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2012年6月26日 (火)

Mick Taylor: the Stone who rolled away



Mick Taylor: the Stone who rolled away John Bungey,
June 26 2012 As the Rolling Stones near their 50th birthday,
John Bungey meets long-lost member Mick Taylor to hear about the vintage years, the reasons he quit — and the truth about Jagger’s todger Mick Taylor today Times photographer, Tom Pilston The liquid summer of 2012 has, of course, brought the jubilee of a proud British institution — one that has suffered the odd annus horribilis but enjoyed a few anni mirabiles too. It has survived fad and fashion with its dignity, and most of its teeth, intact. Yes, the Rolling Stones are 50 years old. The anniversary of their first gig, July 12, 1962, will be marked with books, films, exhibitions and a lot of ageist jokes but no glimpse of the Methuselahs of rock themselves. The Stones say they won’t be ready to roll out their anniversary gigs until 2013 — a spree that may or may not, depending on whom you believe, climax at the Glastonbury Festival. Bill Wyman, who quit the band in 1992, is slated to be involved, and also tipped for a guest spot is the man sitting next to me in a North London Mexican restaurant, nursing a mojito and mild indigestion. “If there was a tour, I’d love to do it, of course I would,” says former guitarist Mick Taylor, “I’d like to do some recording as well. But I’ve only heard rumours so far.” Taylor has not played with the full band for 38 years and has enjoyed/endured what you could politely term an uneven career since. He is, though, the band veteran you are most likely to see on the road this year, leading his own punchy blues band with a renewed vigour. At 63, with his stockman’s coat, ruddy jowls and impressive thatch (what have the Stones done to retain so much hair?) he seems like a cheery yeoman farmer. But, as he’s slightly tired of being reminded, his callow younger self once played outstanding lead guitar with the best vintage of the Stones: the one that forged Honky Tonk Women, Brown Sugar, Tumbling Dice and It’s Only Rock’n’Roll. Between 1969 and 1974 the Stones created the template for every blues-rock, guitar-abusing, drug-abusing, gang-band to blast a stadium since. Not that the 20-year-old Taylor was initially convinced, after joining the Stones from John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers to replace the increasingly erratic Brian Jones: “I remember the early rehearsals and being struck by how out of tune and awful they were,” he says. “I remember wondering how on earth they could make such great records when they couldn’t even tune their guitars up.” Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, though, “just kept coming up with great ideas” and, with astute production, raw blues was turned into gold. Taylor left in 1974, unhappy about a lack of songwriting credits, bored by the band’s inactivity as Richards sank deeper into heroin use, and worried about his own drug habits. Regrets? None, he insists. Taylor joined a band with Jack Bruce, toured and recorded with Bob Dylan and made decent solo albums. But life also brought full-blown addiction (he spent the Eighties “in a narcoleptic fog”), homes burnt down twice (in 1975 and 1979) and he acquired a rock vet’s tangled genealogy: two marriages, girlfriends, a daughter on each side of the Atlantic. Today, while Mick Jagger has an estimated fortune of about £200 million, Taylor lives in a two-bedroom semi down a lane in deepest Suffolk. While his former colleagues may enjoy the Croesus life, Taylor insists he is content: “I’m very happy, very relaxed and I’m healthy compared with how I have been.” This, it turns out, is mainly to do with his teeth. Thanks to £10,000 implants from a Norwich dentist, he no longer has to endure the pain of “black, rotted teeth” that marred his social and musical life. He’s playing regularly and in contact with all the Stones except Keith Richards, who tends to stay at home in Connecticut. In 2010 Taylor recorded new guitar parts while Mick Jagger sang a vocal to a half-finished Stones track from 1972. Plundered My Soul went to No 15 in the French singles charts. While Taylor used to brood over alleged unpaid royalties — “it cast a shadow over my career” — he insists that these days he does not care what other musicians have earned. I ask what he thinks of Richards’s 2010 autobiography, Life, in which the veteran Stone paid lavish tribute to Taylor’s musical skills but called him morose and shy. “I don’t think I was morose. He said I was fighting demons but so was he. I wasn’t shy, it was just that everyone wanted to talk to Mick and Keith not me or Bill or Charlie [Watts]. “I enjoyed the book but in some ways it’s like reading about a completely different person, a mythological Keith, Keith the actor. Other people who know him have said the same. When I knew Keith, he was a very quiet guy. He was shy, that’s why he got into heroin — which was probably true for me but much later. “What surprised me was the competitiveness, all that competing for women. He’s a guy in his late sixties and he sounds like an 18-year-old talking about his 18-year-old buddy.” And what about the reference to Mick’s “tiny todger”? Taylor laughs. “That was kind of nasty. I don’t remember anybody in the Stones being particularly well endowed and I should know.” Still grinning, he adds: “It’s so childish. A lot of people were amused by that but I don’t think Mick was.” Taylor also learnt for the first time from the book just how upset Richards was at him quitting. Richards wrote: “I always want to keep a band together. You can leave in a coffin or with dispensations for long service, but otherwise you can’t.” Taylor recalls it thus: “He sent me a message saying, ‘Dear Mick, thanks for all the turn-ons. It was great playing with you.’ And that was that. Possibly because I had my own problems, I didn’t realise how he was affected.” Taylor has a lot of time for Jagger: “Mick was always the leader; he had the final say and still does. He was very funny, very entertaining and very intelligent. “I remember Keith getting very upset when we were signing with Atlantic Records after we’d left Decca. The contract said that the Rolling Stones must always consist of Mick Jagger and four others. Didn’t mention Keith, and he was very put out.” Jagger was always ambitious. “It comes from his background. He was middle class, better educated than the rest of us, and it comes from being at the London School of Economics. And of course he became very good with money . . .” When I last met Taylor, 15 years ago, the mantle of being an ex-Stone seemed to weigh heavy as he detailed perceived slights. Today, he appears much more content, and proud of his service. Nevertheless, he is sanguine about the Stones’ place in history. “People say to me, ‘What do you think people will think about the Rolling Stones in a hundred years’ time?’ Their music doesn’t travel. It’s very difficult for other artists to interpret Stones music because it’s got its own attitude and rebelliousness that’s got nothing to do with the notes — whereas the Beatles will be remembered for their harmonies and melodies, or Bob Dylan songs for their words. “But that’s not to say the Stones are overrated. I think Mick Jagger has written some great lyrics — and this is the most enduring rock band that has ever existed.” And come 2013, Taylor wouldn’t mind joining in one last blast.



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