"I have a very unexcited prostate, if you wanna know. And that’s the way we like it."
——Keith Richards
An exclusive HITS dialogue with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
In conversation, Rolling Stones founders Mick Jagger and Keith Richards couldn’t be more different. Jagger is diplomatic, political, professional, making sure he doesn’t offend a single potential Stones buyer, and filled with bonhomie, but chilled to the bone and easily bored. On the other hand, Richards is exactly how you see him, cigarette cocked between his lips, leaning up against Ronnie Wood, truly the salt of the earth, ready to say anything about anybody, listening and responding, giving you all the time you need, a real person.

A study in contrasts, Jagger and Richards are rock’s greatest living duo—the heart and soul of the Rolling Stones for going on four decades now. They’re celebrating the milestone with a number of high-profile projects, including the Oct. 1 release of their own greatest-hits answer to the Beatles1, Virgin/EMI’s Forty Licks. The set also features four new songs recorded with producer Don Was in Paris, including the first single, the aptly named "Don’t Stop." In addition, Allen Klein’s ABKCO has just re-released the band’s entire pre-Sticky Fingers catalog—22 albums in all—in SuperAudio CD that have old fans raving at the meticulous re-mastering, which makes the discs sound like they were recorded yesterday.

Mick and Keith were in Toronto, where they recently played a warm-up gig at the Palais Royale prior to the launch of their massive Licks tour, which got underway this week (9/3) at Boston’s Fleet Center. They were hoodwinked into spending some valuable phone time with HITS’ stalker Roy "Well You Heard About the Midnight Tummler" Trakin.

Part 2: Keith Richards

Have you been keeping track of the turmoil in the U.S. record industry these days?
Keith Richards:
Of course. Things like EMI going, like, doink… I mean, we’ve worked with these people, off and on, all our lives. They’re as true and blue as the British Empire and all of that. Changing times, man. They were living far too high and far too fat for far too long, ya know?

All the musician wants to do is play and record, but you guys seem to have taken care of business through the years.
We don’t get involved to that extent. We make our deals and then we fulfill ’em. The difficult thing has been in the area of promotion. You have to argue how much they’re going to put into this, and who’s radio’s favorite flavor of the month. And it kinda gets a little tacky. But it always has been. It’s always been a pool of piranhas, and they always wore sharkskin suits.

I just read Andrew Loog Oldham’s autobiography. It was a much different world back then, more innocent.
It was real. I remember our first record deal with Decca. We were in the boardroom with Sir Edward whatever-his-name-was, who was 80 years old and drooling. Actually, it was like a Sopranos thing. He was wearing shades he didn’t take off. And then he let us do what we wanted [laughs]. The first thing we did was lease tracks to them. We didn’t sign a contract. Which was a famous deal. I’m glad we did it that way because that meant we had the all-important "artistic control."

I always know when you guys are getting warmed up for a new tour because the sniping in the press heats up.
Most of the energy has been very positive, real good. Usually, it takes a few weeks to knock off the rust. But I don’t know… They’ve come in well-oiled, man. It’s really sounding good. The only down side was the death of [longtime roadie Roydon] Chuch McGee. He’s one of the pillars that kept the Stones up, though you never saw him. He had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago, which sobered everybody up.

What was your reaction to John Entwistle’s death?
That was another surprise. Isn’t it amazing, just before the first show of the tour… I didn’t know him well. I don’t know if anybody did, really. I’m sure he had a lot of close friends. I’d known him for so long. And he always sent me some nice notes. He was a very quiet man, ya know. When you get taken, man, you get taken. But it didn’t stop Roger or Pete. I heard they got my old friend Pino [Palladino] on bass. And the tour must go on…

So no Bill Wyman again this time around?
No, no. I got a message from him just a couple of weeks ago. Now and again, we get in touch. Otherwise, he’s too busy having babies. It’s something he’s good at. Since he left the Stones, he’s had about three daughters. That’s his favorite occupation.

Has he discovered Viagra?
Bill’s always been like that. That’s why he’s so fuckin’ skinny, man [laughs].

You recently put down Mick’s solo record in the press.
I mean, where else could you put it? When they asked me about it, I said, "Oh, you mean Dogshit in the Hallway?" The quibble with that is Mick had told me months and months before he was not going to do any solo projects and we were going to concentrate on getting this thing together. And then suddenly, his dogshit appears. And then I heard it, and I thought, "Yeah, it is dogshit."

And what about his whole knighthood thing?
I really flared up about that. I thought it was really stupid timing. Typical of Mick to break rank. I mean, right now, he could have done himself a lot better by turning it down.

You’re anti-royalist?
Well, I’m not "anti." I just think people like Frankie Drake and Wally Riley deserve knighthood. I don’t really see what pop singers have to do with it. But if they do, it’s a bit of a paltry honor, innit? If Phil Collins is a knight, then you should hang out for the fuckin’ peerage, man. Get a Lordship. They give knighthoods for covering a few Supremes songs.

So we’re never going to have a Sir Keith Richards.
I very much doubt it. I’m too vocal. And also, I always thought Mick was, too. But I told him, "Now you’ve joined the brown-noses."

Have you heard any of the remastered titles?
Allen [Klein] sent me a copy of them. Very good mixes. Some very interesting work has been going on there.

It’s like hearing these old songs for the first time.
To me, too. This new system of re-mastering and re-mixing them amazed me, too. [Laughs] I was hearing instruments I forgot I put on there. It’s amazing what’s on tape and what can be pulled out.

Have you watched The Osbournes ?
No, I haven’t. I wasn’t in the country when it was on. It sounds like exactly what Ozzy needs. Ozzy’s always going to pull something out of his hat every now and again. And that was a good one, I think. Ya know, it’s kinda like The Simpsons, but live.

Have you ever considered a reality show yourself?
No way, man. Reality’s enough without being virtual.

What do you think about this new garage-band punk movement? The Hives have a singer who looks like a young Mick Jagger.
[Mock sneer] What’s so new about it? I’m not surprised because that’s what they should be doing. Also, because last time we were on the road, five years ago, those 12-year-olds in the front row are now 17, 18 and they’re rocking. A lot of these guys are my tribe, in one way or another. Even if they don’t know it.

And now you’re putting out a greatest hits album, like the Beatles’ 1.
The only difference between the Beatles and us is we’re still going. So we thought it was necessary and important to at least put on some new tracks. Like a dot-dot-dot… To be continued, so to speak.

Keith, how long can this keep going?
[Incredulous]. You’re asking me? We’ve never said anything about it being the last time. It’s always from the outside. Including now. I think they’ve just thrown up their hands in disgust and said, "We can’t use the bit about it being the last tour anymore. It doesn’t work. They keep coming back."

You always seem to have a good time.
Pursuit of happiness, man. It’s in the Constitution. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that, if you’re miserable, it’s really miserable. The only other side of the coin is, enjoy it. Figure it out. It ain’t that difficult. Some people just look for trouble and want it and other people just deal with it.

Do you go for medical check-ups regularly?
We have to do all of that to get insurance for the tour. The last report I got, I was 38 and didn’t smoke. And I said, "I’ll take that, doc." [Laughs]

So you haven’t had one of these colonoscopies yet, where they put a camera up your butt?
What the fuck would people do that for?

When you’re over 50, you’re supposed to get one, to check for colon cancer.
Horse shit. They did all that crap. I have a very unexcited prostate, if you wanna know. And that’s the way we like it.

You’ll end up dancing on all our graves.
I dunno, man. That’s not a pleasant thought. Where does that leave me, ya know? [Laughs]

For Part 1 with Mick Jagger, click here.

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