Photo: Rade Kovač, www.radekovac.com
It’s true that today very few people, especially younger, know anything about the causes which made The Rolling Stones the biggest rock and roll band ever, as well as kind of social, sociological, biological and even medical phenomenon. Especially is little known why have they become so great in a music field because that was happening in the 60s and those were years which have already become so far away to many people. Regarding that, this is a great question because it is nice to clear up those causes a little bit. As it is supposed to be, key cause is the music. Today, The Rolling Stones are the institution which is taken for granted, I’ll say it as Keith Richards said it once: „You know the Sun will rise every morning, the night will fall, and you know The Rolling Stones will record an album and start a tour every few years.“ The Stones have really become as the air we breathe – something that is obvious. However, in order to reach that position – which is unique, because no other band has reached it – next thing should happen: they should record few albums which became authentic masterpieces in the 60s and record singles which became popular music hymns and – I’ll exit art field for a moment – become the symbol of rebellion which was initiated by generation which tried to change the world in the 60s and to make it more tolerable place for life. The last thing is particularly interesting, because The Rolling Stones, and Mick Jagger especially, have never wanted to be a symbol of anything, some rebellion at least, nor they aspired to become leaders of any movement. However, this 60s generation which was also called „The Jagger Generation“, has just recognized symbol of its own wishes and aspirations in The Stones, and especially in Jagger whom has set to the leader.
A real truth is, however, that The Rolling Stones were taking of everyone, and also of the hippie movement of the 60s just what they needed and what was useful for themselves. So, we have the situation that they looked like a hippie movement in the 60s; in the 70s, with the virtue which no one else could ever approach, not to mention to repeat it, they followed two dominant music directions which were mutually opposing (which makes the whole matter even more interesting), and these are punk and disco; they became „capitalism children“ and huge businessmen in the 80s… and so on.
Although The Stones created trends, they could adjust to them as well. All of this brought them to this position we are talking about, and all these are reasons The Rolling Stones are unsurpassed until today. But the main are, to repeat, their music and amazing creativity explosion which they had from the mid-60s until mid-70s – this was the best and the most prolific their period.
It was a set of very complex social, sociological and many other circumstances which first gave Elvis Presley, then The Beatles, and at last The Stones as main rebellion catalyst. The Beatles had already been some kind of rebellion, with their long hairs, with the sound that many people considered something indecent and dirty, but in which young generation recognized its own energy, aspirations and demands. However, only with The Stones that rebellion was articulated completely. The basis of all of this was John F. Kennedy’s government in America, in the ambient and energy he created and which was transferred to England after and then returned back to America like a nice boomerang. The moment when this energy reached England was also the moment when the ambient for The Rolling Stones was created, for the band that confronted the stick-in-the-mud value system in England, its terrible conservatism and the consequences of a strong postwar apathy. So, The Stones had primarily rebelled against English conservatism, and their energy and rebellion were later transferred to other European countries and returned to America like some beautiful fire.
And, as much the older generation looked at The Stones with disgust and fear – because The Rolling Stones were breaking whole value system which they had established – so much the younger generation recognized in them, more than in anyone else, more than in Presley and The Beatles, their own aspirations, wishes and identity.
There is one sentence of famous American journalist James Reston which I had read long time ago, but it is stuck in my mind: he said that nothing is implied in good journalism and that he, while writing a text, imagines a small man sitting hunched in a corner, without any knowledge about it, and he writes to this man who knows nothing about anything. Therefore, right, nothing is implied. Everything has to be explained. I am not saying I’ve reached that ideal with this book. But, I’ve kept that in mind, like always when I write. I’ve made an effort not to show The RS as something taken for granted, something that came from Mars, but to explain this young generation which doesn’t remember world without Mick Jagger how The RS became what they became. But, I think it’s better if people who read a book speak of that. It is difficult for the author to speak whether something he wrote is successful or not…
Yes, but you’ve just mentioned very important thing: nowadays, with modern technology, whatever data you need, you can find it on the Internet. All the information is at your fingertips all the time. Though, you can never be completely sure if the information from the Internet is reliable, because anyone can upload anything on it, but anyway, you can neither ignore it; Internet offers so much information and there are a lot of valid ones among them. I want to say today is generally nonsense to write a book with the information as key factor. I think this was important in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Nowadays this is less important. What is important in book writing today is to show your passion, your attitude, your belief. And to present your opinion about the subject you’ve chosen to process in a strong way. That was the ambition I was writing this book with. This book is certainly full of information, but if anything in it is truly worth that is not information, but the passion it’s written with, belief and attitude which it is trying to transfer to other people. I have to say the great reception of the book is based exactly on what I am talking about. It is received well not because it offers a lot of data, but because people recognize the passion I wrote it with. And this is what generally makes one book worthy today.
