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Hackney, London: When the Rolling Stones last made an album, the parents of teens entering adulthood this year were giving birth to their offspring.
Lady Gaga, who appears on the Stones’ 24th album along with Stevie Wonder, was just 19 and unknown when A Bigger Bang, their last album of original material, was released in 2005.
Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at the launch of the new Rolling Stones album, Hackney Diamonds, in London on Wednesday.Credit: Getty Images
Much has changed in the time it has taken to produce today’s adults, but not the Stones, it would seem, as they sat down with US talk show host Jimmy Fallon at the Hackney Empire theatre in east London to promote their new album Hackney Diamonds.
“It’s like when you get your windscreen broken on Saturday night in Hackney and all the bits go on the street, that’s Hackney Diamonds,” 80-year-old frontman Mick Jagger said to explain the slang title.
“We went from ‘hit and run,’ ‘smash and grab’, and somehow we came up with Hackney Diamonds – it is a London band,” Keith Richards added.
But the video to the opening track, Angry, which premiered to journalists assembled to watch Fallon’s live YouTube stream, is quintessential rock ‘n’ roll America.
Fans gather outside the Rolling Stones’ Hackney Diamonds launch in London.Credit: AP
White Lotus star Sydney Sweeny – wearing rhinestone-encrusted leather knickers and a black leather bodice – gyrates in an open convertible as the Stones play from billboards lining the Hollywood street down which the car drives.
The retail appeal of casting a blonde, busty bombshell is obvious, but the Stones say when it comes to music – 24 albums and counting – they still create for themselves.
“Do we think about what other people would think about it? No, we just cross our fingers and hope,” Richards said.
“When you go in you’ve got to please yourselves, you know what I mean? It’s playing for yourselves first,” Jagger adds.
“Later on you might think, ‘oh, people might like this,’ or maybe they won’t like this.”
But Richards says after so long, “Usually if we like it, it travels.”
Ronnie Wood, meanwhile, is confident Stones fans will love Lady Gaga’s vocals on one of the tracks.
Richards says producing records remains the holy grail of musicianship. “It is where a band can come together, playing live is the other holy grail,” he said.
“The record is where guys can get together and pass around ideas without any interference, and when it works it’s great.”
Still rolling: The Stones in concert in Berlin in August 2022.Credit: AP
But there was a shadow overhanging this gathering – the absence of drummer Charlie Watts, who died in 2021.
“Ever since Charlie’s gone it’s different, of course, he’s number four, he’s missing, he’s not there,” Richards said.
“Of course he’s missed, incredibly, but thanks to Charlie, we have Steve Jordan, who was Charlie’s recommendation for if anything should happen to him.”
Jordan first stepped in for Watts in 2021. “He was a friend, so it was a kind of natural progression, it would have been a lot harder without Charlie’s blessing,” Richards said.
Even so, two tracks recorded with Watts in 2019 appear on the album, meaning the original Stones live on.
The band gathered before last Christmas and quickly cut the tracks in Los Angeles in time for their self-imposed deadline of Valentine’s Day.
Wednesday’s promotional chat with Fallon on YouTube was designed to reach to all corners of the world – “It’s already tomorrow in Australia,” exclaimed Jagger at one point. It’s a modern take on how they hustled for sales when making their debut.
“Keith and I were in a pub in Denmark Street [in Soho] and we had the album and there were two journalists – one from the NME and one from the Melody Maker – and we bought them a pint of beer and we said ‘here’s our album, have a listen.’” Jagger said, looking back.
“And then we went out. That was it. There were no photos, nothing. The reviews were mixed but it sold well.”
The audience of journalists, dubbed “fans” by Fallon to his YouTube audience, laughed at the cheeky entendre lobbed by Woods, who defended his bass playing with other bands in between Stones’ gigs as the need to keep match-fit.
“You’ve got to keep everything moving when you get to our age,” he quipped.
With album 24, the Stones are in no mood to stop rolling.
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