Late February-early March 2002: Keith Richards' home, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
May 13-June 7, 2002: Guillaume Tell Studios, Suresne (near Paris), France
Was & The Glimmer Twins
Chief engineer: Ed Cherney
Mixer: Bob Clearmountain
Released: September 2002
Original label: Virgin & ABKCO Records
Contributing musicians (new tracks): Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood, Darryl Jones, Chuck Leavell, Blondie Chaplin.
Street Fighting Man
The Last Time
Jumpin' Jack Flash
You Can't Always Get What You Want
19th Nervous Breakdown
Under My Thumb
Not Fade Away
Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?
Sympathy for the Devil
Mother's Little Helper
She's a Rainbow
Get Off of My Cloud
Paint It Black
Honky Tonk Women
It's All Over Now
Let's Spend the Night Together
Start Me Up
Beast of Burden
You Got Me Rocking
Fool to Cry
Love Is Strong
Keys to Your Love
Anybody Seen My Baby?
Stealing My Heart
Undercover of the Night
It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)
Losing My Touch
(It's the same tongue again w)ith a twist, yeah. It's commercial art. It's like doing ad mattes (?). You're trying to identify the album because it's supposed to be a mass-recognizable product. This particular album has a lot of very popular songs, so you want to identify it. You don't want it to be too obscure. Some albums you can be very obscure, you don't want to identify.
The last tour ended in 1999, and I thought, I probably won't get a phone call for about 18 months. And, sure enough, slightly after (18 months had passed), Mick calls up and goes, Do you think we should so something next year? I just wait for people to get antsy at home.
I'm taking the Stones to Paris and we're going to record. We don't really need to record, but they do need to play together before they go on the road. I don't care if we come out with nothing from two weeks in the studio, although I've never been in the studio with these boys and not come out with something. But to me, right now it's really important... that everybody get together and play - see what we come up with... Basically I'm taking them to boot camp. Sort of a long way 'round of saying they're going to hate these next few weeks.
For the new songs on Forty Licks I had spent time in the studio with Mick before we went over to Paris, helping him prepare demos of his songs. Mick likes to have the songs well worked out in advance.
I didn't have a lot to do with (the choosing of the songs). Everyone sent me their lists and some people get into it and I said, I'll just go with what the flow is, because you can start to get so greedy about them and you realize afterward that it didn't really matter. So I thought I'd let them do it and I just sort of watched the lists as they changed and said, Oh, that's the one that's come out the most favorite amongst everybody, so I went with that.
I generally stayed out of the selection process for Forty Licks because a lot of the tracks were from before my time... When it came to choosing the tracks for the half of the album that I HAD been involved with, I thought, I won't complicate the issue, though I did ring up Mick once and say Have you forgotten "Dance"? He said, Let's just run with the selection like it is; it's enough of a headache already and we've got a pretty good cross-section. Shall we just go with it? I said, Yeah, all right, but don't forget I said that - and Mick went, Yeah, we'll put it on the next one!
The only difference between us and the Beatles is that we're still going. So, unlike the Beatles' greatest-hits set  we felt we had to put on two or three new tracks in a "to be continued" kind of spirit. I didn't want it to be all just nostalgia. Also, I didn't want to turn up for rehearsals for this tour without having played together with everybody since the end of the last tour. That would have been a little too much - straight into Start Me Up all over again... Playing new music really tightens the band up. Getting everybody together for a month in Paris, I didn't mind if we came out with no tracks at all. But as it turned out, we came out with 30 tracks! On our very first night in Paris we got three tracks down. Everybody went, Yeah. Out of the 30 songs we recorded, we mixed four or five. We're still dickering between them right now, figuring out what will go on the album. But my strategy worked, I think. Everyone's got their chops together and they're really looking forward to this tour. It's not just a regurgitation. It's still a working band.
I think what's important to me is that I'm personally writing new songs and the band is cutting new songs. But there's no point pretending that the Rolling Stones is a new band. There's bits of you that would like to relive that. It's like being a novelist or a film actor. You think, Won't it be great when I burst on the scene with new new movie or novel, instead of being a veteran of 15 movies and 25 novels, and with this one, it's Surprise me.
If we came straight to Toronto (to rehearse for the tour) and hadn't played together since the last show of the last tour, then it would have been straight into the trench, without feeling like we'd done anything in between. I'm not saying they're finished or anything. But they are basic tracks. They just started piling out. And we've kept going ever since.