Yes, obviously. I write about music I grew up with, which still educates me a lot, I have my own band The Spanks I play drums in, so it is obvious that rock ‘n roll hasn’t left my life. I think it is very logical, because RnR is not just a matter of teenage fascination or the fashion for people who go in a bit deeper. RnR represents certain value system and attitude, as much of a cliché this is. Of course, I don’t think we should stay trapped in our teenage views, because we are maturing as people, but this foundation which RnR gives us in education, in thinking method, in attitudes certainly stays. It has stayed with me, at least. I think some kind of honesty is also gotten through deeper view in the RnR idea. So, it is gotten not only through entering the music, but through entering the idea. If I’ve succeeded to keep more or less honesty and consistency even in this time we live in, if I succeeded to keep some nobleness and humanity inside me, I owe it to rock and roll completely.
I think entirely opposite, that it is moribund or at least on the artificial lung. As an industry especially. Because, you see, RnR hasn’t a thousandth of the power, strength and impact today it had during the 60s, the 70s, the 80s and partly even in the 90s. RnR has lost its audience, its massiveness, and finally its power. When no one is behind you, no one is following you; you don’t have your power any more. Other genres and forms dominate today.
Yes, but what I’ve mentioned is not only local, but global story. Not only here, but anywhere in the world RnR doesn’t represent dominant form and music with any special impact anymore.
No, I don’t think there is turning back. Rock music expired. And it expired because the social ambient has changed completely. Everything that represented a foundation of RnR has disappeared, primarily fairness, honesty and non-acceptance of the existing situation. After that, what is logical, the music which was a symbol of all of that disappeared as well. That’s why there isn’t rock music any more, in fact there is, in some reservations, now and then, but as a dominant art form, as a value system, as way of thinking, it is gone. Regarding this, The Rolling Stones are, to say so, one of rare and last exceptions.
Of course, experience has shown it. We don’t need to assume anything, information about the concerts which The Stones have celebrated 50 years of existence with (concerts were held at the end of last year in England and America) attracted more interest than any other news from popular culture domain just on Facebook and Twitter! The Stones were always able to adapt unbelievably quickly to the technological development and technological innovations, among everything else, and not just to music trends, fashion, and so on… Moreover, they have made small revolutions in this domain several times. So, one of things we can always count on as long as The Rolling Stones exist is that they will always go up with the modern technology, and sometimes even a step ahead of it. They could be the only band which has never lagged in this – it has never lost its step technologically. It is also one of the reasons for their longevity.
You are probably speaking about the song „Dancing in the Street“ which is recorded in the mid-80s by Mick Jagger and David Bowie. There are many reasons that song was popular, and two of the most obvious are just in names Bowie and Jagger – the song these two sing is meant for success. Other thing, that song was recorded for Live Aid which was, and by many parameters still is the biggest concert ever. Live Aid was music, television, somehow even social revolution. One of the highlights of this event was exactly this song and following video. So, it’s not strange this song reached global popularity in a very short time. Since David Bowie is also very important man in my life, as well as Mick Jagger, I remember that moment, it was like my personal dream coming true – two of them together.
Yes, but, I was much younger, you know, the question is whether the fact two of them are singing together would still be so important for me today. But, in that moment, for that time, it was such an important and beautiful experience for me.
Well, I don’t know, and neither does Mark Spic! Only Mick and David have reliable knowledge about this. What we know is that these two have always managed to use this very well for marketing. I don’t think just on this story, but on homosexuality in general. David Bowie made a media boom when declared as gay for the first time. This is always a worthwhile action, it brings publicity and popularity you cannot survive in the show business without. Two of them and perhaps their wives know whether there really was something more or not, that’s where the circle of insiders ends.
