation, flux. I don't say anything bad about it. It's a bit confusing to me. At the same time, I think music is something that will always be there. The enormous machine called the music business is a whole different kettle of fish.
It’s a very complicated subject and the thing about referendums - they should be very simple questions but this is a very complex one which a lot of people fail to be able to analyse. If you are running a very large company that has a huge trading zone within Europe, I can’t imagine any reason why you would ever want to leave. But I think it’s a really complex question to be answering a yes or no. I am sure it’s something that the Prime Minister wishes some nights he hadn’t thrown out there. I am not surprised at people wanting to leave, although I am surprised at certain people like Boris Johnson. It just shows you that across the board there is a very different opinion.
Meanwhile, we’re sitting here talking (puts on posh voice), Is Britain In or Out? Personally, I don’t give a damn. Personally, I’d invade France. I’d be very Henry VIII, I’d be Edward III about it (laughs).
I’m more interested in what other people feel about authority. There’s cameras everywhere. Big Brother has arrived, and we all think it’s for our own safety. Maybe it is, maybe it ain’t... I don’t know about a society where you all think you have to spy on each other. And I don’t want to get too deep, but I could live without religion. Everybody’s looking over their shoulder! There’s an element of fear. And certain guys have engineered it that way. Maybe it’s good to be frightened for a while, I don’t know. But it’s in the air, that element of fear... I’m used to cops, I ask for it – I don’t wish it on society. But it’s there, whether you wish it or not.
I don’t remember any (fan mail from Cuba in
the past). It’s very close to America, so the radio overlaps and
there’s a lot of exchange of music. People all knew about the Beatles
and the Rolling Stones and all that sort of thing, it wasn’t so cut
off. I mean, it was cut off, yes, and it was difficult to get things,
but so was Poland. People got things if they were that interested. We
went to Poland in 1966 (sic), that was a weird one. That was a much
more repressed state than Cuba.
But if you want to talk about the serious part, that was an amazing month in Cuba. You had the Pope, Obama, Major Lazer and then the Stones, all going there. But you’d have to ask Cuban people — I don’t know whether they’re feeling anything after that or not. It’s not a free place, you’re still not allowed to say what you would like, and you’re still not allowed to assemble, and you’re not allowed much internet access, just a little bit here and there. So it appears to the outside world that this is a liberated place. I don’t know the answer to that, I’m just positing the question.
In the other film we’ve made about Latin America, which is called Olé Olé Olé!, there’s a lot of that history. There was repression in a lot of the Latin American countries, because they were like right-wing military dictatorships. It also happened in Franco’s Spain, they banned rock & roll, and in the Soviet satellite countries and the Soviet Union, so Fidel Castro copied the Soviet Union’s banning of bourgeois, decadent music. That didn’t last forever.
Rock ‘n’ roll is just one part of the cultural jigsaw. You need all these parts, you need cultural and political exchanges on every level, and you need people to exchange their ideas. Popular culture, movies, music and television are all part of the dialogue.
Just was watching the news... maybe they'll ask me to sing You Can't Always Get What You Want at the inauguration, ha!
Everyone outside the U.S. is kind of... mystified. That's the polite word. (laughs)
Wow, that was quite mind-blowing watching from England as well, you know. Because we were all shocked and stunned with the Brexit thing and I thought nothing’s going to shock me now, you know.For all I know, Trump’s going to get in. Sure enough he did. (laughs) I was like, OK, there will be some changes made. (laughs) Hopefully they’ll be good ones.
I don't think he's going to be as radical as he was coming into it, yeah, making a big thing. So I think a lot of what he says is going to be tampered down. Because if it isn't it's going to be... have a bloody ride for 4 years (laughs). But we'll see. I mean it might be good, I don't know. I actually... I don't like politicians or politics. We've got to have them but I don't like them. I've never liked a politician in my life. I've never voted for anyone. I don't believe them (laughs) - so I've never voted for any of them.
I don't think eras end, they sort of fold and meld into each other. If rock & roll is at an end, when was the beginning? It's part of the blues, it's built into the musical framework of the world. If we're talking about fashion and all the other things, everything was rock for a while - you can't expect that to go on forever. But we'll see. We're going to be playing to several million people in the coming months, so I wouldn't call that dead.
That's about the level of the guy's manners.
(I voted Remain.) I thought, Well, they don’t need my vote, because we’re obviously gonna stay in. I’ll just consolidate it. Solidify it. Do my bit. And of course... That’s so annoying. And then Trump got in, and I thought, oh dear.
Right now? I’m not going to get into it because it’s not worth talking about. We all know what’s what. God help you (laughs).
I’m absolutely behind that. I’m glad they’re doing that because they’re the ones who are going to inherit the planet. We are in a very difficult situation at the moment, especially in the U.S., where all the environmental controls that were put in place — that were just about adequate — have been rolled back by the current administration so much that they are being wiped out.The U.S. should be the world leader in environmental control but now it has decided to go the other way.
We are going through a very strange time at the minute. And when you live at a strange time you know it’s a strange time but you don’t know what’s going to happen. Values are different. There’s more polarization and less civilit... I’m not sure I was always against civility, but when you see it now the incivility of political life which we see in so many countries including my own, especially this last week— and in other countries, particularly the U.S.— when you see this, it’s a bit of a sea change from what you were used to. I don’t mean that manners are everything. But the combination of all these things, where it’s going to lead us, is polarization, rudeness and lying.
On to The 2020s