Things were ticking over quite nicely during those sessions. With the rift between Mick and Keith having healed up, I was quite happy that they were getting on and that the songs were flowing. I could sit back and concentrate on playing my best. Mick will pull me to one side and say, I want you to do a nice melodic part here, and he will even hum it for me, so that I can get a sense of what he has in mind. In fact he's done that ever since I've known him, and I will do the same for him vocally - Why don't you do this?, which he can either use or not.
I thought it was important to get the boys playing new stuff. When we were recording in Paris in May, I thought we might get 4 or 5 tracks down. We got 30.
My priorities were to do two new songs, that was my minimum. The fact that we got four is great.
I don't think people think about whether there's anything left in us. When you cut 28 tracks in a month, there's plenty in there. It's a matter of do you feel like doing it and, at any rate, what's the point of doing it and is there a reason, etc. But, in a way, it's so srange because we really just work like a band. You know, Let's make a record. There's no really sort of great strategy involved in any of this.
They're not old tunes that we dug up or even things that were relatively new. These are new new. Don't Stop is the single-y one. Stealing My Heart is more like garage rock with a hook. Keys to Your Love is kind of like a soul ballad, but not very slow. It has a kind of Beast of Burden tempo. And Losing My Touch is Keith singing a ballad. And that is very slow.
I daren't hardly say it, but it's probably the best Stones yet - at least for a long time. With the Stones, it usually takes two or three weeks to knock off the rust. Yet somehow, we were all well oiled. Something was right.
Slowly, those new songs will become part of the whole pattern of the band. At the moment, four new ones in the middle of all these old ones seems kind of radical. But play the record in a few years, and it will just be part of the fabric.
(W)e've got (new tracks) in the can, and in a way I'm going to try to work on them and see if there's an album in there or the beginnings of an album or what. It seems like there's a lot there and it was a very profitable and prolific month in Paris, so I'm not going to just let them sit in the can and forget about them. But at the moment I can't do anything but this. But once this tour gets going, maybe I'll find some time to start working on them.
I don't remember how much is actually finished. When the tour gets to be like clockwork, we can work on some of the songs on the road.
We went there, in Paris, to do 6 songs, and we ended up doing 25. Like, we have another new album in the making, if you like, out of the Paris sessions. I would say it wouldn't take more than a few months to do the final vocals and mixing. There's not much needs doing to the basic tracks - you know, maybe an overdub here and there - but if we were forced, we could have it out in a couple of months.
(We recorded) 28 bits: 28 songs is pushing it, wouldn't that be nice? But there's a lot of great ideas, we've got a lot of stuff for an album that could come afterwards. Maybe with technology we could finish it on the road, like we did with Stripped.
We recorded a lot of material in Paris in 2002... We came away with (28) songs. We had the basis for a while for a new album, but we didn't have time before we got caught up in the Forty Licks tour to do the overdubs and polish the songs off.
The selection is daring (Fool to Cry, Happy, Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby). The pacing is brilliant, kicking off with the bang-bang-bang punch of Street Fighting Man, Gimme Shelter and Satisfaction. And the four new songs? Their toughest rock in years, especially Don't Stop, a plea for emotional rescue, and Keith Richards' piano ballad Losing My Touch, which he isn't... (T)he music here is full of danger and surprise. Thrill to the Keith vs. Brian Jones guitar battle in the final minute of It's All Over Now. Savor the self-parodic machismo of Under My Thumb, where Mick Jagger flounces like a Siamese-cat-whipped gigolo over Bill Wyman's swishiest bass and Jones' cocktail-lounge marimba. Those torn and frayed harmonies. That Charlie Watts kick drum. It's all here. (5 STARS)
Forty Licks, like Elvis' 30 #1 Hits, is a career-spanning compilation that wouldn't have happened without the unprecedented, blockbuster success of Beatles 1. Where Elvis' set is hurt by the simple fact that there are too many damn Elvis comps on the market, the Rolling Stones benefit greatly from the fact that there has not been any set that chronicles all their recordings from the '60s through the '90s. It also benefits that this is the concept behind the record - it's meant to be a journey through their biggest songs, not just the number one hits... (There is) almost every Stones song of note to feature on this collection, along with four new songs (not great, but solid songs, all)... Yes, the Stones made great albums that should be in any serious rock collection, but if you just want a summary of their best moments, Forty Licks is it; it does its job as well as Beatles 1 did. (5 STARS)
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