Yes, let’s limit on local story – the destiny of rock music and its culture has always been very strange here: on the one hand RnR has never been accepted of the establishment, and on the other it has always been a part of the establishment. I don’t know if you have noticed an interesting fact: dissidents have always existed here, even in former Yugoslavia. They were present in literature, cinematography, painting, even politics… but never in rock and roll! And naturally, it should be a brood of dissidents, a constantly boiling source. No local musician was trapped for saying something about Tito. That’s because – at least while Tito was alive – no one had said anything. On the contrary, musicians have even sung hymns to him. Look at this situation – you have dissidents in a party itself, but no one in the rock and roll!
This is interesting. I don’t know if there was such situation in any other country, a phenomenon like in the SFRJ. In the 80s, so only after Tito’s death, with a new wave, critical feature towards society and system started to appear in our rock music. While Tito was alive, no one had touched that. Rock and roll has always been in a halfway position here. On the one hand, I say, it wasn’t accepted of the establishment, and on the other it knew how to please it, to place itself in a way that will be tolerated of the establishment. RnR here has always been treated as a naughty child who can poop in the middle of kindergarten, but because it’s not making big troubles it could be left in peace. I repeat, only after Tito’s death rock started to be some kind of opposition: Stulic was the most intelligent about this and reached the furthest. And then, of course, the 90s… since RnR is, I might have already said it, a child of troubled times, in the 90s bands have suddenly appeared from everywhere and those were great bands which represented sharp opposition to Milosevic. RnR had a big part also in Milosevic’s overthrow in many ways – as in general young generation’s consciousness creating, so in concrete gestures: if you remember, when the elections which Kostunica gained were held, the rock bands were those who played on tour „It’s time!“ that was strongly supporting the opposition. Unfortunately, it’s shown this capital was invested wrong, since Kostunica, to say it politely, was not a man who brought any good changes. But this doesn’t reduce nobleness of the efforts and intention to change a system.
Many taboos, really. At first, they broke taboos in music itself. Their music was forerunner of punk. They are real punk fathers, whose every or almost every early song had a sugar cube, music of The Stones was a reflection of disorder and noise and it represented a revolution in the art dimension. The second, they broke many social taboos. They’ve succeeded to bring to its knees whole value system which was terribly stuck-in-the-mud, terribly conservative, narrow-minded. After, they broke fashion taboos, in 1969 in a concert in Hyde Park, which was the most massive their concert until then, with an audience of half million people, Jagger went out in a tunic pleated at the waist, practically in a skirt. They broke sexual taboos… however; we could talk next few days about this.
First of all, if we are talking about these categories, journalism is exhibitionism as much as voyeurism. And let’s not forget there are people who entered rock journalism for the same reasons others entered music: to hook up to a girl. As this one goes up on stage so she would love him, the other one is waiting for the newspaper in the morning to show her, to fascinate her. It doesn’t immediately mean he’ll be a bad journalist, as well it doesn’t mean the musician will be bad. But sometimes the urge was that. And some kind of exhibitionism, I’d say. The journalists are people with a huge ego, strong vanity, and a lot of strength and will is often needed to discipline all this. And there is also voyeurism, of course. In investigative journalism especially. Overall, it is certainly a mix of exhibitionism and voyeurism. And probably one of the secrets of good journalism is to restrain and discipline own ego and vanity, and to set free own voyeurism.
Yes (laughter). Unfortunately, this is also the only rebellion that is spreading through Serbia, although there are reasons for much more serious revolt. Book promotion is in such phase I’m on some kind of tour in Serbia, in fact in former Yugoslavia, because I was in Banja Luka, I’ll probably go to Sarajevo soon, and I also have some invitations and prepositions from other former Yugoslav republics… I don’t know how much time I’ll have for all this, but invitations exist and it is nice. And regarding Serbia, I’ve really got so many invitations, it is a real tour. And it is something that feels great. Because almost everywhere so many people came. There are no empty seats. And reaction is so good, so nice everywhere. This is encouraging, because you suddenly see there are a lot more nice people than it seems at first sight and this kind of culture attracts a lot more interest than you think while sitting only in Belgrade.
It certainly isn’t only one if we wish real and complete picture of spirit state in Serbia. I’ve met so great people in other cities, who are so educated about this topic and at the same time they have so good energy I often couldn’t believe myself. I’m really thrilled with people I meet in this tour and I’m so glad everything is as it is.
It’s not incompatible, thanks to The Stones exactly. They’ve found a recipe for getting old in rock and roll and they’ve shown it’s a serious thing for whole life. But, this song… I think it’s pretty boring. I would dare to say even worthless. It can be interesting to younger audience, but to anyone who had listened what The Stones were recording in the 60s, 70s and 80s, „Doom and Gloom“ can only seem banal.
However, I think The Stones have reached a really unique position in this sense also, where it’s no longer important what their songs are like at all. No one is arguing whether The Stones’ song is good or not any more, only important thing is they’ve recorded something. This is an often situation in concerts, too. No one is discussing after their concert whether they played well or not. People are satisfied with the fact they saw them. It’s important only to have them on stage playing a concert, and how they played it – this hasn’t been of an importance for years, maybe even decades. This is also a very comfortable position and unique privilege which The RS have won, because there is no other musician with the status where no one in the audience cares about his playing. It’s just in their case. This is as good as bad, of course. I mean, it’s certainly good for them (laughter).
It’s not just possible, it was happening. Keith Richards is much more conservative about the music, but Mick Jagger has listened to what’s new, what is trend whole his life. He used to bring in something that was popular in one moment to The Rolling Stones’ music, or at least to allow himself to get inspired by something modern. I think this is important for The RS, because their music has been occasionally refreshing this way, it hasn’t stayed rigid as it could be other way. Just to remind you on one of their greatest hits of their later career „Anybody seen my baby“ with a rap sample in it. This certainly wasn’t expected of The Stones. This is an example, to say so.
Yes, many people didn’t notice her because at the time she wasn’t what she is today. But she has been strongly promoted exactly with that video.
They aren’t the first thing, I think they are no longer any creative center, their creative batteries are limited, like any other person’s, it’s just not working other way. I think they haven’t artistically offered almost anything worth of attention for a very long time, almost nothing close to their best albums and songs. On the other hand, their enthusiasm is obviously inexhaustible.
And life joy? It is a special story… Many people could be convinced into this here in 2007 when The Stones had their concert on Usce. They played like there is no tomorrow. They played as a band which has just gone out of the garage, which is eager to prove, eager to show people what it knows and what it can do. Life joy is the basis of their enthusiasm and everything else that makes them special, unique and long-living. Hardly anyone has such love towards life and such life passion as The RS. For example, I remember that Keith Richards’ doctor said a few words when answering the question how is it even possible he is alive and especially he is functioning like that considering what he has been taking and doing himself all these years: „He likes to be here, you know.“ And, this is all the philosophy, all the wisdom, this is complete explanation. Keith likes to live so much that the complete drug quantity one Columbian narco cartel can produce in a year cannot harm him, nor brain surgery can, nor what he was doing in the 70s – experimenting on himself, didn’t sleep for a week, for example… Nothing could harm him fatally. That’s because his love towards life is greater than every trouble. It is not just his case, this is applicable to anyone. And if you don’t care about being here, troubles much less than Keith’s will bury you.
Jagger’s moving on the stage, as many other things about him, has represented a revolution. This started quite weird: before they became popular, The Stones had lived in a rented apartment in London which had literally looked as a pigsty. And, whoever entered the apartment went out with the same description it was something he has never seen, such quantity of dirt and mess; and all of them swore it was unspeakable; something that man has to see… In a such ambient and apartment Keith Richards and Brian Jones, man who has practically formed The Stones, had practiced playing guitar to exhaustion and Jagger started to think out and perform his later recognizable style on stage. And these two, Richards and Jones, weren’t realizing what he was doing, they thought something was wrong, and they asked what’s wrong with him… And he answered: „I’ll do it on the stage this way.“ They said: „Please, don’t…“ but he continued to work out his moves and turned them into something absolutely revolutionary on the stage, something that represented sexual revolution and made him the biggest showman ever.
