The Times UK M. Jagger Interview

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The Times UK M. Jagger Interview

Post  edygee on Mon Sep 19, 2011 7:27 pm

Mick Jagger: there won’t be an autobiography
Paul Sexton
September 19 2011 12:01AM

The 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones is not the time to be going over the past, the band’s frontman says
A year is a long time in rock’n’roll. It’s been almost 12 months since The Times serialised Keith Richards’s autobiography Life, in which he described Mick Jagger, his friend and collaborator of 50 years as “unbearable”, scorned his decision to accept a knighthood and suggested that the singer’s manhood was on the modest side of manly.
As the slanging match extended to their respective friends and family, one of the greatest creative partnerships in the history of British rock music was reduced to a jibe about the dimensions of Sir Mick’s allegedly “tiny todger”.
Jagger’s former wife Jerry Hall put Richards’ dig down to sheer jealousy. Richards himself, talking to me at that time at his house in Connecticut, explained that he was writing not about their current relationship but the famous breach of the 1980s, when Jagger chose to make a solo record rather than tour with the Stones. Richards told me of his pride in overcoming their differences, it made them a “real band”, he insisted, but the damage was done. Still, Jagger, the gentleman rock star, would not be drawn. Those close to him disclosed that he was deeply upset by the book, but he kept his counsel, refused an offer from this paper to put across his side of the story, and continued working.
Today, in one of the more modest suites in the Dorchester Hotel in central London, he breaks his silence. Looking healthy and relaxed in a sharp, pink jacket and crisp shirt, he talks enthusiastically about SuperHeavy, his new “supergroup”, but also dissects his relationship with “’im indoors”, the one who calls Jagger “Brenda,” among other rather less affectionate names. Keef.
Have the events of the past year made Jagger consider restarting his own autobiography, which he abandoned with claims it was “too boring”? “No,” he says decisively. “I don’t particularly want to rummage through my past, it’s bad enough rummaging through Some Girls,” he laughs. “I think it’s a damaging psychological exercise, to be honest.
“It’s very long and involved, and I’d rather be living more in the present. You can’t really do both at the same time. I mean, I enjoy some people’s memoirs, I enjoyed Dirk Bogarde’s. I thought they were rather wonderful, and done with such a light touch, and rather literary. And,” he adds pointedly, “obviously written by himself without a ghost writer.” Richards co-wrote Life with the writer James Fox.
He continues. “But the celebrity bio thing is not a genre that particularly takes my interest. Some people have a talent for literature. I’m attracted to literature rather than scuttlebutt.” For those still unclear about Jagger’s thoughts on Richards’ publishing opus, “scuttlebutt” is slang for rumor or gossip. Sailors would chat and gossip around the scuttlebutt, a cask of water, much as you might nowadays around a water cooler. Job done, he moves on.
“When you do fresh things like this, it’s a lot easier,” he says of the SuperHeavy project, clearly happy to have shaken off the shackles of fronting the most famous band in the world. “People, outsiders, might say ‘Oh, I wish he’d go and do this!’, which is more or less a repetition of what you’ve done before. But for the artist, it’s always good to do something fresh.”
Jagger had arrived back in the UK three days earlier from the house in the Loire Valley where he spends most of his time living quietly with his girlfriend, the American fashion designer L’Wren Scott. The day before our meeting, all four Stones had been photographed leaving a London office, giving rise to a new round of enthusiastic scuttlebutt about reunions and rapprochements.
Is there a glimmer of reconciliation between the Glimmer Twins? “Well, I really don’t see much of him,” says Jagger of Richards. “The rest of us are all here [in London] quite a lot, and although he comes here occasionally in the summer, I don’t think any of us see him much. He lives in suburban Connecticut.”
The summit was inconclusive: “We were talking about the 50th anniversary. There’s lots of things to do on the anniversary. My worry is there’s going to be too much stuff.”
Plans are afoot to mark the band’s first gig as the Rolling Stones, on July 12, 1962. Can we expect a tour, or gigs, at least? “Well, we’re talking about it, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen,” Jagger says. “Listen, you could do anything you want if you put your mind to it. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. We’ll see.”
He’s had no financial need to work for decades, but the father of seven has an enduring work ethic and races from one deadline to the next with an energy that would exhaust even his youngest child — 12-year-old Lucas. But he knows that forming a new, and probably temporary, band of fellow millionaires is a soft target for critics.
SuperHeavy vocalist Joss Stone knows it too, as do co-producer Dave Stewart, Jamaican Grammy-winner Damian Marley and the Indian composer and musician, A. R. Rahman.
Miracle Worker, the first track to be aired, may invite accusations of cod-reggaeness, but it’s a catchy tune, and Jagger’s and Stone’s voices work well together on this and Energy. The latter also sports one of the skilled harmonica solos that Richards is always encouraging Jagger to do more of.
Jagger seems sanguine about the responses to it because it was fun.
“It could have gone either way,” says Jagger. “You might have come to the end of ten days and gone, ‘Well, really, we’ve got two things, this is going to take forever.’ But then we had so much, you realised after five days it was going to work, and it was very exciting.
“There is something to be said against the weight of history, I think,” he muses, assessing the inevitable comparisons between SuperHeavy and the band he’s been with for 49 years.
One can appreciate Jagger’s refusal to be defined by the Stones, especially, considering he hasn’t recorded a new album with them for six years.
Having interviewed Jagger a dozen times, the patterns emerge: when the Stones’ touring juggernaut parks up after two years or so of touring, he tends to launch into solo projects — largely derided by critics. But this time, the chance to be in a new band was too alluring to miss — and he had someone there to share the burden of being out front. “Dave said that was going to be the case. I didn’t really think about it but it was, even though the production stuff was a lot of work, and the people management thing. But the actual performing part of it wasn’t as much work as doing a Stones record. It just wasn’t as much singing. So it was a good project for me, in that way.
“I feel very comfortable being around her [Joss], and about being around Dave. Then with [the] other people, it’s not quite so easy, everyone’s got to have their space in the studio. There’s some parts of this record that are everyone all together and some parts that are more solo corners, if you want.”
Stone has said that she would love SuperHeavy to become a touring band. “I know, but she would,” says Jagger. “She does want to do it, but I don’t know if I see it like that. I kind of never thought we would do any gigs, I always thought it was a record.
“It would be difficult to do a tour like that, with an album that no one knows. How would you fill out the set? I wouldn’t be averse to doing a gig, I really wouldn’t, but a long tour . . .”
At 68, Jagger is as much a part of our collective consciousness as he’s ever been. I ask how he feels about being namechecked on not one but two recent No 1 songs, The X-Factor Cher Lloyd’s Swagger Jagger and Maroon 5’s US chart-topper, Moves Like Jagger, featuring Christina Aguilera.
“Oh yes! It’s kind of odd. Moves Like Jagger is seriously catchy. I can sing it for you if you want, but I’ll spare you that. I knew all about it, it wasn’t like a surprise to me. I know the band, I know Christina, I know the video director, and they kept sending me the video cuts with me in it. There was far too much of me in it in the first one, I was going ‘What about the rest of the band!’ So I cut out a bit of it.
“Then Maroon 5 asked me to come and do this show with them! What am I going to do? Sing it?” He laughs. “I don’t think I’m going to be there.”
Whatever next year brings, Jagger certainly appears to address the Stones’ past with more enthusiasm than their future. Last year’s deluxe reissue of Exile On Main St, for which he excavated various unfinished tracks and added new vocals for others, took the classic 1972 album back to No 1 here, and he’s just repeated the process for the November dusting-down of another cherished Stones album, 1978’s Some Girls.
“There’s 12 unreleased ‘bits’ from that year,” he says. “Some were finished and some I put little bits on, like guitar and harmonica. Most of the rest of the band had done [their parts, at the time], it’s just that my things were not finished, or they were little ideas I’d had while the track was being run.
“So I wrote lyrics to those and sung them in the spirit of ’78.” Even he laughs at the idea of mimicking his former self. “It’s easy, really. I’m very fortunate because my voice sounds almost exactly the same.”
Around the time of the Stones’ last studio record in 2005, A Bigger Bang, Jagger told me of his concerns that the album as a start-to-finish art form might be on the way out, a perceptive notion that has gained much more ground with the growth of the digital music market. So it’s all the more interesting to note his enthusiasm for the SuperHeavy album, especially as it’s unlikely to be supported by a tour. “That probably is still true. The golden period of the album probably went ages ago, it’s almost a memory,” he says. “But nevertheless, this SuperHeavy project is interesting as an album.”
So is the quest for fresh challenges making him less keen on the idea of new Stones recordings? “Yeah ... yes . . .” he starts, then, after a slight pause: “Though, I have been writing a lot for the Stones.” He catches my eye. Cats. Bags. “I mean, when I write, I go ‘Yeah, that could be a good Stones tune’ or ‘That’s not really going to work for that.’ I did some sessions with Charlie quite recently where I just played some songs I’d written, and of course I wrote more when he was there. I’d start making them up, so that was good fun, so we had a really good time doing that.”
Celebrity of an almost unequalled magnitude obscures the fact that Mick Jagger is, first and foremost, a musician, one who still wants to create things and have a good time doing so. “Once you’re in the control room going ‘Yeah!’ and having a drink at the end of the session, that’s when the cameraderie comes very quickly, when you get a result,” he says. “And it can dissolve very quickly when you don’t.”

SuperHeavy is released by Universal on September 19. The Some Girls album will be reissued in November

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