Gary James' Interview With Mick Taylor of
The Rolling Stones
He was the Rolling Stones choice for Brian Jones replacement in 1969. He stayed with The Stones from 1969 to 1974. He is Mick Taylor.
Mick toured and recorded with the Stones at a time when both the world and the music business were undergoing dramatic changes. In this Exclusive interview, we spoke with Mick Taylor about his days with the Stones, his early musical influences, and what he's doing these days.
Q - You were recording for Maze Records a few years back. Are you still associated with that label?
A - No. I never was on Maze Records. It was just one album, one 'live' album that they released in America and Canada. In other countries it was on different labels.
Q - Do you have a recording deal today?
A - At present, no. I'm not signed.
Q - You do have a band that travels with you all over the world?
A - I have a group in England that I've been touring all over Europe with, yeah.
Q - What type of places are you playing?
A - Well, mostly outdoor jazz and blues festivals. We played in Israel, Spain, Belgium, France, England and Norway twice. There's a lot of jazz and blues festivals, particularly in Europe in the summertime. I'm playing clubs and theaters also.
Q - Didn't ya play in Syracuse a couple of years ago?
A - I did. I think it was possibly three years ago. I've only played in Syracuse once with my own group.
Q - How did your CD "Stranger In This Town" do?
A - Well, not very good because it was on a small, independent label. It wasn't promoted or publicized, but it did OK you know. I didn't have great expectations of it anyway. It was only an album I put together myself at home, from board mixes.
Q - The Blues, is that your preferred form of music?
A - No. Well, as a guitar player, yeah. That's the way I play. I've always been inspired by Blues players. But I like all kinds of music, Gary.
Q - What attracts you to the Blues?
A - I don't know. Maybe if I go far enough back into my ancestry, I have African roots or something. I've got no idea. There were quite a few guys in England in the 60s that really seemed to have an extraordinary sympathy and empathy with that kind of music. Eric Clapton is one. Peter Green is another.
Q -The Blues seems like such a sad type of music.
A - No. It's changing all the time. The Blues scene now is international. It's worldwide. In the 50s it was purely something that you would hear in Black clubs, played by Black musicians, especially in America. But, from the 60s onwards it changed. Growing up in England in the 60s and being a teenager and hearing The Beatles; The Beatles and The Stones were basically inspired by American Rhythm and Blues.
Q - I don't think most people realize that by the time you were 20 years old, you had toured America three times with John Mayall, doing two shows a night, seven days a week.
A - Yeah. I joined John Mayall when I was 17.
Q - By the time you were 20, you had been around already. You were a seasoned pro.
A - I'd been around, but I wouldn't call myself a seasoned professional. When I first joined John Mayall, I was very, very much of a beginner. I was learning all the time. There's no better way to learn how to play Blues guitar than playing with John Mayall.
Q - When Mick Jagger approached you about joining the Stones, rumor has it that it took you a week to say yes.
A - I did accept the offer right away. I didn't really know if they wanted me to go down to the studio and do some sessions or whether they needed to find another guitar player. It was only during the session that I realized that they were actually looking for another guitar player. They seemed to like me, so it was kind of like, more or less settled there and then.
Q - When you landed that gig with the Stones, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin remarked "Mick Taylor is an extremely fortunate man, kind of like a fellow who wins the lottery. All of a sudden he's worth a million dollars. No, maybe more. But, he's a nice fellow."
A - I remember reading that quote. I guess there was a certain amount of luck. There is in everything. It's being in the right place at the right time.
Q - Was being in the Stones a great gig, as Jimmy Page would have us believe or was it hell?
A - Well, yeah, it was a great gig, if that's what you aspire to be. At the time, and even now, they were on top, well, the Beatles were still together again, but they were one of the top groups in England. There were a lot of other groups around then, including The Who and The Beatles. But, the Stones career was kind of fading a little bit, because they hadn't really done much for two years. That's why they needed to find another guitar player.
Q - Before you joined The Stones, were you a fan of the group?
A - Oh, yeah. The Stones are a different kind of group. I realized that when I joined them. You know it's not really so much their musical ability, it's just they have a certain kind of style and attitude which is unique.
Q - Had you seen the Stones in concert before joining the group?
A - No. I hadn't actually. I'd seem them on TV.
Q - Did you ever meet Brian Jones?
A - No. I never met Brian.
Q - Were you more the lead guitar player in the Stones than the rhythm player? It was always Brian on rhythm and Keith on lead.
A - Well, I'm not sure that's true actually. Some people say that, but I think they shared it really. I didn't think of myself as a lead player, especially when we did live shows, because me and Keith used to switch around all the time. He'd take a lead, I'd play rhythm. I'd take a lead. He'd play rhythm. Sometimes even within one song. It was really a two guitar band. It wasn't strict and regimented as he was the rhythm guitarist and I was the lead guitarist.
Q - Was Hyde Park the first time you played in public with the Stones?
A - Yes, it was.
Q - What was that like for you?
A - Oh, it was very exciting and nerve wracking. At the time it was one of the biggest concerts they'd ever had in England. They actually had a concert earlier that summer in Hyde Park with a group called Blind Faith (Eric Clapton's group) So, the one with the Stones was actually the second one. But, it was by far the biggest.
Q - Do you remember Altamont?*
A - Oh yeah. I remember all of that. That was an awful day.
Q - What a contrast between Hyde Park, the great concert, and Altamont, the worst concert experience.
A - Yeah, well I wouldn't call Hyde Park a great concert. It was a great event. It wasn't a great concert for the Stones musically, because it was the first time they played together in two years. I would say by the time we did the second American tour, we were really tight and really good.
Q - Do you miss playing the huge arenas the Stones played, the 50,000 - 60,000 seat stadiums? I don't even know, did the Stones play that kind of venue then?
A - Not really. Not so much. We mostly played indoor sort of 12-15,000 sports arenas. In fact, in London, we actually played in theaters 3-4,000 maximum seaters. When I joined the Stones, that kind was kind of the beginning of the stadium tours. Nobody really did tours on the scale they do them now. Actually the biggest one I've ever done was, I think with Bob Dylan in 1984 in Paris. I think there were about four hundred thousand people.
Q - There are two stories going around about why you left the Stones...because of songwriting credit, or because you had a problem with you septum.
A - That's complete rubbish. It's not rubbish to say that I was a bit peeved about not getting credit for a couple of songs, but that wasn't the whole reason. I guess I just felt like I had enough. I decided to leave and start a group with Jack Bruce. I never really felt, and I don't know why, but I never felt I was gonna stay with the Stones forever, even right from the beginning.
Q - It could've been you coming to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome instead of Ron Wood.
A - Yeah, if I had stayed, but it wasn't meant to be.
Q - You say "the Stones are not rock 'n roll dinosaurs." You believe they've kept up with the musical changes over the years?
A - Well, they had to keep up with the times. They're above having to be current or fashionable. Let's put it this way, they don't really need to do it for money, so, therefore they must get some kind of pleasure out of it. The fact that they're doing it is great. They're not like a group that's disbanded and gone away and made a comeback. They've always been there. In a way, rock'n roll is entering a new phase.
Q - Is Mick Jagger the guy who really runs the Stones?
A - Yeah, If it wasn't for him, the group would've fallen apart a long time ago.
Q - What's ahead for you in the immediate future?
A - Starting to make records again. I hope, very shortly, either in Los Angeles or England.
The rock and roll festival at California's Altamont Speedway on December 6th, 1969 ended in tragedy when a fan was stabbed to death by a member of the Hell's Angels, who were appointed to work security.