He succeeded to erase differences between man and woman in his performance, his dance and moving on the stage. He was the first RnR musician who excited men and women equally. I can confirm it from this „fan“ angle because I remember how I felt watching him on TV for the first time. It was a video from Stones’ concert in Paris in 1976 emitted on TV Sarajevo which was a part of Yugoslav Radio Television then. That was the first time I saw Mick Jagger moving on stage and my jaw was at floor all time! I was deeply fascinated by this unique being which succeeded to erase gender differences, which succeeded to touch, to say so, men and women equally. At the end, this song you’ve mentioned „Moves like Jagger“… This song doubtlessly made young generation to reveal at least one thing Jagger was so important for. One of things which made him so important. The fact that a song is recorded about someone’s stage performance speaks itself; we don’t have to speak more. And the fact this song is global hit – is even more beautiful!
James Brown was the first Jagger’s role model. Or the first great role model, at least. Jagger had imitated James Brown a lot, and difference between them was that Brown had everything pre-trained, every move, every gesture, every mimic, including the tiniest details. Everything was packed and practiced to perfection. On the other hand, Jagger has often improvised and has let the music carry him. I think he was succeeding to „portrait a song“ better, how one journalist has said nicely, and to follow emotion and message of that song. He allowed himself a lot more spontaneity and freedom than James Brown did. I have watched live performances of both and that difference has really existed.
This is very broad question because their breadth search is very large. Jagger usually writes lyrics. And he is – nowadays generations perhaps don’t know it enough – one of the best lyricists in the entire rock music history. Some of his lyrics are real masterpieces. For example, „Sympathy for the devil“ inspired by Bulgakov’s novel „The Master and Margarita“ certainly is one of the best lyrics ever. I think Jagger’s value as a lyricist is, among others, exactly in that breadth searches. Some of his lyrics were social critics, and others love thematic par excellence. And he was equally good in both. There are no many authors which showed same ability level, same skill level, in covering so different topics. People are usually better in one of those fields. Either society description or songs about love. Jagger showed himself master in both fields. Lyrics were very important factor in The Stones’ success, especially in the 60s. One entire generation found itself in lyrics as „Satisfaction“ or „Paint it black“ and moreover, these lyrics haven’t stopped to fascinate until today. So, they’ve withstood the biggest and the most serious test which one piece of art can be put on, and it is time test.
I’ll tell you right away, I have very low opinion about all that. I like Scorsese very much, but this movie is pretty poor, pretty weak and it is not representing the essence of The Rolling Stones, you can’t feel the band’s energy there and I think this movie is pretty boring. I’ve seen remarkably better movies about The Stones and Scorsese himself has made much better movies about rock musicians, for example about Bob Dylan. Regarding Clinton and The Stones, it is one of the most embarrassing episodes in their entire career; I’ll remind you they had rebelled against global warming together?! Why? Because Jagger has seen interest in this. His own and band’s. It was a business move, but I think it is still surreal to rebel against global warming with Clinton, who was one of creators of global warming. At the end, this is something we know, if anyone knows it. I mean the ozone holes were made in our sky during NATO bombing. That was an action where Clinton was Herbert von Karajan, he conducted whole this story. So, I think it is a huge shame and that Jagger’s desire to hang out with Clinton is pretty stupid. He has done it for two reasons: as I’ve told, the first reason is interest, because he knows American presidents are extremely popular even when retired; Clinton especially, he has great rating even today. The second reason for Jagger’s friendship with him is some kind of fascination by the chance to spend time with American president what is idiotism because Jagger is much greater sign of any American president.
No, unfortunately. The only reason is lack of time. I had and I still have offers to translate this book in English. And in Spanish – the man from Buenos Aires has contacted me, he owns a site dedicated to The Rolling Stones and he told me, if book is translated to Spanish, I can get free advertising there, and site has a lot of fans. Anyway, all of that could be really nice, and probably also very useful… but I just don’t have time for that. I can’t just give my book to someone to translate it and let it go. For example, if I make a book for English market, I know whatever should be revised in it. That’s because people here don’t know many things which are well-known there and I spent a lot of time to explain them. That text has to be different. I had never had enough time to dedicate to that – first of all, to make English and Spanish edition of this book. Perhaps it could be translated to some other languages as well, but primarily these two. That’s because whole planet speaks these two – one half English and other Spanish.
Yes, of course. I think these two are some kind of twins – by spirit, temperament, way of thinking, passion, love towards music, world outlook… Really, they are like brothers.
It’s truth these two mentalities are different but The Stones’ success became quite similar in Europe and America pretty fast. Of course, they succeeded in Europe first and moreover, their tour through America was complete fiasco – it happened they played in almost empty halls. In the beginning all of that looked pretty discouraging. That was the same moment they had already rocked in Europe and filled every hall they showed in. But, really, all that had leveled very fast. Pretty soon they have become as great in America as here. I think that’s even one of the fastest successes in America ever. Simply, there weren’t any serious part of the world which could resist The Stones. This includes us, too! I’ll just remind you to the first Jubox’s edition cover, the magazine which educated one entire generation: in this cover weren’t The Beatles, but The Rolling Stones. That’s because The RS were extremely popular here from the beginning, even more than The Beatles. And that cover proves this. I don’t think it’s strange because our mentality has some similarities with The RS’ spirit. Just like The Stones in the 60s we like to be defiant, to disobey and disagree. Often even more than we should (laughter).
Of course there are. Here what first occurs to me: the most numerous their concert was held in front of almost million and a half people, their profit of tour A Bigger Bang was 560 million dollars, and all 40.000 tickets for last two concerts in London were sold in 7 minutes. These are only few of many numbers which prove for sure they are the greatest. Anyone who likes to look at numbers can be impressed.
Without any doubt, they constitute a creative chaos. They are far away of any harmonic unity. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine two people who are more different than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Mick Jagger is a man who values social recognition a lot – at the end, he became Ser, a knight – and Keith Richards abhores that. Mick is a person who rises on a social scale and Keith is someone who falls of coconut tree and ends on surgery table. Mick care about his health thoroughly and Keith thoroughly destroys his. And so on… But, if there weren’t those differences between them, if there wasn’t constant tension and sparking, The Rolling Stones would’t be what they are. These two complement each other perfectly no matter how often they argue and give hard time to each other and to entire group. Keit is a soul of The RS and Mick is its brain. One without the other simply doesn’t work.
And through their solo careers it is clear that they themselves aren’t tenth of what they are together. This is especially Jagger’s case: his solo career failed infamously. He has recorded great albums and, when looked from that side, it’s not completely clear why this career was so unsuccessful. But, an important part of the explanation is in the fact that people weren’t ready to see him in any other role but The RS’ singer.
It is ideal according to whole world, but not to him. This place has never been sufficient to him, he has always wanted to be something more.
I’m afraid my only life concept is lack of any concept. There is as much concept in my life as there are methods in acting of someone like Paja Vujisic, for example. I’m an amateur in my own life and I’m not even sure if I am its major owner. I try to bite a life from as many sides as possible, I think this is how we should live, and we should experience and do as more different things as possible. All of us, in fact, live how we want and how we choose and all of us feed our own ego what is all right until we don’t allow it to overeat and until we more or less succeed to save others of the evil we could do to them. Because, when our ego overeats, we don’t vomit, the others do.
I equate the next Stones’ phase with next rock and roll phase and I think this is their and this music’s final phase at the same time. I think that with The Stones’ departure RnR will also go away. When The Stones finish their career, rock will move to our memories’ museums. In some ours sentimental treasuries. But physically, it will literally stop existing. Because today it lives only through the existence of The Rolling Stones and few more musicians, for example Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen. When these people leave the stage, the RnR will definitely disappear.
And regarding The Stones themselves and their next phase I think it will not defer from what they’ve been doing practically since the beginning of the 80s to nowadays. They are not capable of recording truly great song any more what is not even important as we have seen and mentioned. But I think they are capable of making a tour without competition. And this is what expects us this and next year.
So, their forthcoming concerts will be event of the season again, without any competition. On this field no one can compete them, and with their departure whole this story goes off. By that, their departure of the stage can be identified with their biological death. In fact, I mean they won’t retire until they die. They’ll die on stage or in studio like some of their greatest role-models. Simply, music is their life and not just their job.
Well, yes, The Stones became millionaires playing this music but they would also do it not only for free, but they would even pay to play if they had to. They simply have an urge to play, so deep and strong. That’s who they are and they cannot break away from it. That’s why they will never retire. That won’t happen. No matter The Stones won biology laws many times, one day they will inevitably have to adjust to them and the same day they’ll go of the stage and out of life. And only then we’ll have full awareness of their importance for our civilization. Only when they aren’t here anymore, we’ll realize completely how important they were. However it seems we understand it already, we’ll see full and real dimension of the mark they’ve left only when they are gone.