It's been 12 years since Mick Taylor abruptly left the Rolling Stones, but when most people think of him at all, it's still as a former member of that band. It seems like a confining label, but the guitarist doesn't seem to mind.
"People are bound to see me (mainly) as a former Rolling Stone," Taylor, 38, observes. "That's what I am and that's what I'll always be. I haven't done very much since then that's been highly visible. So that's a tag I'll always be stuck with. But I don't mind it."
Taylor's five-year tenure with the Stones, starting in 1969, was a fertile one. His contributions to such classic albums as "Sticky Fingers" and "Exile on Main Street" are significant--and underrated.
Much of "Exile," perhaps the most inspired and unsettling of the Stones' many journeys through the darkness of rock's hedonistic underbelly, would be hard to imagine without Taylor's deft blues guitar solos--solos that add passionate counterpoint to Keith Richards' raunchy rhythm guitar.
Taylor, who at age 21 replaced Brian Jones and was in turn supplanted by Ron Wood, was always viewed as one of the quiet members of the Rolling Stones--a perception he did little to dispel during a recent phone interview from New York.
Asked why he left the Stones, he said cryptically, "It's been so long I can't even remember."
Taylor, though, perked up when the subject of his new band came up. The guitarist brings his quartet to the Palomino on Saturday.
Said Taylor, "We're still developing, since we've only been together a short time. But we're going to be doing some stuff from my album, a few Rolling Stone tunes such as 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking' and 'Time Waits for No One' and quite a lot of instrumental stuff."
Since leaving the Stones, Taylor has worked mostly as a backing musician. In 1979, he released his only solo album, a mix of blues, pop and Jeff Beck-style fusion. The album, however, sold poorly. Taylor also played in Bob Dylan's band on the singer's 1983 European tour and was in a version of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers in 1982. (Taylor got his professional start with Mayall in 1967).
"I've had my ups and my downs," Taylor said, referring to his post-Stones career. "When I haven't been doing sessions or touring or doing my own work I've been doing nothing because that (music) is what I do. I want to start making more (solo) records and to do more tours."
Taylor says he's "cautiously optimistic" about finding a record deal following his U.S. club tour, which runs through late December.
The London-based guitarist, who also does lead vocals in his new group, is understandably proud of his accomplishments with the Stones, and he opened up a bit when he got onto the subject.
"I like 'Sticky Fingers' as an album, and there are individual songs . . . that I like, but the best things were some of the live performances," said Taylor, who rarely sees his former band members these days.
"Unfortunately, the only official live album from those days was 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!' which ended in the Altamont fiasco (in 1969). The band had started touring again after not playing for two years and I had just joined. It's a good album, but we used to record nearly every tour that we did, and some of that stuff is very good. It never came out on an album because of copyright difficulties."
Taylor also spoke fondly of his overall experience with the Stones.
"We used to just get together and just play," he said. "Although Mick (Jagger) and Keith (Richards) wrote most of the songs, we all put a lot of effort and creativity into playing them the way we wanted to. Playing with Keith was a very intuitive thing.
"It was like no other working relationship I ever had. It was a 24-hour-a-day . . . thing. It was a whole life style, a whole way of living, playing and recording."