PART IV: The Nineties
My great thing against suburban life was that it was, first of all, petty, and secondly, indirect, boring, based on consumer values, at best unambitious, and full of tittle-tattle and jealousies and things like that... I was trying to look for a music that wasn't a reflection of that society.
I don't think I'm strict (with my children), but you know if they get really out of line you owe it to them to try and pull them back a bit... When my older daughters were younger, you know, people used to ask me if I was really worried about sex and drugs and this, that, and the other. But my children were nowhere near as rebellious as I was, or as rude. The thing you learn about children is that they are people in their own right, and you can't really do an awful lot with them. You can't change them. And when they rebel, you have to put yourself in their position. Parents I know ask me, What shall I do with so-and-so? and I say, I remember what YOU were like. You were a complete drunk and out of your mind. So what are you so worried about? Children have to go through a period of going crazy. I mean, of course, you don't want it to end in DEATH (laughs). That's kind of the limit, death. I don't want it to go THAT far.
I think people find it very hard to accept multifaceted people. That you can be a person who has children but yet you can go out and get wild and crazy and mad and drunk, and then you can go out on the road and be completely sober because that's what you have to be. And so on and so on. I don't find life quite so simple, that everyone's just got these tiny personalities and they can only behave in one kind of way. For instance, if you speak to Jacob Rothschild, you're a part of the gentry. And then if you get drunk you're an alcoholic, and if you don't drink you've completely changed. People find it very hard to accept that you can be all these things at almost the same time.
I don't give a SHIT about gardening. And wine? I think wine is so BOring. There's red and there's white and I think there's pink. And they all taste good, and they all make you drunk. Nor am I interested in decorating, nor am I interested in collecting, in the slightest. The people that I pay to do those things all like to SAY I'm great at it, but that's because they think I'll pay them more!
It's so long since I've been doing this. I've never done anything else. I've never been a welder or a teacher. I mean, I've led a very strange life. But you can't take any notice of people who say you're wonderful. You just laugh. And then you read the ones who say how bad you are, and you laugh at them too. You laugh at both ends of the spectrum. I certainly wouldn't claim anything extraordinary and wonderful for myself. You just do what you do. And you amuse yourself in the process.
Give me a tribe's music, and I'll tell you how they live, what they smell like, almost. That would give me more information than talking to them or looking at 'em... This is why the Iron Curtain went down. It was jeans and rock & roll that took that wall down in the long run. It wasn't all those atomic weapons and that facing down and big bullshit. What finally crumbled it was the fuckin' music, man. You cannot stop it. It is the most subversive thing. I was so surprised when we started getting busted. What have they got a hard-on against a rock & roll band for? And we're being perceived as some social threat to the world! Now I realize they were hipper than I was - where they got unhip was in their way of dealing with it - but they sussed it before I did: This shit could change the balance of the world... And when all of this shit went down in Europe the last few years, that's when I realized it. No wonder they were a litttle uptight, because they saw more of the potential than I did at the time.
The music is bigger than all of us. What are we? We're just players, no matter how good. If you're a Mozart or a fucking Beethoven or Bach, all you are is just one of the best. If you're an Irving Berlin or Gershwin or Hoagy Carmichael - or if you're Herbie Hancock, God forbid - everybody's got their spot in this.
To me, music's meaning to people is one of the great mysteries. Forget economics, democracy or dictatorships or monarchies. To me, the most fascinating relationship is between people and music and how it can do what it does with no apparent sweat. Who knows what it can do? It's a beautifully subversive language because it can get through anything. I don't care if it's porous or bomb-proof or has a Star Wars shield over it - music will get through. That's my experience.
(F)ame. That can screw you up. People come up and ask me about this and that, and I say, You're talking to a madman. I mean, my view of the world is totally distorted. Since 18, I've had chicks throwing themselers at me, and by a miracle, I turned the little teenage dream into reality like that (snaps fingers). God knows how. And therefore my view is gonna be distorted, at the very least.
No. The world was such a straight place (in the '60s) that you could be subversive very easily without even wanting to. I don't think we wanted to be subversive.
I'm not in love with (music) at the moment. I was never crazy about Nirvana - too angst-ridden for me. I like Pearl Jam. I prefer them to a lot of other bands. There's a lot of angst in a lot of it, which is one of the great things to tap into. But I'm not a fan of moroseness... I don't think any of these bands would claim to be daringly different. But it's heartening to return to live music, heartening for people like me in a band. It's a very traditional thing to return to. It revalidates the original form that we fell in love with.
(I)'s great fun, dressing up and being this figure... When asked about the Rolling Stones, (John Lennon) said, I like the butch stuff, and I don't like the faggy stuff. But you don't want to be butch the whole time. It would drive you mad, wouldn't it?... In rock & roll, when I think of both sides of the coin or whatever you want to call it, I don't really think of Elton John. He doesn't spring to my mind, somehow. His appearance is flamboyant, always, but I don't think of him as a feminine stage persona.... (R)ock & roll mostly is a very butch thing, and it appeals to one hard side of the masculine character. But I don't think the Rolling Stones are only a rock band. They can be other things. They can be very feminine... Which tends to be overlooked because we don't show it that much because of the nature of the gigs.
I think that it's very important that you have at least some sort of inner thing you don't talk about. That's why I find it distasteful when all these pop stars talk about their habits. But if that's what they need to do to get rid of them, fine. But I always found it boring... It's wearing. You're on all the time. As much as I love talking to you today, I'd rather be having one day where I don't have to think about me. With all this attention, you become a child. It's awful to be at the center of attention. You can't talk about anything apart from your own experience, your own dopey life. I'd rather do something that can get me out of the center of attention. It's very dangerous. But there's no way, really, to avoid that.
Of course we're against war, everyone - I don't know anyone really apart from the very few people that are very pro-war. And yes it's a really worrying thing and I think the war in the former Yugoslavia has been horrible. Plus there's been total inaction from the rest of the world really. And the people that one always looks to for action have really failed to agree, failed at having any decisiveness, one way or the other you know. So it's been really three years of worse and worse mess. Which is obvious... It's just gone from bad to worse.
I have a very different attitude now (about rock music than when I started). It's 40 years old. I still love performing it, but it's no longer a new, evangelical form. It's still capable of expression, and it's capable of change and novelty. But it's not as exciting for me. It's not a perfect medium for someone my age, given the rebelliousness of the whole thing, the angst and youth of it. In some ways it's foolish to try and re-create that.
Our concerts do have a lot in common with sporting events. I mean, they're held in the same places. And they have this kind of feeling. Obviously, what's lacking is the competition aspect, but there is a certain amount of the same feeling - that you're always present at the event. You know, the event is important. I was at Super Bowl XVII or whatever, and I don't even remember who fucking played, but you were there. You might not remember what songs the Rolling Stones played when you saw them in the Astrodome, but you were there.
(C)hicks are endlessly fascinating to me. They're always an education. I can have a load more fun with chicks than with a bunch of guys. When men are left to their own devices, they're always jousting, trying to put one over on each other in a boring, macho way. But women have a different point of view on things and they're not afraid to point out that I've been behaving like an asshole. And I kind of like that. See, I've discovered over the years that the feminine heart is very warm. And guys have to learn to understand it. But a lot of guys, they're so hung up on the idea of being male that they don't stop to realize that you have to work at it to know what it's all about. Even then, you don't really understand them. One of the things I like to do, if I have the time, is listen to chicks talk. What are they really on about? What are they saying about us? A lot of good songs come out of that.
It would be nice to have another shot. Instead of me being a rock singer, I could have done something else. You hope you've done something right, you've spent an awful long time on it, so you better be bloody right. Did you waste a lot of time? Yes, you've wasted a lot of time. Did you use your intellectual and physical gifts? Yes and no. Because I don't think rock and roll is as intellectually taxing as other things. It's not particularly challenging. So you get intellectually lazy. I don't think anyone is ever satisfied with what they've done.
(From 1963 to 1966 w)e worked live 350 days a year, making records in between as well. Four years of non-stop grind. Loved every minute of it. But even at that age you can wear yourself out, given the amount of female company we had. Jesus, those were the days. It was all free and no danger then. It's different now, man. I would hate to be a rock and roll star just starting off now. Get laid and you're gonna get AIDS, baby. You can't do what we did.
(Blues is) one of the most fascinating forms of music I know, and I listen to a lot of styles. It's such a honed-down form... It's probably the most important thing that America has ever given to the world... (The African-derived music forms speak to us because i)t's bones. 'Cause probably we all come from Africa. We just went north and turned white. But if you cut anybody open, bones is white and blood is red, man. It's kind of deep, you know. And I think maybe it speaks to us in that way. Ancient bone marrow responding to the source. That's the only one I can come up with.
(I'm a spiritual person), but not religious. Spirit is all around me. Very much. That's why I did the Wingless Angels album: very spiritual music. But mine is a very nebulous spirituality. I wouldn't care to put a name on it (laughs). I don't want to place any bets. Religion is too much like Las Vegas. Oh, you picked the wrong god. Sorry, it's Allah. I prefer to take the larger point of view. Hey, give thanks and praises, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are.
I like hanging with black people, man. It's so much easier. They think I'm one anyway, I'm just in disguise. I've spent half my life hanging in back rooms with black guys. They accept me, I don't think about it. I find there's a lot less tension in the air. They're less self-conscious. Hanging around white people, there's always a little tinge of stress. To me, the other side of the tracks is where I can really rest.
I suppose you get to accept the fact that you're now covering several generations, that the focus of what the band does and touches now is so much more diffuse. You look out at the audience and you're seeing your whole life before you. It's not so concentrated as it used to be, and that sort of spreads the angle of who you're touching.
Of course we do (need a sponsor like Sprint's money). We need Sprint to put ads on TV. We need to sell tickets. If we only sell 80% of our tickets, it's a flop. We have to sell up to 90%. You should really talk to Mick about this, because I get bored with it. But the standard we've set - you people in the press would love it if the stadiums were only 75% full. So we go for 90%, and we need all the help we can get... It's not like we work for them.
To me, the biggest thing America had done this century - apart from throwing its weight around - was its music. A whole brand new way, with so many different elements put together that never had a chance to be welded before. And it's still going on, of course.
I don't know if it's just to do with rock & roll or if it's inverted racism in a way. If I happened to be black, if I was Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker or Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ray Charles, nobody would even bring (age) up.
You mean erase both of the world wars and the Depression, the destruction of the ecosystem of the planet with a wave of the hand? Well, there's a start.
I've always felt that there's a slight racial bias because if you're white you're not supposed to do it. If I was black, nobody would go on about how old I was, they'd say wonderful that he's still going. They wouldn't go on about thinning hairlines and wrinkles and all that crap.
On to The 2000s