Late November-December 1983: Barbados
March 31-April 15, 1984: Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas
Mid-May-June 17, 1984: Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas
Late July 1984: AIR Studios, London, England
Mid-September-November 1984: The Power Station, New York City, USA
Mick Jagger, Bill Laswell/Material and Nile Rodgers
Chief engineers: Dave Jerden, James Farber & Bill Scheniman
Released: February 1985
Original label: Columbia Records (CBS)
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Eddie Martinez, Bernard Edwards, Herbie Hancock, Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar, Bill Laswell, Bernard Fowler, Nile Rodgers, Rob Sabino, Aiyb Dieng, Guy Fletcher, Anton Fig, Pete Townshend, Chuck Leavell, Wally Badarou, Anton Fier, Ray Cooper, Michael Shrieve, Steve Ferroni, Fonzi Thornton, Daniel Ponce, Lenny Pickett, Alfa Anderson, Jan Hammer, Colin Hodgekinson, Tony Thompson, Rabbit, Ron Magness, G. E. Smith.
Lonely at the Top
1/2 a Loaf
Running Out of Luck
Turn the Girl Loose
Just Another Night
Lucky in Love
She's The Boss
I could do all kinds of things. I could go very commercial - very, VERY commercial American pop. Or I could go for just ordinary, straight rock and roll, in an English way. Or I could mix it up: some very... you know, some HITS, and some things that are a bit more experimental. Outside of this kind of mainstream rock. More like the stuff Material does. Slightly left of the mainstream, you know what I mean? You could do some interesting things in that area. I have a lot of stuff. I think I'm gonna do it relatively soon.
I'm just going to start writing songs as soon as I get out of this (Rolling Stones') video stuff. I want to get back to writing some more, I really want to keep going, because I'm really in the middle of writing. If I can keep it going, keep up with the lyrics and write another 12 songs, I'd be very happy. If I can get half done by Christmas, I'll be so happy.
I had just finished doing the Stones album, and it hadn't come out; I'd just done a bunch of videos; and I just wrote a bunch of songs VERY quickly when I was in the Caribbean. So I did some demos, and the demos kind of worked well.
While I was writing the songs, I was thinking of videos. I was thinking visually a little bit more than normal... I think it's good... (W)hen you start to get a cinematic approach - when you have something down, and you think about it - it does bring certain images... You know, Lucky in Love and Running Out of Luck? Before, I would maybe had had to change it: Oh, I can't have two songs with luck. I use that, so that becomes a kind of slightly thematic thing, if I want to use that for a video.
You have certain things inside, ideas. You get them out on an album like Undercover. They were expunged. Subconsciously I probably thought, I've done that. Now I'll go back to doing songs about personal relationships. But it's not quite conscious. Songwriting is a strange thing because you don't know what you're going to write. You sit there with a guitar and what comes out comes out. Now you don't have to USE what comes out. You can have 20 songs and use the 10 that are about personal relationships.
Atlantic (Records) would just say, OK, we have another Stones album, and then wait 18 months. Whereas CBS would say, Hey, Mick, you know, we want you to do two solo albums. So I thought, Wow, they really want me to do it. OK, I will.
It wasn't from any great frustration. I was, you know, feeling in the mood for it, and I thought, Stop TALKING about the solo record you MIGHT do one day. I didn't think about it much, to be honest. I just went ahead and did it.
Keith and I have been producing our stuff for a long time. I felt strongly that I couldn't be a solo artist and also have the responsibility of producing the record. I thought I'd like to use outside producers, and just for fun maybe more than one. In the last couple of years it's gotten fashionable to use more than one producer. Artists like to be perfectionists; it's not unknown to spend six months making a record. A lot of producers want to work on other stuff, and who can blame them? I thought it would be very good to try it with two very different people: Bill Laswell and Nile Rodgers.
Bill (Laswell)'s a real kind of thinking guy - I like the stuff he did. Obviously, I didn't want to make a hip hop record, and Bill wanted to make a rock and roll record. And so we sat around, talked about musicians, and the idea sort of fell into place. And then Nile (Rodgers) was working with Jeff Beck on his album. So then when he finished that, I said, Maybe it's good to do some tracks with Nile. And I'd written a few different songs. I said to Bill, I'm going to play them to him, and it went from there.
More and more these days, popular music is recorded in layers. My album isn't really like that. The album's done in layers, but not as many. It's not like starting with a drum program and adding a computer program. With programs you can do it all yourself, you can avoid any communication. This is more or less a live record, done with a small group and then added to. You've got to communicate with that small group. You don't have to TALK, but gestures are very important. It's like in dancing. That's always been my thing.
I started off with Sly and Robbie and all the people I knew, really. We had Jeff Beck, and we had Jan Hammer at the beginning, and then I had Chuck Leavell and Eddie Martinez - he's a guitar player. So that was sort of the beginning, and then later on we had Michael Shrieve on one track. And on the ballad, we had Tony Thompson - he was with Chic. Herbie Hancock did some overdubs. And Pete Townshend played acoustic guitar.
There was much more DISCUSSION in Mick's solo project than in the Stones, where you establish a groove and play.
I didn't expect it to be as OPEN as what came out. I didn't realize that Mick had such an amazing sense of poetry in his conception of music. He gets you to bring out what he wants from the music with gestures or sounds of facial expressions. I'm used to that from jazz players. When there's no way to describe it in terms of notes, if it has to do with a certain kind of FEELING, I'm accustomed to hearing jazz players describe music in terms of something visual, or a gesture or movement they'll make right in front of your face. Mick has the same kind of creative openness. It's from exactly the same place. If he wanted a certain mood, the way he might describe it to me is to lift up his shoulders and TIP-TOE. If he wanted the sound to open up like ooOOWAHHH! he'd make that sound with his mouth and a facial gesture. Wayne Shorter does that. Wayne has that poetic, creative way of describing music. YOU have to use your creative sense in order to follow it. Mick reminded me of that.
Just from hearing Mick play, you can tell he's been with Keith so much. You can hear Keith's influence in the way he'll voice certain chords or the way he feels things. You have to think about the way Mick is feeling to really lock in with him. Mick would play along a rhythm pattern; the way he would lock in and swing with it was an important thing about the sessions. The tracks really had to swing. It might have been perfectly in time as far as the tempo, but that's not the same as a track being in time and SWINGING. Mick was able to communicate with the guitar by showing us rhythmically what he was hearing. He's a pro, man. He's something else.
(Mick) played on all the tracks we did. I really liked a lot of Mick's guitar playing and wanted to keep it, but Mick's not all hung up like that.
(My guitar tracks) weren't needed. There was enough guitar on there. Once I've got the band in the right groove and you've got two guitar players, you don't need three. If there's only one other guitar player, I'll play - but I can always get someone to come in later, play my part over and get a much cleaner, better sound. I don't mind.
(Jeff Beck was v)ery patient. And very hard-working. I went home at like two in the morning, and he was still there. That's not bad.
(E)ven though I got the demos down, it didn't matter, because the guys that I worked with were very involved. They weren't going, (bored) Oh, yeah, thanks... In that way, it wasn't really that different from working with the Stones.
I'm ALWAYS pretty meticulous. If anything I'm TOO meticulous. I've been known to remix too much and lose a groove. I didn't find I had to verbalize that much more (than with the Stones). I mean, the Rolling Stones are musicians too. I still have to verbalize with them. I still have to explain that this song has this mood. As a singer and a writer, or co-writer, I find that it's often my responsibility to say, Look this song is very aggressive or This is a touching sequence. They don't want to know what the words are, but they want to know what the MOOD is... With the Rolling Stones or with any group of musicians I think it's my job - if I write the material, interpret it, produce it - to communicate that. Then you can let people play around that.
