Jagger sings the blues

The Stones have always been a blues band at heart, so it was natural for Mick Jagger to record with a blues legend. He talks about working with the late Jimmy Roger - and the current tour.

I wasn't that aware of Jimmy Rogers until I went to see him in a club many years ago," admits Mick Jagger. I'm asking him about his contribution to Blues Blues Blues, the album Rogers, born in Ruleville, Mississippi in 1934, nearly completed before his death in December 1997. "I never saw him play with Muddy Waters or anything," says Jagger, "but I connected [that] he was one of the guys who backed Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson. Jimmy was on a lot of Chess sessions and he made one album I had with that tune "Sloppy Drunk" on it. I used to do that one."

I suggest the legendary Rogers might have featured on the Muddy Waters album sleeve which attracted Mick's attention back in 1960, soon after he met Keith Richards on a Dartford-bound train. After all, the pair named their band after a Waters song...

Jagger laughs politely. "Anyway, I did a show four or five years ago in London for the launch of National Music Day. Jimmy Rogers was on the bill and, after that I saw him around in Chicago. I certainly don't recall meeting him when we recorded at Chess studios in the Sixties."

Jagger claims Rogers was the first musician to play electric blues, influencing everyone from Freddie King to the British blues boom of the 60s. He was also a prolific songwriter who penned "Sweet Home Chicago", "That's All Right" and "Ludella". When news came that John and Elaine Koenig and Atlantic Records' supremo Ahmet Ertegun were in Los Angeles putting together recordings to celebrate Jimmy Rogers' unique contribution to the blues, Jagger and Richards jumped at the chance to get involved. The Glimmer Twins joined an illustrious guest-list which eventually included Jeff Healey, Taj Mahal, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Stephen Stills and Eric Clapton (a Rogers devotee who recorded several Rogers compositions on his From The Cradle album). But forget Carlos Santana hijacking John Lee Hooker's "The Healer", forget U2 and BB King's duet on "When Love Comes to Town", forget Ron Wood jamming with Bo Diddley; Blues Blues Blues is the real deal.

"I just did whatever they wanted me to do really. I was there to sing," says Jagger about his involvement. "Jimmy was pretty game but he was really ill. We were doing the vocals in the booth and I didn't know he was pretty sick. No one said anything. You make allowances for people his age and he was pretty good considering how ill he was. It was fun trading the verses around. It was all done live. They maybe touched up a couple of his things afterwards but they didn't touch mine 'cause I went back and never returned.

"They were all done in one afternoon. The trickiest was the Sonny Boy Williamson one, "Don't Start Me to Talkin'". The timing is really odd, it's the only one I had to do again. The other ones ["Trouble No More", a Muddy Waters composition and Rogers' own "Goin' Away Baby"] I knew really well. But, in the end, I think that "Don't Start Me to Talkin'" is the most interesting track. It just sounds really good and that band is so quiet. I'm not exaggerating. I walked into that studio and I didn't know whether they were playing or not. I could hardly hear them. I thought, Keith likes to play really loud, how is he gonna manage? But it's a good reminder of how these guys used to record. They were very much in that school, they probably recorded those things that we know very well at that volume. That drummer is incredibly quiet, whatever his name is." (It's Ted Harvey, actually.)

I ask about the rest of the team. The great Johnnie Johnson, a veteran of dozens of Chuck Berry and Albert King sessions, is on piano, while The Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson hogged the harmonica. Jagger says he didn't mind that. "Wilson is a LA session player. He's not bad. If you're playing harmonica, you have to play all the time. You can't expect to just pick it up and be as good as someone who plays every night. I'm OK now because we're doing "Midnight Rambler" in our set on tour but then, I was playing mostly guitar and keyboards."

In 1997, when the Blues Blues Blues sessions took place, the Stones were halfway through their own Bridges to Babylon album. "The two experiences were completely different," he remembers fondly, "like walking out of some electronic thing and into Chicago in the other room." Some electronic thing is right. The last Stones studio effort was notable for unexpected collaborations with Danny Saber, while the singles boasted unusual remixes by The Dust Brothers and hip DJ team Deep Dish.

Somehow, this backs up my theory that the Stones are at their best when they are closest to their blues roots or the furthest away from them in mad "Continental Drift" mode (to pick another recent example from the Steel Wheels album). Jagger concurs. "Yeah, I like that. To go in the most extreme direction possible is to me the most fun. I like to hear the Stones playing really live blues all the way to someone doing a crazy remix. I find that the most amusing. We're a band that can do all those things. Of course, we don't do them all equally well, but the fact that we can function and be convincing in all these genres is great.

"There was a funny piece I saw the other week in an American mag, trying to pick out our lesser-known songs and they were saying stuff like: `Which blues band plays an Elizabethan ballad?'" Not that Jagger is serenading Lady Jane on the current US tour, which sees the Stones playing arenas rather than stadiums and charging premium ticket prices. "We're doing `Route 66', `Moonlight Mile' from Sticky Fingers; stuff we've never done before."

In an infamous BBC radio interview, support act Sheryl Crow said that touring with the Stones was not like Cocksucker Blues anymore. Jagger guffaws at the mention of Robert Frank's shelved 1972 documentary, more sex and drugs than rock n'roll, which the band allegedly rejected because they'd "played up to the cameras". "Things have certainly changed a lot! Because we're playing slightly smaller places and it's indoors, it's much more direct. You can see everyone, the look on their faces, whether they like the songs or they don't really care or they don't know them. It's quite hard work because there are no gimmicks; whatever you do can be seen out there! You've got to be aware 360 degrees. I've had a cold lately and, every time I blow my nose, they can see me. You really feel you're on 100 per cent of the time."

The Stones tour will reach British shores this summer while No Security, the group's seventh live album, came out last year. But what about those BBC sessions, those Seventies out-takes? We finally got the Rock'n'Roll Circus on CD, but how likely is a Stones box-set before 2000? "Nothing's planned to come out at the moment, but I'm sure it will one day. Not next year, but maybe the year after," says Jagger. "We've got a lot of good stuff from all periods, but I'm not really sure I want to do all the librarian work. My approach to the history of the Rolling Stones is somewhat ambivalent. I like to do what I'm doing now and I'd love to hear some of the old stuff, but I don't want to be listening for hours and hours. You feel like you're living in the past too much. I would prefer someone else to do the spade work."

`Blues Blues Blues' by the Jimmy Rogers All Stars is out on Atlantic Records. The Rolling Stones are touring the US and play in the UK in June

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice