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Personal memories of interviewing The Rolling Stones
February 16, 2014Updated: February 16, 2014 16:24:00
When The Rolling Stones hit the du Arena on Friday night, the four core members will fuse together to form a musical unit as tight-knit and intuitive as any in rock history. Offstage, however, they are four men with very distinct lives and personalities.
Mick Jagger lives up to his billing: an energetic man of parts, hard to pin down. In conversation he moves easily from matey Mockney – “Ello, ’ow are ya? Sweltering, innit? Sweltering!” – to imperious brand manager. “Bands are never a democracy. Much better to have a dictatorship.”
Get Jagger on to music, though, and he’s genuinely engaged, becoming slightly riled at the suggestion that he doesn’t give much away in his songs. “That’s rubbish. It’s all very revealing, so revealing I find it embarrassing.” He speaks with love and knowledge about Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons and country music, and with enthusiasm about younger acts he admires, such as Kings of Leon: “They have that kind of Texas weirdness that you don’t find in a lot of modern rock bands.”
He can also be funny, excusing the existence of countless Rolling Stones tribute bands “because we can’t be in two places at once, can we? We can’t be doing that big wedding in Northumberland while we’re down the O2”. And he’s not above laughing at himself. “My children go, ‘Wow, look at that shirt, dad!’ Like the one in the Dancing in the Street video. You look at it now and you think, I know it was done in 10 minutes but you could’ve done better than that.”
At 70, rock ’n’ roll no longer rules Jagger’s life. Father to seven children, ranging from 14 to 43, much of his time is taken up with film production. “I enjoy the buzz of performing,” he says. “Whether it’s a kitchen with 10 people or a stadium, it’s instant gratification. But I have other interests. It’s not like 1965 where you’re on some sort of train ride – you don’t have to do that, so you don’t.”
For Keith Richards, also 70, the need to perform seems more urgent. The Stones guitarist told me about having “white line fever” – for once, not a drug reference. “Touring becomes like an addiction,” he said. “There are loads of people out there who want to see what you do and you feel like doing it. It’s as simple as that.” You sense that, given the chance, he would like the Stones to play live more often.
Richards still refers to other musicians as “cats”, which is pleasingly on-message, but far from the slurring debauchee of legend, these days he’s switched on: articulate, polite, warm, the Stones’ heart to Jagger’s head. He’s amusingly self-deprecating about his own singing voice. “I get a lot of that flak, you know: ‘The Grizzle’, and all that crap.” He duly grizzled, then laughed. “Everybody has got a great voice, it’s just a matter of what to do with it.”
Richards’ foil is Ronnie Wood. With just under 40 years’ active service, the former Faces guitarist remains the Stones’ new boy. He shares Richards’ love of the road – and has persevered with his 1970s hairstyle – but seems less settled, admitting he sometimes struggles with life away from the band. “When you’re touring, everything is organised, it’s all regimented and that can be a comfort. When you come home it can be tricky.” Wood has recently gone through some well-documented personal issues: repeatedly trying to kick alcohol, splitting with his wife and remarrying, but there’s a sweet, easy humour to him. He gently plugged his son’s rock band to me, and talked about his love of painting.
Wood is a diehard rocker who clearly loves being a Stone, whereas the taciturn drummer Charlie Watts is detached from the world of rock ‘n’ roll. Jazz remains his first love. For Watts, 1964 was not the year in which the Stones released their debut album, but the year in which he “saw Sonny Rollins in New York, in the original Birdland club. It was amazing. I’d never seen anyone like him”. Later, when Rollins played on the Stones’ 1981 album Tattoo You, Watts was star-struck. “I’d sit there and think: ‘Bloody hell, what am I going to do here?’ I feel like an impostor in that whole world, it’s the highest company you can keep.” By comparison, he seems to regard The Rolling Stones, and rock music in general, as amusingly ephemeral.
Yet despite their differences, or perhaps because of them, the group have endured for more than half a century. “There are people who burn bright and fade quickly, and there are those who burn bright and keep it going,” Watts told me. “You have to admire that.” He was talking about Sonny Rollins. It probably wouldn’t have occurred to him that he could just as easily have been describing his own remarkable band.
My only real issue with Piers was that (like Bill Maher), he's not a qualified debater - he's an arguer. He talks over his quest's answers in a berating and demeaning way. This is not discussion, it's not debate and it's most certainly not an interview.
Can't believe your saying that about Bill.......as a dem Bill is a ball and chain for the party. He is a gifted comedian but his insults were out of line...also he was a bully to Ms. Palin. I don't agree with Sarah but she gets to talk just like Bill...In the long run he was more offensive. Also, he is a grand self-promoter at others expense. All the dems are so in love with Bill because he is funny but in reality he uses his humor as a ruthless weapon and, as you said, does not really debate. Liked Piers, but still miss Larry.
George Strombo was a gifted interviewer........
Strombo was one of the best talk shows out there but they would not run it, instead, endless repeats of AC 360 and Piers......3 times each in one evening...over and over....couldn't they run Strombo once rather 3 of AC and PM.
That's where CNN made their giant mistake...CNN, find your head and put it on.
New York Times confirms Wrap report from January, saying the show was in trouble
“Piers Morgan Live” will be canceled after a three-year run in CNN’s 9 p.m. news hour, the network confirmed to TheWrap.
“It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings,” Morgan told David Carr of the New York Times, who reported that Piers Morgan Live will “probably” see its last episode air this March. Though CNN said no official end date for the show has been determined yet.
Mr. Morgan said that his show, along with much of the rest of CNN, had been imprisoned by the news cycle and that he was interested in doing fewer appearances to greater effect — big, major interviews that would be events in themselves. Although a change has long been rumored, it was the first time that both he, and the CNN executives I talked to, acknowledged that his nightly show was on the way out. Plans for a replacement at the 9 o’clock hour are still underway, but Mr. Morgan and the network are in talks about him remaining at CNN in a different role.
“Piers Morgan Live” has failed to deliver on ratings in the three years since the British host took over the format from Larry King.
CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has acknowledged multiple times that primetime needs a lot of work, and the ratings-challenged Morgan was a likely target. Morgan damaged himself by taking a strong partisan position against guns during his yearlong coverage of the gun debate, according to network insiders.
For the week of Jan. 6, MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” topped the time slot with 325,000 viewers in the coveted 25-54 news demographic, while Fox News’ “The Kelly File,” drew 305,000, and “Piers Morgan Tonight,” had 159,000, according to Nielsen.
Morgan’s show has averaged less than half a million total viewers in recent weeks, while competitors draw closer to 1 million, more on par with predecessor Larry King.
Zucker has acknowledged multiple times that primetime needs a lot of work. The view from inside the network is that Morgan damaged himself by taking a strong partisan position against guns during his yearlong coverage of the gun debate.
Morgan acknowledged as much in his comments to Carr: “Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarizing, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it,” he said. “That’s run its course and Jeff and I have been talking for some time about different ways of using me.”