If you want to do a vocal over, you want to try to do it differently. But sometimes the difference is quite fine. On this record I was being asked by both Nile and Bill to go hard. I can go hard, but there's a point where it gets too hard. The other thing is doing back-ups and doubles and all that. I'm not a very good harmony singer, but if someone points me in the right direction I'm usually OK. I enjoy doing layers and things. On some of the stuff I sing one voice, but you do need some layers. I try to be excessive because when you do the mix you can always take it off, just use one little part.
It was hard to hear Jagger's voice and not copy Keith Richards' guitar sound (laughs). When Mick stars singing you immediately want to go (hums riff to Start Me Up). When Mick would hear us doing that he would say, Hey, come on guys! If I wanted it to be like that I could do a Stones record! And he was absolutely right.
I knew it was never going to sound like the Rolling Stones, and the great thing about it was the mystery: I was throwing elements together, and I didn't know what was going to happen - nor did the musicians. And they were having fun. All of them were really up for it.
I'd be real happy if it does well. I'd be happy if people like it and they like the kind of direction - if they appreciate it and they just enjoy the record. I hope it sells, but you can't guarantee. I've been around long enough to know that.
First off, I thought it should've been something that he REALLY wanted to do that he couldn't POSSIBLY do with the Stones. I thought the timing was strange, bringing out something like that, an obviously commercial record, just as we were starting to record this album. I mean, if it'd been his favorite Irish folk songs with a lady harpist - something you couldn't do with the Stones or anybody else, something you've been DYING to do for twenty years and really want to get off your chest - then fine. You know, Liberace accompanying you on Frank Sinatra songs, whatever (laughs). I did talk to him about it, told him it was dumb timing and not an inspired piece of work... To my mind a Mick Jagger solo album should've been GI-NORMOUS, not just another record. I said to Mick at the time, Why don't you leave this year to Prince and Jackson and Springsteen? Cut a few tracks here and there, work at it slowly until it's finished? Why make yourself a deadline when you don't have to?
I was less clear before; it was very much a learning experience. Though the first album has validity, I think.
(T)here are differences between She's the Boss and the ever more ironic, ever more complicated output of the Rolling Stones. Even with Jagger's out-front singing, in that remarkable accent that melds upper-and lower-class Britspeak with some imaginary Deep South drawl, no one is likely to mistake She's the Boss for a Stones album. But Jagger has opted for a hot dance record rather than a confession... But the more Mick changes, the more Mick remains the same. Like the last six or seven Rolling Stones albums, this is the work of a character who can't decide whether or not he likes his self-made cartoon. With Undercover, Mick had me believing that he and the Stones were reconsidering, almost repenting, their old equations of sex and violence and fun; that they did, indeed, think there was too much blood. She's the Boss steps back into coyness... The grooves are basic Jagger rock, not as cool or metallic as Laswell on Rockit, nor as jazzy as Nile Rodgers on Let's Dance or Like a Virgin. In their own ways, though, Laswell's six songs and Rodgers' three (all coproduced by Jagger) are muscular and tricky... Still, unlike a major Stones album, which yields more ideas and ironies as you live with it, She's the Boss just gets more danceable. It doesn't challenge the legend of Mick the Stone, doesn't get outrageous or scary the way Undercover did, doesn't leave me with much more than a chuckle and a beat. It's an album from one of rock's nastiest, wittiest, most unsettling characters – and for all its nifty musical details, it sheds more heat than light on Mick Jagger. (4 STARS OUT OF 5)
It's hard to imagine a record which better highlights the singular contributions of one Rolling Stone - too bad it's Keith Richards. Without his alter ego's crunching chord patterns, Berryish rhythmic swing and in-your-face four bar hooks, Mick Jagger's She's the Boss remains a blues-rock LP, but one whose overall conception often seems as unfocused as the shot of middle-aged Mick on the album's cover. The problem is not one of commitment... Indeed, Mick sounds far more involved with his material here than on any Stones album since Some Girls, though its themes, typically devoted to his foibles with women, are hardly more profound...(Y)et, lacking songs with any real melodic fiber and/or provocate lyricism, Jagger has little choice but to try...
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