Tuesday, March 18, 2008

That Demon Life

Yes, I too have been wondering whatever happened to Mick Taylor after he quit the Stones in a huff back in 1974, right after recording It's Only Rock 'n Roll. He was only 25, and knowing what cheap bastards Mick and Keith are, they'd probably been paying him a flat 100 quid a week or something, so I doubt he was set for life. Yet we've heard astonishingly little from him over the years, despite the fact that he's an awesome guitarist.

Keith Richards was most upset at the time, saying the only way anyone should ever leave the band is "in a pine box." But by all accounts, Keith was never very nice to Taylor, and although he apparently co-wrote several songs during his tenure, the only songwriting credit he ever got was on Exile on Main St.'s "Ventilator Blues." I assume that means that Taylor wrote every note, every chord and every word; that's the only way Jagger-Richards would ever award so much as a co-credit.

After the Stones, Taylor's biggest problem was that he showed poor taste in the projects he chose. He worked, but his work was wasted on records that no one ever wanted to hear. First he joined former Cream bassist Jack Bruce's band on a tour; in fact, one of the reasons he gave for leaving the Stones was that he was so thrilled to be playing with Jack Bruce. Jack Bruce! Then he recorded with the psychedelic jazz outfit Gong. After that Taylor played on Papa John Phillips' never-released first solo album. Then, in 1979, Mick Taylor came out and went as high as Number 119 on the Billboard album charts (the review in Rolling Stone compared some of the songs to the Atlanta Rhythm Section[!]).

Finally, in the early 1980s, after touring with Alvin Lee of Ten Years After and playing some reunion dates with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Taylor did something worthwhile. Bob Dylan showed up at one of the Mayall dates at the Roxy in Los Angeles ,and Taylor ended up playing on Infidels, Empire Burlesque, and the live Real Live after going on tour with Dylan in Europe in 1984. That was basically it, though: After that Taylor did some session work, some solo club dates and not much else. He didn't play on Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy," although it sure sounds like he did.

Taylor's relationship with the Stones is rather complicated: He's not totally estranged from them, but they certainly don't go out of their way to be together either. He played on a track on Keith's solo album Talk Is Cheap, and on Ron Wood's Now Look; he played a show with the Stones in Kansas City in 1981, and Keith joined him at a Mick Taylor solo show in New York in 1986. I have a 1989 videotape called 25x5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones, featuring interviews with all five extant Stones but most pointedly not any with Mick Taylor.

The best quote on Taylor's departure from the Stones came from Mick Jagger, of course. "I'm sorry to see him go, but I think people should be free to do what they want to do," he said. "I mean it's not the army, it's just a sort of rock & roll band."

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