Mick Jagger (pictured above at a Stones news conference in Munich in June 1998) called me from Toronto in October 1998 to discuss the Rolling Stones’ latest live album No Security. It didn’t sell and is now out of print. The record would have been OK if they’d covered up the hairy dude on the cover and scrubbed dreadful guest star Dave Matthews. Looking back on this interview, almost 15 years later, I must say it’s pretty goddamn amazing, especially the bit when we argue about what song Keith sang. I don’t know why Mick hasn’t talked to me since, though.
WHO CAME UP WITH THE NAME “NO SECURITY,” AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
I think I did. I was looking at this picture on the front … and it’s this couple out of the crowd and they look kinda like “Us and the world.” It looks like the life holds no security for anyone. I don’t know. It’s something in their faces. It was two people from the crowd. (He thought it was from somewhere in Germany)
DO YOU GET EXCITED ABOUT LIVE ALBUMS OR DO YOU CONSIDER THEM A NECESSARY EVIL FOR THE FANS?
I don’t think it’s an evil. I spent a lot of time thinking about whether one could do something that was different from the others. And I just thought that the song choice was kinda key to this, to put out slightly unusual songs. There’s some well—known songs, but none of them been out on live albums at least for 20—odd years, which is quite a long time.
THAT’S BECAUSE VIRGIN PROHIBITED YOU FROM USING STUFF FROM THE PREVIOUS ALBUMS, RIGHT (AS KEITH CLAIMED)?
No. They would have been happy if it was a load of more well-known ones. The only thing that Virgin cared about was that I got it done quickly so it could come out in the autumn. That’s all they worried about.
I KNOW YOU LIKE TO PROFESS IGNORANCE ABOUT YOUR OLD RECORDS, BUT EVERYONE CONSIDERS YA-YA’S! THE BENCHMARK —
— Oh, I know about that one. I know what’s on that one —
— OR SIDE 3 OF LOVE YOU LIVE —
— I have no idea what’s on that one! —
— THAT WAS THE EL MOCAMBO —
— oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
ARE THOSE UNFAIR COMPARISONS FOR NO SECURITY?
I have to put them on and listen to them. I think you’d be surprised probably when you put them on and you listen to the playing that you might be surprised to compare favorably this year’s playing with then. I think you might. But maybe you might not. I don’t know. I’d have to A & B this.
KEITH SAID HE WOULD LIKE TO HAVE HAD “ALL ABOUT YOU” ON THIS ALBUM. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE HAD?
“All About You?” What’s that?
THAT’S ONE OF HIS SOLO SONGS.
Oh, yeah, but he never did that one.
YES HE DID, THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE U.S. TOUR.
Nah. No, he didn’t. That must have been the Voodoo Lounge tour.
I WILL PUT MONEY ON IT.
Nah, nah, you won’t mate. He never did “All About You” on the Bridges to Babylon tour. He did every night “Wanna Hold You,” and then he alternated “Wanna Hold You” with the reggae one on Bridges to Babylon and “Thief in the Night.” He never did “All About You.”
Right? And I tell you, he did “All About You” on the Voodoo Lounge.
UMM, OK THIS IS GOING TO LOOK SILLY IN PRINT.
Ha-ha-ha!!! Did he say that to you in a recent interview?
WELL, I SAW A LOT OF THE AMERICAN SHOWS. I KNOW WHAT SONGS YOU PLAYED.
Nah, he only played “Thief in the Night” and “Wanna Hold You,” mostly, and then he sometimes did the reggae one, whose name I’ve forgotten temporarily because my brain’s dead (NOTE: “You Don’t Have to Mean It”).
WELL, THE FIRST COUPLE OF SHOWS, AT LEAST, HE DID “ALL ABOUT YOU” —
— Well, maybe he did then, but he didn’t continue it. And anyway, we have to record it as well!!
WELL HE SAID HE’S GOT IT IN THE CAN.
Oh well. There you go. (NOTE: “All About You” was performed 38 times on the 1997-98 tour)
SO WHAT SONG WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE HAD?
I got them all, all the ones I want. They’re all on there. These are the ones that I thought were good, interesting.
SO THIS IS YOUR RECORD?
No, not at all. This is a Stones record. I let everyone choose. I said, what do you think about this as an idea, that we don’t put on anything that was out on a record since and including Love You Live. They said that was a good idea because that really narrows it down and you’re not repeating yourself. So that came down to 20 tunes in the end. Plus, then the thing with Taj Mahal was for TV, and I thought that was really good. We got a lot of choices from Buenos Aires and various places where we played multiple shows, and then when we got to Holland where we had five shows there, we tried to figure out, we need to do this one again. Or what if we do “Live With Me,” and so on. We were much more analytical, so it was really a group effort. The only thing I did about that was I made this original criteria for not repeating “Brown Sugar” and so on.
WHY DID YOU DELETE THE REFERENCES TO ALI MACGRAW AND STEVE MCQUEEN IN “STAR STAR”?
I did new ones. I did new film stars. I can’t remember, Gwyneth Paltrow and so on. I just make them up as they come into my head!!
WHEN I INTERVIEWED YOU IN CHICAGO LAST SEPTEMBER, YOU SAID YOU WERE TAKING A VERY CONSERVATIVE STANCE IN TERMS OF PLAYDATES. WAS THAT APPROACH JUSTIFIED OR COULD YOU HAVE BEEN MORE AGGRESSIVE?
I think we pitched the right amount of shows. We did 107, I think, in the end. On the last tour we did 120.
IT SEEMED YOU ALMOST HAD A LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN YOUR ABILITY TO SUSTAIN YOUR DRAWING POWER?
The thing was it was a much less time gap since we’d been around. It was only three years, so that does change things somewhat.
I DETECTED A LOT OF EXHAUSTION WHEN I SAW YOU IN SCANDINAVIA AND ESTONIA, AND YOU COULD TELL BECAUSE THE SET LIST WAS VIRTUALLY UNCHANGED. IS THAT FAIR?
I was tired. But then I woke up again when we got to Moscow. I don’t change the set list a lot, sometimes I think when it’s not only myself but when people around me, everyone, is tired. I keep the same set list and then sometimes you have to kick in quite a lot of different ones to make everyone wake up again. So after a certain amount of times, OK I’m going to chuck in five different ones now.
AND THEN YOU KEPT ON ADDING DATES LIKE THE STOCKHOLM DATE?
We were going to play in Belgrade, but then we couldn’t because of the various wars, so we moved that one to Stockholm.
IT PROBABLY BECOMES A BLUR AFTER A WHILE BUT ARE THERE SPECIFIC SHOWS THAT STAND OUT AS BEING BETTER THAN THE REST?
Buenos Aires #4. I know this because of the recordings I listened to. That was a really, really excellent show. We had a great time. I think Bob Dylan was on that show also. That was a really good one, I remember. The Paris one (the day before his 55th birthday, below) was fantastically good, I thought.
YEAH, I LIKED THAT ONE
You were there? It was a nice day. It’s not only the band, it’s the day, the audience, the vibe, everything. It doesn’t mean to say you necessarily play best. But it’s certainly memorable. I think it was like my birthday almost. That was a good one. Ummmm.
DID YOU LIKE ANY OF THE AMSTERDAM ONES?
Nah, I wasn’t crazy about them.
IS THAT BECAUSE OF THE VENUE, I GUESS?
The venue and the weather. We couldn’t open the roof. The sound was all crummy because the roof didn’t open. I think if the roof had opened we would have sounded a whole lot better in there. It just sounded like a dome, it was awful. It was all right to play for one night, but to play for five…
YEAH, BECAUSE YOU HATE MULTIPLE NIGHTS AT THE BEST OF TIMES
I actually enjoyed playing at the Feyernoord Stadium in Holland for multiple nights. It’s much more fun. In a way it was good we didn’t because it was so cold and unpleasant outside.
THE AUDIENCES IN EUROPE ARE SO FANATICAL, ESPECIALLY IN NORTHERN GERMANY…
Yeah, but also in the south as well, Spain and so on are very good. The one in south of Poland (pictured below) was great. Did you go to that one?
NO, I RAN OUT OF MONEY AFTER ESTONIA
Ha-ha! I’m trying to remember. It’s easy to forget them. It is a different audience.
I LIKED GELSENKIRCHEN FOR SOME REASON.
I can’t remember that one. I know where it is but I can’t remember what it was like. There’s nowhere to stay much in Gelsenkirchen, as you probably
SALES OF BRIDGES TO BABYLON WERE ABOUT 900,000 IN THE U.S. WERE YOU A BIT DISAPPOINTED WITH THE WAY VIRGIN MARKETED IT?
