Rolling stones

The festivalisation of TV

The Glastonbury festival has undergone a series of metamorphoses in the 31 years since I first attended as a 15-year-old fence hopper (as, indeed, have I, thank heavens). One of the most significant changes, to pillage Gil Scott-Heron’s famous prophecy, is that the evolution has been televised. Back in 1989, if your boots weren’t on the ground — often a quagmire, though not that year — you missed out on all the fun. This has not been the case for aeons. Television coverage of Glastonbury began on Channel 4 in 1994, switching to the BBC three years later. In recent times, the Beeb has sent its staff in numbers comparable

Royal Trux: White Stuff

Grade:A Royal Trux are back — kind of. Singer (if that’s what you want to call what she does) Jennifer Herrema is ankle tagged for some misdemeanour, almost certainly involving narcotics, so may not show up at some gigs to promote the new album. And her partner and ex-husband Neil Hagerty has washed his hands of the whole business: ‘The album — I didn’t approve of it. I have no idea what it is. I’ve heard like ten seconds of one song. I’m out, man.’ So as ever, it’s chaos all round, opiate chaos. How these two people are still alive is a wonder. How they crawled from their shack

Low life | 5 July 2018

At 7 p.m., panting, I knocked on the door of room 201 of the Hotel InterContinental, Marseille, expecting it to be opened by Patrick Woodroffe, the man who has splendidly lit Rolling Stones gigs for the past 33 years, who would, I believed, hand over two tickets. With any luck, and on the strength of our slender acquaintance, I hoped these tickets would be upgraded to seats a little closer to the action than the ones we had paid quite enough for. Eventually, the door was opened instead by a timid woman wearing a hijab. She blinked at the words ‘Rolling Stones’ but they meant nothing to her. We ran

Low life | 5 April 2018

My boy rang the other night. He said he and his wife had bought tickets to see Ed Sheeran at the O2 arena in London. ‘How much were the tickets?’ I said. They were over £400 the pair, he said, and I was about to say in a strangulated voice, ‘How much?’ Then I remembered that I had recently added my name to a ballot which, if I am chosen, will vouchsafe me the privilege of buying tickets to see the Rolling Stones in Marseille in June — if Ron Wood lives that long. And some of those tickets are on sale at a similarly exorbitant price. I try not

Every picture tells a story

I am in Paris for the Rolling Stones’ No Filter concert, in Ronnie Wood’s dressing room minutes before he is due on stage. Walking through the door, I find myself in what looks like a giant crèche, and every size of child and grandchild bouncing around on a thick rug woven in the pattern of Ronnie’s ‘Wild Horses’ painting. Ronnie greets me like a long-lost friend with a massive hug, no sign of pre-concert agitation. Apparently Mick is somewhere round the corner doing a strenuous workout. Keith may or may not be reaching down to touch his knee a couple of times as his warm-up, but here there is no

England Lost/Gotta Get A Grip

Two songs in which Sir Michael informs us that he is distressed by both Brexit and Donald Trump. Released with, according to the 70-year-old singer, ‘urgency’: he can see that we are in trouble and was naturally anxious to help us out. The first, ‘England Lost’, is at least redeemed by a soupçon of wit. Jagger explains that he went to see England play football but that they lost, and he got wet in the rain. But it then turns into a sort of state of the nation thing, by the simple addition of an apostrophe and the letter ‘s’. England’s lost, he bemoans, and chucks in an incoherent allusion

Mick Jagger’s lost memoir

Ask any publisher of popular non–fiction anywhere in the world which book they would most like to sign, and it is an odds-on bet that they would eventually, mostly, come up with the same title. Obviously the Queen does not plan to reveal all any time soon. Tom Cruise would certainly be interesting if he desired to talk about the crazy, outer-space cult which rules his women and his life. But for sheer history, global presence, intelligence and insight, there really is only one chap — the guy Ben Schott recently described in this magazine as ‘the most seen person on the planet’. Yes, the old prince of darkness himself,

1966 and all that

In the song ‘All the Young Dudes’, David Bowie gamely tried to reassure the youth of the Seventies that, despite what their Sixties elders were always telling them, they hadn’t been born too late after all. On the contrary: it was the ‘brother back at home with his Beatles and his Stones’ who was missing out. Sadly, for those of us growing up at the time, even Bowie at his most thrilling wasn’t quite as persuasive as we’d have liked. OK, so it was definitely annoying to be surrounded by people banging on about how great the Sixties were. But once we’d heard the music, there was an uncomfortable sense

Wish list

Compilation schompilation. Having been in music for as long as I have you would think I had a good idea how record companies work. I’ve made two compilations before. But it’s a whole new big thing now in the music world. Ministry of Sound have offices of people whose full-time jobs are about clearing tracks and licencing them for compilations. These are usually for dance music albums, very expertly mixed by specialist DJs. Mine was to be a bit different, spanning 50 years of music. We’d agreed on a three CD release. Ministry said just give us a wish list of around 100 or 150 tracks, and we’ll check on

Is there anything a gospel choir can’t cheer up?

‘I’m starting to think that all of the world’s major problems can be solved with either oyster sauce or backing vocals.’ That was Brian Eno writing in his diary one evening, after a long day’s thinking and maybe a glass or two of something agreeable. I am not entirely convinced by the bivalve mollusc argument, but the second half of his apophthegm makes perfect sense. Last week I was listening to Tim Burgess’s 2012 album Oh No I Love You (OGenesis), a recent and possibly inspired purchase. Mr Burgess is perhaps better known as lead singer and increasingly large face of The Charlatans, the long-serving Midlands indie band who enjoyed

What backing singers are really thinking behind the ‘ooh, ooh, oohs’

Have you ever looked at backing singers and thought: what is their story? Do they or have they ever prayed for their time to come? As they are going ‘ooh ooh, ooh ooh’ behind Kylie are they thinking, ‘I want to kill Kylie’? Do they mind that no one knows their name? Do they ever ponder why it’s so often white artists with black backing singers and never the other way round? I have often wondered about all this, and now realise if I’d stopped idling over such questions, got off the sofa and done some digging, I could now be in possession of an Oscar. I’m a fool to

The last taboo in pop: fat old men

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on about Glastonbury. I wasn’t there, I never have been and, unless forced at gunpoint, I never will be. It has been a source of great comfort to discover that rock critics far more professional than I detest festivals as much as I do. My friend Andrew Mueller tells the story of his appearance on Sky News as a token anti-Glastonbury grouch, doing a two-way with some idiot in a stupid hat standing in knee-deep mud (these are his words). The festival-goer went first, and talked of community and spirit and laughter in the face of adversity. The presenter turned to Andrew and

The Stones at Glastonbury: the greatest show EVER

Yes, I’m sorry, the Stones at Glastonbury really were that good and if you weren’t there I’m afraid you seriously need to consider killing yourself. You missed a piece of rock’n’roll history, one of the gigs that will likely be ranked henceforward among the greatest EVER. So again, sorry if you weren’t there to enjoy it. Boy and I were. And we did. A lot. Perhaps it helped that so few of us were expecting much. I was hanging around the afternoon beforehand in the EE tent waiting for my phone to recharge, having one of those random Glasto conversations with strangers — an A&E nurse, a geeky kid —

The nostalgia business

The extraordinary thing about rock’n’roll is its longevity. The extraordinary thing about rock’n’roll is its longevity. When the Rolling Stones started out in the early Sixties, they can hardly have imagined that they would be doing much the same thing, though on a far larger scale, almost half a century later. If you’re Keith Richards, of course, you are also astonished that you have survived at all. His new autobiography, Life, deserves the plaudits it has received. The honesty, the humour and the man’s passionate love of the music come shining through on almost every page, while his attacks on the vanity and controlling instincts of Mick Jagger often made