I think they were more than that. I just had all the numbers… It’s always nice to sell more, I think, so I’d like to sell more records, but it’s not so bad. The final total is not so bad. I got it the other day.
WHAT WAS THE WORLDWIDE TOTAL?
I can’t tell you, sorry!
YOU’RE IN TALKS FOR ANOTHER TOUR. WHAT ARE THE ISSUES YOU’RE DISCUSSING AT THE MOMENT WITH MICHAEL COHL?
Where we’re gonna go. We’re doing the dates that we didn’t do in England, so we gotta do that in the summer anyway. He’s talking about doing some dates in North America, but not that many, maybe 20 … sometime this winter, next year… I really don’t know where we’re going because I’m just in the middle of doing it.
WILL YOU CALL IT THE NO SECURITY TOUR?
IF YOU’RE PLAYING SMALLER VENUES DOES THAT ALLOW YOU TO TAKE MORE CHANCES WITH THE SET LIST?
Yeah … It won’t be the same set list (as the Bridges to Babylon tour). I haven’t really thought about the set list, but if you’re doing smaller places it’s just easier to do whatever songs you want.
I WAS INTERESTED THAT THE BRIDGES TO BABYLON SHOWS AS A WHOLE HARDLY HAD ANY SLOW SONGS AT ALL, AND THE HOME STRETCH AFTER THE B-STAGE WAS TOTAL FULL-THROTTLE, WHICH BECAME A BIT NUMBING AFTER A WHILE.
Yeah. Well we did sometimes “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at the end. We did like one ballad when we were doing “Anyone Seen My Baby” (sic) which became not very ballady … But no one seemed to really mind. Sometimes people did say why don’t you do a ballad and we did at odd times “Memory Motel” and stuff like that.
DID YOU EVER THINK “SAINT OF ME” AND “OUT OF CONTROL” WOULD BE SUCH SHOW-STOPPERS?
No, I didn’t. I knew they were good in rehearsal, but you never know what they’re going to be like in public. It’s all very well doing them in a room in Toronto, but doing them on the stage… They sorta seemed to get bigger as we went on. When we started off doing them in Chicago, or wherever we first did them, I can’t remember, it was like “Very nice, thank you.” It built as the tour went on.
I THINK YOU PLAYED “SAINT OF ME” FIRST IN VEGAS AND THE WHOLE PLACE JUST ERUPTED.
It was good. I remember playing that. I was quite surprised that they knew it. Actually it wasn’t the first place we tried it. The first place we tried it, we made a real hash of it in some big outdoor gig somewhere in the middle of nowhere, which is good place to try it. Charlotte, North Carolina, or something. (NOTE: We’re both wrong. “Saint of Me” was first played at the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., Nov. 7, 1997)
A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY THAT SHOW WAS REALLY GOOD.
Charlotte? Yeah, it was a good show.
IS IT ANTICLIMACTIC TO LISTEN TO THOSE SONGS ON THE STUDIO RECORD, THEREFORE?
I don’t listen to it, so I don’t have the experience.
SO YOU DON’T HAVE AN EMOTIONAL AFFINITY WITH THAT RECORD?
Well I don’t listen to old Rolling Stones records, you know. It’s done now. I don’t listen to them once they’re done except to relearn them.
DO YOU THINK “SAINT OF ME” WOULD HAVE MADE A BETTER FIRST SINGLE THAN “ANYBODY SEEN MY BABY”?
Maybe, yeah. But nobody seemed to be into it at the time. They missed it, and I didn’t like saying, “Well, there’s that one.” It’s very hard to push it on your own.
ARE THERE OTHER SONGS FROM BRIDGES TO BABYLON YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE PLAYED LIVE BUT DIDN’T HAVE THE TIME TO REHEARSE?
No, I think we rehearsed all the ones I wanted to do.
I KINDA LIKED “TOO TIGHT”
No, I don’t like that. Not for live. I think it’s too much like “Flip the Switch,” a bit ordinary.
I LIKED THAT SEMIAUTOBIOGRAPHICAL LINE, “I’VE SEEN IT ALL A THOUSAND TIMES, I’VE SUNG THAT SONG, I WROTE THE FUCKIN’ BOOK.”
Ha-ha! I know. Maybe we could do it. I’m not crazy about it. I think it’s OK.
I REALIZE YOU HATE BEING CATEGORIZED, BUT KEITH SAYS YOU’VE REACHED AN ACCORD IN THE PAST YEAR WHEREBY HE TAKES ON RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE BAND WHICH FREES YOU UP FOR YOUR FRONTMAN ROLE. IS THAT TRUE?
No. Ha-ha! It sounds good, though!!
HE SAYS THE ONLY PROBLEMS OCCUR WHEN YOU START POKING YOUR NOSE INTO THE BAND.
What? Like choosing the songs, you mean? Ha-ha!!
HE SAYS YOU’VE ALSO AGREED NOT TO COMPROMISE WHEN IT COMES TO THE RECORDING PROCESS, THAT YOU SHOULD EACH DO YOUR OWN THING WITH YOUR OWN SET OF FRIENDS?
I don’t think that’s a very good way of recording, really. But anyway we don’t really have any plans for any studio albums, so.
REALLY? HE SAYS YOU’RE GOING INTO THE STUDIO AT THE END OF NEXT YEAR
Really? Well, that’s so far ahead… It’s over a year from now.
SO YOU DON’T THINK THAT’S THE RECIPE FOR THE BAND TO CONTINUE INDEFINITELY, THAT YOU AGREE TO DISAGREE…
It can work in small ways, but I think most of the time, you’ve got to agree on what you’re going to do rather than agree to differ. I think it’s kinda tricky to agree to differ the whole time.
MAYBE I’M TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME, BUT I DETECT THAT THE STONES DON’T GET THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE, AND EVERYONE’S IN TOTAL AWE OF THE BEATLES STILL.
It’s always been a bit like that. It’s not a new thing is it, really? I don’t think we’re going to get too disappointed about this sort of thing.
IS CHARLIE THE HARDEST TO PERSUADE THE TOUR?
He’s the most enthusiastic.
REALLY?! SO WHO’S THE LEAST ENTHUSIASTIC, THEN?
I don’t know!
ARE YOU DOING A SHOW AT WEMBLEY ON DECEMBER 31, 1999?
No. I think Wembley Stadium is closed then. They’re more or less tearing it down, they’re calling it Wembley, but they’re rebuilding the whole thing. They’re tearing it down in July and it’s going to take two years.
SO YOU’RE NOT DOING ANYTHING SPECIAL ON THAT PARTICULAR DAY?
Well, we might do. But I don’t think it will be at Wembley because there won’t be a Wembley.
IS THERE SOME COOL, OLD STONES STUFF THAT’S READY TO JOIN THE SET LIST?
Sometimes, you dig things out, like “Sister Morphine” was one of them, I suppose you could say.
HOW ABOUT, SAY, “AROUND AND AROUND?”
Yeah, we tried that in rehearsal. It sounded like too many (laughs) stops!
“TURD ON THE RUN?”
Nah, once it starts, that’s it. It’s could be all right for a club gig, that one.
“SHE SAID YEAH?”
No, bit low on everyone’s compass.
PEOPLE FOCUS ON THE FACT THAT YOU DO A LOT OF THE OLD STUFF, BUT THE REALITY IS YOU DRAW UPON VIRTUALLY EVERY ALBUM YOU EVER PUT OUT ON THE TOUR.
That wasn’t really trying either, being very careful about it, not over-careful anyway. It just worked out that way. You can sometimes end up picking too much of one period without even thinking about it. You get involved in it, but then you’ve gotta back up and say, “Wait a minute, we’re stuck in one five-year period, here.”
ARE THERE ANY SONGS YOU DREAD PLAYING, LIKE “MISS YOU?”
Nah, if I really dread them, then we drop them basically
ON BALANCE HOW DID BRIDGES TO BABYLON COMPARE WITH OTHER TOURS IN TERMS OF VIBE AND HAPPINESS.
It was a really good vibe, the tour, really. It had a few ups and downs: I had laryngitis twice and Keith broke his ribs. That was, like, not very good, but we kinda got over it… Hey listen, let’s do one roundup question.
ARE THERE ANY MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE STONES THAT ANNOY YOU? PEOPLE ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT YOUR COMBINED AGE, ETC?
I think people should really just listen and watch rather than worry about the history, y’know? I think that’s a load of old bollocks.
SO FINALLY, HOW WOULD YOU RANK NO SECURITY IN THE PANTHEON OF STONES LIVE RELEASES?
It’s this year’s, don’t know anything else. Very nice to talk to you.
NOTE: Unrelated to the above interview, my gossipy rock bio Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
Copyright © 1998, 2013 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING